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As women, we should be appalled by the increased prevalence, violence and toxicity of online pornography. Likewise, as daughters, parents and grandparents, we should be disturbed that children of any age have “unrestricted” access to this corrupting material via cell phones, tablets and computers – while at home or in private and public facilities. Despite internet filtering and monitoring systems available to parents, children can accidentally – or deliberately be exposed to pornography while using electronic devices for social media, gaming, information searches, etc.

For many decades, women have been crusading for gender equality, dignity and respect. Not only can online pornography become addictive; it targets, degrades and objectifies women, men and vulnerable children. Viewing violent, degrading and sexually explicit content can induce a culture of sexual assault, violence, and related bullying. It can lead to distorted views of sexuality, resulting in destructive behavior and relationships, low self-worth, suicide, etc. Its unrestricted online access is detrimental to all members of society – men, women and children.

This emergent issue was identified by the B.C. & Yukon Provincial Council and adopted by members at the 2017 National Convention as: Resolution 2017-02: Mandatory Age Verification Mechanisms for Adult Pornographic Websites. Legislation protects children from underage tobacco and marijuana use, alcohol consumption and gambling, yet there are no laws to shield them from exposure to online pornography. This resolution urges the federal government to enact legislation mandating that adult websites verify lawful access, similar to web-based gambling.

We’re not alone! Alberta MP, Hon. Arnold Viersen is also an advocate for legislative change and presented his motion M-47: Public Health Effects of Online Violent and Degrading Sexually Explicit Material to the House of Commons in 2016. I urge you to read his open letter to the Prime Minister on The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/arnold-viersen/wont-you-help-me-protectkids-from-violent-pornography-prime-minister_a_23313097/?utm_hp_ref=ca-politics 

While we can’t prevent the multi-billion dollar porn industry from producing or posting graphic and violent content, we can use the same web-based platform to our advantage. I’ve composed a “sample” message on the next page for your convenience. Use the entire content, cut and paste, or write your own personal message. It’s critical that we use the power of our 83,000 voices to speak up for vulnerable children! Please share this “Call to Action” with your CWL sisters, family and friends, urging them to send an email to our federal politicians. Together, we can influence positive change!

Diane Miedema, Resolutions Chair

As per the “Action Plan” for this resolution, I suggest directing your email as shown below. I’ve included the opposition party leaders, as they will likely be eager advocates. Alternately, you could send your email directly to the Prime Minister, with a copy to the Minister of Justice.

Please replace Hon. Rachel Harder with your local MP.
Search for your MP’s name and email at: www.ourcommons.ca/en (“FIND” on bottom left of page)

To: Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice
Cc: Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister
Hon. Arnold Viersen, MP (Peace River-Westlock)
Hon. Rachel Harder, MP (Lethbridge)
Hon. Andrew Scheer (Conservative Party of Canada)
Hon. Elizabeth May (Green Party of Canada)
Jagmeet Singh (New Democratic Party)

Subject: Mandatory Age Verification Mechanisms for Adult Pornographic Websites

Dear Minister,
As one of 83,000 members of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada, I am writing to express my support of the above resolution adopted at the National Convention in Charlottetown, PEI, August 6-9, 2017. Akin to gambling, alcohol and drug use, I believe that viewing pornography and sexual violence can easily become addictive and lead to destructive psychological, social and physical attitudes and behaviors, especially among vulnerable children.

Kudos to Arnold Viersen (MP – Peace River-Westlock) for introducing Bill M-47 into the House of Commons in March 2016; and to the MP’s who unanimously adopted it December 2016. It’s heartening to see that our elected officials are also concerned about the online accessibility and viewing of violent and degrading sexually explicit material – and its destructive effects throughout society.

The Standing Committee on Health tabled a study June 2017, following expert testimony and academic research that disclosed pornography’s negative impact. I’m pleased that the government has pledged to update the Guidelines for Sexual Health Education effective 2018 and to provide public awareness resources. While these are positive steps, they do not address the key issue of pornography’s “unrestricted” online access to youth.

For the benefit of society, the federal government has historically taken action to educate the public on the physical and mental harms of specific activities. However, education isn’t always enough. The government has strategically combined education and legislation to protect youth against underage smoking, gambling and alcohol consumption; and all levels of government are actively formulating policies for the legalization of marijuana in 2018. Yet, there are no current laws to shield children from harmful pornographic websites.

Parents want their children to grow and mature in a society that respects the rights and dignity of all people, and opposes violent and degrading behavior. Children’s sexual education shouldn’t be supplemented by pornographic websites that target, degrade and objectify women and vulnerable children. Viewing violent, degrading and sexually explicit content can induce a culture of sexual assault, violence, and bullying; leading to destructive behaviors and relationships, low self-worth, suicide, etc. Pornography can negatively affect children’s cognitive development and wellbeing, with lasting effects
throughout their adult lives.

Most Canadian homes have internet access via computers, tablets and cell phones; and children are introduced to digital devices for online gaming and social entertainment at very young ages. It’s disturbing that these savvy youngsters could deliberately or inadvertently access violent and degrading sexually explicit content.

It’s commendable that many concerned public and private facilities (libraries, restaurants, hotels, etc.) have voluntarily added filters to their Wi-Fi services. However, just as retail stores require proof of age to buy a porn magazine, adult websites should be bound to verify lawful age – similar to gambling. I understand that the United Kingdom has passed Meaningful Age Verification, effective 2018; and I urge Canada to follow their lead.

Based on the extent of physical and mental harm to children – and society, can Canadians count on the Liberal government to protect Canada’s youth by enacting legislation that requires mandatory age verification for adult pornographic websites?

I look forward to your response.

Download article in pdf format. 

© Calgary Diocesan CWL