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The Toronto Star
Thursday, April 15, 1999

Child pornography, abuse linked, appeal argues

Ottawa attacks B.C. judge's ruling

by Tonda MacCharles

OTTAWA -- The federal government has launched a blistering attack on a B.C. judge's ruling that legalized possession of child pornography.

In written arguments filed yesterday to support Ottawa's appeal of the controversial ruling in the case of John Sharpe, federal lawyer Judith Bowers trounced the idea that there's no connection between mere possession of child pornography and pedophiliac behaviour.

It may be impossible to scientifically measure the link, says the brief.

But Bowers cites uncontradicted expert evidence in studies and other criminal cases to assert that visual or written pornography "fuels the sexual fantasies of pedophiles and will lead some to act upon their fantasies and abuse children".

It can also cause "cognitive distortions", says Bowers, leading some pedophiles to believe sex between adults and children is normal, and to use it to "groom" children to think the same.

At issue is a Jan. 15 ruling by a B.C. Supreme Court judge that the Criminal Code section outlawing simple possession of pornographic materials was an excessive violation of Sharpe's charter right to freedom of expression.

Judge Duncan Shaw concluded that pornography helps some individuals relieve their sexual impulses through masturbation, but noted the lack of hard evidence that the material drives people to commit pedophiliac acts.

The ruling contradicts findings by trial judges in Ontario and Alberta, the federal government says.

Dr. John Bradford, a forensic psychiatrist who has long dealt with sexual offenders, said in an interview the government's submission accurately summarizes current thinking on the subject. While it is impossible to scientifically measure a link between pornography and sexual deviant behaviour, he said, there is little question there is a connection.

"For pedophiles, the sadistic or the rape-prone, it can be a stimulus and can lead them to act up. In certain individuals with a predisposition to violence this would feed them."

The federal government says that a law curbing possession of pornography may limit a pedophile's freedom of expression, but that is not the kind of expression the Charter was ever meant to protect.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in the past that free expression should further three essential values: the search for truth, self-fulfillment or human flourishing, and participation in the political process.

Pornography does none of the above, argues Ottawa's lawyer.

"Child pornography conveys an even more chilling `message of obscenity' than does adult pornography", the brief says. "The Charter was not intended to permit any group to pursue self-fulfillment at the expense of another group."

It states that children are abused at all stages in the kiddie porn industry, and notes the relationship between production and possession of pornography is one of supply and demand.

"The avoidance of harm to a segment of Canadian society, namely children, is the overriding objective" of the law, says the brief, in arguing that any limitation on Sharpe's freedoms is fully justified under the law.


Copyright © 1999 by The Toronto Star. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.