The Vancouver Sun
Wednesday, July 7, 1999

Manitoba to ignore B.C. porn ruling

by Scott Edmonds

WINNIPEG (CP) -- Manitoba will continue to rely on child pornography legislation struck down in British Columbia and will ask to intervene along with B.C. to restore the challenged law in the Supreme Court of Canada.

"There needs to be no question about the validity of that legislation because we want to do everything that we can from a legal point of view to protect children", Manitoba Justice Minister Vic Toews said Tuesday.

The B.C. Court of Appeal last week upheld a decision of a lower court that the section of the federal law banning simple possession of child pornography wasn't constitutionally valid.

The decision effectively strikes down that part of the law in British Columbia.

As a high-court ruling it also serves as a precedent for lawyers to cite in other provinces but it isn't binding and Toews essentially said Manitoba Crown and police officials will ignore it.

"We will continue to treat the legislation as valid and we will continue to prosecute under that legislation."

He has also written to federal Justice Minister Anne McLellan asking that "the government of Canada take whatever steps are necessary to recall Parliament and table legislation overcoming the effect of the decision".

While that would seem to suggest the use of the notwithstanding clause to override the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Toews refused to take a stand on the question.

"That's not for us to decide", said a spokesman for the minister.

The federal government has said it is keeping that option open.

Manitoba, meanwhile, has also informed British Columbia that it will be seeking the right to intervene before the Supreme Court of Canada to argue that the law should stand. British Columbia has said it will ask Canada's highest court to rule on the matter as quickly as possible.

"We want to protect children", said Toews.

The B.C. courts decided the law used to prosecute a 65-year-old city planner was too broad.

John Robin Sharpe was charged after police and customs agents found photos of nude boys and a collection of short stories, stories written by Sharpe himself, which they said violated the child pornography statute.

Sharpe argued, and the court agreed, that the law violated his constitutional rights of freedom of expression.

Copyright © 1999 by The Canadian Press. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.