What is child pornography?

Any visual, written or recorded material that shows or depicts someone under the age of 18 engaged in sexual activity or that displays their genitals is considered child pornography. It can also be anything, including an audio recording, that encourages sexual activity with those under 18.

According to information from Public Safety Canada, “Online child sexual exploitation is one of the most disturbing public safety issues facing society today.” It includes:

  • images and videos of children, as well as written depictions of child sexual abuse;

  • youth-generated explicit images/videos, created by young people then distributed without consent;

  • sextortion, or the use of coercion and threats to force young people to allow images or videos of them to be taken and distributed;

  • grooming and luring, using social media platform to connect with children and youth for the purpose of sexually exploiting them;

  • live child sexual abuse streaming, which often involves the offender directing the abuse; and
 made-to-order content, with videos and images created to suit the preferences of paying customers.

Four offences dealing with child pornography can be found in s. 163 of the Criminal Code. The court will consider it an aggravating factor in sentencing if the person convicted of any of these offences – summed up as making, distributing, possessing and accessing child porn – did it with the intention of making money.

What is making child pornography?

In Canada, it is illegal to make, print or publish child pornography. It is an indictable offence with a maximum punishment of 14 years in prison and a minimum punishment of one year in jail.

A news report notes that a Halifax man who admitted to sexually abusing his underage stepdaughter for several years was convicted of making child pornography along with sexual interference, sexual touching and sexual exploitation. The Crown is seeking a nine-year sentence in this case.

On the other side of the country, a news report says a B.C. man was arrested for photographing his “young daughter” and sharing those photos online. The man is facing multiple criminal charges, including making child pornography, distributing child pornography and possessing child pornography, with “a number of computer and electronic devices seized for forensic analysis,” according to the story.

What is distribution of child pornography?

It is a criminal offence to transmit, distribute, sell or make available child pornography in Canada. It is an indictable offence with a maximum punishment of a 14-year prison term and a minimum jail term of one year.

In January 2021, the federal government announced plans to “introduce legislation aimed at compelling companies to do a better job of policing illegal content posted online — something victims of child pornography and their advocates have long called for,” according to a news report.

The new rules would require social media platforms and adult websites operating in Canada to remove illegal content within 24 hours or face “significant penalties,” the story states.

What is possession of child pornography?

Those found to possess child pornography face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison with the minimum penalty of one year in jail, if the charge is treated as an indictable offence. If the charge is treated as a summary conviction, the maximum punishment is imprisonment for two years less a day with the minimum penalty of six months in jail.

In Newfoundland-Labrador, a man who previously had worked for an area MP and who dressed up as Santa Claus each Christmas for children’s events was sentenced to 15 months in jail for possessing child pornography, according to a news report.

“The demand and viewing of child pornography creates a demand and because of that demand victims are exploited,” the judge said during sentencing, according to the story. “This is not a victimless crime.”

What is accessing child pornography?

Those found guilty of accessing child pornography face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, with the minimum penalty of one year in jail if the charge is treated as an indictable offence. If the charge is treated as a summary conviction, the maximum jail term is two years less a day with a minimum punishment of six months in jail.

According to a news report, a former social worker for Alberta Children's Service was sentenced to 18 months in jail for accessing and possessing over 3,000 images of child pornography. He was charged after thousands of pornographic images were found on his thumb drive and work laptop. 

The story states the man said he had a traumatic childhood, in part due to intergenerational trauma from residential schools and he was sexually abused as a child. It adds that the Crown prosecutor noted that while the man did not create the photos, accessing and viewing them “further perpetuates the victimization of these children …  it's very important for these courts … to send a very strong message of denunciation and deterrence of this crime.”

What is needed to convict? 

With every child pornography charge, the Crown prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offence and that the person involved in the pornography was under 18, or that the person charged believed they were under 18.

You cannot be convicted if you had a “legitimate purpose” for the child pornography, related to the “administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art,” according to Section 163.1 (6) of the Code. A conviction should also not be handed down in cases where there is not  “an undue risk of harm to persons” under 18. The subsection adds that it is a “question of law” whether any written material, visual representation or audio recording “advocates or counsels sexual activity” with a person under 18.

Police forces do not call it ‘child pornography’

According to a statement, the RCMP does not use the term “child pornography” when referring to depictions of child sexual abuse, but instead calls it “child sexual exploitation material.” The police force explains: “The term ‘child pornography’ is inaccurate and benefits child sex offenders because it suggests the offences are consensual acts and it evokes images of children being provocative rather than suffering horrific sexual abuse. This can help child sexual offenders to justify and normalize their crimes.”

According to a statement from the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), “children whose sexual abuse has been photographed or filmed deserve to be protected and respected. The seriousness of their abuse should not be reduced by words such as ‘porn.’ Pornography is a term used for adults engaging in consensual sexual acts distributed (mostly) legally to the general public for their sexual pleasure.”

INTERPOL adds, “When children are involved, it’s not porn. It’s abuse. It’s a crime … terms such as ‘kiddy porn’ and ‘child porn’ are also used by criminals and should not be legitimate language used by law enforcement, judiciary, the public or media.”

Massive Canadian child porn arrest

According to NBC News report, “nearly 400 children have been rescued and 348 adults arrested following an expansive international child pornography investigation, with a Toronto man charged with 24 child pornography offences.

The story states the man ran a movie production and distribution company in the city and sold video and images to customers in more than 50 counties.

“As a result of the investigation thus far, 50 people were arrested in Ontario, 58 in the rest of Canada, 76 in the United States and 164 internationally,” the story states, adding “what was most alarming … was that many of the arrests were of people who worked with or closely interacted with children.”

The story explains they include 40 school teachers, nine doctors and nurses, six law enforcement personnel, nine pastors and priests and three foster parents. One retired school teacher was found with 350,000 images and more than 9,000 videos of child sexual, the story states, adding “some of the images were of children known to the man and he was also charged with sexually abusing a child relative.”

Why you need my assistance

A conviction on any child pornography charge will lead to imprisonment, plus you be included in national and provincial online sex offender registries. Your reputation will be badly damaged, and family members and friends may shun you. If you are being investigated for this crime or have been charged, contact me for a free consultation, in French or English. After I hear your account, we can decide the best approach going forward.