On the feature today, a conversation with Jared Brock, one of the producers of a new documentary about the online porn industry. Click here to read the transcript of the interview.
In the news:
In the news, Arnold Viersen’s Motion 47 – to study the health effects of online porn on young people – took a major step forward last week. Click here to read what happened in Parliament.
A huge win for social conservatives in an Ontario by-election. Click here to read about Ontario’s youngest-ever MPP.
The Ontario government is out with its response to objections to Bill 28. Click here to learn how the government has been responding.
And some reaction to a new federal move to loosen restrictions around young people and homosexual behaviour. Click here to learn more about this new bill.
Alberta MP Arnold Viersen’s Motion 47 – which would mandate Parliament’s Health Committee to study the effects of online porn on the mental and psychological development of young people, looks like it’s well on its way to being adopted. MPs held the first hour of second reading debate on the motion last week. The motion had support from all the opposition parties in the House, and last week the governing Liberals threw their support behind the motion as well. Viersen says this is good news. “The vote won’t take place until somewhere between December 5th and December 15th.” He says while the outcome of the vote is still far from certain, it’s looking “real positive.” He says they worked very hard to ensure that the wording of the motion was something that most people could support, and he says they “mobilized people from across the country to write to their MP and push them on it.” He says all of those things made an “immense difference.”
A big win for social conservatives in Ontario last week: a 19-year old Brock University student – a self-professed “100% pro-life” conservative – has become the youngest MPP in Ontario history. Sam Oosterhoff won a by-election in Niagara West-Glanbrook last week. In the end, he garnered 54% of the vote; he won more votes than all of the other 8 candidates in the race combined. The riding has historically been Conservative – it used to be held by former Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak – so the vote result was not completely unexpected. However, Oosterhoff’s margin of victory was the largest in the riding in a long time – and 15 percentage points higher than Hudak’s win in the last general election.
A lot of social conservatives were on board with his campaign, including Alissa Golob from the “Right Now” campaign. She says in one sense, the major battle here was fought during the nomination race just over a month ago.
“This was clearly a David and Goliath story whereby you had an unknown who was not even acknowledged during any of the media representation of the nomination campaign. (And he) soundly defeated a party elite like (party president) Rick Dykstra.” Golob says the nomination and by-election win sends a strong message that “we’re sick and tired of these cronies basically electing each other and choosing each other to run in these nominations (when) we want someone real who will provide a different outlook.”
Golob says the strategy in a nomination race is to sign up as many new members as possible, and the win in this race could establish a pattern. “There’s over 5-million registered pro-life voters all across the country, and it’s just about utilizing them to vote effectively, and they can be most effective in a nomination.”
The Ontario government is responding to concerns about Bill 28. That’s the law that, if passed, will redefine the notion of family. A lot of people have been emailing their provincial representatives to voice objections to the draft law and now they are starting to get a form letter back from those MPPs.
The letter reads as follows:
In the year 2016, there’s no one way to start and raise a family. The reality is, family structures are diverse, and there are many people who need a doctor’s help to start a family.
The definition of who is a parent in Ontario law hasn’t been updated since 1978 – a lot has changed since then. Right now, that definition is too narrow and excludes some parents of modern families.
Our bill will update Ontario’s parentage laws so that parents who have a baby with the help of a doctor don’t need to spend their money going to court just so they can be their own kid’s parents.
We’re also updating the law so that families with co-parents don’t have to go to court. These parents shouldn’t have to spend their hard-earned money on a lawyer and be forced to go to court just so a judge can tell them they are the parents of their kids. We intend to ensure that all kids are treated equally by recognizing the legal status of their parents no matter if their parents are LGBTQ2+ or straight. This bill was based on advice from the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, whose priority is looking out for the best interest of children.
If passed, this bill will continue to allow parents to identify as “mother” and “father” on their child’s birth certificate. To suggest otherwise is false. All we are doing is updating the language in the legislation so it is more inclusive, and not in any way exclude anyone. While we understand some changes can be met with skepticism by some, we want to ensure that Ontario remain an open space that welcomes anyone, regardless of background or orientation. And just as importantly, we want to ensure that all children are treated the same for all purposes of the law.
ARPA lawyer John Sikkema says the letter is “misleading”, because Bill 28 constitutes a fundamental change to family law. “Right now,” Sikkema says, “the Ontario Children’s Law Reform Act opens with ‘a person is the child of his or her natural parents.’ That’s been in place for a long time. Certain changes that were made in 1978 [referenced in the form letter from MPPs] were not fundamental changes in that sense… and that’s what’s being overturned here.” Sikkema says Bill 28 is “a lot more revolutionary than the government response makes it out to be.” On the notion that parents can keep the terms “mother” and “father” on a child’s birth certificate, Sikkema says that may be true, but “in Ontario statute they are removing the terms ‘mother’ and ‘father,’” and there “does seem to be quite a keenness on removing any gender-specific terms relating to parents.”
There is still no firm date for the bill to come to a final vote at Queen’s Park.
The Trudeau government is moving to amend Section 159 of the Criminal Code – the section that sets the age of consent for sexual activity. The change would lower the age of consent for homosexual activity from 18 to 16. The government says this is about equality, because the age of consent for heterosexual activity is already at 16. Diane Watts with Real Women of Canada says that, while the government is introducing this amendment “under the guise of equality”, the higher age of consent is actually justified because medical evidence shows that the physical health risks of homosexual sexual activity are higher. “There’s no equality between these two different activities among men and among male and female, because you’re dealing with different physiology. You’re dealing with two different things, and what we’re trying to do here in removing this section is to equate those two very different things physiologically and medically.” Watts says the consequence is different for both, as evidence by the “high numbers of sexually transmitted disease with one rather than the other.”
The move by the government comes more than 10 years after the group EGALE – Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere – first began lobbying for this change.
On the feature this week, an interview with Jared Brock from Hope for the Sold. Brock and his wife Michelle are on a cross-country tour this month, screening their new documentary Over 18. The film calls on the government to enact more meaningful age verification rules for online pornography to prevent children and young people from accessing the material.
LN: Let’s start by talking about the movie itself. In a minute or less, kinda sum it up for me. What are we doing here?
JB: Well, basically, kids are seeing porn at a younger and younger age. So 90% of boys and 60% of girls see porn before the age of 18, and 71% of teens are hiding their online behaviour from their parents. And this isn’t the porn that their parents watched. This isn’t “breasts in a magazine”; this is violent, graphic, online, often sexual abuse of women. Of the top 300 most-watched porn films last year, 88% had physical aggression towards women. So, this is a completely new kind of porn, and it’s never been easier to access it.
LN: Where are they getting this stuff? I mean, I watched the film, it opens with this little guy – he’s maybe 12 now, but I think he was younger then – and he was playing some video game online he got a pop-up? I play video games online, and I’ve never seen that stuff. Are they targeting?
JB: Well, I don’t know if they’re targeting, but we keep hearing more and more stories that’s how kids are seeing it. Kids are also searching for things for school projects. They’re searching “Hawaii” , they’re searching…. you know….. we literally heard a story of a kid this week, under 10 years old, who – their parents are chicken farmers – and they searched “chicks” on Google images. It’s so easy for kids to access. And we basically need our laws to catch up with the Internet because clicking “are you over 18, click yes or no”, even porn stars have told us that’s not enough to protect kids.
LN: So who are we targeting with the movie? Is this primarily for a Christian audience, or is this more of a general societal thing?
JB: Obviously this is a huge issue. I honestly haven’t met a kid yet – a male yet – under the age of 18 who hasn’t seen porn. We don’t make “Christian” movies. We make movies that we can show in universities, in schools, in Parliament; we’ve shown our last two films in Parliament. People who are Christians, they come up to us afterwards and say “Are you guys Christians?”, ’cause they hear the redemptive Kingdom language, but yet we want everyone to be able to watch. So this film – Over 18 – specifically the target is parents. We want to help educate and inform and equip parents so that they can protect their kids.
LN: This may sound like a dumb question, but why do this? I mean obviously there’s some good reasons here but what made you sit down one day and say “You know what? We’re gonna make a movie about kids and porn.”
JB: (Laughs). Yeah. So, our organization is called “Hope for the Sold”, and our mission is to fight exploitation one word at a time, through writing, speaking, and film. Basically what that looks like is every two years we make a documentary, and we try to help get a law changed. We’re two for two, and we’re working on our third. This one specifically started with a phone call from a young man, and he says “hey, can I take you out for lunch?” So we went out for lunch and he said “Jay, I’m a youth worker in my church. I’m working with 30 young men, and they all have porn addictions. We need your help.” And that’s how the journey started.
LN: I’m sure you know Arnold Viersen. I mean, you’ve sort of alluded to a new law coming up. From a lobbying perspective (if I can put it in political terms), is this a coordinated effort with Arnold, and with the folks behind (Motion 47?)
JB: Absolutely, so, Arnold Viersen is a new Member of Parliament, and I’m good friends with a member of his staff. Motion 47 is basically a motion to study the effects of online porn on teens. We haven’t done this in Canada since 1985, prior to the Internet. So we definitely need to do an update. We actually did a Parliamentary screening of Over 18 in Centre Block about 2½ weeks ago, and we had about 50 MPs and Senators there. So it’s awesome to see our Members of Parliament who are actually seeing this, understanding this, and saying “OK, we need to do something to protect our kids.”
LN: The motion talks about taking it to the Health Committee and studying the impacts of (early exposure to) porn on kids. Do we already kind of know what that study is going to show, or is this kind of open ended?
JB: Right now, we’re in the middle of a 70-city screening tour across Canada, and we’re actually working on two different petitions on the road. The first one is for Members of Parliament to approve Motion 47, to study the effect of porn on kids. So let’s say Motion 47 passes, they study the effects, and we find what we know they’re gonna find. The question is “what then?” And what we are pushing for is the second petition (on) meaningful age verification. So we want something maybe more like the gambling industry where you’d have to put on a credit card, or a third-party age verification system. Some way that you’d have to prove that you’re 18 before you could access porn. You had to do that in convenience stores, and we simply need our laws to catch up to the internet. What’s crazy is that Canada actually has signed on to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and (in) Article 17, we have promised that we will protect kids from all forms of media that are injurious to their wellbeing. So we’ve already made an international promise, and we’ve got to make good on that promise, because our kids are worth it.
LN: What’s the response been like generally? I mean obviously you had good support after that Parliamentary screening, but you’re on this 70-city tour. Is there a lot of surprise out there among the audiences going “wow, I didn’t know it was this big an issue?” What kind of response generally?
JB: Al, parents have been picking their jaws off the ground. I’ve had so many parents come up to me and say “I had no idea, but OK. I’ve got the resources now, I’m ready to go. We’re going to start having this conversation.” I had a dad email me who said “I just had the conversation with my 7-year old daughter. I can’t believe how much she knows.” I had a mom say “I had the conversation with my 10-year old son. The doors just came wide open.”
Kids are seeing this younger and younger, and it’s so important for parents to remember that what their kids are seeing is not “breasts in a magazine”. This is violent, graphic, online content, and they need mom and dad to process this with them, and they certainly need mom and dad to help protect them from it until they’re old enough to make these decisions for themselves. So yeah, the response has been great. Parents are just waking up. I’m honestly just so proud of Canadian parents across this country. Every province. They’re just waking up and they’re doing something. And our job is to resource them, to help their kids.
LN: I hate to sound pessimistic or end on a down note, but prostitution is known as the oldest profession. The whole realm of sexual ethic has been messed up for about as long as society has been around. If we win this one, what’s next? What’s the ultimate end game here?
JB: Well, OK. Two things on prostitution as the oldest profession. First, it’s actually not the oldest profession. It’s the old oppression of women in the world. The oldest profession is actually hunter-gathering and then agriculture, because otherwise, how would you pay for prostitution? So let’s just throw that one straight out the window right away.
But more importantly, our charity is trying to end exploitation one word at a time, and when we made our last film, Red Light, Green Light, it was on human trafficking and prostitution, and the connections between that and pornography just kept coming up. And we knew that one of our next films was going to be about porn. Our hope is that we can go as far upstream as possible and help bullet-proof our generation of kids so that they don’t have these ideas that they’ll never be able to act out with a spouse, and so they end up going to prostitutes for. Or they end up trying to hurt people. I know so many people who have taken their porn addictions offline. My hope is that if we can protect this generation from addictions that we can stop a lot of these things. Our goal is prevention. You know, we can scoop water out of a bathtub forever, or we can learn to turn off the tap. My hope is that we can raise a generation of kids who respect women, who have a great sexual ethic; that they have great sex because they understand intimacy and love. They understand that it’s about serving and giving and caring, unlike porn, which is about dominating, and abusing, and controlling. So I’m really hopeful. You know, parents have to take the lead on this, and our next generation is worth it. My hope is that the next generation does far better than we have in how they respect women – in how they treat people who are vulnerable.