Edmonton Journal, Sunday January 30, 2000, page A10                                                    [Back]

[Because this article was published in the Edmonton Journal, it's not wholly certain that Ms. Laframboise saw it.]

Child porn must remain taboo

Nothing progressive about equating abuse with freedom of speech

“A person should be allowed to possess anything, even if it’s images of an eight-year-old being raped and cut up.”

Those are the words of Robin Sharpe, the 66-year-old man whose claim of a constitutional right to possess kiddie porn was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada last week.  He spoke them last September 30 at a forum on freedom of speech held in Vancouver.

It’s been a year since a B.C. judge first granted Sharpe the right to collect graphic pictures, drawings and stories of young boys engaging in sex and being tortured.  During that time, a number of commentators have taken Sharpe’s side.  Those commentators have all claimed to be outraged by Sharpe’s material.  No, no, they reassure, they are not endorsing the sexual abuse of children.  It’s just that Canada’s law against child pornography is over-broad. They argue it amounts to the prosecution of “thought crime.”  And none of us want the police to control what goes on in our heads, do we?

 

Donna Laframboise, a director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, assured readers of the National Post that “Mr. Sharpe has not been charged with molesting actual children.  Rather, he has been charged with being in possession of sexually oriented material involving persons under the age of 18.  If no real children were harmed by its production why should it be illegal?”

 

Jonathan Kay, a member of the Post’s editorial board, trivialized the material in Sharpe’s possession, perhaps to convince his readers the law is worse than the crime.  “A law that threatens to put a citizen in jail for sketches and fantasies that he writes in his own diary seems odd.”  That’s all. Nothing but a couple of pen-and-ink drawings and a few naughty bits in a private journal.  We may be repulsed by their content, but where’s the crime?

Laframboise had made a similar point.  “Although it’s perfectly legal for a 16-year-old girl to have sex with her 17-year-old boyfriend, if that girl sketches the two them in a sexual embrace, our law says she has just manufactured child pornography.”

Unfortunately for Laframboise, citing the ludicrous extreme in the Sharpe case cannot justify the CCLA’s defence of this detestable man or the material he collects.  Nor, in Kay’s case, can pretending Sharpe’s material is no more abhorrent than a collection of anatomically correct Beanie Babies change its true nature.

The material seized from Sharpe’s home is far more than mere sketches and diaries.  I describe them here to give readers a sense of their truly evil nature, as well as a measure of the man at the centre of this controversy.

 

The stories fill several binders.  All are violent, describing children (all boys, except for a single girl in one story) being tortured in horrific and extreme ways.  Most depict the children deriving sexual pleasure from their abuse.  Almost none involve boys over 14. Some describe the sodomizing and beating of little boys of six.

 

On top of this, Sharpe had in his possession thousands of, not only drawings, but also pictures of naked, prepubescent boys.  There are close-ups of their erect genitals and of their bound genitals.  Boys as young as six or seven appear in some.  Others are of boys of about 12 to 14 fellating one another.  Many were taken in Sharpe’s home, allegedly by Sharpe himself.

Perhaps, as Laframboise asserts, “no real children were harmed” during Sharpe’s production of thousands of pages of what Kay calls “fantasies that he writes in his own diary.”  But what about the photos?

I do not much care what consenting adults do in private with other consenting adults.  If you want to possess and distribute pornographic images and stories involving straight or gay sado-masochism, rape or group sex, provided all the participants are willing and able to give informed consent, I will defend your right to do so against the state.

Your actions may be a sin, but that is a matter between you and God, not between you and the minister of justice.  Provided you keep your actions private, I would oppose a law that forbade you doing as you choose.

But children?  Have our minds become so polluted, our moral compasses so bent we can no longer draw a clear, firm line between kiddie porn and freedom of expression?

Taking dirty pictures of children in and of itself constitutes abuse since children are incapable of understanding the consequences of such actions and thus incapable of giving consent.  If Sharpe took such pictures, he harmed real children, whether he intended to distribute the photos or “merely” use them for his own sick amusement.

The current law as it applies to 16- and 17-years-old is over-broad, and should be changed, but in Parliament, not the courts.

However, when it comes to deriving sexual gratification from the abuse of children, have we become so “progressive” we cannot see the need to maintain this taboo fully in law?