Frank Caputo

Kamloops MP Frank Caputo, with North Okanagan MP Mel Arnold seated behind him, speaks Nov. 17 in the House of Commons about proposed legislation to change Criminal Code references to child pornography.

Two federal politicians from B.C.’s Southern Interior are leading a drive to call out “child pornography” for what it really is and are drawing inspiration from a Penticton judge’s decision in one particularly ugly case.

Mel Arnold, the Conservative MP for North Okanagan-Shuswap, on Nov. 17 tabled a private member’s bill in the House of Commons that would replace Criminal Code references to “child pornography” with the term “child sexual abuse material.”

“What the Criminal Code currently calls ‘child pornography’ is more severe than mere pornography because it involves children and cannot be consensual,” said Arnold in his speech to introduce the bill.

“It is exploitive and abusive, and the Criminal Code should clearly reflect these realities. So-called child pornographers are producers of child sexual abuse material. Those who distribute it are distributors of child sexual abuse material. Those who possess it are owners of child sexual abuse material. Those who view it are consumers of child sexual abuse material. These are the realities that compelled me to table this bill.”

Also speaking in support of the bill was Conservative MP Frank Caputo, a former Crown prosecutor elected in 2021 to represent Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, who helped draft the legislation.

Caputo cited a 2020 decision in a child pornography case from provincial court in Penticton in which Judge Greg Koturbash alluded to the need to rename the offence.

“The phrase ‘child pornography’ dilutes the true meaning of what these images and videos represent to some degree. The term ‘pornography’ reinforces the perception that what is occurring is consensual and a mutual experience between the viewer and the actor. These are not actors. It is not consensual. These are images and videos of child sexual abuse,” wrote Koturbash in that decision.

“The problem is so pervasive that police are required to triage and pursue only those with extensive collections or those involved in dissemination. One judge describes it as a virtual firehose spewing depraved and disturbing images across the internet. In addition to the ever-increasing supply, changes in technology make fighting its growth increasingly challenging.”

Caputo put an even finer point on it.

“Let us not make any mistake. What is occurring in this sort of material is the repeated victimization of children. I say ‘repeated’ because the act itself happens, and the act is recorded. Every time that media is disseminated, viewed or passed on to somebody else, that child is revictimized, and we cannot lose sight of that,” said Caputo.

The rookie MP has also sponsored his own private member’s bill to increase the maximum sentence for most sex offences to life imprisonment and re-establish one-year mandatory minimum sentences for those same crimes.

Koturbash’s decision came in the case of Kenneth Large, a Penticton man who pleaded guilty to possessing nearly 27,000 images and videos of child pornography. Large was sentenced to 18 months’ jail, followed by three years’ probation.