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All artists and writers should be nervous. Don Smith has gone down (even before this legislation was introduced) and if you think Christine Bartlett-Hughes won't seize this precedent to come after you, think again! The way has been cleared for prosecutions reminiscent of the war on drugs. The misleading headline of the Globe and Mail article should read "Ottawa targets everyone". Search and Seizure | Pornography Busts

Ottawa targets child predators

OTTAWA - The federal government will unveil a sweeping child-protection bill this week that aims to close loopholes in child-pornography laws, outlaw "criminal voyeurism" by electronic peeping Toms and make divorce laws less confrontational.

The proposed legislation contains measures that would prevent the sexual exploitation of younger teenagers who are old enough to consent to sex but vulnerable to abuse by older adults, sources said.

Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, who has said he wants to make the protection of children from sexual predators a priority, will outline the omnibus bill in the House of Commons this week, government sources said.

The legislation is designed to protect children and other vulnerable members of society. Child-pornography laws would be rewritten to ensure limits are placed on the defence of artistic merit.

Ottawa has vowed to close a loophole made apparent when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled there are exceptions to the child-pornography law. In a decision that sparked a national uproar last year, the Supreme Court ruled that graphic stories of child sex written by John Robin Sharpe of Vancouver have artistic merit that fall within the realm of freedom of expression.

The bill calls for tightening the provisions in the child-pornography section of the Criminal Code, while balancing constitutional rights.

The legislation is expected to call for the elimination of the terms "access" and "custody" in the Divorce Act, replacing them with "parenting orders," to do away with the connotations of winning and losing custody of children and access rights to them.

Mr. Cauchon has said he wants a less adversarial divorce system and he is leaning away from existing laws on shared parenting to embrace parental responsibility. "We want to address issues of access and custody and make it less confrontational," he said this year.

Sources said the legislation would not raise the age of legal consent to sex but would create a prohibited category of sexual exploitation of young people.

Under pressure to raise the age of consent to prevent teens from being exploited by older adults, the Justice Minister has examined ways to broaden the section of the Criminal Code addressing sexually exploitative relationships.

The age of consent is 14, except where a relationship of trust or authority exists or if the relationship is deemed exploitative, such as in child pornography and prostitution.

Opposition critics have called on the government to increase the age of consent to 16. This year, a Canadian Alliance motion calling for the measure was defeated. In the United States, the age of consent ranges from 16 to 18.

Mr. Cauchon and Liberal MPs argued that the Alliance motion was simplistic and could result in the criminalization of sexual acts by teenagers of the same age or close to it.

The proposed legislation would create an offence called criminal voyeurism, to deal with modern-day peeping Toms who rely on tiny cameras and other technological tools for sexual spying. In drafting the legislation, the government had to consider how to frame the legislation in such a way that criminal conduct could be prohibited while allowing freedom of expression.

More than a dozen U.S. states have taken steps to outlaw non-consensual voyeurism, but no such offence exists in Canada. Police can charge video voyeurs only with mischief or trespass by night, century-old Criminal Code offences that cannot cope with electronic invasions of privacy.

Police have complained that the Criminal Code's provisions are not well tailored to cope with video voyeurs who conceal pinhole cameras and disseminate images on the Internet and elsewhere. The voyeurs - - " typically men - - " have spied on victims - - " usually women - - " in bedrooms, locker rooms, toilet cubicles and store dressing rooms.

The omnibus bill follows a model the Liberal government has used in recent years in which a number of bills are rolled into one piece of legislation.

One of these, Bill C-10, which called for stiffer penalties for cruelty to animals and proposals to streamline the national firearms registry, stalled in the Senate.

Senators voted to split the bill into Bill C-10 (a) and Bill C-10 (b), saying the issues are unrelated.