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No Advocacy Allowed

December 8, 2009 permalink

The supreme court of Canada has broadened restrictions on communication between adults and children (anyone under 18 years) in a move that may do children more harm than good. The restrictions now apply to any communication deemed to be sexual, even if, as in the case of Craig Bartholomew Legare, the adult does not intend to meet the child.

These pages have featured the work of John Dunn, who advocates for foster children, and Wendy Babcock, who advocates for under-age prostitutes. As far as is known, Mr Dunn has never had sexual designs on the wards he helps, but everything about Miss Babcock's advocacy is sexual. Both of these activities could be restricted or outlawed by the new legal rules.



Supreme Court provides broad definition of Internet luring

Janice Tibbetts, Canwest News Service Published: Thursday, December 03, 2009

chat screens
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected an appeal in the case of Craig Legare, an Edmonton man accused of trying to lure a teenage girl online.

OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada moved Thursday to "close the cyberspace door" on Internet predators in a unanimous ruling that is expected to make it easier to enforce Canada's criminal ban against luring children online.

The court overturned a trial judge's acquittal of Craig Bartholomew Legare and ordered a new trial on charges of luring a 12-year-old girl with whom he allegedly had online sex chats.

The Edmonton man had argued he committed no crime because he never tried to meet the girl.

Justice Morris Fish, in the court's first interpretation of Canada's seven-year-old law against Internet luring, concluded that "sexually explicit comments"may be enough to constitute a crime.

"The offender need not meet or intend to meet the victim," Fish wrote in the 7-0 ruling. "This is in keeping with Parliament's objective to close the cyberspace door before the predator gets in to prey."

Legare was originally acquitted at trial by a judge who found his actions were "both despicable and repugnant" but that he needed to have more than "an intimate conversation" with the girl in order to be a criminal.

"It seems a reasonable inference that some individuals never intend to meet the children, but rather intend only to talk dirty, so to speak," Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Agrios wrote in his 2006 decision.

The Supreme Court concluded that was an "unduly restrictive" view of Canada's 2002 Criminal Code ban, which makes it illegal to communicate online with a person under 18 "for the purpose of facilitating the commission" of a sexual offence.

"Those who use their computers to lure children for sexual purposes often groom them online by first gaining their trust through conversations about their home life, their personal interests or other innocuous topics," wrote Fish.

"The Internet is an open door to knowledge, entertainment, communication -- and exploitation."

Legare was 32 years old when he is alleged to have posed as a 17-year-old in a public chat room in April 2003 and had two online conversations with an Ontario girl, one that lasted for an hour and was "almost entirely sexual in nature," according to court records.

He later telephoned the girl twice at her Toronto-area home and she hung up on him after he said he wanted to perform oral sex on her, the court documents said.

The Supreme Court upheld a 2008 decision in the Alberta Court of Appeal, which ruled that Parliament intended to protect children from all online sexual predators, including those who take "preparatory" action because it makes it easier to molest in the future.

Beyond Borders, a child-advocacy group that intervened in the case, said the Supreme Court's broad interpretation places Canada at the international forefront of laws against child exploitation.

"By recognizing that Internet luring can occur even where an adult has no intent to actually meet the child, the court has interpreted the offence so that it affords maximum protection for children," co-founder Mark Hecht said in a statement.

Legare's lawyer, Laura Stevens, unsuccessfully argued that if Parliament wanted to criminalize sexually charged online chats between adults and children, it could have done so.

"The plain and unambiguous reading of the legislation does not criminalize computer communications with sexual content between an adult and a child," Stevens said in written arguments filed in the Supreme Court.

"At no time during the communications did the applicant tell or ask the complainant to perform a sexual act, watch someone else commit or take part in such an act, nor was there any suggestion or exchange of pornographic materials, money or gifts."

She refused comment Thursday, saying the case is still before the courts.

The Supreme Court ruling comes only months after Statistics Canada, in its first analysis of Internet child luring, found that police are losing the battle to catch cyberspace predators.

The report said the police track record in solving the borderless crime is worsening as technology advances -- and children are increasingly living their lives online and offering up personal information that makes them easy prey.

Statistics Canada said police forces across Canada reported 464 cases of Internet child-luring in 2006 and 2007, but that the figure is believed to be only 10% of actual cases, based on U.S. statistics.

Source: National Post