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UBC Law Review. Volume 36, Number 1 (2003), p. 101-135.


child pornography; civil liberties; constitutional law; Freedom of Expression


The author challenges the assumption that the expansion of child pornography offenses can lead only to a decrease in harm to children and to society. He argues that Canadian child pornography law is incoherent. In some respects, child pornography law makes valuable contributions to the prevention of child sexual abuse by targeting the production, dissemination and use of material ("real" child pornography) that involved harm in production. It also improves the law by criminalizing written and visual material that advocates the commission of sexual crimes against children and youth. In other respects, the law causes harm to society by suppressing thoughts and expression concerning child and youth sexuality that involved no harm in production, fall short of advocating harm and that have at best a tenuous connection to the commission of harmful acts. The Canadian child pornography offense criminalizes a range of creative expression in the absence of any persuasive evidence of a risk of harm. Amendments to the offense since the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Sharpe (2001) have exacerbated its impact on civil liberties. A fundamental reconsideration of the design and scope of the child pornography offense is required to ensure it is focused on achieving its objectives in a constitutionally sound manner.


Credit notice for original publication: Ryder, Bruce, “The Harms of Child Pornography Law” (2003) 36:1 UBC L Rev 101.

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