Voyeurism As A Criminal Offence Summary of the Submissions

The Department of Justice would like to thank all the participants for their comments on the voyeurism consultation document. The following summary is the result of written responses to the public consultation document and does not include the result of consultations held with provincial and territorial governments and other federal departments or agencies. The Department received an overwhelming majority of responses in favour of enacting new criminal offences of sexual voyeurism and the distribution of voyeuristic materials, as outlined in the consultation paper. The majority of submissions recognized that Canada's criminal law must keep pace with technological and social changes, as well as acknowledge the need for legislation to combat what appears to be an increasing form of privacy invasion. The participants viewed such legislation as a logical complement to Criminal Code provisions against obscenity and child pornography. The Department's initiative was also perceived as filling a legislative gap for offensive behaviour not captured by other provisions, but which harms society and degrades its victims.

For the vast majority of participants, criminal voyeurism should be defined as both a privacy and a sexual offence. As recognized by the public consultation, voyeurism that violates the physical or sexual integrity of the victim might be committed for a variety of purposes, some of which may not be sexual in nature, such as commerce, harassment or extortion. Consequently, any requirement on the Crown to always prove that the voyeuristic act had a sexual purpose was found to be too restrictive.

The creation of a public good defence, limited in the same manner as the obscenity provisions, was also strongly recommended by the majority of participants, and was especially advocated by the media. Under such a defence, no person shall be convicted of an offence if the public good was served by the acts that are alleged to constitute the offence and if the acts alleged did not extend beyond what served the public good.

There was also a common view that the proposed legislation should create hybrid offences, which allow for varying lengths of sentences to be imposed depending on whether the offence is prosecuted by summary conviction or by indictment. Some participants believed that the penalty for distribution of voyeuristic material should be higher than the penalty available for the recording of voyeuristic material. The appropriate maximum penalty often recommended was two years for the main offence and five years for the distribution offence. Some participants also suggested that the same penalty apply to both offences. Finally, some respondents recommended adding voyeurism to the forfeiture provisions of the Criminal Code in order to confiscate voyeuristic material.

The Department of Justice will use the feedback from these consultations in developing a legislative proposal on voyeurism.

October 28, 2002

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