Inverness MLA introduces bill protecting children from Internet pornography

HALIFAX: The MLA for Inverness says he thought there would be support from other political parties when he introduced his Protecting Children on the Internet Act in the House of Assembly on September 25, but that wasn’t the case.

Allan MacMaster said government is never going to be able to protect children from everything but the effort is made to protect them from things like alcohol and tobacco when they’re young.

“At the end of the day, I do believe it’s important for youth to be protected from some things and pornography is one of them,” MacMaster told The Reporter last Monday. “I felt there was support for it in the legislature, but the two other parties that got up to speak about it, found a way to excuse themselves from supporting it, which is disappointing.”

MacMaster said Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have not taken an interest to protect children from what can be accessed at the click of a button.

“Right now, a young child can go onto the Internet and search absolutely anything,” he said. “Parents need help to protect children, and it is time for government to help them with that.”

The introduced bill would require ISPs to automatically block Web sites that feature pornography and encourage its business partners to adopt a filtering service at locations where children and youth may have access to free wireless Internet services.

It also requests new broadband accounts with ISPs must include settings for and be initially set on a family-friendly content filter that may only be changed by an adult account holder.

Lucille Harper, Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association executive director said lessening children’s exposure to pornography is key to promoting healthy relationships and lessening sexualized violence, particularly against women.

“Every day we hear accounts of acts of sexualized violence that are perpetrated against women and youth — many of which are attempts to replicate what has been portrayed in pornography,” she said. “Limiting the exposure of children to pornography will both support the development of healthy relationships and contribute to reducing sexualized violence.”

MacMaster noted if children and young people are seeing this material, they’re developing knowledge and insight, thinking its normal behaviour and growing up with an healthy idea of sexuality.

“It may not be healthy for people they interact with, especially if they’re trying to re-create things they’ve seen,” he said. “I’m talking about mental health issues – things as serious as assault.”

MacMaster said he’s not giving up on this bill and the legislature should take every precaution to ensure that all children and youth in Nova Scotia are protected.

“Because I think this is an issue that I think if people understand what’s being put forth, it’s pretty hard to argue that we shouldn’t be doing something to protect children from seeing pornography.”