Edmonton Journal, Sunday January 30,2000, page A10                                                    [Back]

[Because this article was published inthe Edmonton Journal, it's not wholly certain that Ms. Laframboise saw it.]

Child porn must remain taboo

Nothing progressive aboutequating abuse with freedom of speech

“A person should be allowedto possess anything, even if it’s images of an eight-year-old being raped andcut up.”

Those are the words of RobinSharpe, the 66-year-old man whose claim of a constitutional right to possesskiddie porn was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada last week.  He spoke them last September 30 at a forum onfreedom of speech held in Vancouver.

It’s been a year since a B.C.judge first granted Sharpe the right to collect graphic pictures, drawings andstories of young boys engaging in sex and being tortured.  During that time, a number of commentatorshave taken Sharpe’s side.  Thosecommentators have all claimed to be outraged by Sharpe’s material.  No, no, they reassure, they are not endorsingthe sexual abuse of children.  It’s justthat Canada’slaw against child pornography is over-broad. They argue it amounts to theprosecution of “thought crime.”  And noneof us want the police to control what goes on in our heads, do we?


Donna Laframboise, a director of the CanadianCivil Liberties Association, assured readers of the National Post that “Mr.Sharpe has not been charged with molesting actual children.  Rather, he has been charged with being inpossession of sexually oriented material involving persons under the age of18.  If no real children were harmed byits production why should it be illegal?”


Jonathan Kay, a member of the Post’s editorialboard, trivialized the material in Sharpe’s possession, perhaps toconvince his readers the law is worse than the crime.  “A law that threatens to put a citizen injail for sketches and fantasies that he writes in his own diary seems odd.”  That’s all. Nothing but a couple of pen-and-inkdrawings and a few naughty bits in a private journal.  We may be repulsed by their content, butwhere’s the crime?

Laframboise had made asimilar point.  “Although it’s perfectlylegal for a 16-year-old girl to have sex with her 17-year-old boyfriend, ifthat girl sketches the two them in a sexual embrace, our law says she has justmanufactured child pornography.”

Unfortunately forLaframboise, citing the ludicrous extreme in the Sharpe case cannot justify theCCLA’s defence of this detestable man or the material he collects.  Nor, in Kay’s case, can pretending Sharpe’smaterial is no more abhorrent than a collection of anatomically correct BeanieBabies change its true nature.

The material seized fromSharpe’s home is far more than mere sketches and diaries.  I describe them here to give readers a senseof their truly evil nature, as well as a measure of the man at the centre ofthis controversy.


Thestories fill several binders.  All areviolent, describing children (all boys, except for a single girl in one story)being tortured in horrific and extreme ways. Most depict the children deriving sexual pleasure from their abuse.  Almost none involve boys over 14. Some describethe sodomizing and beating of little boys of six.


On top of this, Sharpe hadin his possession thousands of, not only drawings, but also pictures of naked,prepubescent boys.  There are close-upsof their erect genitals and of their bound genitals.  Boys as young as six or seven appear insome.  Others are of boys of about 12 to14 fellating one another.  Many weretaken in Sharpe’s home, allegedly by Sharpe himself.

Perhaps, as Laframboiseasserts, “no real children were harmed” during Sharpe’s production of thousandsof pages of what Kay calls “fantasies that he writes in his own diary.”  But what about the photos?

I do not much care whatconsenting adults do in private with other consenting adults.  If you want to possess and distributepornographic images and stories involving straight or gay sado-masochism, rapeor group sex, provided all the participants are willing and able to giveinformed consent, I will defend your right to do so against the state.

Your actions may be a sin,but that is a matter between you and God, not between you and the minister ofjustice.  Provided you keep your actionsprivate, I would oppose a law that forbade you doing as you choose.

But children?  Have our minds become so polluted, our moralcompasses so bent we can no longer draw a clear, firm line between kiddie pornand freedom of expression?

Taking dirty pictures of children in and of itselfconstitutes abuse since children are incapable of understanding theconsequences of such actions and thus incapable of giving consent.  If Sharpe took such pictures, he harmed realchildren, whether he intended to distribute the photos or “merely” use them forhis own sick amusement.

The current law as itapplies to 16- and 17-years-old is over-broad, and should be changed, but inParliament, not the courts.

However, when it comes toderiving sexual gratification from the abuse of children, have we become so“progressive” we cannot see the need to maintain this taboo fully in law?