Voyeurism as a Criminal Offence: A Consultation Paper (Abridged Version)

Concerns about Voyeurism

Concern about voyeurism has increased in light of recent incidents for which the Criminal Code provided no appropriate responses. The discovery in December 1999 of a video camera hidden inside a garbage can in the unisex washroom of the provincial Department of Justice in Fredericton, New Brunswick, raised questions about protecting the privacy rights of Canadians.

In February 2001, the media reported on a case of voyeurism at the Military College in Kingston. A video recording, made without the victim's consent while she engaged in a sexual act with an officer cadet, was later shown at several parties at the military base. The Crown Attorney advised police that the facts of the case did not disclose any offence under the Criminal Code and charges were therefore not laid under the Code. Of the three individuals involved in the case, one was acquitted of various offences under the National Defence Act. One individual pleaded guilty to two counts of disgraceful conduct and to one count of engaging in conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline pursuant to sections 93 and 129, respectively, of the National Defence Act. He received a severe reprimand and a fine. Prior to trial he was administratively released from the Canadian Forces. The cadet who actually engaged in the sexual activity with the victim was found guilty of two counts of disgraceful conduct, was fined and was dismissed from the Canadian Forces.

On February 19, 2001, Maclean's magazine highlighted the degree to which new technologies, such as Web cameras and cameras hidden in everyday items, create a potential threat to privacy.

On February 12, 2002, the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers responsible for Justice identified a need to create a voyeurism offence to protect victims of voyeurism and to address a "serious gap in the criminal law."

One justification for creating a voyeurism offence is that the secret viewing or recording of another person, which is done for a sexual purpose or which captures images of sexual organs, the anal region or explicit sexual activity, is a breach of that person's privacy to such a degree that it may undermine basic notions of the right to freedom and privacy in a democratic society.

Another justification for creating a voyeurism offence is that it would address emerging forms of crime made possible by new technologies (a priority identified in the last Speech from the Throne). A review of Internet sites that advertise voyeuristic materials confirms that there is a market for these images.

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