Reform motion on child pornography struck down

When push came to shove, nearly all the Liberals towed the line Tuesday and voted against a Reform Party motion on child pornography.

It was an emotional debate in the House of Commons. But at the end of the day MPs voted, by a margin of 142 against to 129 in favour, to strike down the Reform motion. If approved the motion would have invoked the notwithstanding clause and overruled a B.C. Supreme Court decision declaring the possession of child pornography legal.

Ottawa has never before invoked the notwithstanding clause regarding matters under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Liberal government says invoking the clause is too a drastic step.

Justice Minister Anne McLellan felt the notwithstanding clause was not necessary and preferred to wait for the appeal process. "Let us not pre-empt the process by which we can gain the most guidance, in terms of (whether) the law has a flaw (and) how we go about fixing that flaw," McLellan said.

NDP leader Alexa McDonough backed McLellan, saying the heavy hand of the notwithstanding clause should not be used.

Yesterday the Reform party thought it had the support of many Liberals when 70 Liberal backbenchers signed a petition calling on the government to invoke the clause.

However, by late Tuesday word went out from the Liberal caucus that MPs were expected to support the government. In the the majority of Liberal backbenchers decided to tow the party line and only four Liberals breaking ranks by voting in favour of the Reform motion.

Last month, B.C. Supreme Court Judge Duncan Shaw dismissed charges against Robin Sharpe, ruling the ban on possessing child pornography is unconstitutional.

B.C. Attorney General, Ujjal Dosanjh says that people should not be alarmed by the decision because the case is being appealed.