The Harms of Child Pornography Law

University of British Columbia Law Review, Vol. 36, p. 101, 2003

35 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2011

See all articles by Bruce Ryder

Bruce Ryder

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School

Date Written: 2003


The author challenges the assumption that the expansion of child pornography offenses can lead only to a decrease in harm to children and to society. He argues that Canadian child pornography law is incoherent. In some respects, child pornography law makes valuable contributions to the prevention of child sexual abuse by targeting the production, dissemination and use of material ("real" child pornography) that involved harm in production. It also improves the law by criminalizing written and visual material that advocates the commission of sexual crimes against children and youth. In other respects, the law causes harm to society by suppressing thoughts and expression concerning child and youth sexuality that involved no harm in production, fall short of advocating harm and that have at best a tenuous connection to the commission of harmful acts. The Canadian child pornography offense criminalizes a range of creative expression in the absence of any persuasive evidence of a risk of harm. Amendments to the offense since the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Sharpe (2001) have exacerbated its impact on civil liberties. A fundamental reconsideration of the design and scope of the child pornography offense is required to ensure it is focused on achieving its objectives in a constitutionally sound manner.

Keywords: Constitutional law, freedom of expression, civil liberties, child pornography

Suggested Citation

Ryder, Bruce, The Harms of Child Pornography Law (2003). University of British Columbia Law Review, Vol. 36, p. 101, 2003, Available at SSRN:

Bruce Ryder (Contact Author)

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

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