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CANADA'S HIGHEST COURT WILL RULE ON CHILD PORN LAW

After a hotly debated session, Canada's Supreme Court is set to rule later this year on whether the country's child pornography law should be struck down as unconstitutional "thought control" or upheld as a weapon against pedophiles and distributors of such materials.

Last week, the Supreme Court wrapped up two days of hearings on a 1993 law that criminalizes a broad spectrum of activities as child pornography.

Under the law, critics say, possessing any sketch that depicts someone under age 18 in a sexual way, any diary entry by a 14-year-old girl about her own sexual experiences or any photograph that shows a sexy adult dressed as a young person can land a person in jail for 10 years.

The law is being challenged by John Sharpe, 66, of British Columbia, a retired city planner who was arrested on charges of possessing photos of naked boys, some as young as 7, in sexual poses, and a collection of erotic stories he wrote under the title "Kiddie Kink Classics."

The significance of the case brought federal and provincial lawyers, defense lawyers and representatives of 13 intervenor groups to the high court in Ottawa.

Cheryl Tobias, a lawyer for the federal government, said the court must not "sacrifice children at the altar of the Charter" of Rights and Freedoms, Canada's version of the U.S. Bill of Rights.

John Gordon, a lawyer for British Columbia, urged the court to uphold the law because he said pedophiles use pornography to lure children into sex acts.

"Child pornography," he said, "perpetuates lies about children's humanity. It denies their aspirations to be treated as sole and equal and contributing citizens in this society."

While all sides agreed that sections of the law dealing with the abuse of children in producing child pornography and with possession of certain kinds of such materials should remain in effect, opponents called the statute overly broad.

"This legislation is thought control," said Richard Peck, Sharpe's lawyer.

The law, he said, creates a situation where sex between 16-year-olds is legal, but possessing a photo or drawing of those acts would land them in jail.

Frank Addario, representing Canada's Criminal Lawyers Association, said the law needs to focus sharply on real crimes, rather than imagined ones.

"We don't make screwdrivers illegal because some burglars will use them to commit crimes," he said.

John McAlpine, a lawyer for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, said that when they passed the law in 1993, members of Parliament admitted they had not considered its constitutional validity.

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