TORONTO—A conservative Canadian politician has introduced a bill that would mandate the use of filters on computers in schools and libraries in Ontario. The legislation by Gerry Martiniuk, who represents the riding of Cambridge, received a routine first reading Wednesday afternoon at Queen's Park.
Martiniuk said he believes only 25-35 percent of library and school computers carry software designed to screen out sexually explicit photos and written material.
"I'm not in favour of censorship," he said. "I am in favour of protecting our children at particular locations—the school and the libraries." He said the idea for the bill came from one of his constituents—cyber safety expert Rob Nickel, who brought the issue to the MPP's attention after saying he saw a man in a Cambridge library accessing pornography online while in the presence of young children.
"We all know that there's a shortage of manpower both in our public libraries and in our schools," Martiniuk, a former police officer, told CBC News. "You can't supervise the kids 24 hours a day. This would alleviate that problem."
Dalton McGuinty, Ontario’s premiere, pushed back against the plan, saying he wasn't ready to commit to any new filters and that the responsibility really should fall on parents.
"You've got to take a personal interest in the technology in your home, you've got to understand what they've (your kids) got access to, there are certain kinds of filters that you can put in place," he said. "It's really important for us not to devolve that responsibility to any authority or government."
Currently, according to Education Minister Katheen Wynne, the decision whether to install filters on computers is up to the individual school boards, adding the schools are "very, very aware of this."
"There's some software that we worked on with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services that's gone into schools around the province," she added. "But they're going to be local initiatives."
According to Andrew Graydon, the chief operating officer of Netsweeper, a filtering software provider based in Guelph. Ontario, it would cost a small library only a few hundred dollars over two to three years to install preventative software, adding that the profit margin for a company like his was nil on such jobs.
"I don't think it's a very big market if you're looking at the dollars," he said.