Bill C-49 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons)
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Irwin Cotler Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
May 1st, 2013 / 5 p.m.
Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much for coming to committee today. We appreciate it.
As you know, we're talking about human trafficking. Research is showing us that it's primarily underage youths who are duped and deceived into servicing men, and if they don't do it, they get beaten, raped, shot up with drugs. I've worked with victims for 14 years now, so that's the way it happens.
As you know, in this country, Bill C-49 was the first bill, in 2005, that addressed human trafficking. They got one conviction, Imani Nakpangi. He trafficked a 15-and-a-half-year-old girl. You know about that one. Then Bill C-268 and Bill C-310 came in, in 2010 and 2012. Now we have this bill before us today.
I ran out of time on the other session, but this is why we don't have all the hard statistics, because the bills are so new. They are brand new in Canada.
You mentioned something that I thought was so relevant. I want to talk to Ms. Duval. You talked about human dignity. You talked about the right for people to be free, the right for them to make their own choices. Can you tell me, in terms of this bill of Maria Mourani's, why this is so important to help the victims of human trafficking?
May 1st, 2013 / 4:25 p.m.
Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB
I'll address this to Mr. Hooper.
The question keeps coming up as to why don't we have the statistics. We all know that in 2005, Mr. Cotler, one of the members from the Liberal Party, passed Bill C-49, and that Imani Nakpangi, the first offender, was convicted in Canada. Then my bills came in—Bill C-268, in June 2010, and Bill C-310, in June 2012—so there was very little time....
People sometimes get human trafficking mixed up with human smuggling. Can you define the difference between human trafficking and human smuggling?
Mr. Hooper, could you perhaps answer the question?
Bill C-31—Time allocation motion
Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
May 29th, 2012 / 10:20 a.m.
Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB
Madam Speaker, I can. In fact, there is a very clear and compelling deadline that we are rapidly approaching which requires the rapid adoption of Bill C-31, the protecting Canada's immigration system act.
In the last Parliament, the 40th Parliament, this place adopted then Bill C-11, the balanced refugee reform act, that included major revisions to Canada's asylum system which are scheduled to come into force by June 29, 2012.
Since that time, we have seen the growing problem of both human smuggling and a large and growing wave of unfounded asylum claims particularly coming from the European Union. Therefore, we have concluded that it is necessary to strengthen the asylum reforms and adopt measures to combat human smuggling. That is why we have had to delay the coming into force of the balanced refugee reform act from the last Parliament. To be blunt, we are not in a position to implement the new system contemplated in Bill C-11 in the 40th Parliament. If we do not adopt this legislation, if it does not receive royal assent by June 29 of this year, a new law will come into effect that the appropriate administrative agencies, such as the IRB, are not yet ready to put in place.
I would point out to my hon. colleague that this bill has received 13 days of debate, 47.5 hours of debate and 130 speeches at second reading and report stage. It had 15 committee meetings with over 43 hours of committee study and 109 witnesses. It was preceded in a previous Parliament by Bill C-49,, which had many similar provisions including 3 days of debate, 10 hours of debate and 30 speeches.
In fact, this bill and most of its provisions have received an enormous amount of debate and consideration both in this place and at committee. There is a deadline with a great deal of urgency that we adopt this by June 29.
March 15th, 2012 / noon
Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB
We know right now of cases that are sitting there. We know Canadians right now who are doing exactly that. They have brothels. We have a man who set up a brothel in Haiti. Publicly I hate to say too much because we're just waiting for this bill to get through. His youngest victim is four years old. Not only that, he comes back to Canada and he continues what he does to Canadian children. It's a matter of putting as many tools in place for police officers so they can grab these cases.
If you look at our history right now, we had Bill C-49, our first trafficking bill, which had royal assent in 2006. That's a brand-new law. Then my bill went through, Bill C-268, mandatory minimums, and now we're getting more tools for them. If you look at the grid, we used to have no trafficking cases. To date we have 19 human trafficking cases in Canada with specific charges related to Bill C-268, and we have 55 human trafficking cases now before the courts that are related to other laws that we have here in Canada. Of the 19 cases or 55 cases, what I am trying to get across is we used to have none. Now, suddenly because we have put those laws in place, they are catching these people, and with Bill C-310.... I know right now of one case extremely close to the Hill that we've been looking at for some time.... We can't touch him unless he goes through the States, and he doesn't.
June 15th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.
Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning and welcome.
With respect to your concerns about the bill's title, if it's helpful, I would say that I also don't think it makes any sense. It means... How can I put it? It's precisely because the government cannot measure its own words that it chooses these types of titles.
I'm going to use an example to show you how the Conservative government works. When we were talking about minimum sentences and law and order, Sébastien's Law was created. This law made people emotional. Another act amending the Criminal Code referred to “trafficking in persons”. That meant that the government, if we didn't agree on certain parts of it, could say, for example, that the Bloc Québécois was protecting pedophiles. So you can see how this government doesn't know how to measure its words.
Now, in terms of fairness at the pump, it should be pointed out that Bill C-14 deals with all weights and measures for electricity and gas, obviously. On the other hand, we also know that the federal government has to market its message. We know that it hasn't received good press over petroleum, with western petroleum companies and everything that's happening. Therefore, it's making the retailers shoulder the responsibility. I don't think that's the way to do things. The title of this legislation could simply have included words such as “fairness in measuring”, “accurate measuring” or something like that that involves all devices for weights and measures.
The government refers mainly to petroleum because it does not want to give more power to the Competition Bureau. You know, collusion is much more profitable than inaccurate instruments and differences of 0.5% at the pump. Neither do they want any sort of monitoring agency. They know that this affects many individuals and people who buy gas. So they come up with a pompous title for marketing purposes, simply because they're concerned with their image, it's obvious. They think they can improve their image by doing that.
That said, we know perfectly well, as Mr. Lake said earlier, that the government is surprised by that $20-million loss to the consumer. Obviously, that's not right. However, it's a relatively small amount compared to the $40 billion worth of gas sold every year in Canada. If retailers wanted to, rather than manipulate their instruments—this is what Mr. Lake is claiming—they could simply increase their costs by a tenth of a cent, or a cent, and that would easily cover it.
Generally speaking the Weights and Measures Act covers all measuring devices. What's important is that consumers can feel confident that when they buy something they're getting the right amount.
I do not believe that retailers are going to manipulate their pumps to get a price that will set them a few cents more. Not everyone sells 10 million litres annually. In any case I don't believe it. That would be rare. They should not be accused without any proof. Accusing them offsets to some degree everything the Conservatives have done on the other side. Twenty million dollars is a lot of money for Mr. Lake when the issue is pump adjustments, but $1 billion over three days doesn't appear to be a problem. We could pay for a lot of inspections with that money.
With respect to inspection costs, I've heard that they would vary between $50 and $200. How much are they now? How much does a retailer pay currently for inspection and calibration, approximately?
Private Members' Business
September 29th, 2009 / 6:10 p.m.
Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of private member's Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years).
This bill addresses a pressing issue – child trafficking involves the exploitation of society’s most vulnerable – and the bill would ensure a strong criminal justice response to what we must all agree is amongst the vilest of criminal conduct. For this reason, this bill has enjoyed widespread support in this House. For this reason, I add my own voice of support for it.
Might I add that the amendment proposed by the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, which would remove the provision for mandatory minimum penalties for trafficking in persons under the age of 18, shows the true colours of the Bloc Québécois' soft approach to serious crime in this country.
Trafficking in persons is often referred to as the modern-day form of slavery. It involves the recruitment, transportation and/or harbouring of people for the purpose of exploitation, typically sexual exploitation or forced labour.
Traffickers control their victims in many ways, but often through force, sexual assault and threats of violence. As a result, victims provide labour and services in circumstances where they believe that their safety or the safety of someone known to them would be threatened if they failed to comply with the demands of their traffickers.
I am sure we all agree that this is a serious issue that warrants attention from all levels of government.
Toward that end, I am pleased that this House again has the opportunity to consider Bill C-268 introduced by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul,which would amend the Criminal Code to impose mandatory minimum penalties for the offence of trafficking in children.
Bill C-268 would create a new separate offence of trafficking of a person under the age of 18 years. This offence would mirror the existing offence of “Trafficking in Persons”, found in section 279.01 of the Criminal Code, that protects all victims, adult and child.
The bill was amended by the justice committee in June. Now Bill C-268 proposes to impose a mandatory minimum penalty of six years for the aggravated branch of the offence of trafficking in children, for which the maximum penalty is life imprisonment, in addition to the five-year mandatory minimum penalty with a maximum penalty of fourteen years, as originally proposed by the bill.
In my view, this law reform is an important part of our efforts to combat this terrible crime. What do we really know about trafficking in persons, given that it is so often hidden from public view due to its criminal nature? Global estimates show us just how widespread the problem is.
The United Nations estimates that more than 700,000 people are trafficked globally each year. Further, a February 2009 United Nations report states that over 24,000 victims of trafficking were identified by 111 countries in the year 2006, that 79% of these cases involved trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and that 18% involved trafficking for the purpose of forced labour. However, the actual number of forced labour cases may be even higher, as forced labour is less frequently detected and reported than is trafficking for sexual exploitation.
Also in 2005, the International Labour Organization estimated that at least 2.45 million people across the world are in situations of forced labour as a result of human trafficking. Of these, it is estimated that 32% are trafficked for economic exploitation and 43% are trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, with 98% of the latter being women and girls. Finally, UNICEF estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked around the world each year.
These estimates confirm that this crime affects the most vulnerable. We know that trafficking in persons also occurs within Canada. As is the case with all countries, it is difficult to estimate the full extent of human trafficking within Canada. This is so not just because of the clandestine nature of the activity, but also because traffickers may be charged with trafficking in persons and/or other related offences.
In Canada, law enforcement has a tool box of offences that may apply in trafficking cases. As hon. members know, in 2005, three new trafficking-specific Criminal Code offences were enacted. These provisions address all forms of trafficking in persons.
The main offence of trafficking in persons, section 279.01, which provides the model for the new child trafficking offence proposed by Bill C-268, prohibits anyone from engaging in specified acts such as recruiting, transporting, harbouring or controlling the movements of another person for the purpose of exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of that person. This offence is punishable by up to life imprisonment, reflecting the severity of the crime and its harmful consequences for victims and Canadian society.
Section 279.02 makes it an offence to receive a financial or material benefit knowing that it results from the trafficking of persons. This offence is punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment.
Section 279.03 prohibits the withholding or destroying of travel or identity documents in order to commit or facilitate the trafficking of persons. This offence is punishable by a maximum of five years' imprisonment.
These offences supplement existing Criminal Code offences such as kidnapping, forceable confinement, assault and the prostitution-related provisions, which have long been used to address trafficking cases, as well as section 118 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which prohibits cases involving victims who are foreign nationals.
Police and Crown now have the ability to charge the offences that best meet circumstances of a given case. To date there have been five convictions in Canada under the specific offence of trafficking in persons. Many other cases are currently being investigated or are before the courts.
There have also been numerous charges laid and convictions secured in trafficking cases under other related Criminal Code offences. These cases reflect international estimates. The majority of known victims are women and girls who are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Further, anecdotal information suggests that aboriginal girls are particularly vulnerable to this type of exploitation.
We must continue to be vigilant in ensuring a strong criminal justice response to this global scourge that victimizes the most vulnerable among us. I believe that we are doing just that. The issue of trafficking in persons transcends party lines. I am sure that hon. members remember the all-party support that Bill C-49 received in 2005. It enacted the three Criminal Code trafficking offences that I have already mentioned.
In 2006, the House unanimously supported Motion No. 153, which was also introduced by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul. This motion condemned the crime of trafficking in persons and called for a national strategy to combat the trafficking of persons worldwide.
Further, in 2007, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women released its report entitled “Turning Outrage into Action to Address Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation in Canada”. The government's response to this report reiterated the importance of a multidisciplinary response to trafficking in persons. This response is reflected in the international framework established by the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its supplemental protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
Canada continues to use this framework as its overarching model for a comprehensive response to the issue by focusing on the four ps: the prevention of trafficking, the protection of its victims, the prosecution of offenders and the building of partnerships, both domestically and internationally.
I believe we all understand and appreciate the seriousness of the issue, which Bill C-268 addresses. I hope that all honourable members will join me in supporting this important initiative.
Private Members' Business
February 27th, 2009 / 1:55 p.m.
Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC
This bill would add a new offence to the Criminal Code. It would distinguish offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of 18 years from those involving adults.
The goal of this bill is to impose a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of five years for anyone found guilty of trafficking a person under the age of 18.
This bill is simple enough. There are eight clauses, but the heart of the bill is in the second clause, in its creation of a new offence in the Criminal Code, namely, section 279.011. The wording in this provision is exactly the same as section 279.01, regarding the trafficking of a person, but adds the distinction “under the age of eighteen years” to the definition of an exploited person. With this addition, a separate offence would be created when the trafficking involves a minor.
Although we are well aware of the worldwide scourge that is human trafficking, the Bloc Québécois cannot support this bill. Allow me to explain the reasons for its decision.
In 2005, the Bloc Québécois voted in support of Bill C-49. Creating an offence to specifically condemn human trafficking was necessary, and we willingly cooperated to see it passed. The amendment to the Criminal Code gave law enforcement authorities the legal tools they need to prosecute and convict anyone who unfortunately engages in these horrible practices that show no respect for human dignity.
Bill C-268, however, we believe is a step in the wrong direction. By automatically imposing a minimum sentence of five years on anyone convicted of the trafficking of persons under 18, the government is not solving anything. I will explain why.
First of all, many experts have established that minimum sentences have negative effects and dubious value when it comes to fighting crime.
For instance, criminal lawyer Julian Roberts, from the University of Ottawa, conducted a study in 1997 for the Department of Justice of Canada in which he concluded:
Although mandatory sentences of imprisonment have been introduced in a number of western nations... the studies that have examined the impact of these laws reported variable effects on prison populations and no discernible effect on crime rates.
In early May 2006, during a press conference on the controversial passing of Bill C-10, the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety at the time were forced to acknowledge that no Canadian study has demonstrated that new measures to introduce minimum penalties are effective in fighting crime.
Minimum sentences can also have a negative impact. According to André Normandeau, a criminologist at the Université de Montréal, minimum sentences can encourage plea bargaining by lawyers wanting to have their clients charged with offences that do not have minimum sentences. Minimum sentences can also force judges to acquit an individual, rather than be forced to sentence that individual to a penalty the judge considers excessive under the circumstances.
When it comes to sentencing, the first consideration must be individualization. The justification of this individualized approach lies in the principle of proportionality. The sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. This is because no two crimes are identical, no two offenders are exactly alike and no two sets of circumstances are exactly the same. For all those reasons, the Bloc Québécois believes in the importance of maintaining judicial discretion.
When judges sentence an offender to prison, they take into account the offender's degree of responsibility, the seriousness of the offence and the best way to serve justice while maximizing the likelihood of rehabilitation.
People who know only the offence and the sentence often do not realize that there are other important factors that must be taken into account in sentencing.
Moreover, studies have shown that when people have the chance to go beyond what is reported in the media, the body of evidence and the factors considered by the judge, most conclude that they would have handed down a similar sentence.
The Bloc Québécois is therefore opposed to mandatory minimum sentences because it believes in the justice system and the importance of maintaining judicial discretion. We believe that judges, who are best able to assess the information presented in court, have to be free to decide.
In addition, Bill C-268 is not consistent. It does not provide for a minimum sentence when an offender found guilty of trafficking of a minor kidnaps, commits an aggravated assault or aggravated sexual assault against or causes death to the victim during the commission of the offence. The bill does not change the subsection that covers this.
We are having a hard time understanding the logic behind Bill C-268. On the one hand, they say that they want to prevent serious offences involving the trafficking of minors by imposing minimum sentences, but on the other, they are not changing sentences for offenders who use extreme violence in committing the crime.
To ensure the most appropriate court rulings possible, we would be wise to look at recommendation 33 of the House Standing Committee on the Status of Women's report on human trafficking. Judges and prosecutors should be informed of, educated about, and made aware of the Criminal Code provisions concerning human trafficking and the disastrous impact of this crime on its victims.
When it comes to justice, the Bloc Québécois firmly believes that the most effective approach is still, and will always be, prevention. We have to attack crime at the root. That being said, the Bloc is aware that the existing legal system needs considerable improvement, and that some changes to the Criminal Code are necessary. The government's duty is to intervene and use the tools at its disposal to make sure that people can live peacefully and safely.
On June 15, 2007, in response to the Conservatives' ideological approach, the Bloc Québécois recommended a number of measures. The party proposed a series of recommendations for major changes to Canada's justice system. Unlike the Conservatives' measures, which lacked nuance, the Bloc's measures reflected the concerns of Quebeckers, who want a more balanced system, one that is consistent with modern realities and will have a real impact on crime, but that avoids the pitfalls inherent in the repression-based American model, whose negative effects are manifest.
The Bloc Québécois proposed measures that are in line with Quebeckers' values, measures based on prevention, rehabilitation, social and economic integration, and better distribution of wealth. Our proposals included the following: streamlining the parole system, stepping up the fight against organized crime, eliminating double credit for time served before sentencing—which British Columbia's Minister of Justice supports—and more funding for the national crime prevention strategy.
The Bloc Québécois does not support the bill because we believe its approach is harmful and ineffective and we are convinced that it will do nothing to improve the safety of citizens. The Bloc defends a model of justice based on a process tailored to each case and founded on the principle of rehabilitation. Any measure seeking to automate the nature of the sentence given to the offender represents, in our opinion, a dangerous approach. Minimum sentences unnecessarily tie the hands of judges who, we believe, remain in the best position to determine what sentence is the most appropriate in light of all the facts of the case.
In closing, experts tell us that minimum sentences do not lower crime rates or the rate of recidivism.
January 30th, 2008 / 5:25 p.m.
Director, Public Safety, Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness
Minimally, Mr. Karygiannis. In terms of enforcement locally around the country, we are at baby steps. When there is actually enforcement, whether it's the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act or Bill C-49 or the Criminal Code, it's more often an accident because there's a unit looking at all of this. We are in the Dark Ages.
January 30th, 2008 / 5:20 p.m.
Director, Public Safety, Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness
What exactly consultants are doing is not my expertise.
The other thing is that human trafficking, from an enforcement perspective in this country, is a very new thing. I can tell you my ex-counterparts in policing, with whom I communicate on a regular basis, all know about Bill C-49, from 2005, and they know about the amendment in terms of expanding the work visa. They recognize that they have a special victims unit, and these people are victims. They need to change the way they conduct business, and they have done it across a number of fronts.
You can pass this amendment—and I support it—but you're not going to get to where you want to go, Ms. Chow, without, for instance, that back-and-forth where you have, as one example, dedicated police units on the ground that are actively working with the visa officer or CBSA or the visa officers' counterparts here in this country and sharing the kind of information, for instance, where they can tell the overseas visa officer they now have evidence, as opposed to gossip, that a particular consultant or a particular employee on the ground here in Canada is doing bad things, they are trafficking and have indentured sex slaves, who are working at this place.
That's how it happens. Right now, I have to say, in terms of exploitation, much of the focus by the police services, law enforcement, that actually have specialized units has been on Internet child abuse. They need the resources.
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
June 5th, 2007 / 1:20 p.m.
Judy Sgro York West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to make some comments on Bill C-57. Certainly it is an issue which I know a fair amount about and I am glad to have the opportunity to comment on it.
Bill C-57 is about a page and a half long. It makes an amendment to our immigration laws. Certainly on the face of it, it should not take very long for any of us to deal with it, whether we are debating it at length or not. Part of our role in Parliament is not just to take something at face value and say that it looks good, it is an area that many of us care about and that we would like to see some improvements to strengthen it. Parliament is about debate and discussion to make things better.
For a bill to pass without our having a full opportunity to debate and discuss it, frankly, would be viewed upon as our not carrying out our responsibilities to ensure that legislation brought forward accomplishes what the intent of it clearly is, and if possible, to go further than that. That means we should look for areas to add further strength in the bill and make sure it is going to achieve the same goals that all of us in the House want to achieve.
I am pleased to take a few minutes to comment on this important issue today in an attempt to move the bill forward to committee so we can ensure that it accomplishes what we all want it to accomplish. The bill is an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which recognizes quite clearly, “Whereas Parliament recognizes the importance of protecting vulnerable foreign nationals who come to work in Canada from exploitation and abuse”. That is very clearly written into the Immigration Act and I know all of us want to ensure that happens.
This bill proposes to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to allow immigration officers the ability to refuse or authorize foreign nationals to work in Canada based on if they are considered to be vulnerable persons and/or at risk of exploitation or abuse. That very much is left up to the person who is doing the interviewing.
Currently, the visa officer can explain to individuals that they have certain rights when they go to Canada. The visa officer can hand them pamphlets outlining that they may be asked to do certain things and that they do not have to because they have certain rights under their visa applications. That does not always sink in with the person on the other side of the desk who is fleeing poverty or for whatever reason desperately wants to come to Canada and is willing to take a chance. This bill would end that opportunity. It would give the visa officer the opportunity to decide that the person would be exploited. It gives the officer a huge power. It is something that needs to be seriously looked at.
The bill would also allow immigration officers to determine if granting authorization would be contrary to public policy considerations that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has specifically outlined or based on evidence that people are at risk of exploitation. Often it is a feeling that someone gets. When we ask why a visa was refused, the visa officer will say that it was instinct, just a feeling that a certain person would find himself or herself in a vulnerable position. It puts a lot of emphasis and trust on the minister giving visas on judgment.
I do not see where there is harm in doing that as long as we make sure the checks and balances are in place. In reading at least the beginning of this bill, I see it is going to require a second person to comment and that is helpful.
Under the proposed amendments to the IRPA, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration could issue written instructions to immigration officers giving them the authority to deny work permits to applicants who appear very vulnerable to them. The instructions would be based on clear public policy objectives and evidence that outlines the risk of exploitation that the applicants face.
Written instructions could help identify, for example, individuals who would be vulnerable to humiliating and degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation. All of us as parliamentarians have been around for a few years and we have certainly had an opportunity to hear firsthand about the exploitation of many people who come here on a variety of different permits. They are very vulnerable and do not have a lot of support or resources, or even know where to turn to get help. They often end up in our offices, sometimes even our campaign offices.
These could include low skilled labourers as well as potential victims of human trafficking. Immigration officers would make their decision on a case by case basis. Each application for a permit is always assessed on its own merits.
Without this authority, immigration officers cannot deny a work permit to someone who meets all the requirements to enter Canada, even if they believe there is a strong possibility of exploitation or abuse.
Clearly, if we have licensed establishments that have a labour shortage, and through our process through HRDC, they can apply to have someone come over to fill that shortage. That is a problem for those of us who are trying to find ways of tightening up the system.
Either we start to ban some of these businesses and decide we are not going to have them. But if we have them, we have to recognize that they have the rights under the law to apply for workers to come to their legitimate businesses.
Strengthening these rules will hopefully provide a tool to respond to situations where a permit applicant could be at risk. Again, it puts a lot of effort and a lot of trust into the visa officer who is making that decision.
Here in the House I am sure that all parliamentarians support the protection of human rights and the prevention of exploitation of foreign nationals, and in particular, women who are at risk.
I must point out that we talk a lot about the exploitation of women, but it certainly goes on with the exploitation of many men who are in positions who do not know any other way out. They are fleeing again from poverty, looking for money to send home to their families, and often find themselves doing work that would be quite unacceptable to Canadians who are born here.
I would like to assure Canadians who are watching at home that the Liberal Party is committed to working closely with the international community to prevent human trafficking. Bill C-49 was an excellent piece of legislation that was just enacted at the beginning of 2006 specifically on the issues of human trafficking. We all recognize that it is a very important area that we need to do all we can to prevent that.
Previously, we had made substantial changes to restrict visa applications to temporary foreign workers who we believe to be at risk.
We also endorse the recent Standing Committee on the Status of Women report, “Turning Outrage into Action to Address Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation in Canada”. It calls on the government to do more to address existing systemic problems involving the most vulnerable members of our society. Clearly, on this side of the House we are waiting to see what kind of action the government takes to address those very issues.
As the former chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and throughout my political career at the municipal and the federal levels, I heard heart-wrenching stories from marginalized women who fell victim and also heard many constructive suggestions for solutions to this grave problem.
I believe that we need strong laws to protect the most vulnerable, so I will be supporting sending the bill to committee for further review and study. We need further consultation and possible amendments that I am sure will come from some of the members of the House to strengthen the bill.
Although the intent of the legislation is critical, it no doubt needs to be improved and we will do that at committee, which I hope will be done quickly and hastily.
There are considerations that first must be made to ensure the legislation truly achieves the goal of protecting all foreign workers. This is why I believe it should go to committee and I am confident that the work will get done there.
A serious shortcoming of the bill is that all classifications under the foreign worker program could potentially be adversely affected, including agriculture workers and live-in caregivers. If the bill were enacted as it is written today, these workers would have to be denied entry to Canada, exasperating temporary foreign worker shortages in certain sectors of the labour economy.
Therefore, the committee needs to find that balance to ensure protection and avoid exploitation, but still allow people to come into the country to carry out the needs that we have as far as labour shortages. It must ensure that these people know what their rights are and that they have an avenue to complain, to make changes, and to change an employer if the employer is abusive.
Refusing foreign workers entry to Canada based on the potential risk for abuse does not decrease the demand for these workers. This has the potential to create underground economies which render temporary workers even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse which is exactly what we are trying to avoid with the intent of this legislation.
We need to ensure that blame is placed on the abusers, not on the victims. This is so important because victims of human trafficking, which my colleague continues to refer to, are often so frightened to come forward and admit what has actually happened to them.
I look forward to the bill being sent to committee, for improvements to be made, and for it to be referred back as soon as possible. I hope that we will be able to work together in a non-partisan way to prevent temporary foreign workers from being subjected to exploitation or abuse in Canada and for people to clearly know that they are welcome.
We need them to come to Canada. We want them to come and do well, and to move forward.