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.
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
June 5th, 2007 / 12:55 p.m.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Mr. Speaker, I would love to get a copy of those speaking notes. Obviously they have been lined up for each party. It would be fascinating to have them and see the arguments that are presented: this is what we say to the NDP, this is what we say to the Bloc, and this is what we say to the Liberals.
That aside, I believe that in my comments I made it very clear that Bill C-49, passed in 2005, which was a bill that amended the Criminal Code dealing with trafficking, was a very significant bill. It was passed in the House. It had significant hearings. It was based on the concerns about exploitation and trafficking. Does that bill need to be amended?
In the subcommittee that I mentioned, of which I was a member, in our study of Canada's criminal prostitution laws we had a recommendation on trafficking that stated:
The Subcommittee recommends that the Government of Canada ensure that the problem of trafficking in persons remains a priority so that victims are provided with adequate assistance and services, while traffickers are brought to justice.
It was a unanimous recommendation from all parties.
As I also pointed out to the member, the response we got from the government, his government, was as I actually read it into the record. It talked about the interdepartmental working group and it referred to the legislation in 2005, and apparently things were in order.
What I am saying to the member and to the minister is that if there are continuing problems in terms of dealing with trafficking and abuse, then the government should bring forward that amendment to the Criminal Code. Certainly the status of women committee has been looking at it. The subcommittee that I was on was looking at it. We said to keep it as a high priority.
However, the bill that we are debating today, Bill C-57, does not deal with that. The bill is about the Conservatives' moral agenda to basically ban exotic dancers, that is what it is, or to give the minister incredibly broad powers to do I do not know what. It does not really spell it out. That is not good legislation.
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
June 5th, 2007 / 12:35 p.m.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the first debate on Bill C-57. I have been sitting here listening to the debate and, frankly, I was quite appalled to hear the Conservative member within an hour accuse the opposition of stalling tactics when we are debating the bill. I get the feeling that the member would be quite happy if the opposition completely disappeared off the face of the earth and then the government could run on its high-minded agenda with no one in the House to debate legislation on what it is doing. It is an outrage that within 50 minutes of the bill being debated, the member had the gall to stand and say to the Bloc member, and the Liberal member who just spoke and who legitimately raised concerns about the bill, that they were using a stalling tactic.
I would say shame on the Conservative members for being so arrogant in their attitude that they will not even tolerate debate in the House on a bill that we are sent here to deal with representing our constituents and public interests. However, we have come to expect these kinds of tactics from the government. Any time debate takes place in this House the government makes accusations and allegations that the opposition is doing a political job.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that we are here to debate this legislation and we will do exactly that. The sad part of this is that this bill, which does raise a lot of serious questions about the Conservative agenda, will probably be over in a few hours and it will be sent off to the committee. I do not know what will happen after that but that is the sad commentary on what is taking place.
I felt like I had to begin with those comments because I was sitting here feeling a sense of outrage about the political spin and the messaging that the Conservatives were engaging in when we had barely begun debate on the bill. I say shame on them for doing that. It is quite offensive the way democracy seems to take a back seat in this place.
I will now make a number of comments on the bill because I think it has some fundamental problems. At this point we in the NDP feel that we cannot support the bill.
First, the bill itself purports to propose amendments that would give authority to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to instruct immigration officers to deny work permits to foreign strippers. I noticed the government seems intent on using the pejorative term “strippers” as opposed to exotic dancers, which is what they are actually called. Again, that gives us a little understanding of the government's agenda. This authority would give enormous powers to the minister, on what basis it is hard to know. Giving the minister the power to cast a yea or a nay on a permit that comes on her desk raises the question as to whether or not this is really a ban.
The minister has been reported in the media as saying that she would like those permits to go down to zero. Even the government's own press release points out that over the last year it has significantly cut back on the number of people coming to Canada as exotic dancers so we know it has been doing this. This raises the question as to whether we are actually dealing with a ban, in which case the government should be up front and say that this is something it will not allow as opposed to saying that it is a discretionary thing because it has already cut permits back. I think only 17 permits were approved in the last year. This is something that is a serious concern to us in terms of the bill's real intent.
Second, as was pointed out by the NDP women's critic, the member for London—Fanshawe, when the bill was first introduced a few weeks ago, she said that if the issue is exploitation and harm, then instead of banning workers and the program, we should be focusing on workplace safety and on the rights of workers, whether they be exotic dancers, other foreign workers or domestic workers. Surely that is the issue.
When I read in one of the news reports that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration was introducing this bill as a humanitarian response, I just about fell off my chair laughing. I spent three years on a subcommittee of the justice committee studying the sex trade in Canada. We held extensive hearings across the country and heard from sex workers, in camera and in public, and we heard from police and advocates. When we finally issued our report, although I must say that it was a disappointing report, the government's response was quite pathetic. It completely ignored the danger, the exploitation and the incredible risks that sex workers already face in this country because of our laws.
I find it incredible that the minister would pop up and say that she was introducing this bill, in which she uses the term “strippers”, based on humanitarian reasons. This is nothing more than part of the Conservatives' moralistic agenda. They see enforcement, the Criminal Code and sanctions against people as the answer to everything, instead of focusing on what the complex issues are.
I must point out that even the government, in its response to the subcommittee's report on prostitution, the Minister of Justice told the committee:
...the Interdepartmental Working Group on Trafficking in Persons...coordinates all federal anti-trafficking efforts. The IWGTIP is composed of 16 participating federal departments and agencies and works in collaboration with its provincial and territorial partners, as well as civil society and its international partners, to prevent trafficking, protect its victims and hold perpetrators accountable.
The government goes on to point out that Bill C-49, which dealt with new trafficking specific offences, was passed in 2005 under the previous government. I remember debating that bill in the House of Commons. In 2006, Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced a further series of measures to deal with the vulnerable situation of trafficking victims.
Therefore, by the government's own admission, a bill had already passed through the House and further measures were taken to deal with the serious question of trafficking, which must be dealt with, and we supported those measures. I know that the Status of Women committee has looked at that and studied it.
We now have this weird little bill before the House and we are being told that it is a most important bill. I would agree with the Liberal member for Mississauga—Erindale who pointed out all the other issues that the Conservative government has failed to address on immigration and citizenship, and the list can become very long.
With all the problems that do exist within the system, whether it is foreign credentials, family reunification or the massive backlog, none of them are being dealt with. However, all of a sudden we have this bill before us even though the government, in its response, said that it had taken significant measures in previous legislation that was enacted to deal with trafficking. One has to question what is behind this bill.
We cannot support the bill because it is does not actually deal with the problem that exists. If we want to deal with exploitation, abuse and people's rights, then we should deal with that, but to simply give the minister power, with no accountability, to accept or deny permits when she feels like it, is a completely irrational legislative response. I do not see how we in this Parliament can support that kind of legislation. I would much rather see us focusing this debate on the real exploitation that is taking place and on what the government is prepared to do about it.
Again, I will come back to the subcommittee of the justice committee that dealt with our laws on prostitution, where there are very serious issues, where we have seen a high rate of violence because of law enforcement and because of the way laws operate. Women have disappeared. Aboriginal women have disappeared at an alarming rate, a rate higher than that of any other sector of our society.
I represent the riding of Vancouver East, the downtown east side, where we have had 63 women who were missing and murdered. The evidence is piling up that the prostitution law itself, because prostitution is not illegal but all the activities around it are, is one of the main contributors to the harm these women are suffering. In fact, just yesterday in Vancouver a new report was unveiled as a result of a two year community process called “Living in Community”, which tried to grapple with this issue in a very holistic, comprehensive and sensitive way in terms of dealing with safety in the community and the safety of people involved in the sex trade.
This bill has nothing to do with that. This bill will not address any of those issues. All it will do is allow the Conservatives to say they were responding to the issues of women's equality and violence against women, to say that this is what this bill is about, but the bill does not even come close. In fact, it is offensive in terms of the way it lays out its purported response.
I want to say in today's debate that we in the NDP believe this bill is very short-sighted. There were already mechanisms in place that allowed the government to take action in terms of dealing with visas. We know that because the Conservatives themselves admitted that they were cutting down on the permits for exotic dancers. It seems to me that rather than focusing a ban on those individuals and what may be legitimate situations, what they have chosen to do is basically bring in a ban on the whole program. That is what really underlies this, because that is what the minister has told us in the media. That is what the real intent is.
Instead of focusing on the issue of the workplace and abusive employers, no matter what workplace it is, whether it is for exotic dancers or in other areas that employ foreign workers or Canadian workers, what the government does is separate out the problems into little boutique bills. It creates a sort of moral high ground around them and then claims that this is how the government is moving forward when really it has not done anything. What it may do, by an unfortunate consequence, is actually drive the sex trade further underground.
Instead of focusing on the workplace and violations that may take place, instead of focusing on the rights and the safety of sex workers or exotic dancers, because those are real situations that could be dealt with, this bill has moved in a completely different direction.
In our caucus, we have had a lot of debate about this bill. We believe it is important to deal with exploitation and abuse. We believe it is important to focus attention on women's equality in this country. We believe it is critical to ensure that foreign workers are not exploited.
In fact, I find it ironic that the government is actually accelerating the foreign worker program. Pilot studies have taken place in Alberta. We have seen a huge acceleration of the program in British Columbia, because there now is a demand from employers who want foreign workers for the Olympics, for construction and the service and hospitality industries. We actually have seen an acceleration of the foreign worker program.
In fact, it is the NDP that has been calling for a review of this program because we are concerned with the exploitation and abuse of foreign workers that is taking place as a result of this program. However, to bring in this bill and say that it is going to resolve these problems flies in the face of reality.
We in the NDP will not be supporting this bill. I think the other two opposition parties have laid out some very good issues and arguments as to their concerns as well. We of course will be participating in the discussion at committee, where I am sure there will be witnesses, and there may be amendments.
We find that the bill as it is now is not supportable. We are not prepared to support a bill that gives such open-ended powers to a minister. We are not prepared to support a bill that in effect bans these particular workers, the exotic dancers.
The NDP is not prepared to support a bill that really is based on the Conservative government's political ideology. The NDP would much prefer to deal with this issue in a real fashion. We would much prefer to deal with exploitation and to deal with, for example, the prostitution laws that have been ignored by the government. That is where the debate needs to be focused.
I would urge the minister and the parliamentary secretary and others in the government who are supporting the bill to read the report that came out of Vancouver just yesterday. It is called the “Living in Community Action Plan”. I would urge them to take a look at what a genuine community debate is all about in terms of the sex trade and what needs to be done. Government members could see how different stakeholders came together, whether it was police, government representatives, city representatives, community advocates, or sex workers themselves, and produced not only a process but a report with recommendations and conclusions that actually make some sense. That was genuine. It has a lot of merit and a lot of legitimacy because of what the individuals went through.
Something like this bill, which almost seems to have been pulled out of a hat because it serves a political purpose, needs to be called what it is, and that is what we are doing here today. The NDP will not be supporting this bill. There are a lot of problems in the citizenship and immigration department. A lot of things need to be fixed. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, this bill ignores all of those issues.
We certainly will debate this bill on its merits. We will deal with it in committee. We will debate it when it comes back. However, we believe that we have a responsibility to tell the Canadian public that this bill is a sham and that it is not going to deal with those harmful situations. All the bill is going to do is ban those workers instead of focusing on safety and rights in the workplace, which is really how this intervention should be made.
NDP members are not in a position to support this bill. I have given the reasons why. I certainly am now expecting a barrage of indignation from the Conservatives as they once again get on their little pedestals, but that is okay. We understand what that political spin is about.
I am just glad that there are members in the opposition who understand that debate is not about stalling. Debate is debate. Dialogue and different points of view are legitimate. That is why we are here. Part of our job is to hold the government to account and to look at legislation with a lens as to whether or not it has merit. We take that very seriously.
I look forward to questions and comments. I will respond to them as best I can.
Private Members' Business
February 22nd, 2007 / 5:40 p.m.
Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON
Mr. Speaker, there are many different figures given in regard to the number of people believed to be victims of human trafficking. The United Nations estimates that the number of humans trafficked is about 700,000. UNICEF estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked annually.
The International Labour Organization estimates that the figure may actually be as much as 2.45 million. This organization also estimates that 92% of the victims of trafficking are used for prostitution and that 98% of them are young women and girls. The remaining 2% are boys and transvestites.
It is important to note here that trafficking can occur in many sectors that depend on migrant labour, such as agriculture, the garment sector and domestic work.
According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, approximately 800 people, primarily women and children, fall victim every year to trafficking for purposes of prostitution in Canada. However, non-government organizations estimate the number to be closer to 15,000.
In 1998, a report submitted to the Solicitor General of Canada stated that between 8,000 and 16,000 persons were estimated to be entering Canada every year with the help of smugglers. These vastly different numbers tell us two things: first, that human trafficking is a serious global problem; second, that it is an incredibly difficult thing to count, never mind combat.
I would like to point out that in the last session of the House Bill C-49 was passed with all party support. This bill addressed the issues of human trafficking and assessed our international commitments to combating this very serious crime. The previous government and now the current government have failed to act on Bill C-49. The bill called for an increase in resources for police forces to actually deal with human trafficking. The motion before the House today highlights this lack of action.
There are things we can do to combat this crime in Canada.
First, we need to improve victim support services. They are currently insufficient in Canada, particularly when it comes to victims of human trafficking. Regular victim services are not adequate. People need services geared to people who are victims of organized crime, people who have been terrorized and brutalized. Organizations need the resources and training to deal with these vulnerable victims. These organizations must also be able to work with law enforcement officials, both to protect the victims and to apprehend the criminals trafficking their fellow human beings.
Second, we need to ensure that officials and legal experts are trained and briefed on the issues surrounding human trafficking. We need to better inform the public about the issue. In other words, we need a systemic approach to implement the provisions of Bill C-49.
Third, we need to develop local strategies, because this problem will be most effectively addressed by various agencies at the local level. We need to give local organizations the resources they need to really combat this problem. We also need a coordinated effort among federal, provincial and local governments to combat human trafficking. All levels of government are affected and need to work together to produce real results. Of course this is an international problem and thus we need to cooperate with international bodies and foreign governments to strategically deal with this very serious issue.
Next, we need to collect data and information about human trafficking in Canada. Right now we know very little about it. We need data from police and other organizations that deal first-hand with human trafficking victims to learn how best we can help those already in the system and how to stop others from being sucked in.
Finally, the protection of victims must be paramount and must be placed at the centre of the preoccupations of all of those responding to the problem.
We need to do these things because human trafficking is a very serious issue across the world, but we need to be intelligent about it. I would like to note that past anti-trafficking measures often ended up restricting female migration rather than protecting women's rights.
People move around in the hope of improving their lives. That is a reality. Sadly, some people try to take advantage of others' innocence, trust and vulnerability. As more women migrate to find better paid work, it appears that more will fall victim to trafficking or an exploitative work situation they cannot easily escape.
I would like to also acknowledge that identifying human trafficking victims is a challenge. I sit on the Standing Committee for the Status of Women, where we studied this issue at length. One witness outlined the difficulties quite clearly.
The witness said victims of crime did not necessarily come forward. They did not necessarily know until it was too late that they were victims. How would they know that they should report it? Once they knew they were being victimized, there were all kinds of reasons why they could not report. They were intimidated. They were victims of violence. They were afraid. They did not trust police officers. Sometimes they would come from other countries where police officers were not to be trusted. There were all kinds of reasons why women fail to report.
One witness to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women told us that we had to work together and give ourselves good mechanisms, good means to encourage victims to come forward and let them know that it was safe for them to do so.
Another witness, Mr. Richard Poulin, a professor at the department of sociology and anthropology at the University of Ottawa, described to the committee the recruitment methods used to lure women into trafficking. He said:
Recruitment methods vary, but traffickers almost always resort to deception and violence. The most common method involves putting ads in the papers proposing jobs in another country as a hairdresser, caregiver, domestic worker, waitress, au pair, model or dancer.
Another method involves recruiting them through placement agencies, travel agencies or dating and matrimonial agencies, which are often nothing more than a front for procurers.
Victims of trafficking have also been sold by their family, their boyfriends or institutions such as orphanages.
Once someone has been recruited, that person is kept in a situation of dependency throughout the period that she is trafficked. She is passed from one person to the other until her arrival in her country of destination....
Rape and other forms of servitude are often used....As soon as they arrive in their country of destination, their documentation is confiscated by the traffickers and they are immediately placed on the sex markets. In Canada, that means prostitution, nude dancing, and so on.
In the country of destination, the trafficking victims, whether or not they were already prostitutes in their own country, will see their passport and other papers confiscated by the people organizing the prostitution. They will have to repay their travel debt. To that are added fees for room and board, clothing, make-up, condoms, and other items that are all deducted from their income. Once all the costs have been paid, there is practically nothing left for them.
A recent investigation by the International Labour Organization determined that prostitutes who are victims of trafficking end up keeping only about 20 per cent of generated income, with the rest going to the procurer.
If the prostitute does not bring in enough money, she will be threatened with sale to another procuring ring, to whom she will again have to repay her debt. She will frequently be moved from one place to another, be threatened with reprisals against her family back home, be subject to psychological, physical and sexual violence, and if she manages to escape her procurer, she runs the risk of being deported as an illegal immigrant. She is completely vulnerable, and rare are the countries that provide services to such persons and protect them from the procurers.
No human being deserves such a life or to be treated like that. We in Canada have an obligation at home and internationally to address this issue. I hope the House and the government finally will.
Private Members' Business
December 8th, 2006 / 2:05 p.m.
Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will focus on the motion itself and restrain myself on other points.
We have been attempting to deal with the matter of human trafficking since the previous Parliament. In the last Parliament, Bill C-49 went through this place very quickly with all party support. It did not get any time in committee. The bill went through rapidly and is now law. The previous Parliament took on that responsibility in response to international commitments we had made.
This motion should not be necessary. I applaud the author of the motion for having brought it to the House because it highlights the inaction on this issue since we passed Bill C-49 in the last Parliament. In the work that I do within the public security committee and justice committee I have not seen any substantial increase in the resources, in particular for our police forces to deal with human trafficking.
I want to make a couple of points that have not yet been made. The motion itself does not address the other part of human trafficking, although I know other members have referred to it. Close to half of the human trafficking that goes on is not related to the sexual abuse of the victims but is related to victims who are used for work purposes. This occurs mostly in the United States in the garment trade and the agricultural field. Very little of that has ever been identified in Canada, but it is a major worldwide problem. There are children being used as soldiers. That is part of the human trafficking problem that we are confronting internationally.
We have heard estimates of the numbers of people that have been trafficked. The numbers that we have heard today are actually higher. The United Nations estimates that the number of humans trafficked is 700,000. UNICEF, which has done a great deal of work on this, estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked annually. The International Labour Organization, and this brings me back to the point I was making earlier about the number of people who are trafficked for straight commercial purposes, that is, for labour, estimates that the figure is actually 2.45 million. That was a couple of years ago and there is no reason to believe that the numbers have gone down; if anything, they have probably increased in the last two years. Realistically, the figure for all sorts of human trafficking is probably about 2.5 million.
The motion itself is limited in its assessment to the problem of women and children specifically for the purposes of sexual abuse and exploitation. With regard to the exploitation of women and children for sexual purposes, there is no one in this country, with the exception of the traffickers perhaps, who would argue that we should not be doing more. As a base value within our society the forced use of human beings for sexual purposes is contrary to everything we believe in.
The Conservative government needs to be moving more dramatically to have a fixed plan in place, which is what the previous Liberal government should have done. The plan has to be multi-level. It has to be regional, national and international.
What is interesting, particularly when I was listening to the speaker from the Bloc, is that we also have to get back to the root causes of why women in particular are able to be exploited so efficiently. That means going back to root causes, such as poverty, cultural mores and the acceptance, for instance, of violence in sexual relations. Those are the vast majority of the root causes in other countries.
The vast majority of women and children are being trafficked out of other countries into Canada and in some cases being used here. From the preliminary information we have from our security forces both at the border and internally, the vast majority of them are being trafficked through Canada from other countries. We have to deal with it locally and we have to be prepared to deal with it internationally.
One of the frustrations of dealing with it internationally is that when we go to any number of countries in the world at the international level and say they are a major source of human beings being trafficked into Canada and North America, we get a very blasé response and no action. There is work that has to be done at the international level.
There is work that needs to be done in terms of additional legislation at the international level and, most importantly, enforcement. There are very few countries in the world, if any, that I am aware of, where what is going is not illegal.
I remember being in Russia in the spring of this year as part of the preparation for the G8 meeting with my counterpart in public security and a number of NGOs and my counterpart talked about the major problem in Russia. It is not only a source of women and children to be exploited, it is a consumer of it, and a country where a great number of human beings are trafficked through that country to other destinations. It is a major problem for Russia.
The point he was making was that this conduct is completely illegal in Russia under its laws and it is being almost completely unenforced. It is a reasonably developed community in society but there is very little enforcement of it in Russia. That problem is repeated. We know it is a problem throughout Asia, Africa and South America.
We have a lot of work to do at the international level. We have to get at the root causes to stop it and have countries enforce their laws to stop the flow. In Canada we need to be dedicating more resources. We constantly hear, particularly from the border people, that we have to be doing more work to intervene.
This government, as did the prior one, has to be looking at a change in policy, so that if women and children are trafficked into Canada, we have the ability to stop that trafficking. If we end it here in Canada, we have to be sure that we have a refuge and provide individuals with that security. We have to ensure that we just do not, as is the present situation, instantaneously send people back.
England took a look at this about a year ago and found that women who were sent back to their own countries repeatedly went back to England because when they went back to their own countries they were caught by the traffickers again and immediately sent back to England. Oftentimes they or their families in their home countries were under immediate threat of violence by the traffickers. We have to look at a change in our immigration policy and provide a special category for these victims if we are serious about dealing with this issue.
Again, I congratulate the author of the motion. This is one of the areas we need to work on. The government needs to work harder and Parliament has to be prepared to put into place policies that are meaningful and will be useful in terms of combating this scourge.
October 31st, 2006 / 11:35 a.m.
Det Sgt Michel Hamel Manager , Risk Management and Special Victims Unit, Sex Crimes Unit, Toronto Police Service
Good morning. Thank you for having us here today.
The focus of the presentation will be the challenges that we face at the local level in terms of enforcing and prosecuting human trafficking offences.
According to statistics released by the RCMP, it is estimated that over 2,000 people are trafficked into Canada every year. At the national level, the RCMP have taken on the responsibility of providing awareness sessions and training to other law enforcement agencies with respect to Bill C-49. Although this is a global issue, the reality is that the municipal police services do have the responsibility of enforcing the law at the local level. Most of the victims of human trafficking will be found in the larger cities, such as Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, and surrounding areas.
In most cases, female victims will be discovered during criminal investigations within the sex trade industry, bawdy houses, escort services, massage parlours, and prostitution rings. Another initiative that was undertaken by the Toronto police this year was to create a new unit called the special victims section within the sex crimes unit as a pilot project, and the mandate is to identify and rescue young persons involved in the sex trade industry, to collect and maintain a data bank of known sex trade workers and share this information with other law enforcement agencies, and to investigate criminal acts committed against sex trade workers and provide support to the victims, and this includes victims of human trafficking.
A one-day awareness session is in the planning stage. It will be held in December of this year. It will involve the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency, and the Toronto Police Service. Community agencies that provide assistance and shelter to sex trade workers will also be invited.
I'd like to give you a brief summary of the current situation in Toronto. As the officer in charge of the special victims section, I had the opportunity to meet with the informal leaders of the sex trade industry in Toronto. They are aware of human trafficking victims in the city. Some have sought refuge in shelters in the past and some of them are there now, and that's why we want to have an information session, to develop trust between us and the shelters. However, the fear of deportation exists and victims will not come forward. That's why it is so important to develop this trust, and we recognize that it will take a long time.
We have been getting Crime Stoppers tips about human trafficking victims within the city being exploited through the escort service industry. These allegations were investigated without success because the information was very limited. A matter is currently under investigation in Toronto involving a strip club. The owner had flown to the Philippines to recruit 15 dancers from local strip joints, and we have seen photographs of him and the young females, and these photographs were taken in dirty backrooms of these so-called strip clubs in the Philippines. The owner is now in Canada and he is waiting for immigration papers to be finalized so that his new staff can be flown to Toronto.
I have identified some of the challenges that we are facing in the investigative stages of human trafficking offences, and the number one is housing. There seems to be no plan and/or protocol in place to provide immediate assistance to the victims of human trafficking. Shelters are available, but this would have to be on a short-term basis, and if there are issues of security, the shelters would have to be made aware of this, and most would decline to provide assistance. There are also serious liability issues from all those concerned.
The Canada Border Services Agency enforcement unit will assist, as they normally do, where there are immigration issues. If the victims have status in Canada, there is no policy in place, at least in the Toronto area, to provide any shelter for the victims. If they have no status, the victims can be detained for 48 hours in a holding facility; however, the victims are then treated as suspects, thus jeopardizing any efforts made to gain their trust.
The Canada Border Services Agency usually becomes involved with us in Toronto during the investigation of inmates found in massage parlours and bawdy houses. Their role is primarily to determine the status of inmates in Canada and to provide assistance to us with immigration issues.
The focus has to change for all parties involved. The emphasis should be on the possibility of human trafficking and being a victim of this crime, first, before looking at the minor charge of being an inmate of a bawdy house.
The process of implementing a three-month permit in the Toronto area is not very clear.
October 17th, 2006 / 12:40 p.m.
Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Within the context of a domestic response, just to echo what Adèle said, prevention is a huge issue for us. We have focused a lot of our preliminary efforts federally on getting that message out locally. Absolutely there's more we need to do, and will continue to do, in partnership with our partners on the ground. We do continue to work on that.
As was mentioned earlier, the three Ps--protection of victims, prevention, and prosecution of offenders--is really the international standard. Those three remain the key priorities for us domestically as well. The protection of victims, then, with the announcement by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in May of 2006 about the guidelines, was a huge step forward for us.
Again, clearly there's much more we need to do. Within the criminal justice sector we continue to work through various federal, provincial, and territorial fora to keep the issue on the table, including with heads of prosecution and directors of victims services. There's much we can do federally to keep the issue on the agenda, but there's also much we need to do very much in partnership with provinces and NGOs to make further inroads.
On data collection, what Adèle said about issues internationally is true for us here. The clandestine nature of the conduct in question makes it incredibly difficult for anyone to get real data on this. If we look to other areas where we have experience here in Canada--i.e., sexual assaults and spousal abuse--we have some statistics there, but everybody who's worked in that area will say that we all estimate those to be incredibly below the real numbers.
Bill C-49, the IRPA offence, and those types of specific offences addressing human trafficking will help us a bit in terms of trying to track those specific offences. We will continue to need to look at related types of conduct; a case that may not be identified by somebody as a trafficking case clearly is, once you look at the facts.
In terms of our law enforcement, you've heard from the RCMP already. I think the CBSA will be appearing as well, and they can speak to efforts they can and are taking domestically to enhance their ability to keep data on these numbers.
So there's a lot more we need to do, but there are huge hurdles in terms of trying to get to the real numbers that we would all like to have.
October 17th, 2006 / 12:25 p.m.
Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
The new offences came into force on November 25, so they can only be used to address situations that have occurred after that point in time. We are not aware of any charges that have yet been laid under the new offences, but that doesn't mean that law enforcement is not currently investigating cases that have come to their attention or that other cases are not proceeding under existing Criminal Code provisions that may address trafficking-related conduct.
So, yes, we continue to monitor how Bill C-49 in particular will advance our efforts in this regard; and yes, we continue to monitor how existing Criminal Code offences and also the trafficking offence under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act continue to be used in this area.
Tracking cases, for example, between spring 2004 and February 2006, looking at the existing Criminal Code offences that are being used to address trafficking-related conduct...when we've looked at the facts in reported cases we have found or identified 25 cases where convictions have been entered and nine that are still before the courts, meaning the fact situation is a trafficking situation but not necessarily identified because of the trafficking in persons specific offence.
October 17th, 2006 / 12:15 p.m.
Carole Morency Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Trafficking in persons has often been described by many as a modern-day form of slavery. To understand that, we need to have a clear understanding of what kind of conduct we're actually talking about.
Human trafficking involves three key elements.
First, it involves a physical act; namely, the recruitment, transportation, or harbouring of a person across international borders, or within borders.
Second, it involves the use of such means as threats, force, coercion, or deception. With respect to children, although it's irrelevant whether any such means are used, they nonetheless often involve the abuse of power or position of authority over the child or the giving or receiving of consideration to obtain the consent of the person who has authority over that child.
The third key element is that it's carried out for the specific purpose of exploiting its victims, usually for sexual exploitation or for forced labour.
It is the means--principally coercion--and the exploitative purpose that distinguishes trafficking from similar crimes such as human smuggling and makes it so abhorrent, whether a person is forced to work in a garment factory, on a farm, or as a domestic servant or to perform sexual services. No matter the form of human trafficking, it's always an affront to human dignity and a fundamental violation of their human rights.
There are many different types of exploitation involved in human trafficking, such that it has been linked to other issues, for example, prostitution. And although there are some linkages between human trafficking and prostitution, particularly when we're dealing with child prostitution, there are differences that warrant treating the issues separately.
Adèle has already outlined the magnitude of human trafficking as we understand it domestically and internationally, which makes us appreciate even more the importance of having a strong, coordinated domestic response in place.
Canada recently strengthened its criminal justice response to trafficking. In November 2005 Parliament enacted the former Bill C-49. These new Criminal Code offences created an important step towards strengthening our ability to protect victims of human trafficking by ensuring that Canada's legal framework clearly recognizes and strongly denounces and deters this terrible crime.
It does this by creating three new indictable offences to better address human trafficking—in whatever form it may manifest itself.
To begin with, the main offence of trafficking in persons 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 its severity and its harmful consequences for its victims and Canadian society.
Secondly, Bill C-49 deters those who seek to profit from the exploitation of others by making 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 ten years' imprisonment.
Thirdly, Bill C-49 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.
Bill C-49 reforms will strengthen our current responses to trafficking by building upon existing provisions in the Criminal Code that already address trafficking-related conduct, such as forcible confinement, kidnapping, sexual assault, and aggravated sexual assault, and these reforms also complement the trafficking-specific offence that exists in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Bill C-49's new criminal offences, together with the existing offences, provide a broader framework for all criminal justice personnel with a significantly enhanced ability to ensure that the offence charged is the one that best responds to the facts of each trafficking case.
The federal government is also addressing human trafficking through other non-legislative measures, which is a reflection of the reality that an effective response to such a problem requires not only a strong legal framework but also multi-sectoral collaboration to ensure that victims are protected and to enhance our awareness and understanding of the problem.
For example, in 2006 the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration introduced measures to strengthen Canada’s response to the unique needs of trafficking victims who find themselves in Canada but are foreign nationals. These measures include guidelines that will assist immigration officers in issuing short-term temporary resident permits to trafficking victims for a period of reflection of up to 120 days, and this permit can be renewed. Victims are also exempted from the temporary resident permit processing fee and given access to the interim federal health program to ensure that they receive the medical attention they need, which could include emergency health services and trauma counselling.
The government has also undertaken numerous awareness-raising measures within Canada. For example, we have a website on trafficking in persons that can be accessed through the Department of Justice website. The website provides useful information for the public, describing the problem and providing related links.
Public education and awareness is being fostered through the development and broad dissemination, within Canada and through Canadian embassies, of a poster—available in 17 languages—and an information pamphlet—available in 14 languages—to help prevent human trafficking victimization.
We have brought with us a sampling of those materials to leave with the committee. These have been really widely disseminated and sought as materials for persons organizing conferences.
Professional training and education about human trafficking and enforcement-related issues is under way and began with a training seminar in law enforcement in March 2004, co-hosted by the Department of Justice and the International Organization for Migration. A similar seminar was held in May 2005 in Vancouver, hosted by the RCMP, and another will be held in November 2006 in Nova Scotia.
As you have already heard from Adèle, we've supported prevention and awareness efforts in source countries, and we continue to look to build partnerships here at home and abroad. The interdepartmental working group on trafficking in persons is committed to our mandate to continue to coordinate all federal anti-trafficking measures, and we continue to work with our provincial counterparts and civil society to ensure an effective, comprehensive response to this terrible crime.
With that, I will end my remarks. We will be happy to answer any questions the committee may have.
October 3rd, 2006 / 12:20 p.m.
Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON
You alluded to the fact that there are some major hurdles there in terms of spooling up law enforcement. Are there any initiatives in place right now that you can tell me about that are helping law enforcement agencies to be better aware of their obligations under Bill C-49?
October 3rd, 2006 / 12:20 p.m.