Bill C-57 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.
Diane Finley Conservative
Second Reading and Referral to Committee
(This bill did not become law.)
January 30th, 2008 / 4:55 p.m.
Executive Director, Canadian Council for Refugees
I am going to split the time I am allowed with my colleague Mr. Rico-Martinez.
The Canadian Council for Refugees is an umbrella organization with about 170 member organizations across Canada. This year, we are celebrating 30 years of work on behalf of refugees and immigrants. Our mandate is the protection of refugees in Canada and around the world, and the settlement of refugees and immigrants in Canada. We are active on a wide range of issues and we have had the privilege of appearing before this committee on a number of these issues in the past.
Our members have been concerned about the question of trafficking in persons for several years. With support from the federal government, we held a series of consultations locally and nationally in 2003, in order to promote awareness and develop recommendations. Through the consultations we identified two priorities: first, a need for increased awareness of the reality of trafficking in Canada, and second, the need for measures of protection for victims of trafficking.
Since then, we have continued our work on trafficking issues, coordinated through a subcommittee of the CCR which brings together representatives from various cities in Canada, in order to promote networking of anti-trafficking activists across the country.
With respect to our reaction to Bill C-17, when the earlier version of the bill was tabled as Bill C-57 we put out a press release giving our response. You should have a copy of that release before you.
We oppose Bill C-17. Not only does it fail to protect the rights of trafficked persons already here in Canada, but furthermore its approach is condescending and moralistic. It empowers visa officers to decide which women should be kept out of Canada for their own good.
We find Bill C-17 problematic in a number of ways. First, the bill fails to address the root problem with the existence in Canada of jobs that humiliate and degrade workers. Work permits can only be issued by visa officers after the employer's job offer has been validated by Human Resources and Social Development Canada. Why is such work available in Canada if it humiliates and degrades workers?
Second, only a handful of work permits have been issued to exotic dancers in recent years. Parliamentary time would be better used to address the broader problem of the exploitation of non-citizens in Canada.
Third, the bill proposes to address the problem of exploitation by excluding people, mostly women, from Canada. It is demeaning for women to have a visa officer decide that they should be kept out of Canada for their own protection.
The bill also fails to address the situation of the most vulnerable of exploited non-citizens, those who have no valid work permit. In fact, closing the door on valid work permits may expose women to greater vulnerability, by forcing them underground.
The government's focus on strippers betrays a moralistic approach. Instead of passing moral judgment, the government should work on ensuring that non-citizens' rights are protected and that they have the freedom to make informed choices about their own lives.
We also note that where there is a suspicion of trafficking, it is wrong to simply refuse a work permit to a woman without referring her to the appropriate local institutions or authorities for her protection and for the prosecution of the criminals involved. This is a clear violation of our international obligation under the UN protocol.
January 30th, 2008 / 4:40 p.m.
John Muise Director, Public Safety, Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness
Thank you, Mr. Doyle.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify before the immigration committee.
Just by way of introduction, I'm a retired 30-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service. I retired last year and have been the director of public safety at the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness on a more or less full-time basis for almost two years and as a volunteer for several years previous to that.
I've been to Ottawa on a number of occasions testifying on a number of criminal justice bills, but this is my first time before this committee, so thank you for the invitation and the opportunity.
Since 1993, the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness, an organization that survives solely through charitable donations, has raised awareness about the true cost of neglect through its support of victims of child abuse. Based in Newmarket, Ontario, north of Toronto, the CCAA is powered by a committed group of staff and volunteers who provide support to 70 partner agencies—we have a little warehouse, and we give stuff out to them, among a number of other things. Whether it's fulfilling a child's dream wish, assisting crime victims, developing abuse prevention programs and resources, or advocating publicly for legislative change—that's what I do—CCAA is committed to ending abuse.
In 2004, the CCAA went around the province of Ontario and spoke to 150 front-line criminal justice professionals, crime victims, survivors, and other interested parties, and from their voices we wrote a report called the Martin's Hope report, named in memory of Martin Kruze. Some of you will know that name. He was the survivor of the Maple Leaf Gardens child sexual abuse, who courageously disclosed publicly, and then subsequently, four days after his offender received two years less a day in prison—I guess it was the last straw for him—he jumped off the Danforth Viaduct.
The report lists 60 recommendations, 40 for legislative reform, directed at the federal government. We released the report in 2004, and we continue our work to try to get the recommendations instituted. Many of them relate to children in the sex trade, sex tourism, and similar ancillary matters.
With respect to the bill today, that human trafficking is an issue of significant worldwide concern there can be no doubt. Trafficking in women and children is a global issue that results in untold agony and suffering for hundreds of thousands of individuals and families. Source countries are most often third world and/or developing, where poverty is widespread, the rule of law is at best a fleeting mirage, and corruption is endemic. A number of government and NGO publications have and continue to detail this trade, and few, if any, commentators refute it.
Although Canada is not considered a source country, it is a destination and transit country for women and children trafficked into the commercial sex trade. Countries in Asia and eastern Europe are the principal sources, in addition to a number of other locations around the world. Asian victims often arrive in Vancouver and western Canada, and eastern European victims come to Toronto and other eastern Canadian urban centres.
That we are a destination should come as no surprise. With economic opportunity, the rule of law, little or no government corruption, and absence of civil strife and violence—quite frankly an embarrassment of riches—is it any wonder that we would have a flood of immigrants hoping for a new and wonderful life here in Canada? Whatever the reason or intention of the person arriving, the expectation is of a life improved, not impoverished.
The commercial and illegal sex trade is alive, living, and well in this country, from strip clubs or exotic dance clubs to the street corner, massage parlours, Internet child abuse, escort agencies, bawdy houses, telephone and Internet dating, and so-called holistic centres to name but a few. Anyone who has browsed the back pages of any urban independent daily, like the Toronto-based NOW magazine, or Eye Weekly, will find it all up front and centre for anybody to see, and much of it focuses on ethnicity and age. I'm talking about the fact of age being young, not old.
It's not so secret, a commercial and illegal sex trade. Page after page of adult classifieds offering all varieties of sexual services for a fee are on display, and many of the classified ads focus on the ethnicity of the provider. The sex trade is out in the open and booming, and it's clear what's being offered.
We don't believe that individuals wake up one day and decide, “Yes, I think I'd like to give a career in the commercial sex trade a try.” Although personal choice is usually a precursor--unless false pretenses or force are used--it is almost always as a result of life circumstances, including poverty, abuse, and other negative social circumstances that they may be escaping here in this country or from abroad. Even if some make the choice of their own free will, the majority are later subjected to emotional and physical abuse, forced drug use and concurrent addiction, and theft of income. As a result, many end up as indentured sex slaves.
These are the circumstances that confront a Canadian who ends up in the sex trade. The vulnerability and risk for a foreign national on a temporary visa would be increased significantly.
The CCAA raises all of this not because we are here looking for this committee to eradicate the sex trade. That won't ever happen. There has always been a sex trade and that will never change. Our concern is for the vulnerable and at-risk, people who the CCAA sees--and, we believe, society increasingly sees--as crime victims. Make no mistake about it, the people plying their trade in the back pages of these urban dailies and many others like them are the victims of serious crimes. Some have been victimized through human trafficking.
Our focus is on how we as a society can best ameliorate the risk to those vulnerable at the hands of these sex entrepreneurs and predators. We see the response happening across a number of fronts, including prosecution, prevention, and education. Before I finish today, I will briefly touch on some of those.
I was also happy to see Ms. Chow, Mr. Komarnicki, Mr. Carrier, and Mr. Batters all speak to some of the things that need to be done concurrently or post this legislation.
As all of you know, the amendment in Bill C-17, previously Bill C-57, proposes to protect from exploitation and abuse the potentially vulnerable foreign nationals who come to work in Canada. Doing so would allow--with concurrence from a second and presumably supervisory officer--an immigration officer or visa officer to refuse entry by a foreign national to work in Canada, where a person is “at risk of being subjected to humiliating or degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation”. That's what the legislation says. The guidelines or regulations governing this policy would require posting in the very public Canada Gazette.
We understand that current government policy decisions all but disallow entry to anyone who applies for work in the exotic dancer category. We salute the effort on that front to reduce sexual exploitation. We believe the proposed legislation takes these good policy intentions to the next level by providing statutory clarity. In other words, it would be carved in stone, and the policy underpinnings of the statutory requirement can be amended as necessary in real time for inclusion in the weekly Canada Gazette for all citizens to see. This approach, we would contend, is open and transparent, and we support it.
I know that some of you have wondered why this might be necessary when government policy already functionally does this in relation to those who attempt to enter as exotic dancers. In the same way the tap was recently turned off for exotic dancers, future governments could turn it back on. With this legislation, if an attempt is made to do that, presumably we'd find out as a result of the altered public policy published in the public Canada Gazette.
In addition, it should be noted that the language used in the enabling amendment in Bill C-17 would make it difficult to do this in any radical way. We believe there's a good way to conduct government business and enhance public safety and the prevention of crime at the same time.
Though we support this proposed amendment, we would be remiss if we didn't point out the necessity of responding to the issue of human trafficking on a number of fronts. Some of you participated in, or are certainly aware of, the work done by the Status of Women committee on human trafficking. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were unable to attend and present, but we had made a number of recommendations for legislative and policy reform in relation to the sex trade. We've included them in our Martin's Hope report. They can also be viewed on our home page, at www.ccfaa.com. I'll provide this to the clerk later.
In any event, as you continue this essential work, these priority areas require more attention, in addition to this proposed legislation, if we are to protect those most vulnerable. The three areas that we think need significant help include working with all provinces to encourage passage of provincial legislation that will allow intervention to rescue children lost in the sex trade, and also, as a component of that legislation, providing enhanced licensing mechanisms to allow unfettered entry, padlocking, asset forfeiture, and prosecution of sex entrepreneur predators. These are the premises where we will find those who have been trafficked into the sex trade. Some of these premises are here in this magazine.
We should work with the provinces to provide the resources necessary to local and provincial law enforcement to create specialized units dedicated to the fight against human trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation. We applaud the first step of creation of the national coordinating unit and the support provided to victims of human trafficking, including the extension of work visas and the protection of people who actually come forward.
The reality is that to track this problem in a substantive rather than accidental way, which is how most trafficking investigations are commenced now, we need boots on the ground locally and provincially. Organizations like the Ontario Provincial Police and the Toronto Police Service need to be able to do this.
The last one is to ensure appropriate training for immigration officers--I know Ms. Chow spoke to this in a certain fashion--to best recognize those at the highest risk for being trafficked into the sex trade and to ensure entry is denied where the risk is high. In addition, we should ensure appropriate government manpower is available to provide follow-up investigations in this country where certain temporary workers might have an increased possibility of risk for sexual exploitation. These are some of the things that Mr. Carrier, Mr. Batters, and Mr. Komarnicki spoke of.
This committee may want to consider a request to the interdepartmental working group to consider and develop these three recommendations.
Finally, we'd like to thank the committee for the opportunity to weigh in on this most important public safety matter. If there is anything that CCAA can do in relation to the human trafficking file or as it relates to the points immediately above, we stand ready to help.
Thank you very much.
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
November 1st, 2007 / 10 a.m.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
The Chair is satisfied that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-57 was at the time of prorogation of the 1st session of the 39th Parliament. Accordingly, pursuant to order made Thursday, October 25, the bill is deemed read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
November 1st, 2007 / 10 a.m.
Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to a special order made previously, I would like to inform the House that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-57 was at the time of prorogation.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
June 19th, 2007 / 2:55 p.m.
Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Mr. Speaker, those who are victims of the horrible practice of human trafficking deserve our protection and support, and they are getting it.
In addition to Bill C-57, today I am pleased to announce that we are introducing additional measures to help assist victims of human trafficking. These new measures will extend the temporary resident permits for victims of human trafficking from 120 to 180 days. For the first time victims will be able to apply for a work permit while receiving health care benefits, including medical treatment and counselling services.
While the previous Liberal government did precious little, we have listened and we have heard. We are getting the job done and we are addressing these concerns.
June 19th, 2007 / 12:10 p.m.
The Chair Norman Doyle
Can we deal with this first, and then we'll talk about the briefing books and where we are on that?
I think the suggestion is that we wait until fall. We'll have a steering committee meeting. Quite naturally, we'll have briefings on Bill C-57, and we'll have a steering committee meeting to determine the number of meetings and witnesses who might be called in that regard. That's the suggestion, and I think it's a good one.
All in favour of that?
June 19th, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.
June 19th, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.
June 19th, 2007 / 11:55 a.m.
The Chair Norman Doyle
We will invite organizational representatives to appear before the committee in Ottawa. I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunity, Mr. Karygiannis, to hear the various people who should be heard on this. I don't think you'll be deprived in any way.
What else do we have?
I'll make a reminder here that in the fall we also have to deal with Bill C-57, so that's going to be part of our deliberations as well. I think we had some mention made in our subcommittee that we would look at the points system. That could be studied under undocumented workers, so that's going to be done as well. The foreign credentials, of course, came up as being an important topic that we need to get around to.
June 19th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.