An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Joy Smith  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to include a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of five years for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • Sept. 30, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • Sept. 30, 2009 Passed That Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years), as amended, be concurred in at report stage.
  • Sept. 30, 2009 Failed That Bill C-268 be amended by deleting Clause 2.
  • April 22, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Business of the House

March 3rd, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I would like to make a statement concerning private members' business. Standing Order 86.1 states that all items of private members' business originating in the House of Commons that have been listed on the order paper during the previous session shall be deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation.

In practical terms, this means that notwithstanding prorogation, the list for the consideration of private members' business established at the beginning of the 40th Parliament shall continue for the duration of this Parliament.

All items will keep the same number as in the first and second sessions of the 40th Parliament. More specifically, all bills and motions standing on the list of items outside the order of precedence shall continue to stand. Bills that had met the notice requirement and were printed in the order paper, but had not yet been introduced, will be republished on the order paper under the heading “Introduction of Private Members' Bills”. Bills that had not yet been published on the order paper need to be re-certified by the office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel and be resubmitted for publication on the notice paper.

All items in the order of precedence are deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation. Thus, they shall stand, if necessary, on the order paper in the same place or, as the case may be, referred to the appropriate committee or sent to the Senate.

At prorogation, there were 11 private members' bills originating in the House of Commons adopted at second reading and referred to the appropriate committee. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1: Bill C-290, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for loss of retirement income), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians, is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Bill C-308, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Bill C-309, An Act establishing the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario, is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

Bill C-310, An Act to Provide Certain Rights to Air Passengers, is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Bill C-391, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (repeal of long-gun registry), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

Bill C-395, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (labour dispute), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Bill C-442, An Act to establish a National Holocaust Monument, is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Bill C-464, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (justification for detention in custody), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Pursuant to Standing Order 97, committees will be required to report on these reinstated private members’ bills within 60 sitting days of this statement.

In addition, one private members’ bill originating in the House of Commons had been read the third time and passed. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, the following bill is deemed adopted at all stages and passed by the House.

Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years). Accordingly, a message will be sent to the Senate to inform it that this House has adopted this bill.

As they are no longer members of this House, all the items standing in the name of Ms. Dawn Black, Mr. Bill Casey and Mr. Paul Crête will be dropped from the order paper.

Consideration of Private Members’ Business will start on Friday, March 5, 2010.

To conclude, hon. members will find at their desks an explanatory note recapitulating these remarks. I trust that these measures will assist the House in understanding how private members' business will be conducted in the third session. In addition, the table can answer any questions members may have.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

September 29th, 2009 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

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.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

September 29th, 2009 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years). It provides for a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of five years for offences involving the trafficking of children.

I would like to begin my remarks by thanking the member for Kildonan—St. Paul for proposing this legislation and her tireless effort to address this very important issue.

This bill is of personal interest to me because as a new father, I see the world through the eyes of my 23-month-old girl, Nanki Kaur Bains. I want to ensure that she or any other child is never victimized by the horrors of human trafficking. The trafficking of minors is an issue that, by its very definition, crosses borders and this is something all Canadians can support regardless of their political affiliation.

To many Canadians, human trafficking seems like an issue from another age. Just over 200 years ago Canada and its Commonwealth partners led the western world by banning the slave trade throughout the British Empire and actively used the power of the Royal Navy to prevent other countries, including the United States, from engaging in this despicable practice.

Slavery itself was banned in 1833 and Canada became a beacon of hope for tens of thousands of slaves escaping the American south, but slavery was not relegated to history. It may no longer be practised openly and certainly has no official sanction, but for the victims of human trafficking it is still painfully very real.

The International Labour Organization, an agency of the United Nations, estimates that presently there are 12.3 million adults and children in forced labour, bonded labour and commercial sexual servitude. Think about that. Every day a population the size of Ontario labours as modern-day slaves. The United Nations estimates that the numbers grow each year, with 700,000 people trafficked annually.

Many of those trafficked are children who are very helpless by their nature and are unable to do anything about it. Yet, many Canadians think that this is a problem that does not pertain to us or reach our shores, something the government should address through our foreign policy and international development efforts. However, human trafficking is a Canadian problem, as well as a global problem.

The U.S. state department, in a report from June of this year, refers to Canada as “a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor”. This is a wake-up call. Many of these people come from Asia and Eastern Europe but victims also come from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

More disturbingly, the report says, “Canadian women and girls, many of whom are aboriginal, are trafficked internally for commercial sexual exploitation”. For example, there was a case of a man from Victoria who allegedly lured a 14-year-old girl from the B.C. interior and then forced her into prostitution and beat her.

Last year in Montreal, another man trafficked a 17-year-old and procured three others for the purposes of prostitution. Even in my own backyard in Brampton, there was a case of a man convicted of human trafficking and living off the avails of prostitution of a 15-year-old homeless girl who was sold in Toronto. During his trial he revealed that he had made $360,000 by selling two young girls for sex.

Human trafficking exists in our communities. It affects our children. What can we do? How can we help?

Last year a report of the Canada-United States Consultation in Preparation for World Congress III Against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents pointed out inconsistencies with our approach to addressing the trafficking of children.

The report pointed out that “under Canadian law, procuring a child is punished more severely than trafficking a child”. The report went on to recommend that Canada must “amend the Criminal Code to provide a mandatory minimum penalty for child trafficking”. I believe Bill C-268 does just that.

Just like the banning of the slave trade did not completely remove the scourge of slavery, I do not expect that this bill alone will tackle the problem. It is an important first step, but there is much more that can be and should be done.

One of the major concerns is the issue of victims' rights compared to the larger struggle against the traffickers. Recognizing trafficked persons as victims of crime rather than as criminals themselves is important if we are to uncover trafficking networks and bring perpetrators to justice. This has been difficult because traditionally trafficked persons have been treated as illegal immigrants and are often deported.

A frequently cited gap in a victim protection scheme is the lack of an early identification procedure for victims of trafficking. Currently, there is no formal process for the identification of trafficked persons which is a prerequisite for providing victim protection.

Immigration and law enforcement officials must be given the tools to recognize trafficked persons and to know when trafficking has occurred. How else can we expect these new laws to be meaningfully applied?

Another gap that exists involves the services offered to trafficked persons. These include protection services, shelter, health services, long-term counselling and economic services. The Government of Canada currently does not have a national approach to services for trafficked persons and since many of these services are offered at the provincial level they exist at uneven levels.

What we need is a national strategy to address human trafficking. The government has an opportunity here to use the goodwill in the House to do the right thing and ensure that we address this issue in a coordinated fashion from coast to coast.

Even those who are happy to return home face the lack of support for a safe return. Trafficked persons can face a wide variety of emotional and physical obstacles, ranging from ostracism in the home community, threats from traffickers and a repeat of the same conditions of poverty that led them to leave in the first place.

We need to work with the international community to address these issues and create an organized process to facilitate a safe return and reintegration.

These are not simple issues. They involve legislative and regulatory changes. They involve the co-operation with all levels of government, NGOs and community groups. They involve decisive leadership not just by Canada but by the entire international community.

It is important that we as parliamentarians continue to fight for the victims of trafficking and that we work with all the relevant stakeholders to remove this horribly tragic situation.

William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian who led the movement to abolish the slave trade once said, “Let everyone regulate his conduct...by the golden rule of doing to others as in similar circumstances we would have them do to us, and the path of duty will be clear before him”.

Our path of duty is clear and this bill is another step in the journey toward a world where human trafficking is a distant memory.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

September 29th, 2009 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Helena Guergis Minister of State (Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to debate Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years).

My colleague the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul in Manitoba is a good friend of mine, someone I have worked very closely with since I became a member of Parliament and who is considered to be an expert in human trafficking. I would like to acknowledge the international award she has received for her work on this issue. I am pleased to support her, and I also want to congratulate her on her efforts.

Bill C-268 is an important bill. It seeks to impose a mandatory minimum penalty of five years imprisonment for trafficking a person under 18 years of age.

The bill addresses the horrific crime of trafficking in persons, a deplorable act. The crime of trafficking in persons involves the recruitment, movement or harbouring of a person by means of deception, coercion or force. It is known as modern-day slavery.

It is estimated that between 700,000 and four million people are trafficked annually worldwide, through sexual exploitation or forced labour. The estimates vary widely because these crimes go unreported and the victims are often unknown.

It is also estimated that the underground market in the trafficking and smuggling of persons represents close to $7 billion U.S. per year globally, quickly rivalling the extensive trade in illegal drugs and firearms as a source of profit for organized crime.

Those involved in the adult sex trade are often among the most vulnerable members of our society. Their involvement in sex work often puts them at an increased risk for harm and abuse.

This government remains deeply committed to combating the exploitation of women and girls.

Addressing such harm requires the enforcement of existing criminal laws as well as a range of non-legislative responses, including prevention and other support initiatives.

Our government has been working diligently through its overall anti-trafficking strategy, guided by the three P's that were mentioned by my colleague earlier: preventing trafficking, protecting victims, and prosecuting offenders.

Our government is committed to combating violence against women and girls. We are committed to helping the most vulnerable. As Minister of State for the Status of Women, I can confirm that our government, through Status of Women Canada, is funding grassroots organizations across the country that are working to address trafficking. We believe they are best equipped to help the most vulnerable.

One of those organizations, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, has a project called prevent human trafficking: stop the sexual exploitation of first nations women and children. This initiative will develop partnership networks as well as other measures to prevent and protect women and youth from sexual exploitation and trafficking. Aboriginal women and youth are among the most vulnerable members in our society today.

We are also proud of the work we are doing with Sisters in Spirit. This initiative is spearheaded by NWAC, the Native Women's Association of Canada. I want to take a moment to congratulate the new president Jeannette Corbiere-Lavell. I look forward to working with her. I also want to acknowledge the incredible work of Bev Jacobs, and the families and victims for the stories they have told. The program is a research project to ensure there is more public awareness of the aboriginal women we have lost. I want to commend them for their courage in their work to give the lost spirits a voice.

I mentioned briefly the grassroots organizations that we are supporting.

Our government has made some significant changes to Status of Women Canada. We have increased the funding available to grassroots organizations across the country by 41%. With that, we have seen an increase in the number of organizations that are receiving support and funds to deliver their projects to the most vulnerable women across the country. The benefits from these changes to date have impacted 100,000 women directly and one million women indirectly.

Over the past year I have been meeting with many Canadians, particularly women, from coast to coast to coast, to engage in discussions about violence against women. I have met with thousands of Canadians, and they have indicated the need to address this very serious issue of human trafficking as well as the need to ensure that women have a safe place of refuge, such as shelters.

That is why our government was proud to support the first ever World Conference of Women's Shelters. I was pleased to bring the organizations together toward establishing an international network of shelters, so that Canada can continue to lead, so that we can transfer knowledge and share best practices.

Human trafficking in women and girls occurs, we know, both domestically and internationally, and our government is tackling the issue on both fronts. I had the honour of leading the Canadian delegation to the annual meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women to reiterate our government's commitment to end this practice, along with other gender-based crimes.

In November 2005 this government introduced reforms to Canada's Criminal Code that created three indictable offences related to human trafficking. The Criminal Code reforms were the first deliverables through this government's anti-trafficking strategy. As a result, Canada's Criminal Code is strengthened and now includes three human trafficking-related offences: one, the actual act of trafficking; two, receiving material benefit from trafficking; and three, the withholding or destroying of identity or immigration documents. There is also a trafficking offence under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act which was introduced by our government.

In helping to increase the application of new legislative tools, training on the laws and issues surrounding human trafficking is currently being delivered to law enforcement, border and immigration officials across Canada. This program includes a strong focus on victims' issues. Federal efforts are coordinated by the Interdepartmental Working Group on Trafficking in Persons, which brings together 17 departments and agencies, including my agency, Status of Women Canada. The RCMP and federal partners, including my agency, have held training workshops across Canada for law enforcement officials on human trafficking.

In 2007 this government introduced legislation that allows Citizenship and Immigration Canada officers to issue temporary resident permits of up to 180 days to victims of human trafficking. Recipients are also eligible to apply for a fee-exempt work permit.

The parliamentary Standing Committee on the Status of Women, which I have had the pleasure of sitting on and participating in since I became an elected member, has tabled two motions calling on the government to prevent trafficking at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Federal, provincial and municipal officials are collaborating on a strategy. We have also engaged in initiatives to combat trafficking in persons, including national law enforcement training and providing funding to groups with survivors and victims as their focus.

Our government also focuses on raising awareness, which is a key element in curbing demand for trafficked persons. These awareness-raising measures include the creation of a website on trafficking in persons. It is accessed through the Department of Justice website. Posters and information pamphlets are available in 14 different languages, which have been developed and distributed widely within Canada and throughout Canadian embassies abroad to help prevent human trafficking.

Federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for the status of women have also agreed to identify best practices to respond to this crime.

Our government has a strong record on supporting women, particularly those who are victims of criminal activity, and Bill C-268 further demonstrates this commitment.

Clearly, if hon. members of the House embrace the values of justice, human rights and compassion, they should and will support this legislation, particularly if they care about the situation of women and children in Canada and around the world who are subjected to the crime of trafficking.

I look forward to this bill receiving support from the opposition in the House. I will close by congratulating my colleague, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, on the incredible work she has done and for her leadership on this issue.

Motion in Amendment
Private Members' Business

September 15th, 2009 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

That is good, Mr. Speaker. I have spent two minutes asking a question of members across and I think it was a good question. Now I will continue to speak at report stage to my private member's bill, Bill C-268.

First I would like to take a moment to thank the member for Abbotsford who kindly agreed to exchange spots in the order of precedence. The member has been a strong advocate of protecting our most vulnerable citizens.

I would like to make it clear that the bill was not introduced to address or solve the complex and clandestine nature of human trafficking. I want to assure members that I certainly believe that Canada can and must do more to combat the trafficking of humans within our borders and abroad.

Since being elected, I have championed a national strategy to combat trafficking in persons. I thoroughly agree that there are many root causes of human trafficking that must be addressed and resolved.

I believe that a legal system that routinely criminalizes victims of trafficking must be changed to restore dignity to the victims. The same legal system that ignores the men and women who provide the demand must also be addressed.

I can go on with many more initiatives, but that is a debate for another day.

This evening we are debating a motion by the Bloc Québécois to gut the heart of Bill C-268, to remove the mandatory minimums that form the intent and scope of the bill.

Bill C-268 was drafted with one clear intention: to create a separate offence for the traffickers of children in Canada and to ensure that the penalties reflect the gravity of the crime. This followed considerable consultation with victims, NGOs, and law enforcement representatives.

The bill would also bring parity between Canada's legislation and that of many other countries.

Dr. Mohamed Mattar, executive director of the protection project at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, points out that many states have specific provisions in their anti-trafficking legislation or criminal codes guaranteeing enhanced penalties in cases of trafficking in persons, including a crime committed against a child victim.

The United States, for example, has a minimum sentence of 15 years for trafficking cases where the victim is under 14 years of age, and a minimum sentence of 10 years where the victim is between 14 and 18 years of age.

The current legislation in the Canadian Criminal Code does not distinguish between age and offers a penalty between 0 and 14 years in most cases, and up to life in other cases. The suggestion that those who traffic minors could face no time in jail is not speculative.

The limited convictions in Canada for the trafficking of minors have more often than not resulted in sentences that are grossly disproportioned to the offence.

Last year, Montreal resident Michael Lennox Mark received a two-year sentence, but with double credit for the year served before his trial, the man who horrifically victimized a 17-year-old Montreal girl over two years walked out of jail a few days after being convicted.

I have spoken previously of Imani Nakpangi, who received a sentence of three years for the offence of trafficking a 15-year-old Ontario girl. After selling her body over and over each day for two years, raking in profits of at least $360,000, Imani Nakpangi was credited 13 months for time served.

There are few other injustices that can compare in severity to the utter devastation caused by the enslavement and auctioning of a human being, especially when this is a child. I am certain that no honourable members would dare contest this statement, yet there are members in the House from the Bloc Québécois who proudly oppose the bill, claiming it is a bad law.

Let us be clear about one thing: the opposition of the Bloc Québécois to mandatory minimums for the trafficking of minors is not only reprehensible, it is unacceptable in our country. To openly oppose serious penalties for those who sell and abuse the bodies of minors does not just suggest approval for this horrific abuse of human rights, it virtually endorses this grave form of exploitation.

Over the summer, the Bloc Québécois member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin first suggested that Bill C-268 is a bad law because it has no minimum sentence for aggravated factors. This concern was addressed at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and a minimum sentence was added for aggravated factors.

Then the Bloc Québécois member went on to argue that it was a bad law because it contained mandatory minimums.

In fact, during the second hour of debate on Bill C-268 on April 1, 2009, the Bloc member for Hochelaga stated that parliamentarians will acknowledge that the Bloc Québécois' positions are consistent, that they have never been comfortable with mandatory minimum sentences. Yet, in 2005, Bloc MPs supported and even moved amendments containing mandatory minimums for the sexual exploitation of children. So what has happened since 2005? I implore Bloc members to be consistent today and support mandatory minimums for the trafficking of minors.

Finally, the Bloc Québécois argued that the bill is a bad law because it would result in scenarios where employers would receive a minimum sentence of five years for not providing proper wages to teenagers. This is an absurd suggestion. No prosecutor would bring human trafficking charges against an individual who commits labour infractions by underpaying a teenager.

The bill has nothing to do with labour laws. The Bloc is attempting to take the focus off the abuse and sexual exploitation of women and children by attempting to make the bill something it is not. For an elected representative of Canadians, this is completely irresponsible.

Maybe the Bloc does not believe this type of exploitation occurs in Quebec. The Bloc Québécois seems to think the worst form of exploitation occurring in Quebec is paying young people wages that are below the legal minimum. I have news for them. Canadian girls and boys from across our country are being sold for sexual exploitation and forced labour. This harsh reality exists even in Quebec, regardless of whether the Bloc acknowledges it or not.

With one exception, that is the hon. member for Ahuntsic, who courageously stood alone in support of this bill, the Bloc Québécois is the sole entity in Canada that has voiced opposition to mandatory minimums for child traffickers. The Bloc Québécois has chosen to stand against legislation that upholds Canada's commitments to the UN optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography.

Our children are not for sale. The price of inaction will cause us to have a lost generation. With this amendment, the Bloc Québécois has forfeited an opportunity to stand up for the victims of this modern-day slavery. Instead of fighting for the rights of children, it fights for the rights of the traffickers.

Years ago, a member of the British Parliament, William Wilberforce, a great abolitionist and personal hero of mine, was known for his eloquent speeches in the British House of Commons. In one of his speeches on the abolition of slavery he captured the essence of what motivates me to combat this modern-day slavery. He said:

Never, never will we desist till we have...extinguished every trace of this bloody traffic, of which our posterity, looking back to the history of these enlightened times, will scarce believe that it has been suffered to exist so long a disgrace and dishonour to this country.

History will remember those who fought against this evil trade and it will certainly not forget those who are complacent when faced with it.

Mr. Speaker, I apologize. After the last speech I thought we were going into questions and answers, because I had just finished the last debate. I was so taken by the absurd comments made across the way that I did ask that question.

I can assure members opposite that the top lawyers in this country worked on that bill. As one can see from my website at www.joysmith.ca, there is support from hundreds of law enforcement agencies, a letter from the chief of police of the Toronto region of Peel, and a lot of support from people all across this country.

I believe the Bloc Québécois is ignoring what Canadians want. They want to obliterate traffickers from Canadian soil.

Motion in Amendment
Private Members' Business

September 15th, 2009 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to take part in this debate on Bill C-268. I am a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and I attended the meetings concerning this bill.

First of all, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul for the efforts she has dedicated to this bill. I know she cares deeply about this issue and I would like to congratulate her.

It is my great pleasure to speak to Bill C-268 and to perhaps, at the risk of lowering the temperature just a bit as fall approaches, outline what the bill does. Under a Liberal government in 2005, my colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River was part of a team that brought in the first law with respect to trafficking.

That is found in section 279.01 of the Criminal Code. It makes it an offence for a person to recruit, transport, transfer, receive, hold, conceal, harbour a person or exercise control, direction or influence over the movement of people for exploitation purposes, which is defined further in the code.

Exploitation, which the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin properly sets out in this debate, is at the heart of what this law is all about. I think we all think we know what exploitation means, but in the end, exploitation is forcing people to do something they do not want to do that is usually for money or of some benefit to the person exploiting the victims and is done, and this is the key part as defined in section 279.04, in circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause the victims to believe their safety or the safety of a person known to them would be threatened if they failed to do what was asked of them.

That is what exploitation is as defined in the Criminal Code and that is what carries over with this new offence. In other words, the new offence is like a branch placed on the tree of the good Liberal law with respect to trafficking, which specifically says that the same offence, when it is carried out against a person under 18 years of age, is meriting stronger sentencing. That is all this law does. The law says that trafficking is bad, that exploitation, which is the basis of how trafficking occurs, shall be punished. This is already in the code.

However, when it is with a child, our most sacred assets in this community, as every member of Parliament would agree, the sentences will be stronger. As the bill says, the sentences will be a minimum of six years in the presence of evidence of aggravated assault, kidnapping, sexual assault and attempts to cause death during the offence. That means the convicted person will get six years minimum. In any other case, there will be a five-year minimum.

I have the utmost respect for the member of the Bloc and his legal prescience to any debate carried on in the House. He is a former solicitor general of his province and he is the spokesperson in this debate. However, what I really think he is saying is that the Bloc is generally against mandatory minimum sentences and that it does not like this law.

I respect that if that is what Bloc members believe. However, they are coming out at report stage with a motion that says that nowhere in this law as presented is a mention of young people. We have just gone through the fact that people are very much identified by age in the laws proposed. It is there twice. I do not know what is not so obvious about it.

The second thing is to say that exploitation is so nebulous, that it is so difficult to determine what exploitation means and that therefore the harsh sentences of five and six years are out of proportion. I know what he is leading to, that the Supreme Court of Canada or a court in our country may someday read these debates and ask if we turned our minds to the issue of proportionality. The sentence is severe, so is the crime well defined? That is really what the debate on this law is about.

I and the other members on the Liberal side think the crime and section are well defined. We know what it means when a person traffics in children by exploitation. When that occurs, we know that five and six years respectively are adequate and proportionate sentences. As parliamentarians and members of the committee, we have turned our minds to that eventuality. For the member from the Bloc to say that exploitation cannot be properly defined in this instance belies the fact that there have been convictions already under the underlying section passed in 2005.

If he had evidence that the courts brought up the issue of the weakness of the definition of exploitation in section 279.04, he should have brought it forward, because I have seen nothing where judges have complained about the definition of exploitation.

The Liberal Party has always been against human trafficking, especially when it involves children. My colleague Raymond Simard from Saint Boniface gave me a letter from the Missionary Oblate Sisters of St. Boniface. I would like to read the letter, which expresses support for this bill:

We, the Missionary Oblate Sisters of St. Boniface, are committed to fighting the terrible scourge of trafficking in women and children. We wish to condemn anything having to do with human trafficking throughout the world, especially in Canada and right here in Manitoba.

That letter was signed by Sister Cécile Fortier.

Again, there is a letter in support from the Catholic Women's League. The Canadian Religious Conference president, Father Yvon Pomerleau, in February of this year said:

In the global context where systems of oppression threaten the sacredness of all forms of life on our planet, the CRC believes it is imperative that we call on the Canadian government to adopt Bill C-268 in order to actively fight against human trafficking in Canada.

We support that. We want to do what is right. But what is really our job here is to make sure that the law as passed stands up to debate, scrutiny and criticism and is a law that will be used by our courts.

With that in mind, I, too, read the words of Professor Benjamin Perrin of the University of British Columbia law school. He certainly made the case on mandatory minimums. We on the Liberal side have nothing to be ashamed of with respect to mandatory minimums. I was not here, but they were brought in by Liberal governments. Mandatory minimums have been appropriate in certain circumstances. There has been great debate as to the implication, the ongoing onslaught of mandatory minimums everywhere, in the ceiling, in the hall, in the closets of the Conservative legislative agenda, but in this case, it is appropriate. In other cases it has been appropriate.

The lack of convictions thus far with respect to the trafficking offences promulgated in 2005, five convictions under section 279.01 and trafficking convictions up to the spring of 2009, being eight in number, suggest to me that this might have been an area of law that merits a mandatory minimum and a road map to prosecutors and judges to be harsh in these instances of crime.

Certainly my friend from Kildonan—St. Paul has made it very clear the egregious case of Imani Nakpangi making over $360,000 in a two and a half year period by selling the girl notionally called Eve and selling her services is absolutely horrible.

It is appalling.

In closing, we here on this side of the House support Bill C-268.

I think in our remarks and the hard work done by members of the justice committee on this side and the critic, the member for Beauséjour, we have done the due diligence to make sure that the law stands up.

It is one thing to propose a law and it is one thing to get a lot of press for a law, but it is a much better thing as parliamentarians to work together to make sure it stands up, is legal and will stand the test of judicial scrutiny.

Motion in Amendment
Private Members' Business

September 15th, 2009 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bob Dechert Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to review the Bloc Québécois' proposed amendment to Bill C-268 put forth by the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin yesterday which would delete clause 2 of the bill.

I welcome this opportunity to share my views with hon. members and trust that they will all see as clearly as I do why we must vote against this proposed amendment.

I am both distressed and puzzled by this proposal. I believe that anyone who reads the bill would readily agree that clause 2 is the heart of Bill C-268. It is the very clause that achieves this laudable objective. Without clause 2, there would be no stricter penalties for those who would target children to subject them to some of the worse forms of exploitation.

In short, if we were to support this proposed amendment there would be no mandatory minimum penalties for the offence of trafficking in children, which is the express purpose of the bill.

We have heard about this terrible crime and its effect on victims, how victims who are forced to provide labour or services out of fear for their own safety or the safety of someone known to them. We have heard that trafficking in persons disproportionately affects children. We know that UNICEF's estimates indicate that as many as 1.2 million children are trafficked globally each year.

In the face of these horrible facts, why would we not want to strengthen our criminal laws to ensure that those who would abuse children in this way are brought to justice?

As the House knows, my riding in Mississauga in the region of Peel is very close to the Toronto airport. The Toronto airport, being located in the Peel region, experiences every year many children who arrive at the Toronto airport unescorted by adults. The Canadian Border Security Agency often intercepts these children and they are turned over to the Peel children's aid.

I have spoken to Peel children's aid officials and they tell me that many of the children who are sent into their custody may in fact be involved in trafficking. We must do something about this. This is happening on our doorstep, in my home region of Peel.

As we know, clause 2 of Bill C-268 seeks to add a new offence of trafficking in children which would mirror the main trafficking in persons offence in section 279.01 of the Criminal Code. This new offence would carry mandatory minimum penalties of six years for the aggravated offence where the maximum penalty is life imprisonment and five years in all other cases where the maximum penalty is fourteen years imprisonment.

The justice committee has already amended clause 2 of the bill to include the six year mandatory minimum penalty for the aggravated offence. The justice committee amendment to clause 2 would ensure that Bill C-268 fulfills its objective of imposing mandatory minimum penalties on anyone who trafficks in children, whether they are convicted of the aggravated offence or the lesser offence. Therefore, to delete the bill completely defeats the objective of the bill.

The committee has considered the five convictions that have been secured under the main trafficking offence, section 279.01, since its enactment in November 2005. Some of these cases involve child victims but sentences range from a mere two to seven years. We need to ensure that traffickers who target children, society's most vulnerable, are held to account and that they pay for their unspeakable crimes. The current law does not adequately do so.

Clause 2 of Bill C-268 would ensure that these traffickers remain behind bars for a longer period of time. This matters. It matters to the victims. They would be assured that their traffickers would no longer be able to abuse them or other children. It matters to all Canadians. They would be assured that other children would not be targeted and that other traffickers would think twice about harming children in Canada.

It makes no sense to support the Bloc Québécois proposed amendment, and not just for the compelling reasons that I have just given, but also because deleting clause 2 would render the remaining clauses in the bill entirely meaningless and even incoherent.

Clauses 1 and 3 to 8 of Bill C-268 propose consequential amendments which refer to the new offence of child trafficking that would be created by clause 2 of the bill. They would ensure that along with the main trafficking in persons offence, section 279.01, the proposed new offence of child trafficking is referenced in the provisions that deal with the interception of communications, exclusion of the public from court, publication bans, DNA sex offender registry and dangerous offenders.

If we were to support this proposed amendment to delete clause 2, we would effectively be voting down the bill in its entirety. It defies all logic to support consequential amendments without supporting the main amendment itself.

The Criminal Code's provisions addressing interception of communications, exclusion of the public from court, publication bans, DNA evidence, sex offender registry and dangerous offenders cannot refer to an offence that does not exist. That would be the incoherent result of supporting the Bloc's proposed amendment. Effectively, what the Bloc is asking us to do is vote down the bill, despite the fact that the bill has already received overwhelming support in the House. We cannot allow this to happen.

As we have heard so many times before from parliamentarians, stakeholders and Canadians themselves, trafficking in persons is a serious issue. We must have a strong criminal justice response. I am very pleased that we do have comprehensive criminal laws attacking trafficking in persons. Three Criminal Code offences were enacted in 2005, as was previously mentioned. The main offence, section 279.01, criminalizes anyone who would traffic in persons and imposes a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for the aggravated offence where it involves kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault or death to the victim, and 14 years in all other cases.

Section 279.02 criminalizes anyone who would materially benefit from the trafficking of persons and imposes a maximum penalty of 10 years.

Section 279.03 criminalizes anyone who would destroy or withhold identity documents to facilitate the trafficking of persons and imposes a maximum penalty of five years.

In addition to those important offences, section 118 of the Immigration Refugee Protection Act also criminalizes cases of trafficking in persons across Canada's borders, and many Criminal Code offences continue to apply to trafficking in persons cases, such as forcible confinement, kidnapping, assault, sexual assault and prostitution provisions.

It is, without a doubt, that law enforcement officers now have a wide variety of tools at their disposal that they can use to fight trafficking of persons in Canada. However, how do we ensure that traffickers get sentences that properly reflect the severity of their crime? I have already pointed to several cases involving convictions under the main trafficking in persons offence, section 279.01, that show that sentences imposed have not always reflected the serious nature of the crime committed.

To achieve this pressing objective, we must vote against the Bloc's proposed amendment to delete clause 2. We must support BillC-268 as amended by the justice committee. We must ensure that those who traffic children feel the full force of the law. We must ensure that mandatory minimum penalties are imposed on those who traffic in children.

For all those reasons, I ask all hon. members to join me in voting down the amendment put forth by the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin and, most important, I ask all hon. members to join me in supporting Bill C-268 as amended by the justice committee.

Justice
Statements By Members

June 9th, 2009 / 2:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dona Cadman Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, just a few short months ago, the NDP leader played to the cameras when he told the Vancouver Police Chief:

There's probably no city in the country right now that is understanding the need for action more than Vancouver. We're not seeing this elsewhere in Canada but, believe me, we're going to if we don't see some action taken against these gangs.

All this political posturing abruptly came to an end once the camera stopped rolling and the B.C. election was over.

Yesterday, the NDP, along with the Bloc, voted against the action the government has taken to tackle organized crime and gangs. The NDP voted against mandatory minimum sentences for the serious crime of drug trafficking.

The NDP also voted against our truth in sentencing bill, and Bill C-268, which provides for mandatory minimum sentences for the serious crime of human trafficking.

I implore the NDP to help the government fight gangs and organized crime. Our communities need support now.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

April 1st, 2009 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I am indeed pleased that the issue of human trafficking has come back to the House. I am concerned, however, that my colleague from across the floor has introduced a bill that deals only superficially with the issues of human trafficking. It, unfortunately, neither addresses the causes of human trafficking nor looks at ways to prevent it. Bill C-268 is ineffectual and needs desperately to be amended.

We studied this issue of trafficking human beings at great length in the status of women committee. The member opposite was, at that time, a vice-chair, so she should be well-versed in the multiple issues that sadly have been omitted from her bill.

The committee found, in its 2007 report, that the issue of human trafficking is complex and many steps need to be taken to address this horrendous crime against vulnerable people.

I want to touch on a few of the key recommendations left out of this bill. However, first, I would like to point out that this bill is very restrictive because it only covers minors. I am not sure why the member added in that restriction because many adults are also victims and need to be protected. It is not just children under the age of 18 who fall victim.

The key to addressing human trafficking in Canada is prevention. As we heard from a number of witnesses, addressing poverty is the first and best prevention. In Canada, those most vulnerable to human trafficking are first nations people. We have national trafficking of Canadian women, especially in the aboriginal communities. In the prairie provinces, there is a lot of activity going on. Girls are being recruited on reserve and brought into the big urban centres, like Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton and Calgary, to work in prostitution. Erin Wolski of the Native Women's Association of Canada told the status of women committee that aboriginal females were extremely vulnerable. I am very disappointed that this bill does nothing to address this.

As the committee heard, we need funding for education, decent housing, safe water and anti-violence programs to address poverty in our first nations communities. We need to work with organizations, such as the AFN and the Native Women's Association of Canada, to develop programs to help women who are vulnerable to trafficking and create awareness about the dangers.

Additionally, we need sensitivity training for police on the issue as many first nations women do not feel comfortable, nor safe, in approaching police for assistance. The bill before us does not address the need for prevention and awareness or support programs.

The committee also recommended that an awareness program was necessary for minors about the risks of prostitution and trafficking. The modelling industry was singled out as particularly dangerous because it remains unregulated and promises of a glamorous job can be used to lure a young girl or a young woman.

The bill also fails to address the issues surrounding women who are trafficked into Canada from other countries. It can be more difficult for women to immigrate to Canada because there are so many more barriers for them, such as the need for money and education, and many of the women who wish to immigrate have no access to these.

Immigration laws need to be changed to allow more women to immigrate on their own and not through the very means that leaves them vulnerable to human trafficking. The temporary resident permit process needs to be reviewed and victims who have been trafficked should be sheltered for 180 days and allowed to work. The government should ensure their basic needs are met during this period.

The immigration and refugee protection regulations need to be reviewed and amended. In particular, section 245(f), a particularly odious section, states that a victim, having been under control or influence of traffickers, is more likely to require detention. This section needs to be eliminated entirely.

Many trafficked victims are threatened with criminal or immigration exposure by their traffickers; thus, preventing them from seeking help. Section 245(f) assumes that these people are criminals and forgets that they are victims. This simply reinforces the power that traffickers have over these vulnerable women.

Steps need to be taken to help victims of trafficking instead of treating them like criminals. Initiatives, such as a 1-800 number, access to the witness protection program, safe interim housing, counseling and legal advice would all benefit trafficking victims and help reintegrate them back into society.

It should also be noted that traffic victims are often sent home to their country of origin to face the same criminals who trafficked them in the first place. Imagine being so vulnerable and being deported back to the place where the predators are waiting.

The bill before us only addresses the need to target people who purchase sexual services. This requires an increase in funding for provinces and territories for training and education for officers, judges and lawyers. Those funds are missing from the legislation.

We also need a national data collection and tracking system that will protect the integrity of police information and the integrity of the victim.

The committee on the status of women also recommended more training for law enforcement officers to identify someone who has been trafficked. There needs to be dedicated, multi-jurisdictional units to investigate trafficking in Canada.

Women become trapped in the sex trade after being lured to cities with false promises. We can imagine individuals being beaten, forced into sex work, and told they will be killed if they try to escape. The constant threat of violence means they are too scared to go to the authorities, but even if they did, there is little chance of retribution for their attacker.

This might sound like something that would happen in a third world country or an era of bygone history, but it is not. It is happening right now in Canada and is a reality for the many victims of human trafficking.

Experts agree that the problem is escalating. With the Olympics in 2010, that could just be the catalyst for a massive boom in the trafficking of women into the city sex trade from outside and within Canada. Despite numerous convictions of people involved in running human trafficking rings in other countries, including the U.S. and the U.K., Canada has yet to prosecute a single person for this crime. The bill will do very little to change that.

Although Canada's very first human trafficking charges were laid against a Vancouver man in 2004, Michael Ng, who ran an east Vancouver massage parlour, they were dismissed by B.C. Provincial Court Judge Malcolm MacLean in 2007, after a year of testimony from two women who claimed Ng had lured them to Canada from China with the promise of jobs as waitresses. Judge MacLean said the offence of human trafficking had not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, although there must be real action and real laws to deal with trafficking.

Vancouver activist, Benjamin Perrin, has complained about this. He said:

I can't understand why Canada hasn't successfully prosecuted a single person for human trafficking when you look at other countries like the U.S., Australia, and the U.K. We've made the same commitments and been to the same conferences, but Canada has been all talk and no action. We're just beginning to turn the corner; we're where other countries...were 10 years ago. We've had a decade of inaction on this--

It is time that changed. It is time that traffickers were stopped and this very risky business was put to an end.

There are victims that I would like to name before I conclude: a young woman by the name of Marta. Her dream was to be a Hollywood actress and to live in a mansion, so she saved up the money and went to an overseas modelling job. When she arrived, her visa and passport were taken away. She was locked in a hotel, and was beaten and burned with cigarettes until she submitted to her attacker.

This is a complex issue, as we can see. It needs a multi-faceted approach to even begin to address the problem. The bill falls far short of addressing the real issues behind human trafficking in Canada and abroad. If the government were serious about human trafficking, we would have a comprehensive government bill.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

April 1st, 2009 / 6 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to join in the second reading debate on 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).

I am pleased to speak to this bill today and I sincerely thank the member for Kildonan—St. Paul for her many years of tireless work on this, her passion for protecting the young and vulnerable people in this country and around the world, and her dedicated effort to combat human trafficking, not just in Canada but internationally.

Bill C-268 proposes to build upon our existing Criminal Code protections by specifically recognizing that the trafficking of children is a crime that must be treated very seriously by the justice system. It would do this by creating a new offence of trafficking a person under the age of 18 years. The mandatory minimum penalty would apply to cases where there is a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment but not for the more serious offence punishable by life imprisonment where it involves aggravating circumstances.

This offence would mirror the existing offence of trafficking in persons, section 279.01 now in place, which protects all persons, both adults and children, and provides for maximum penalties of 14 years or, in aggravated cases, a maximum of life imprisonment.

The Criminal Code currently contains three specific offences that target human trafficking. These offences were created and enacted in November 2005, just a short while ago. Sadly, however, they have not dealt with the current reality we are facing on the globe today.

Section 279.01 prohibits anyone from engaging in specific forms of conduct for the purpose of exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of another person. Specifically, the offence identifies the acts in question as either recruiting, transporting, referring, receiving, transferring, holding, concealing or harbouring a person or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of another person. This offence applies to both adult and child victims. It carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if it involves the kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault or death of the victim. In all other cases, the maximum penalty is 14 years imprisonment.

Second, the Criminal Code contains an indictable offence that specifically targets those who seek to profit from the trafficking and exploitation of others, even if they do not engage directly in trafficking people. The existing section 279.02 specifically prohibits any person from receiving a financial or other material benefit knowing that it results from the commission of the trafficking of another person. This offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

The third existing human trafficking offence responds to a common method that traffickers use to control their victims. It prohibits anyone from either concealing, removing, withholding or destroying another person's travel identification or immigration documents for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of the trafficking of that person. This offence carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

Of course, these specific trafficking-in-persons offences supplement other offences that can be used to address related conduct, such as kidnapping, forcible confinement, assault and the prostitution or procuring offences, which criminalize the many different aspects of trafficking. Canada's criminal law provides a comprehensive criminal justice response to this serious crime.

Bill C-268 addresses a particularly reprehensible form of criminal conduct that profits from the exploitation of the most vulnerable.

In contrast with what the previous speaker said, there are existing laws for existing offences but we need a specific offence to address the young and those who are most vulnerable. The widespread nature of this crime, sadly, is evident in the global revenues that are generated by it. They are estimated to be as much as $10 billion U.S. per year and the crime is estimated to be in the top three money-makers for organized crime. Further, we know that this crime disproportionately affects children. UNICEF's estimates indicate that as many as 1.2 million children are trafficked globally each year.

The United States' state department's 2008 annual report on human trafficking estimates that 800,000 persons are trafficked around the world each year, with 80% of those transnational victims being women and, sadly, up to 50% of all victims being children.

As I have said, Bill C-268 seeks to amend the main trafficking in persons offence, which was enacted in 2005. This raises the question: Do we know how our existing Criminal Code responses are working in practice? As mentioned earlier, the specific trafficking offences in the Criminal Code supplement existing offences and this means that traffickers may be charged with a number of offences, depending on the circumstances of the case.

In contrast to the statement that was made previously that in Canada there have not been any convictions, there have. There have been three convictions to date for the specific offence of trafficking in persons, all of which resulted from guilty pleas and involved women and child victims who were sexually exploited. One of these cases was in Montreal where an accused pleaded guilty to trafficking in persons under sections 279.01 and 279.02 and procuring under section 212, and received two years for each charge, once again, regrettably, to be served concurrently.

A number of investigations and court cases are ongoing. As these cases demonstrate, while the offences in the Criminal Code are relatively new, law enforcement officials across the country are using them where appropriate.

Human traffickers prey upon the most vulnerable. Their targets are often children and young women. Victims may be kidnapped, abducted or lured by false promises of legitimate employment as, for example, domestic servants, models or factory or farm workers. Victims are then subjected to exploitation in the sex trade or other forms of forced labour.

Trafficking victims suffer physical, sexual and emotional abuse, including threats of violence or actual harm to their loved ones. This abuse is compounded by their living and working conditions. Theirs is an existence that is difficult, if not almost impossible, to comprehend.

With that in mind, it is clear that strong responses are required to address this horrific crime of exploitation and abuse. I am sure we can all agree that human trafficking is a horrible crime which inflicts serious damage on its victims. That is undeniable. I am also sure that we can all agree that we should ensure that our criminal law responds appropriately and strongly denounces this conduct.

Hon. members should recall that in 2006 the House unanimously supported Motion No. 153, which was also introduced, I am proud to say, by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul. It condemned the crime of trafficking in persons and called for a national strategy to combat the trafficking in persons worldwide. The unanimous support that motion received truly reflected the shared support by all members to ensure that we continue to strongly condemn and act to combat trafficking in persons.

I believe that further consideration of this bill will no doubt help us assess the adequacy of these responses. I was honoured and privileged to be able to second the bill. A couple of years ago I spoke at the Asia-Pacific forum regarding Canada's position on human trafficking. The evidence given during that period was most alarming.

Thankfully, many other countries have already adopted the measures that we are proposing today and they have encouraged Canada to do so. I am delighted that the member for Kildonan—St. Paul has recognized that reality and responded accordingly.

A number of years ago I served in the judicial field where I saw firsthand on many occasions the exploitation of our young people. I saw young girls aged 10, 11 and 12 years old being pimped and prostituted, sometimes even by their own relatives. This is an intolerable situation.

There are some situations where we need to be considerate and try to find a balance but there is no balance to a human life that has been absolutely betrayed. This is where we need to stand for all humanity, particularly for the citizens of Canada, and stand up for what we believe is right, which is that young people have a right to live a normal life without being preyed upon by the most insidious criminals. The law must prevail for that.

I am proud and pleased to support the member for Kildonan—St. Paul and I thank her for bringing this valuable legislation to the fore.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

April 1st, 2009 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, Bill C-268 is about human trafficking and acknowledging the fact that human trafficking is a vicious crime that must be stopped.

Bill C-268 was drafted to accomplish one thing: to ensure the sentences of the traffickers of children reflect the gravity of the crime. With the first two sentences in Canada resulting in approximately one to two years served for trafficking children, traffickers are currently able to continue making hundreds of thousands of dollars from the exploitation and rape of children without much threat of serious sanction.

I want to thank the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry who pointed out in the first hour of debate that there is no minimum sentence for aggravated offences under paragraph 279.011(1)(a) of Bill C-268. This paragraph provides for an individual to be sentenced to life imprisonment, which means that he or she will only be eligible for parole after seven years.

However, should this bill go to committee, I have had an amendment drafted that would be within the scope of the bill and that would amend paragraph 279.011(1)(a) to ensure that there is no question that this paragraph also provides for a minimum sentence of five years.

I understand that some hon. members do not feel that mandatory minimums are appropriate in any case.

I want to remind hon. members that according to the Supreme Court of Canada, a mandatory minimum sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment only if it is “grossly disproportionate”, given the gravity of the offence or the personal circumstances of the offender.

Clearly the trafficking and sexual exploitation of a child demands a sentence that reflects the serious gravity of this egregious offence. Under current legislation, offenders can receive as little as no time in jail.

Countries around the world are beginning to recognize that serious action is required to combat the sexual exploitation and trafficking of children. Article 24 of the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings states that child trafficking is an aggravated circumstance that warrants an enhanced penalty.

It is important to note that Canada remains one of the few developed countries that does not have enhanced penalties for the trafficking of our children.

Mohamed Y. Mattar, executive director of the Protection Project at the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, points out:

Many states have specific provisions in their antitrafficking legislation or criminal codes guaranteeing enhanced penalties in cases of trafficking in persons committed under aggravated circumstances, including a crime committed against a child victim;

Dr. Mattar also states that the Council of Europe framework decision of July 19, 2002, mandates that European countries provide penalties for trafficking of at least eight years imprisonment. This is significant since many European countries follow a civil law model that does not recognize the plea-bargaining system which, in countries like Canada, may result in a shorter sentence.

This framework specifically states that:

Penalties provided for by national legislation must be “effective, proportionate and dissuasive”.

There is also a great concern that more must be done in Canada for victims of human trafficking. I cannot agree more.

The long-term physical and psychological impact on its victims, especially children, is devastating. I have continued to call for a national action plan to combat human trafficking that would provide better coordination between the provinces, territories and federal governments to deliver effective victim services.

Only two years ago, members of this House unanimously supported Motion No. 153 that called for a national action plan.

I strongly believe we need to address the factors that lead to exploitation, such as poverty and marginalization. Our aboriginal women and children are especially vulnerable due to these factors.

These concerns cannot be addressed through a private member's bill. I have put forward Bill C-268 to amend the Criminal Code to address the critical legal aspect of child trafficking and to bring parity between Canada's legislation and that of many other countries.

It is my hope that members of all parties will support this important legislation and soundly denounce the trafficking of children.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

February 27th, 2009 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

moved that Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, today I am pleased to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years).

I ask members to take a moment to imagine a beautiful Ontario spring day in June 2008. Imagine a courtroom here in the province of Ontario where a young girl, no older than 15 years when her exploitation began, head bowed, eyes down, quietly relates a story so shocking that we as parents relive the images in our minds over and over again and pray it never happens to our daughters.

I am speaking of a young Canadian girl who lives not far from the nation's capital, telling of the horror she endured from the man who trafficked and sold her for sex for two and a half years, a man who made in excess of $360,000 off this innocent young victim by threatening her, beating her, and forcing her to have sex with strangers.

As a result, this man was able to buy himself a BMW and an expensive house in Niagara Falls. Even though he was eventually caught and convicted, he spent less time in jail than he did exploiting this young girl and destroying her life. Often he would tell her that if she got out of line, he would beat her. He would threaten to kidnap her brother or do harm to her parents.

This man, Imani Nakpangi, was caught and convicted as the first child trafficker in Canada. To get a glimpse of the ongoing trauma this young girl endured from her trafficker, I would like us to imagine our own daughters, granddaughters, or sons, telling this story in this Ontario courtroom last June.

I will quote from this young girl's impact statement so we as parliamentarians can catch a glimpse of what this little girl went through. She said, “I am constantly looking over my shoulder, afraid that either Imani or his friends are going to come after me for putting him in jail. I don't feel safe at home. He knows where I live, and what my family looks like, and where they live. I have nightmares about him. I have low self esteem. Feel like I am only good for one thing...sex. I don't see why someone, a man would be interested in me, and try to get to know me, because I feel unworthy, dirty, tainted, nothing."

In Canada today child sex slavery is alive and well. Traffickers make a great deal of money off innocent child victims. They prefer young children because young children are impressionable, easy to control and easy to intimidate. The criminal intelligence service of Canada's strategic intelligence brief entitled “Organized Crime and Domestic Trafficking in Persons in Canada” has reported that organized crime networks right here in Canada are actively trafficking Canadian born women and underage girls interprovincially and in some instances to the U.S. These women and girls are destined for the sex trade.

I would like to speak about the legal necessity of Bill C-268. Canada's first human trafficking offences were added to the Criminal Code at the end of 2005 through the work of the hon. member for Mount Royal, the justice minister at that time. Section 279.01 of the Criminal Code carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 14 years and up to life imprisonment if the victim is kidnapped, subject to aggravated assault or aggravated sexual assault, or killed during the commission of the offence.

Now there are some who will argue this amendment is unnecessary. They will suggest that individuals convicted of trafficking in Canada already face up to 14 years, even life in certain circumstances, and therefore, there is no need for mandatory minimums.

Let me be clear. This view is naive and ignorant of the reality of human trafficking convictions in Canada. Over the past year Peel Regional Police and Montreal Police Service have rescued the first child victims of sex trafficking in Canada and secured convictions against their traffickers. Imani Nakpangi, who I mentioned earlier, was convicted last June of trafficking a 15-year-old girl. He sexually exploited her daily over two years. For the offence of human trafficking, he received only three years and was credited 13 months for the pre-trial time he served.

This past November in Montreal, Michael Lennox Mark was convicted of human trafficking. He was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for trafficking a 17-year-old girl and selling her for sex. He served only a single week in prison after being convicted because he was given a two-for-one credit for his one year of pretrial custody.

In light of the incredulous sentences these men received, I cannot imagine what one would have to do to receive a full 14 years. These are our Canadian children.

I want to take this opportunity to commend the wonderful police officers in the Peel and Montreal police forces for their dedication to combatting this horrific crime. I can tell members they are shocked at the exceedingly inadequate sentences that have been handed down by sentencing judges in Canada's first set of convictions for human trafficking involving children.

I would like my hon. colleagues to know that Bill C-268 arose directly from consultations with these officers and victims organizations across Canada who are concerned about the safety of our children. These convictions set an alarming precedent for all future cases involving trafficking of children. With almost a dozen similar cases before Canadian courts today involving the trafficking of minors, it is imperative that Parliament send a clear message that the trafficking of minors will not be tolerated.

It is important to note that the Criminal Code already recognizes that certain serious crimes involving child victims require more stringent penalties. Section 212(2.1) of the Criminal Code imposes a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for the aggravated offence of living on the avails of prostitution of a person under the age of 18 years. Pimps can theoretically be put behind bars for doing this. However, Canada's Criminal Code has no serious penalties for victims of trafficking who are children.

With regard to constitutional concerns, lawyer and criminal law professor Benjamin Perrin has reviewed Bill C-268 and found that it is fully compliant with relevant constitutional standards. Professor Perrin points out that the Supreme Court of Canada has recently affirmed the test for when a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment will constitute cruel and unusual punishment under section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In the unanimous reasons for judgment in R. v. Ferguson, Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin stated:

The test for whether a particular sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment is whether the sentence is grossly disproportionate.... As this Court has repeatedly held, to be considered grossly disproportionate, the sentence must be more than merely excessive.

The only thing that is grossly disproportionate in these cases I have referred to is the inadequate sentences handed out. Let me be clear. There is no reasonable hypothetical scenario that would result in a mandatory minimum term of five years for child trafficking being grossly disproportionate.

As I mentioned earlier, section 212(2.1) imposes a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for the aggravated offence of living on the avails of prostitution of a person under the age of 18 years. This provision has routinely been applied by the courts and was endorsed by the federal, provincial and territorial working group on prostitution in its report and recommendations in respect of legislation, policy and practices concerning prostitution-related activities. The report states:

--it is difficult to imagine a case in which the minimum sentence would not be suitable.... [I]t definitely signals the community's abhorrence of such a crime by imposing a sentence commensurate with the gravity of the offence. Both public protection and the expression of public revulsion for such conduct require that the minimum time served in a correctional system be the subject of legislative rather than judicial or administrative control.

These arguments apply with equal, or even greater, force to Bill C-268 in respect of a mandatory minimum sentence for a child trafficker.

Bill C-268 would also bring much needed parity between the trafficking in persons sentencing structure and section 212(2.1) with respect to child victims.

Canada has ratified the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. As a result, Canada has significant international obligations to ensure the safety and protection of our children. Article 3.3 states:

Each State Party shall make such offences punishable by appropriate penalties that take into account their grave nature.

Our current Criminal Code does not meet this international obligation when it comes to the trafficking of children.

Bill C-268 would ensure that Canadian courts handed out sentences that reflect the gravity of child trafficking and sexual exploitation and also reflect the sentences handed out to child traffickers in other countries.

I would also note that in October 2008, the report of the Canada-U.S. Consultation in Preparation for the World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents recommended that Canada enact a mandatory minimum penalty for child trafficking. This report was prepared by Canadian and American NGOs and federal government representatives, including Steve Sullivan, Canada's Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.

Other countries have taken significant steps to denounce the trafficking of children. The United States and Australia have separate offences for the trafficking of a child. Trafficking a child under age 14 in the United States will result in a minimum penalty of 15 years and a minimum of 10 for children between the ages of 14 and 16.

The plague of human trafficking that threatens our youth has galvanized Canadians across our country. In the past few weeks I have received countless letters, emails and petitions supporting my bill. I trust many hon. members in the House have experienced a similar outcry. Most notably, support for the bill has come from major stakeholders in the fight against child trafficking. Law enforcement, victims services, first nations, and non-governmental organizations have all expressed the need for mandatory minimum sentences for child trafficking.

Canadian Police Association President Charles Momy has said:

The United Nations has identified human trafficking as a serious concern and Canada is not an exception. This is very real crime in this country. We applaud [the member for Kildonan--St. Paul] for raising this issue in the House of Commons--

--I am sure he applauds everyone for it--

--and welcome this bill as a means for Parliament to address this problem in Canada.

Grand Chief Ron Evans of the Manitoba Assembly of Chiefs has said:

On behalf of First Nations people, I am pleased to support...Bill C-268. Both US and Canadian government reports have shown that Aboriginal women and children are at greater risk of becoming victims of human trafficking than any other group in Canada.... Bill C-268 is one step forward for the First Nations women and children of Canada.

Rosalind Prober, executive director of Beyond Borders, has said:

In terms of sentencing in Canada for crimes against children in general, they are very, very, very lenient....Traffickers of human beings, especially children, are not individuals that should get a slap on the wrist. A message should be sent from the courtroom -- and that's what [the member for Kildonan--St. Paul] is trying to do.

I know all members in the House are trying to do the same thing.

There are many more. What is clear is that Canadians are calling for Parliament to act. After all, we have been elected to ensure the safety of our communities.

The trafficking of children is not a Conservative, Liberal, Bloc or NDP issue. It is not a partisan issue. I have worked diligently to gain support from all parties for this bill.

In the past our parties worked together to pass legislation put forward by the hon. member for Mount Royal to bring in Canada's first human trafficking offences.

Our current government has taken important steps to provide much needed assistance and residence to international victims of human trafficking.

Our government has also introduced an annual $6 million in funding to combat trafficking of persons and child exploitation.

In 2007, members from all parties on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, including the hon. member for Laval and the hon. member for Beaches—East York, who are here in the House today, worked hard to produce a comprehensive report on human trafficking. They both remember the heart-wrenching stories of victims whose lives have been destroyed by this vicious crime.

I am grateful for the overwhelming support I have received from all parties for Bill C-268. It is vital that all Canadians and the international community witness all members of Canada's Parliament standing unified against this horrific abuse of human rights.

We must act to end the trafficking of children here in Canada and abroad. We can and we will.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

February 27th, 2009 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on what I consider to be a very important bill brought forward by the hon. member, Bill C-268, an act to amend the Criminal Code to include a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of five years for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of 18 years.

One of the reasons that I believe this bill is very important is because it mirrors something that I was involved in early in my career as a parliamentarian. Prior to becoming a politician, I had been on the board of directors of Interim Place, the shelter for battered women and children. I was a director and treasurer for five years and got to know the issue in a way that most men do not because very few men actually get into shelters to see and to meet some of the women and children involved.

Abuse tears at the heartstrings of those who wish they could help. One of the first things I had some success in as a parliamentarian, almost 15 years ago, was to amend the Criminal Code to provide stiffer sentences to those convicted of spousal or child abuse, and it is in the Criminal Code today.

If nothing else happens in my career, that gives me shivers when I think that I was able to draw on my experience, from my family and from my personal life before becoming an MP, to be able to actually leave a fingerprint somewhere in the system, in the laws of Canada, to show that there is a common bond of association with the people from the legislators that these things are important.

I feel very close to the member in terms of how she feels about championing this issue. She knows that there will be some detractors from it, but I sense from her speaking that she is ready to defend the bill that she has presented to us through all stages of its legislative process.

Some people may not be aware of what specifically would be involved, so I want to take the time actually to read the clause that she wants to put into the Criminal Code. It is a brand new clause. Subclause (1) states:

Every person who recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds, conceals or harbours a person under the age of eighteen years, or exercises control, direction or influence over the movements of a person under the age of eighteen years, for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation is guilty of an indictable offence and liable

(a) to imprisonment for life if they kidnap, commit an aggravated assault or aggravated sexual assault against, or cause death to, the victim during the commission of the offence; or

(b) to imprisonment for not more than fourteen years and not less than five years in any other case.

Subclause (2) states:

No consent to the activity that forms the subject-matter of a charge under subsection (1) is valid.

That is the language that ultimately, we hope, will appear in the Criminal Code.

Private members' bills sometimes are successful when they are targeted and focused, and I think this one is. I have seen some bills that try and do a little too much, provide a little too many tentacles out there where somebody could find one reason why they might not support it. I think this one is clean.

The member did herself a great service by including the letter from Professor Benjamin Perrin from the University of British Columbia who laid out some of the elements that really helped to communicate. I think all hon. members have received this and I hope they take a chance to read it. When we get that third party validation, when they look at things, such as the need for the bill that he covers here and his comments on the consistency with international obligations, which is extremely important, as well as the constitutionality of it.

Those are very important things for members to do. This is a great model for all other hon. members who are championing private members' business to use for their private members' bills or motions because it covers the fundamentals.

We cannot be experts in all these things but we should get that third party validation, with good sound arguments and good examples. As a member of Parliament from the region of Peel, I do know how the Peel Regional Police worked with the Montreal police services on the case that was referred to.

I mentioned at the beginning that there will probably be some detractors to this and probably will talk about mandatory sentencing. It is a debate that has been going on. However, the Supreme Court has been pretty clear that there are cases. I must admit that I myself have spoken against mandatory minimums in certain cases but they had to do with fetal alcohol syndrome. I was on the argument about people who do not know the difference between right and wrong. It appeared that the courts were not giving enough identification to the fact that there are some people in our society who do not know the difference between right and wrong and that the incarceration of someone who has a mental disability would not be a good thing to do because rehabilitation is not possible. We need institutionalization to deal with the lifelong disability. That is going to be one area.

The other area I recall with regard to challenging matters such as this has to do with alleviating the judge with the discretion and the latitude because cases are complex. Sometimes there are exacerbating or mitigating circumstances. When we look at the clause that is being proposed here, there are so many different elements that might be reflective of this offence but they are subject to interpretation. That is one of the reasons I asked the member where the language came from and whether it had tested. We do not need a false start. However, I am sure we will get a chance at committee to vent these kinds of questions and I know the member will be well prepared to deal with them.

I know a lot of other members would like to speak to this. I simply wanted I thank the member for the bill. I will be supporting Bill C-268 and I will be recommending that my colleagues support it.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

February 27th, 2009 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, on January 29 the Conservative member for Kildonan—St. Paul introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-268, for first reading in the House of Commons.

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.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

February 27th, 2009 / 2:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Private Members' Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years). I, too, am a mother of two wonderful daughters and I am appalled that any mother in Canada might have to deal with the horror of having her child taken and used in human trafficking.

Trafficking in persons is sometimes described as the new global slave trade. No country has been left untouched by this terrible scourge. It is a serious issue that warrants attention from all levels of government.

The private members' bill introduced by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul would amend the Criminal Code to impose a mandatory minimum penalty of five years imprisonment for the offence of trafficking a person under the age of 18 years and for which the maximum penalty is currently fourteen years imprisonment.

Bill C-268 would create a new, separate offence of trafficking a person under the age of 18 years, which would mirror the existing offence of trafficking in persons found in section 279.01 of the Criminal Code and which protects all victims, adult and child. The current section 279.01, trafficking in persons offence, was added to the Criminal Code in 2005. It 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 a maximum of life imprisonment where it involves the kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault or death of the victim and 14 years in all other cases.

In effect, Bill C-268 is saying that this penalty is not enough, at least with respect to the child victims of human trafficking. I am sure we can all agree that all countries, including Canada, must remain vigilant to ensure that our criminal law responses to human trafficking remain effective and treat it as the serious issue it is.

A report released on February 12, 2009 by the United Nations' Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking reported that over 24,000 victims of trafficking were identified by 111 countries in the year 2006. According to the report, the most common form of human trafficking is trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The second most common form of human trafficking is for the purpose of forced labour, although the real number may be higher as forced labour is less frequently detected and reported than trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Although anyone can be a victim of trafficking, victims are predominantly women and children. Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are the majority: up to 100% in parts of West Africa. UNICEF estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked around the world each year.

We know that trafficking in persons also occurs within Canada. As in other countries, it is difficult to estimate the full extent of human trafficking within Canada due, in large part, to the clandestine nature of the activity. It can also be difficult to track offenders through reported cases, as they may be charged under any number of offences that may not always easily identify the case as a trafficking cases.

The experience of Canadian law enforcement reflects the international experience insomuch as the majority of known victims are women and children. These victims are often forced into situations of horrible exploitation, their rights abused and their freedom taken away. Trafficking in persons often involves organized criminal networks that profit from this abuse. The 2006 Canada-U.S. Binational Threat Assessment on Human Trafficking reported that from spring 2004 to February 2006, there were at least 25 convictions under various Criminal Code provisions for trafficking activity. A recent United Nations report identified that between March 2004 and February 2007 there were 30 trafficking-related convictions in Canada under various Criminal Code offences.

We also know that the 2005 Criminal Code trafficking offences are now being used by our police. These numbers reflect the minimum number of cases, as many decisions go unreported. To date, there have been three reported convictions in Canada under the 2005 specific offence of trafficking in persons, which Bill C-268 proposes to amend.

When the specific trafficking in persons offences were enacted in 2005, they were meant to give police and crown prosecutors another tool to combat trafficking. These offences supplemented existing offences such as kidnapping, forcible confinement, assault and the prostitution-related provisions.

The police and Crown now have the ability to charge the offence or offences that best meet the circumstances of a given case, and this is what we are seeing in these early cases under the recent trafficking offences.

For example, Canada's first conviction under section 279.01 involved two victims under the age of 18. In that case, the defendant pleaded guilty to trafficking in persons and living off the avails of prostitution of a minor, and received a sentence of five years imprisonment, three years for trafficking and the mandatory minimum of two years for living off the avails of child prostitution, to be served consecutively.

The remaining two convictions under the trafficking-specific offences involved both adult and child victims, and in both cases the accused pleaded guilty to trafficking in persons and prostitution-related offences. The sentences imposed ranged from two to three years imprisonment.

This government's commitment to combating human trafficking is reflected in its response to the 2007 report by the House of Commons standing committee, “Turning Outrage Into Action to Address Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation in Canada”.

The government's response reiterated the importance of a multidisciplinary response to trafficking in persons and outlined our approach. This approach also clearly reflects the 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, by focusing on the four Ps: prevention of trafficking, protection of its victims, prosecution of offenders, and the building of partnerships both domestically and internationally.

Canadians are rightfully concerned about this horrible crime. The issue of human trafficking has received significant attention in this House and in the other place. I think we all understand and appreciate the seriousness of the issue being addressed by Bill C-268. Its proposed reform really raises a key question: Are our existing penalties for the trafficking of children adequate, and if not, would Bill C-268 provide the needed enhancement?

If this bill is referred to committee for study, I hope that the committee will consider the bill by looking as well at how the existing Criminal Code penalties addressing child victims are working.