An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons)
Joy Smith Conservative
Introduced as a private member’s bill.
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
- April 4, 2012 Passed That Bill C-310, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), as amended, be concurred in at report stage.
Private Members' Business
March 1st, 2013 / 2:05 p.m.
Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-452, which seeks to address the issue of human trafficking. I have already spoken several times about different aspects of this issue.
For example, in April, I spoke in favour of Bill C-310 to combat human trafficking in Canada and abroad. Then, in October, I spoke about Bill C-4, which seeks to combat the irregular arrival of refugee groups. At that time, I spoke out against the government's approach, which risks unduly punishing legitimate refugees rather than going after traffickers.
The issue of human trafficking is very broad and takes many forms. It is very important for Parliament to address the various forms of slavery because I firmly believe that the state has a duty to protect the most vulnerable members of society.
I am pleased to support Bill C-452, which amends the Criminal Code in order to provide consecutive sentences for offences related to procuring and trafficking in persons. It also creates a presumption regarding the exploitation of one person by another and adds circumstances that are deemed to constitute exploitation. Finally, it adds the offences of procuring and trafficking in persons to the list of offences to which the forfeiture of proceeds of crime apply.
I am pleased to support this bill because, first, instead of punishing victims of human trafficking, it seeks to punish procurers and traffickers. I would like to commend my colleague for introducing this bill because she really took the time to consult the community and get the primary stakeholders in the field involved.
I would like to mention some groups that support the principle of the bill. They are: the Council on the Status of Women, the Comité d'action contre la traite humaine interne et internationale, the Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale, the Regroupement des centres d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel, Concertation-Femme, Concertation des luttes contre l'exploitation sexuelle, the Association québécoise Plaidoyer-Victimes, the Collectif de l'Outaouais contre l'exploitation sexuelle, the diocèse de l'Outaouais de la condition des femmes and Maison de Marthe. It is important to consult experts and the community stakeholders affected by this issue.
In order to help hon. members grasp the scope of this problem, I would like to quote some excerpts from a recent RCMP report on this issue:
Recent convictions of human trafficking have mostly involved victims who are citizens and/or permanent residents of Canada trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation has been mostly associated with organized prostitution occurring discreetly behind fronts, like escort agencies and residential brothels.
...foreign national sex workers who engage illegally in the sex trade are vulnerable to being exploited and trafficked.
Organized crime networks with Eastern European links have been involved in the organized entry of women from former Soviet States into Canada for employment in escort services in the Greater Toronto Area and possibly in massage and escort services in the Montreal area. These groups have demonstrated transnational capabilities and significant associations with convicted human traffickers in the Czech Republic, Germany, Belarus, and Israel.
Some convicted offenders of domestic human trafficking were found to be affiliated to street gangs known to law enforcement for their pimping culture.
[Finally, we note that] [s]ignificant human trafficking indicators were identified in some cases involving foreign national domestic workers who were smuggled into Canada by their employers. These live-in domestic workers were controlled, threatened, underpaid, and forced to work by their employers.
There is no question that the violence associated with this type of trafficking mainly affects women and girls, and therefore children. In 98% of the cases, the victims of sexual exploitation are women.
I want to point out that aboriginal women are overrepresented among victims. As I explained earlier, this is a worldwide phenomenon that represents a lot of money. According to the UN, this crime reportedly brings in $32 billion a year for organized crime groups.
Since we are talking about sexual exploitation, I want to mention the controversial comments made by Tom Flanagan that were reported in the news this week. Tom Flanagan is a former advisor and mentor to the Prime Minister. This week he said that looking at child pornography does not hurt anyone. This libertarian said:
What’s wrong with child pornography—in the sense that it’s just pictures?...I do have some grave doubts about putting people in jail because of their taste in pictures.
Although he later apologized, these uninformed comments are quite shocking coming from someone so educated and with so much influence. It is shameful. For someone to look at child pornography, the child pornography must first be produced, which means that children suffer and become victims of abuse.
As Elizabeth Cannon, the president of the University of Calgary, said, “...child pornography is not a victimless crime. All aspects of this horrific crime involve the exploitation of children.”
I know that the Prime Minister has condemned Tom Flanagan's shameful comments about victims of child pornography. But the Prime Minister has been surrounding himself with some rather unsavoury people, which would lead us to believe that he is the one who is lacking judgment. In addition to Tom Flanagan, who trivialized child sexual exploitation, there is Arthur Porter, the fraudster involved in the McGill University Health Centre scandal who was appointed by the Prime Minister to the Security Intelligence Review Committee. There is also Bruce Carson, a former member of the Prime Minister's inner circle who is now facing charges of influence peddling. And, of course, there is Senator Brazeau, who was appointed to the Senate even though there were many complaints of misconduct against him, and he has now been charged for assaulting a woman.
So it does not mean much to me when government members criticize opposition members for being too soft on criminals. They should start by taking a look at their own ranks. But I digress. I will now get back to talking about the content of the bill.
As I said at the beginning, this bill is a step in the right direction. However, we need to address the issue of human trafficking with a far more ambitious plan that mobilizes human, police, electronic and material resources and goes far beyond a simple bill. I would like to see a comprehensive program that addresses the root of the problem, helps victims and supports the work of law enforcement agencies. I would like to see this bill studied in detail in committee, so that we can specifically look at whether it is constitutional to reverse the burden of proof in relation to the presumption regarding the exploitation of a person.
The other problem with this bill is that it provides for consecutive sentences for offences of procuring and human trafficking. That is the key measure in this bill. It may be struck down by the courts. The Supreme Court of Canada often cites the principle of proportionality in sentencing. For example, the bill provides that a pimp who assaults and exploits a woman would receive consecutive sentences. But even if we pass this measure, the courts may adjust the sentences for each offence in order to comply with the principle of proportionality. The punishment must fit the crime.
Once again, I would like to say that I support the content and principle of the bill, but I would like to hear from experts in committee so that they can provide us with constructive proposals.
Private Members' Business
January 29th, 2013 / 6:20 p.m.
Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB
Mr. Speaker, tonight I am so pleased to have the opportunity to support Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons).
As I have listened to the speeches tonight. It warms my heart to see members in the House who have worked together, and are continuing to work together, to stop this heinous crime in our country.
The member for Mount Royal has done much over the years to stand up for human rights. His Bill C-49 did much to bring the awareness of human trafficking to the forefront, and I thank him for that.
I also want to thank you, Mr. Speaker, as the member for Windsor—Tecumseh. When I first started working on my Bill C-268, I remember your support and your questions. I remember your input in making that bill go through.
As parliamentarians we are standing up against the perpetrators who feed on innocent victims in our country. Now public awareness is coming to the forefront. This is a pressing issue that we are addressing. Human trafficking, as we all know, continues to be a violation of fundamental human rights whose protection forms a basis of our free and democratic country. I want to thank all members for the input we have heard today.
Before I turn to the proposals in the bill itself, I would like to make some general comments on the nature of human trafficking and its severe impact on the victims to underscore the importance of ensuring the strongest possible criminal justice response to this crime.
Traffickers force victims to provide labour or services in circumstances where they believe their safety or the safety of someone known to them will be threatened. If they fail to provide that labour or service, they are deprived of the very rights that underpin a free and democratic society, a society that we hold dear in Canada.
The reality is that victims often suffer physical, sexual and emotional abuse, including threats of violence or actual harm to their loved ones. It does not only encompass the victims. One technique the predators have is to threaten their siblings and their relatives by telling them that they will be next. I have numerous cases where that has happened. That is how they control the victim from whom they earn so much money. Records show right now that a perpetrator earns between $250,000 and $260,000 a year from a victim. It is all about money. It is all about a despicable crime that is happening in our country that touches everybody. Everybody should be aware of it because sooner or later they will hear about it or be touched by it.
In Parliament today we are taking one more step to ensure that Bill C-452 is passed, examined in committee to make it even stronger. By working together, we can make this happen.
To further aggravate the human trafficking problem, the type of criminal conduct is not just something that happens occasionally on the margins of society. Rather, it is widespread in our communities as evidenced by the global revenues generated by it, which are estimated to be about $10 million U.S. per year. This puts human trafficking within the top three money-makers for organized crime. However, it is not just organized crime that is involved in human trafficking. So too are entrepreneurial people who feed off the suffering of innocent victims and control them so they can have money in their pockets to have a better life.
What are we doing about it? I am pleased to report that the government's response to this crime is strong and multifaceted.
First, we have a veritable arsenal of criminal offences that apply to this reprehensible conduct. In 2003 three trafficking offences were added to the criminal code. In 2010 a new offence of child trafficking was enacted through Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years), which was sponsored by myself at that time. This offence imposes mandatory minimum penalties on those who traffic in persons under the age of 18.
In 2012 former Bill C-310, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), which was another bill sponsored by myself, extended extra territorial jurisdiction for all Criminal Code trafficking offences and enacted an interpretative tool to assist the court in interpreting the trafficking in persons provisions. Why did that happen? When we sat in a court, we heard lawyers trying to prove that the victim initially was not afraid. Was not afraid, why? How perpetrators work is the victim is not afraid. Most perpetrators come on as the victim's friends. They give the victims everything they want. It is only after they separate them from their infrastructure, family, community and friends and get them alone and take all their identification does the relationship change.
That is when the victims are beaten, raped and shot up with drugs. They are unrecognizable when they are seen on the street corners. These are innocent victims who need the love, care and rescuing to renew their lives. Many young girls who have been rescued are doing phenomenal things.
I was at a special event for Walk With Me, with Timea Nagy, a former trafficking victim in our country. She has done much to rescue victims, much to help restore the lives of these innocent victims.
All of these things, in addition to the trafficking specific offence contained in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, section 118, which prohibits transnational trafficking and the numerous Criminal Code offences that address trafficking-related conduct, such as forcible confinement, kidnapping, sexual assault and uttering threats, are few examples of the arsenal of crime bills that we have to protect the innocent victims in our country.
That is not all. In recognition of the multifaceted nature of this problem, our government launched the national action plan to combat human trafficking June 6, 2012. The action plan recognizes that a comprehensive response to human trafficking must involve efforts to ensure what we refer to, and I know everyone here in the House is familiar with, as the four Ps: the protection of victims; the prosecution of offenders; partnerships with key players; and the prevention of the crime in the first place.
All activities are coordinated through the human trafficking task force, which is led by Public Safety Canada. This is without a doubt a comprehensive response to a complex problem, but more can always be done. Where more can be done, more should be done, especially when efforts serve to address a crime as insidious as human trafficking.
It seeks to impose consecutive sentences for trafficking offences and any other offence arising out of the same event or series of events. The bill would also create a presumption that would assist prosecutors in proving the main human trafficking offence. It would require a sentencing court to order the forfeiture of the offenders property unless they could prove their property was not the proceeds of crime.
The very first trafficking case that came to justice in Canada was a very short while ago. It was the Imani Nakpangi case where a 15 and a half year old girl was trafficked. He made a lot of money out of her, over $360,000 that we know of today. The forfeiture of the proceeds of that crime is so important. Bill C-452 has that element in the bill.
Although some amendments would be required to address specific legal concerns, Bill C-452 would undoubtedly strengthen the response to human trafficking and as such merits all our support.
Legal concerns would have to be addressed. For example, the bill should not overlap with amendments that have already been enacted by previous bills, such as Bill C-310, as this would cause confusion in the law. We do not want that to happen. The bill should also avoid compromising the government's efforts to defend the living on the avails offence along with other prostitution-related Criminal Code offences. These are the kinds of things that we will examine and work on in committee, and we are very proud to do that.
I want to thank the member once again for her hard work on this human trafficking issue. I want to thank all members in the House for taking up this cause and protecting the rights of innocent victims.
Private Members' Business
January 29th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud and happy to rise in this House today to speak to Bill C-452, which was introduced by the member for Ahuntsic. This is not exactly her first try, but I hope it will be the last and that it will be successful, possibly just as successful as the work that was done by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul on Bill C-310. I had the pleasure of examining this bill, debating it and discussing it. It opened my eyes.
I come from Gatineau and we do not often hear about human trafficking there. I learned about it when we examined the bill from the member for Kildonan—St. Paul. This will sound strange, but I also met with the US ambassador-at-large, who came to speak to me about human trafficking and how this problem exists all over the world. I was then able to see that issues that we sometimes consider foreign are also going on right here at home. It can be quite ugly, even horrific, as described by the member for Ahuntsic, and it is often happening right under our noses and we have no idea.
As the justice critic for the official opposition, the New Democratic Party, I can say that we will support sending our colleague's Bill C-452 to committee. I have also taken note of some of the comments the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice made.
When it comes to justice issues, the NDP always wants to be reasonably satisfied with the laws that are passed and that have a significant impact in terms of justice. These laws must pass the tests they will be subject to when they go before the courts. As legislators, we must do our job properly.
I wish I had a little more time. Five minutes is not long enough to ask questions. We have to talk about reversing the burden of proof. In cases like this one, that is a real concern given the seriousness of the offences. Still, we have to see if this passes the test to which the courts usually subject such a reversal of the burden of proof. This always seems counter to the presumption of innocence that is central to criminal law in Canada.
It is also important to ensure that laws do not contradict one another. The parliamentary secretary alluded to that. Will the passage of Bill C-310 cause parts of Bill C-452 to be reviewed? Are some of these elements in conflict? At first glance, I do not think so. However, we will consider all of these issues during meetings of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights once we complete our two hours of debate here. From what I have seen, I do not think that our colleague will have any trouble getting her Bill C-452 referred to committee. That will give us the opportunity to hear from witnesses.
The fact that we have the right to debate these issues, to have our say and to hear from witnesses is extremely important. As I said, if not for Bill C-310, even people who watch television, who are well-informed and up to date, would not have had the opportunity to hear first-hand about what is going on, often under their very noses, what is happening to society's most vulnerable people, to women and children. The situation is appalling. It would serve us well to hear about other specific cases.
I was pleased to see that in my region, the Outaouais, there was a great deal of support in the community from women's groups. My colleague mentioned the Collectif de l'Outaouais contre l'exploitation and the diocèse de l'Outaouais, among others, but I know even more groups that have told me that they support this bill.
I will support any law that we can enact to eliminate these scourges. We have to do everything we can and use every tool we have to stop this.
The message I would like to send to my friends opposite is that it takes people to implement these great laws. If we have good laws against human trafficking, then we have to ensure that we have the police officers needed to do the work and to find these vile human traffickers. We must drag them before the courts and they must serve these sentences so that one day we will no longer have to adopt such laws. When we go home, we have to be able to say that we did a good job because the most vulnerable are not being sexually exploited, tortured or are afraid to speak out and stop being victimized. Would it not be wonderful to have a society where there are no victims?
In addition to these fine speeches and bills, we have to ensure that there is a coherent approach. If we say that we support the victims and that we want to be there to help them, then we have to provide assistance and services. If we say that we are against the criminals, then we have to ensure that we catch these damn criminals and that we have enough police officers. We can reverse the burden of proof all we want, but if the victim is terrified and will never report the horror experienced, all this work is in vain.
We have to realize that this is happening in our communities. It may be happening in a street not far from our own homes. It is scary, but it does happen. We have to have our eyes wide open and realize that a bill such as this one solves real problems. However, it takes more than that.
The Criminal Code
Private Members' Business
January 29th, 2013 / 5:50 p.m.
Kerry-Lynne Findlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the second reading debate on Bill C-452, an act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons). I believe the bill addresses a matter of utmost importance: the criminal justice system must respond effectively to the crime of human trafficking.
Bill C-452 seeks to achieve the important goal of strengthening the criminal justice system's response to this heinous crime. Bill C-452's predecessor, Bill C-612, an act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), also sponsored by the member of Parliament for Ahuntsic, proposed similar amendments but died on the order paper at second reading with the dissolution of Parliament in 2011.
The objectives of the bill merit support. Its proposals seek to hold offenders accountable, impose penalties that befit the severity of the crime and assist in ensuring that offenders do not reap the rewards of their wrongdoing. There are, however, some legal issues raised by the bill's proposals, which I have no doubt can be addressed through amendments.
Bill C-452 proposes to amend the Criminal Code in a number of different ways.
First, it seeks to require that sentences imposed for procuring, section 212, and trafficking offences, sections 279.01 to 279.03, be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed. It also seeks to clarify that the main trafficking offence, section 279.01, would apply regardless of whether the crime occurred in a domestic or international context.
Further, it would add a presumption that an accused is exploiting a trafficking victim if he or she is shown to be habitually in the company of that victim. It would modify the definition of exploitation for the purposes of the trafficking offences to include specified means.
It would also modify the provision that imposes a reverse onus for forfeiture of proceeds of crime for certain offences to apply to both procuring and trafficking offences. Finally, it would make a small technical amendment to the French definition of exploitation, in section 279.04.
One concern raised by certain proposals in the bill involves the Bedford case, which is currently before the Supreme Court of Canada. Bedford involves a Charter challenge to three prostitution-related Criminal Code provisions, including living on the avails of prostitution offence, paragraph 212.(1)(j), which is contained in the procuring provision, section 212. Any amendments impacting on this provision could compromise the government's defence of its constitutionality.
Another concern is that some of the proposals relate to issues already addressed by former Bill C-310, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), which was sponsored by the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul and came into force in June 2012.
Former Bill C-310 extended extraterritorial jurisdiction for all Criminal Code trafficking offences and clarified the definition of exploitation in section 279.04 by creating an interpretive tool to assist courts in determining whether a person has exploited another for the purposes of the Criminal Code trafficking offences.
New amendments that overlap with recently enacted reforms could cause confusion in the law, which may create inconsistency in enforcement and interpretation. These concerns and others could be addressed through amendments to ensure consistency and clarity in the law and manage legal risk.
The bottom line, however, is that we should all support any proposals that would strengthen our response to a crime that is as pernicious and heinous as human trafficking. This crime is commonly referred to as a form of modern-day slavery.
There has been some confusion, both within Canada and internationally, about the nature of this crime. Given the breadth of the issue, the complicated way in which it can be carried out and the diversity of both its victims and its perpetrators, it is no wonder that the global community has struggled with defining it.
However, I can say to Canadians that our government continues to take steps to improve our responses to this very destructive criminal activity.
On June 6, 2012, the government launched Canada's national action plan to combat human trafficking to enhance our ability to prevent this crime, better support victims and ensure that traffickers are held accountable. We are directing more than $25 million over four years to implement this plan.
Specifically, the national action plan emphasizes the need for awareness in vulnerable populations, support for victims, dedicated law enforcement efforts and for all Canadians to prevent the trafficking of individuals.
Among other things, the national action plan launched Canada's first integrated law enforcement team dedicated to combatting human trafficking; increased front-line training to identify and respond to human trafficking and enhance prevention in vulnerable communities; provides more support for victims of this crime, both Canadians and newcomers; and strengthens the coordination with domestic and international partners who contribute to Canada's efforts to combat human trafficking.
Further to this, Canada ratified the United Nations protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children. The protocol's definition of human trafficking is consistent with Canada's four specific trafficking in persons offences, which provide us with a comprehensive domestic definition of this horrible crime. There are also many other Criminal Code offences that can be used to address related conduct.
As I mentioned, we have four trafficking-specific offences in our Criminal Code. The main offence of trafficking in persons, section 279.01, protects all persons by prohibiting the recruitment, transportation or harbouring of a person for the purposes of exploitation.
The child trafficking offence, section 279.011, is the same as the main trafficking offence, with the exception that it imposes mandatory minimum penalties for trafficking in children. It was enacted by another bill sponsored by the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul, former Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years), which came into force in June 2010.
I noticed that my colleague from the Bloc, who was speaking, mentioned a person under the age of 12. This unfortunately is something that does touch our children.
The two other trafficking-specific offences prohibit receiving a material benefit from the trafficking of a person and withholding or destroying documents in order to facilitate the trafficking of a person, sections 279.02 and 279.03. The Criminal Code also defines exploitation for the purposes of these offences in section 279.04.
Bill C-452 would add heavier penalties to this important group of offences by requiring the imposition of consecutive sentences for engaging in this type of reprehensible conduct. No one would disagree that penalties for this type of offence should be severe.
Bill C-452 would also require a sentencing court to order the forfeiture of offenders' property unless they disprove that their property is the proceeds of crime. We must ensure that traffickers are not permitted to keep the financial benefits of their insidious exploitation of others.
Bill C-452 would also create a presumption that would assist prosecutors in proving the main trafficking offences by proving a related fact, that the accused lived with or was habitually in the company of an exploited person. This type of offence is very difficult to investigate and prosecute, especially given that witnesses are usually afraid to come forward due to threats and intimidation. In particular, such a presumption could assist in holding an accused accountable or the prosecution's case rests heavily on the fact that the accused was living with or habitually in the company of an exploited person. However, this proposal requires amendments to ensure that it applies equally to the child trafficking offence, and the language should also be consistent with other Criminal Code presumptions so that the proposed presumption achieves its goal. These amendments would assist in securing convictions, ensure that punishment is proportional to the severity of the crime and deprive offenders of their ill-gotten gains.
I believe these are goals we can all support.
Message from the Senate
June 28th, 2012 / 2 p.m.
The Speaker Andrew Scheer
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend His Excellency the Governor General in the Senate chamber, His Excellency was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-288, An Act respecting the National Flag of Canada—Chapter 12, 2012.
Bill C-278, An Act respecting a day to increase public awareness about epilepsy—Chapter 13, 2012.
Bill C-310, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons)—Chapter 15, 2012.
Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act—Chapter 17, 2012.
It being 2:15 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, September 17, 2012, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).
Message from the Senate
June 28th, 2012 / 2 p.m.
The Speaker Andrew Scheer
I have the honour to inform the House that messages have been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bills:
Private Members' Business
April 27th, 2012 / 2:20 p.m.
Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB
Madam Speaker, today modern slavery exists in all corners of the globe. Our resolve to eliminate it must grow stronger. Bill C-310 would have a significant impact on the anti-human trafficking efforts of Canada at home as well as abroad.
I am encouraged by the strong support this legislation received at second reading and again at committee. However, I hear how supportive members opposite are, yet I was so disappointed that at report stage on March 30 members of the official opposition, the NDP, opposed the adoption of Bill C-310 at the beginning of the hour debate. This prevented any debate from taking place on that day. Instead of joining the Conservatives, Liberals, Bloc and Green MPs who sought to send this important legislation right to the Senate, the NDP forced a recorded vote at report stage, a procedural move that is unheard of when there are no new amendments.
The NDP's decision to oppose Bill C-310 on March 30 so it could vote for it on April 4 also dropped my bill to the bottom of the order paper. Were it not for the member for Kitchener—Conestoga, and I am very grateful to the member, Bill C-310 would not have come up for debate until the end of next month and the royal assent would certainly have been put off.
Today I hope all members, instead of delaying it yet another four days and because they have spoken in support of it, will pass the bill straight to the Senate.
Private Members' Business
April 27th, 2012 / 2:05 p.m.
Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today to speak to Bill C-310 to combat human trafficking in Canada and abroad.
Of course, we support this bill, which contains amendments to the Criminal Code that will make it possible to better combat this form of modern slavery. Furthermore, I would like to thank the sponsor of this bill for addressing this problem, which only seems to be growing. I believe this is a time when all parties of the House can really work together to improve the situation and women's rights.
When this issue is discussed, we often think of sexual slavery. However, there are other types of exploitation of human suffering which, though they may be more insidious and are almost invisible, are no less tragic. My honourable colleague from Montreal mentioned the case of a woman who was a victim of trafficking because of organ theft.
While any estimate of the number of victims of human trafficking is questionable because of the clandestine nature of this phenomenon, there may be as many as 2.5 million victims of human trafficking worldwide. It is estimated that traffickers profit by about $10 billion US every year. This gives an idea of the magnitude of the current situation.
The figures for Europe, compiled by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, are horrifying.
According to the report, trafficking of human beings is the most lucrative illegal activity in Europe. The UN estimates that crime groups derive profits of over $2.5 billion by organizing forced labour and sexual exploitation of human beings.
According to the report, 140,000 people are trapped in a cycle of brutal violence, abuse and degradation in Europe. About 84% of the victims in Europe are trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The majority of victims are young women who have been raped, beaten, drugged and held prisoner. Most of them are in debt, have been subject to blackmail and have had their passports taken away.
Canada is a country of arrival and transit for victims of human smuggling. According to a Department of Justice document, 600 to 800 people are sold in Canada annually, and 1,500 to 2,200 people pass through Canada before being exploited in the United States.
A more surprising and little known fact is that Canada is also affected by domestic human trafficking as a result of the exploitation of aboriginals, which makes Canada a country of origin for victims. Most of these victims are aboriginal women.
Under Bill C-310, human trafficking would also be added to the list of extraterritorial offences.
Currently, when human trafficking is perpetrated abroad by Canadians or by people who ordinarily reside in Canada, these criminals cannot be prosecuted in Canada.
Bill C-310 will correct this situation by criminalizing human trafficking perpetrated by Canadian citizens or permanent residents outside Canada.
I would now like to say a few words about the constitutionality of the extraterritorial provision since the courts will undoubtedly test it.
It is important to remember that subsection 7(4.1) of the Criminal Code already contains an extraterritorial clause regarding pedophile tourism and that this provision was challenged in a recent case before the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Basically, the issue was whether it was constitutional to apply Canadian legislation to crimes committed abroad by Canadians.
Justice Cullen determined that the provisions on pedophile tourism were constitutional and that Parliament had the authority to adapt the extraterritorial provisions. He categorically rejected the defence’s argument that the rights of the accused guaranteed by the Charter were violated because the crimes were committed outside Canada.
The president of Au-delà des frontières, Rosalind Prober, and law professor Amir Attaran gave assurances to parliamentarians that the bill was entirely constitutional.
A second measure contained in the bill would add a provision stipulating the factors that courts can take into consideration in determining what constitutes exploitation.
Law enforcement officers, prosecutors, experts in the fight against human trafficking, and NGOs have voiced their concerns about how vague the current wording is.
Traffickers who use psychological pressure to control their victims without threatening to use force or violence will be clearly identified as criminals since the bill clarifies the notion of “exploitation”. It appears that, to date, this has been a loophole.
Under the existing regime, a trafficker who has exerted significant psychological pressure on an individual can be found innocent on the grounds that the victim's life was never in danger. That is completely ridiculous.
Robert Hooper, chair of the board of directors of Walk With Me, an organization that provides first response services to victims of human trafficking, told the committee about a gap in the bill by describing a recent case involving a Hungarian migrant worker trafficking ring based in south-western Ontario.
...some of the victims were not overtly threatened with violence or death, but a very subtle version of coercion was placed upon their lives. There was never an explicit threat to their safety, but the complete isolation of the victim, leaving him or her bereft of any dignity, help, or any hope, was used as a tactic to exploit those people. They were left with absolutely no avenue to escape, left to the unknown, without language, funds, or safety. Included in the systematic, subtle coercion was the removal of official paperwork, including immigration documents and passports, from these people who had recently come to Canada.
Although those involved in this ring were finally convicted, this case illustrates the range of constraints used by traffickers to control their victims.
I have one criticism of this bill, which I am pleased to support, and that is that it does not go far enough. As is often the case with the Conservatives, the law is made more severe, but the victims are forgotten. Therefore, I encourage my colleagues to study the other measures that could be used to deal with the problem of human trafficking.
I especially appreciated the presentation by Dr. Amir Attaran, who testified in committee on this issue. This University of Ottawa law professor has studied U.S. law on human trafficking and had some interesting comments. For example, he said:
American law requires the trafficking victims be housed and be given legal help and medical treatment as victims. They are not imprisoned as criminals.
In America, the law gives foreign trafficking victims the right to stay lawfully in the country with protection so they can turn star witness and help put the trafficker in prison...in Canadian law, we don't have those victim protection measures right now.
To summarize, it is not possible to fight human trafficking by targeting only the traffickers. We also have to look after the victims. Unfortunately, Bill C-310 avoids that entire question. That said, I applaud the work done by my hon. colleague who introduced this bill, which I am pleased to support. However, we need to be concerned about the budget cuts that the Conservative government has imposed across the board.
Witnesses have said, in committee, for example, that resources are not adequate at present and there are not enough liaison officers in our embassies abroad to combat all the crimes committed outside Canada. If we really want to fight and put an end to human trafficking, there should be more RCMP liaison officers abroad and we should invest more in preventing sex crimes against children committed by Canadians. So investing in front-line services is really how we are going to tackle this problem.
In conclusion, I want to thank the member for Kildonan—St. Paul for her bill and offer her my assistance so that we can adopt a more global approach to all these forms of modern slavery, an approach that will also take into account prevention and victim assistance.
Private Members' Business
April 27th, 2012 / 2 p.m.
Niki Ashton Churchill, MB
Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to echo the message of my colleagues in the NDP that we support this piece of legislation, Bill C-310, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons).
I would like to note the work of the MP for Kildonan—St. Paul, a fellow Manitoban, on this particular file.
This chamber has heard of the importance of addressing the gaps in the Criminal Code relating to human trafficking. We in the NDP welcome legislation that assists in strengthening the law and works to put an end to human trafficking. As the status of women critic for the NDP, I note the particular victimization that women face when it comes to human trafficking. A majority of people trafficked are women and girls.
Strengthening legislation to prosecute traffickers and prevent others from trafficking is critical; however, legislation is not enough. When we hear from advocates about what can be done to prevent human trafficking, a recurring message is that of changing the social circumstances that leave people vulnerable to trafficking. Both here at home and abroad, we must work with other countries to reduce poverty, underdevelopment and the lack of equal opportunity that make people, particularly women, vulnerable to trafficking.
Because human trafficking is a hidden operation, reliable statistics are obviously difficult to find. In 2004, the RCMP estimated that 800 people were trafficked into Canada each year, of which 600 were destined for the sex trade. They also estimated that 1,500 to 2,200 people are trafficked from Canada into the U.S. annually. According to Canadian non-governmental organizations, the number of foreign women brought into Canada and into the sex trade here each year becomes much higher.
As we know, there are also many Canadian women who are trafficked within Canada's borders. Canada's aboriginal female population is prostituted and trafficked in disproportionate levels. Aboriginal youth are only 3% to 5% of the Canadian population, yet in some cities they are 90% of the visible sex trade.
Young women who have been sexually exploited and abused in the past are more vulnerable to trafficking. There is no doubt that the bill before us strengthens the ability to prosecute traffickers, but unfortunately it does nothing to deal with the root causes of trafficking. When we look particularly at the situation that aboriginal women face in Canada, I believe that many of us know that the government has to do a lot more. The factors that make aboriginal women in Canada more vulnerable include the socio-economic status that many of them have. In census after census, we find out that aboriginal women are among the poorest in our country.
We must also look at factors that make them more vulnerable as a result of the residential school experience, which we know aimed to assimilate aboriginal people, thus leading many of them to lose their language, sense of identity and pride. This cultural experiment, supported by the Government of Canada at the time, allowed for a legacy to be left behind that has further marginalized aboriginal people, particularly aboriginal women. That is an area where we need to see the government step up in terms of its commitment to cultural revitalization, its support of the learning of aboriginal languages and its promotion of how important the retention of language and culture is among aboriginal communities.
Another area where we can seek to challenge a key factor that makes aboriginal women even more vulnerable is their level of education and learning. As the MP for Churchill, I have the honour of representing 33 first nations. I know that on many of these first nations, the educational standards and educators the communities are able to provide are substandard, particularly compared to non-aboriginal communities. Why is that? It is because Canada's previous Liberal governments, as well as the current Conservative government, have ensured that federal funding for aboriginal education was and is at a lower level than for non-aboriginal educational systems, thereby ensuring that young people growing up in aboriginal communities are less able to access a quality education. I believe, and our party has noted, that this is a crying shame in a country as wealthy as Canada.
In terms of education, we know that the application of the 2% cap on funding for aboriginal students ensures that young aboriginal people, who know that obtaining a post-secondary education is key to moving ahead in life, are unable to do so. The circumstances of poverty and hopelessness that exist in their communities hold them back from being able to access an important opportunity which so many Canadians know is the key to moving ahead in the future. The removal of the 2% cap and ensuring that young aboriginal people can have access to post-secondary education is another step the federal government could take in order to ensure that aboriginal young people, particularly young aboriginal women, are made less vulnerable.
Community capacity building is another area where there needs to be federal support in order to support young aboriginal people, in particular, young aboriginal women. We need to ensure there is key programming and services offered in aboriginal communities, wherever they might be.
With respect to housing, for example, many of us have seen the kind of images that came out of Attawapiskat and other first nations communities across the country. I represent some of those communities that face dire situations when it comes to housing: Pukatawagan, St. Theresa Point, Garden Hill, Gods Lake Narrows, communities across northern Manitoba that have a similar circumstance to those of northern Ontario and northern regions across our country. For decades, and particularly as aboriginal populations have grown recently, aboriginal communities have been saying that they need the federal government to step up its funding when it comes to providing proper housing and proper infrastructure in aboriginal communities.
Another area in which the federal government could truly step up when it comes to supporting aboriginal women and aboriginal people is with respect to healing. Many aboriginal people face the challenge of marginalization. I remember some years ago standing in this House with my colleagues in the NDP and fighting the government because of its cuts to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, an extremely successful program which took a decentralized approach when it came to funding critical healing programming to aboriginal communities across the country. Despite research that indicated it was an extremely successful program, the Conservatives unfortunately decided to make serious cuts to it. Again, we have a situation where thanks to federal government cuts, many aboriginal people and aboriginal women who are seeking to heal from the traumatic experience of residential schools and oppression do not have the kind of programming that they had a few years ago.
In general, I would say that the work this government needs to do in terms of achieving women's equality is enormous. However, instead of moving forward, the Conservative government is moving Canada backward on a whole host of measures, some of which I have mentioned in this House just in the last 24 hours: the removal of the word “equality” from the status of women mandate; the elimination of the court challenges program; the elimination of pay equity legislation; cuts to advocacy programs; cuts to research; and cuts to services. That indicates the government is not interested when it comes to achieving true gender equality for aboriginal women in Canada and for all women in Canada.
In conclusion, while we support this piece of legislation, we hope that the government will turn the clock forward and work with us to achieve true equality for all women in Canada.
Private Members' Business
April 27th, 2012 / 1:50 p.m.
Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC
Madam Speaker, I too am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-310, an act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), introduced by my colleague, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul. As my colleague from Gatineau has just done, I will take this opportunity to commend the member for her ongoing initiatives and engagement in this regard, of which this bill is but the latest example.
As I have said in the House and as this bill seeks to do, there is an ongoing need to combat this scourge of human trafficking, this pernicious, persistent and pervasive assault on human rights, this commodification in human beings, whereby human beings are regarded simply as cattle to be bonded and bartered. Indeed, this pernicious evil continues to be as persistent and pervasive as ever.
If we look at the situation, we will see that just this week Yuri Fedotov, the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, estimated that as many as 2.4 million people are victims of trafficking worldwide at any given moment in time. His comments came as the heads of various UN organizations associated with tourism condemned human trafficking in that sector and proposed a series of reforms.
Of course, it is not in just one agency, be it the UN, or in one sector, be it tourism, where we need to act. The OSCE special representative and coordinator for combatting trafficking in human beings, Marcia Grazia Giammarinaro, recently noted in her address to global parliamentarians that human trafficking is “not a marginal phenomenon, but a new form of slavery on a massive scale in which people lose their freedom of choice, and are reduced to commodities for the benefit of their exploiters”.
In fact, if we look at the situation, the evidence speaks for itself. We know that this grotesque trade in human life generates upwards of $15 billion a year. We know that trafficking is so profitable that it is the world's fastest-growing international crime. We know that the majority of victims being trafficked each year are girls and women under the age of 25 and that many trafficking victims are young people, including children. We know that the victims of trafficking are desperate to secure the necessities of life, and as a result their lives are mired in exploitation and rooted in the greed of those who prey upon them.
We know that UNICEF continues to remind us that 1.2 million children are trafficked globally each year and that the ILO estimates that 2.5 million children are currently in situations of forced labour as a result of being trafficked. We know that no matter for what purpose they are trafficked, every trafficked person suffers deprivation of liberty and physical, sexual and emotional abuse, including threats of violence and actual harm to themselves and to their family members.
Although all of those numbers taken together represent compelling and cumulative evidence of this scourge of human trafficking, we must always remember that behind each of the statistics and behind every number is a face, a life, a world shattered by this evil of human trafficking.
Lest it be thought that there is no Canadian connection to this, the U.S. State Department earlier this year released a chilling report on human trafficking, which found:
Canada is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour. Canadian women and girls, particularly from aboriginal communities, are found in conditions of commercial sexual exploitation across the country. Foreign women and children, primarily from Asia and Eastern Europe, are subjected to sex trafficking....
Indeed, some Canadians have a hand in human trafficking, and it is therefore important, as this legislation seeks to do, to send a message that complicity in the trafficking of persons is not only not acceptable in any way but that we in fact will pursue those traffickers, be they Canadians, here and abroad. This therefore includes extending the reach of our laws to actions that occur beyond our borders.
Last year, Canada prosecuted a child sex tourist, a Canadian who abused girls in Cambodia and Colombia, for violating subsection 7(4.1) of the Criminal Code. Bill C-310 would expand this provision to apply not only to sexual offences against children, as it does now, but to offences related to trafficking in persons.
We should note that just this week the news from Britain reflected the situation where a young woman was trafficked for organ harvesting. So, while our minds may think of human trafficking only for the purposes of sexual exploitation, it exists in other contexts that are no less reprehensible. Indeed, our Criminal Code must stand for the proposition that such trafficking is unacceptable for any person anywhere, for any reason, at any time.
With specific regard to Bill C-310, I will cite World Vision's characterization of it. It reads:
This bill is a significant and necessary step in responding to human trafficking, and a vital part of a broader strategy to tackle trafficking at home and overseas from the key internationally recognized intervention angles: prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships.
As I referred to earlier, this was initially introduced legislation and the four Ps for combatting trafficking.
While the bill we are debating this afternoon is an important step in the right direction, there is much more that needs to be done to address all aspects of the trafficking process. In this regard, I would like to note two items among a number of them that the U.S. report of this year found with respect to Canada. I reads:
Canada's law enforcement efforts reportedly suffer from a lack of coordination between the national government and provincial and local authorities, which prosecute most human trafficking cases.
That is something that was noted before but which needs to be continuously addressed.
Simply put, changing the law, while important, will not be enough without adopting a national approach to its enforcement that includes co-operation with provincial and local authorities. I know that the sponsor of this bill has a number of proposals in mind for how we can combat trafficking beyond the legislation before us and has spoken to these other recommendations and needs before. I and other members of this House look forward to working with her on the next steps involved, particularly with respect to coordination between actors at the federal, provincial and local levels.
Referring again to the U.S. report, it was also found that in Canada:
...there were no nationwide protocols for other government officials to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution or migrant workers. Victim support services in Canada are generally administered at the provincial level. There were no dedicated facilities or specialized programs for trafficking victims.
That reminds us yet again of the importance of the protection function of the protection of victims, at the same time as we seek to prosecute the perpetrators and always, foremost, the prevention of trafficking to begin with.
Indeed, we must ensure that we are not only looking at human trafficking with a view toward the punishment and prosecution of those involved, but with an ongoing appreciation of the victimization of those who are, have been and continue to be victimized in the process. We must ensure that programs for their protection are fully funded, that they provide services in a variety of languages and they assist toward rehabilitation and reintegration into society for those who have been victims of trafficking.
Trafficking constitutes an assault on our common humanity. Accordingly, it must be seen first and foremost as a human rights problem but with an ongoing human rights face reflected in all of the individual victims and being the very antithesis of what the universal declaration of human rights is all about.
As Professor Harold Koh put it, while dean of Yale Law School:
By their acts, traffickers deny that all persons are born free and equal in dignity and rights; they deny their victims freedom of movement, freedom of association, and the most basic freedom: to have a childhood.
I am delighted to stand in this place and support the legislation.