House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was hospital.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to rise specifically to refute the linkages the member so loosely made with the Romanian strippers' visas and this bill and the trafficking of persons.

I know the member well knows that the bill on the issue of trafficking in persons refers to the recruitment, transportation and harbouring of a person for the purposes of a forced service. People who are coming here from Romania--

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Exactly. Your government is guilty.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pretty sure the member will get a chance to respond.

I do not think we should mix things up. We are talking about a visa issue. We are talking about the reality that there are strip clubs in Canada and the reality that more strippers are being brought over periodically to provide the services in these institutions. They are coming over under visas. They are providing these services and then they are going back. That is not forced services. He suggested that immigration authorities went over to Romania to somehow force these people to do something.

We should keep Bill C-49 in perspective. We are talking about a very serious issue and the member talked about it to some extent in his speech. We are talking about people who are vulnerable, who cannot protect themselves from these things, who need some way to survive and people take advantage of their vulnerability. That is not the same case. The member, in fairness, should differentiate between visas for people coming over here to work on a part time basis and those vulnerable people around the world and domestically who have been taken advantage of by those committing these abhorrent crimes.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I remind my colleague from Mississauga that I was trying to point out that the Government of Canada was using, and perhaps still is using, the exact same methodology and modus operandi employed by people in the underworld who do smuggle humans, in that job offers are in fact made. Most people probably came to Canada thinking they were coming to a legitimate exotic dancing job for above minimum wage and reasonable working conditions. He will be the first to acknowledge, I am sure, being well aware of the subject, that once they got here the situation was very different. Their documents were taken away from them.

The member need not take my word for it. My colleague would be interested in the documentary which recently aired on television and other well documented reports of women who, once they got here, were not paid a fair living wage for legitimate exotic dancing. In fact, their documents were taken away from them, they were locked into rooms, they were forced into aspects of the sex industry beyond what they bargained for. In other words, exotic dancing led to lap dancing, led to pornographic movies, led to prostitution, against their will. As many as 500 disappeared altogether and the Government of Canada has no idea where they are. This is wide scale exploitation of women that matches word for word in modus operandi the way people in the underworld work when they corral women into human trafficking situations.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, every day we learn something else that stands our hair on end.

I would like to congratulate the member for Winnipeg Centre. I have been here since 2000, and every time I have been in a parliamentary committee or elsewhere with that hon. member, I have observed that no one could ever say he makes up stories. So we can assume that what he has revealed here is something that he has looked into and that it is real.

I am scandalized. Here we are, in a supposedly developed country, in the year 2005, a country that has long taken pride in calling itself the best in the world. Yet every year, every month, new scandals are being discovered. It is no longer the sponsorship scandal, it is something far more serious. It is the scandal of trafficking in human beings, including trafficking in women for the purposes of prostitution. The member has even said that there were lawyers working for Citizenship and Immigration who own places where these women can be exploited.

Have I understood properly? Does he believe these lawyers are still working for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration or can we assume that this is a past event and hope the matter is now settled? If he feels that it is not, do these lawyers still work for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question and his legitimate concern for the Immigration Canada workers who were put in this terrible position of having to be instruments of collusion to have Canada facilitate the sex trade.

The answer to his question is that the immigration workers I spoke to told me about their colleagues who were stationed in Hungary and Romania to corral these women, give them visas and send them to Canada. They are stationed there to enable the exploitation of women on behalf of Toronto immigration lawyers who own the sex clubs and strip clubs.

I do not know if that particular individual still works for Immigration Canada. What was shared with me is how terrible the workers felt that they were asked to participate in this scandalous exploitation of women. I feel for them. I do not think we should ask any civil servant to knowingly take part in something that is so morally, ethically and fundamentally wrong on so many levels.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the debate all day yesterday and today. I do not want to address the former speaker's comments any further. I think he is just incorrect in his analysis.

I did have the opportunity yesterday to attend a meeting with the families of the four RCMP officers who were slain in Mayerthorpe on March 5. There are a couple of points I would like to make.

This is debate at second reading. The bill will go to committee after this. Debate at second reading is intended to give members the opportunity to put forward some points of view that they would like to have considered at committee. It is extremely important that members, as they hear the debate, participate and ask questions, if not make suggestions for changes as to how we can have an effective piece of legislation. This is a very important bill.

As background for those who may be following this debate, Bill C-49 proposes amendments to the Criminal Code specifically to prohibit trafficking in persons in Canada. This bill is part of our commitment as a government to the protection of vulnerable persons and the ongoing strategy to combat human trafficking which is not only an international activity but also is a domestic activity.

Currently the Criminal Code contains no provisions to specifically prohibit trafficking in persons, although there are a number of offences that are related, such as kidnapping, uttering threats, or extortion, which also play a role in this crime. There is some overlap, but the Criminal Code does not have a specific prohibition on this trafficking.

Yesterday a couple of points were raised that the description of trafficking in persons seems to suggest that these are people who are being bought and sold like slaves. It is more than that. In fact I have suggested that we need to continue to put in the word “exploitation”. This is about the exploitation of people. We are talking about the vulnerable, the poor, those who are unable to defend themselves, those who can be coerced. We talk about these issues all the time. We talk about vulnerable seniors, seniors who are abused, seniors who are defrauded of their money. We talk about children's issues and children who are used for pornographic purposes. These are the vulnerable in our society who deserve protection.

There are also people who are subject to these pressures by those who see the weakness, those who see the poverty, those who hold out some hope for someone, take advantage of them and put them in a situation which is certainly no better.

This bill goes beyond the focus of immigration which the prior speaker was talking about. It contains three notable provisions. There are three new indictable offences specifically to address human trafficking.

The main offence is called trafficking in persons. It would prohibit anyone from engaging in specific acts for the purpose of exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of a person. It would carry a maximum penalty, I stress a maximum penalty, of life imprisonment where it involves kidnapping, aggravated assault, sexual assault or death, and imprisonment for 14 years in all other cases.

The second offence would prohibit anyone from receiving financial or other material benefit resulting from the commission of a trafficking offence. It would be punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.

The third offence would prohibit the withholding or destroying of documents, such as identification or travel documents, for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of a trafficking offence. It would carry a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.

From the debates yesterday and today, it is clear that this bill has the support of all parties to pass second reading and to go to the committee for its exhaustive study and to hear witnesses to make absolutely sure that this bill is effective.

I am not going to repeat their information, but many members articulated how serious this problem is. In the magnitude of 700,000 people a year may be subject to these trafficking activities.

The United Nations has been a leader on this. Canada finally will play a role by having this legislation in place. One reason is only Canada, the U.S., New Zealand and Australia are taking new immigrants into their countries. There are about 30 other countries that are rampant with the activity of taking advantage of people. With the other three countries, we become the sites of many of these crimes that have been perpetrated. We cannot overstate the seriousness of the problem.

While the parties are very supportive of the bill, and it is important for us to be involved, the debate has included a substantive component of a matter which is beyond the scope of the bill. I am not sure whether it should be, but maybe the committee will be. This is one reason why I wanted to speak.

As I said at the beginning, I had an opportunity yesterday, with a number of our colleagues from the other place and here in the chamber, to meet with the families of the four RCMP officers who were slain on March 3 in Mayerthorpe, Alberta. I want to remind Canadians of their names: Constables Anthony Gordon, Leo Johnston, Brock Myrol and Peter Schiemann.

The families had some messages for the legislators. During the debate, the issues that came up were the frustrations about the criminal justice system. I raised this point in the debate yesterday. Do we have the resources and the means at provincial and federal levels to enforce, to protect and to defend in Bill C-49, should it become law?

I have a good relationship with my chief of police. I know we have a relatively affluent community. Yet our chief of police would say that they do not have enough police officers even to follow up on the reports of suspected grow house operations. Not only can they not investigate and prosecute, they cannot even check them out.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Who funds the RCMP?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

This is important. It is not just the RCMP. We are talking about the official provincial police and regional policing authorities that have to enforce the Criminal Code. This is at all levels of government. It is one reason why I wanted to raise and debate the whole question about the criminal justice system as it relates to sentencing, and I hope the committee will deal with it.

The linkage here is to the four slain RCMP officers. Reverend Schiemann spoke to the MPs yesterday about this in our brief meeting. He has said that the person who perpetrated these murders. Mr. Roszko, and I use the word “Mr.” very loosely, has a criminal record that would make any common sense person say that he is someone who has a deep problem. The recidivism rate already has been very high. He is a threat to society. Everybody in the community knew that the person was a problem. He had been charged, convicted, put away for a couple of days, then let go and he was back on the streets. It became a game.

How can Canadians have confidence in the laws of Canada if they know that the application and the defence of those laws only goes so far as the police will lay charges and the person will have a criminal record, but the individual will be back on the street again?

I understand very well why the families are saying that they need the federal government to help them make reasonable changes to the laws so that dangerous people are not out on the streets, that they are not there to perpetrate even further crimes to do the damage to these families, their friends and their communities such as happened with the senseless murder of four RCMP constables, human beings with families.

Members of the justice committee are here today. Notwithstanding that Bill C-49 prescribes that there are penalties to a maximum of, et cetera, it is about time we have some real discussions about mandatory sentencing.

There was an incident in Toronto not too long ago. It was just discharged by the courts. It involved a police officer who was charged with sucker-punching a refugee. Right out of the blue, he gave him a whack. The officer received a sentence of 30 days in jail. It should have been a lot more given the circumstances. He denied it, but someone came forward with a film of the incident. Now the police unions are going to appeal this because he is a good guy and his wife is going to have a baby. I understand there are always mitigating circumstances, but when a person in a position of trust violates the rights of a human being, we need to deal with that firmly. A 30 day sentence says to that person that he is going to jail for a sucker punch.

If we look at Mr. Roszko's rap sheet, we see how much time he has spent in jail. The system basically said that he had a problem, that he had done this or that and that his criminal record was very long. However, he was out on the streets before we could blink. He went back into the community and was a risk to people of his community. Everyone knew it would happen again, but no one knew it would be that bad on March 5 when four RCMP officers were slain needlessly because the criminal justice system and the courts let them down.

We are the legislators. We are the people who make laws that affect the Criminal Code. This is affecting the Criminal Code. The bill does not talk about sentencing. We do not have a lot to do other than prescribing maximums. More and more members in this place comment on grow ops. People who have grow ops with 3,000 plants get slapped with an $1,800 fine and a suspended sentence. We know very well that major grow operations are generating cash for organized crime, for serious criminal activity. When people have more than a plant or two, it clearly is not for their own use. I do not want to debate where to draw the line, but when there are hundreds and thousands of plants, I want to see people go to jail.

We seem to have an aversion to putting people away when they commit serious crimes. We do not talk about this enough. Would someone please make a case to the Speaker that we need an emergency debate, or at least a take note debate, on the sentencing in the criminal justice system. Let us talk about it and see what our parliamentarians have to say. This is a very important issue because families are hurting each and every day.

I do not want to start picking holes. We all understand that we collectively are the lawmakers of Canada. I believe it is a priority. We should talk about this and put it on the table. When the judges and people in positions of trust and authority hear what Parliament has to say about the sentencing track record for serious and violent crime and how we feel about this, even without passing a law, they will look twice and think twice.

We need to take some leadership, too, if things are not happening in the courts and through our judges. I believe very firmly that we can make a difference, and I wanted to raise it in this debate. It is not really a major part of Bill C-49. It is not.

If somebody gets up on a point of order to say that this is not relevant, it was very relevant to the families yesterday. I went there to support them personally. I listened to them. I do not support Bill C-17, which includes the decriminalization of marijuana. I voted against it the last time and I will vote against it again. That is only part of it because that gives the wrong signal.

I think we also give the wrong signal through our legislation. Even though the amendments to the Criminal Code must prescribe penalties, we need to have some real direction to the courts through the criminal justice system. I do not know from where it is being driven. I am not a lawyer. I am not a member of the justice committee. I listened to the people yesterday and I listen to my constituents. I know there is a legitimate concern that should be dealt with in Parliament, and I want that.

I am sorry that what I said has not been relevant to the bill, but I wanted to raise the issue because it is important to Canadians.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I heard the latter part of the member's comments in reference to the trafficking in persons issue in the bill. I know he digressed, which is fine. It is appropriate for him to digress as we are talking about Criminal Code matters.

This party, starting from the Reform Party to the Alliance Party and now the Conservative Party, has always brought put this issue in the House. We are very concerned about the safety and security of members of our country. It was an issue back in 1993, it was an issue in 2000 and it is an issue now. In fact, it is even more grave now because numerous legislation that has come through the House.

In 1993 we went directly to the justice minister of the day, Mr. Allan Rock. We asked him what his priorities were and we showed him a list of our priorities. One of them dealt with the Young Offenders Act. That was the huge issue of the day.

His issues were completely unrelated to anything that was of concern to the average person in Canada. First and foremost, he would ensure that the issue on homosexuality would be brought forward. The second was to take power away from police officers in situations of high speed chases. Those two big things he saw as important, and it has digressed from there when it comes to issues of security.

Yes, there is a legislative answer to the issue of security, and I will ask the member a question about it. If he is so concerned about issues of security, not just the shooting of the RCMP officers, which was captured in the news over the last three weeks or a month, why is he not twisting the arms of the members of his cabinet who are roadblocks to putting sound legislation forward in the House?

The people of the nation want some assurances from their government that it is looking after this. Why is the member not spending his time beating up on them instead of the people over here?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think I understand where the member is coming from. I am not sure that the member is aware of what I have been doing on this but I can assure him that I have had these conversations with the justice minister and the Deputy Prime Minister in her role in terms of security issues.

I raised this issue because it came up in debate. Even the justice critic from the Conservative Party raised the matters of the sentence and stuff. I do not accept the rationalization that mandatory minimum sentencing does not work and is not a deterrent. I am not as concerned about deterrence as I am about someone who commits a serious violent crime. They need to be in jail to have the cold shower that being incarcerated brings. They need to know that as a society we believe that what they did was abhorrent and that this is part of the penalty. We know that a guy like Roszko, should not have been on the streets. The system let the families down because it did not deal with Roszko, the way he should have been dealt with.

I raised this issue and I am asking other members to join with me to ensure they do what they can in whatever venues they can to influence the discussions, even at the justice committee when this legislation comes before it, so that the issues that are ancillary or related to Bill C-49 may bring some movement in terms of effective legislation and amendments to the Criminal Code.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a specific question about Bill C-49 and I preface it only by saying that my colleague from Mississauga is aware of how rare it is for white collar crime to earn jail time. Much of his speech was about sentencing and jail time and a lot of us were shocked at the relatively light sentence that Mr. Paul Coffin received. Maybe all those jail cells are needed for some Indian guy who steals a loaf of bread. Maybe there is no room in the prisons for a white collar criminal who steals $1.5 million.

I will ask my colleague to contemplate Bill C-49 specifically. I would like to read one clause and then I will ask him about it. Clause 279.01(1) reads:

Every person who recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds, conceals or harbours a person...for the purpose of exploiting them...is guilty of an indictable offence and liable

(a) to life imprisonment....

How often do we see that as a penalty in our Criminal Code?

Does my colleague believe that clause in Bill C-49 should apply for instance to those involved in the exploitation of women and the Canadian strippergate visa scandal if proven guilty?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member should read the clause fully and correctly when talking about sentencing. It says:

...if they kidnap, commit an aggravated assault or aggravated sexual assault against, or cause death to, the victim during the commission of the offence;

The member does this a lot. He is very selective in his facts so I will not comment any further. The member should ask another question and be a little bit more accurate in posing it.

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the Mississauga community crime awareness campaign in which the same kind of issues came up in the communities. It was sponsored, incidentally, by Mr. Victor Oh, president of the Mississauga Chinese Business Association. The police, the crime prevention association and city officials were there. It was interesting to note that one of the things they found was a strong co-relationship between a vibrant crime prevention and awareness program within communities and the level of crime. That is one of the reasons that the city of Mississauga has the lowest crime rate of any community in the country, even though it is next door to Toronto which has one of the highest.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am looking for a point of clarification in one of the member's earlier comments. He said that he was less concerned with deterrence than he was with incarceration.

While I totally agree with the member that appropriate sentences should be levied against violent criminals or criminals of any sort, does he not believe that perhaps deterrence would be as important, if not more important, than actual sentences? I would love to see nothing more than less crime committed, whether it be violent crimes, drug related crimes or whatever. I believe that if there were severe deterrence this might actually affect that cause and there may be less crime.

I would be very interested in a clarification by the member as to his views on deterrence as opposed to incarceration and sentencing.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I said it I knew it did not come out quite right.

The Minister of Justice has often said that mandatory minimum sentencing is not an effective deterrent. What I think I should have said, and the member is quite right, is that I was not focusing in on the issue of deterrence. I was trying to say that I still want someone to go to jail when they commit a serious crime.

Deterrence, obviously, is extremely important. I thank the member for the opportunity to clarify that. However I believe that mandatory minimum sentences in certain cases, and certainly in the case of a guy like Roszko, should have been there. He should have been there long enough to find out whether or not this was a case where this person could in fact under certain circumstances be held in custody for an extended period until there was satisfaction that he could be released safely back into the community.