House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

The House resumed from October 25 consideration of the motion that Bill C-310, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Langley has four minutes left to conclude his remarks.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to speak to this bill from the member for Kildonan—St. Paul. I describe her as “Canada's Wilberforce”. Bill C-310 is an important private member's bill that would impact modern-day slavery, or human trafficking. The bill would push it back into its dirty corner and hopefully kill it for all time, in Canada and in the world. The member for Kildonan—St. Paul has been on this journey for years. Her whole family has been very involved, through the police, in trying to stop this horrific crime.

I am amazed that Canada is blessed to have Miss Canada come from my riding of beautiful Langley, British Columbia. Tara Teng is that person this year. We will be passing the torch on to young, new leaders such as Tara Teng in years to come. We wonder what these leaders are working on. She is working with this member of Parliament to stop human trafficking, a noble cause. It is understandable that we want to end this horrific evil. We have some of Canada's brightest lights taking on this problem. I want to thank both the member for Kildonan—St. Paul and Tara Teng. We encourage them to never give up. As individuals, as the Government of Canada and as parliamentarians, we do not give up until the job is done.

I recently received 245 letters from students at Walnut Grove Secondary School. They were horrified to find out that slavery actually exists today. They found out about this private member's bill, Bill C-310. I would like to read a letter for the record so members can understand what our young adults think about the problem of human trafficking. This is a letter from Emma. She is a grade 9 student who says:

This problem about human trafficking is horrible and something should be done about it. Young innocent girls and boys being taken into the sex trade is a major problem. The presentation I heard today made me feel like this should not be left aside. Everyone should help to make human trafficking be put to a stop. I know that if anyone I know, or in my family, got taken away to be human trafficked... It would kill me! I would be devastated. No family should have to go through this; losing a child and not knowing where they are. I strongly hope that something will be done to stop this!

Well something is being done. I encourage every member to support this very important bill.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-310, which would amend the Criminal Code to address the cruel and serious problem of human trafficking in Canada.

I congratulate the member who sponsored this bill for introducing a bill that will have the support of all parties in this House. This is the first time I have supported a government initiative and I congratulate her on it. I hope that in the future the opposition parties and the Conservative government will have many opportunities to work together.

This bill proposes two very important amendments to the Criminal Code that will make it easier to prosecute perpetrators of human trafficking. This heinous crime has destructive effects on the victims, which reminds us that in a not-too-distant past, slaves were treated similarly by Canadians and by our neighbours to the south. Unfortunately, at a time when human rights and individual freedoms should prevail and at a time when we would have thought our attitudes had evolved enough to eliminate this abominable crime, there are still people in this country who can deny their own humanity and sell people who are just as deserving of freedom as any other person.

Therefore, I believe that the House has the duty and the power to hold these individuals accountable by proposing and adopting a legal framework to eliminate this form of slavery and severely punish the perpetrators, so that we can set an example for the rest of the world.

This bill targets the real criminals—the traffickers. This bill would extend Canada's jurisdiction beyond our borders, which means we could go after traffickers with Canadian citizenship or residency regardless of where they are in the world. I would once again like to congratulate my colleague opposite for developing a bill that targets the real criminals and not the victims.

However, since there is a distinction made between human trafficking and human smuggling, I have to wonder about Bill C-4, which targets the migrants instead of the smugglers in cases of human smuggling in Canada. Migrants are the victims in this fraudulent scheme, and the real criminals are those who deceive these people by promising them a better future. I would have liked to see the government use Bill C-310 as an inspiration and to withdraw Bill C-4 from the Order Paper.

The first section of the bill amends the Criminal Code in order to apply Canadian extraterritorial jurisdiction to the offence of human trafficking. This will give the Canadian government the legal means to prosecute a Canadian or a permanent resident of Canada involved in human trafficking, regardless of where he or she works, lives or operates. Introducing extraterritorial jurisdiction using the nationality principle in international law is compatible with our international obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, the Palermo convention. Given the international nature of human trafficking, extraterritorial jurisdiction is crucial. We simply cannot allow Canadian traffickers to live a comfortable life without any fear of being held responsible for their crimes just because they can hide behind international borders.

Thus, I am convinced that our government has a responsibility to ensure that our legal system can prosecute those responsible for such crimes to the full extent of the law through this extraterritorial jurisdiction. We have the right to hold our citizens to a certain standard of behaviour, even those who are outside our borders.

In her introductory speech, the sponsor of the bill said that it would ensure justice in cases where the offence was committed in a country without strong anti-human trafficking laws. I agree with her completely, but I find it unfortunate that this government did not live up to this standard during the previous Parliament with regard to Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries. Once again, I hope the government will learn something from this private member's bill.

Coming back to Bill C-310, before 2005 the only legal action that could be taken against human traffickers was based on charges of kidnapping, threats or extortion. Section 118 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act prohibits anyone from bringing someone into Canada by means of abduction or fraud. In other words, human trafficking was not considered a criminal offence per se until 2005. Since then, only five people have been prosecuted on the basis this new offence.

Crown prosecutors and experts blame the lack of prosecutions on the current definition of exploitation, which requires proof of a threat to safety. This proof is difficult to obtain, which results in traffickers being found not guilty.

This leads me to the second amendment to the Criminal Code proposed in this bill. The member sponsoring this bill has every reason to propose expanding the current legal definition of the word “exploitation”, which defines the conditions for a person to be considered a victim of human trafficking. The current legal definition of this word in the Criminal Code does not contain any precise examples of exploitation. Therefore, this second amendment would add evidentiary foundations to enable courts to give clear examples of exploitation, such as threats or use of violence, coercion and fraudulent manipulation. This would update the legal terminology and would give courts the legal tools they need to successfully prosecute these criminals.

Once again, I congratulate the member on her wise and well thought-out bill.

I will conclude by talking about human trafficking in Canada. In Canada it is tragic to see that aboriginal women and girls are disproportionately more likely to be victims of human trafficking. This tragedy is the result of a number of factors, and to address this, our government will have to combat it from all sides. We absolutely must recognize that poverty, lack of housing and very difficult living conditions for aboriginal women and girls are factors that explain why they are disproportionately more likely to be victims of human trafficking.

I would like to point out a coincidence. Today, the Standing Committee on Status of Women will present its report on violence against aboriginal women. This report is the product of two years of study on a very serious issue and an unfortunate tragedy in our country. Over the course of this study, the committee heard from about a hundred aboriginal women and people working with victims and their families. I had the opportunity to listen to some of this testimony when I sat on this committee. It is clear that to fight violence against aboriginal women and girls, including human trafficking, we must acknowledge the poverty and economic marginalization they experience.

I truly hope that this report will lead to concrete recommendations for improving the economic conditions of these women and decreasing their vulnerability to violence and human trafficking. I strongly encourage all of my colleagues in the House and the general public to listen to the presentation of this report today. Once again, I thank my colleague for this wise and necessary bill.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Bill C-310, a bill which the Liberal Party also supports.

The sad and tragic reality is that human trafficking is not going away anytime soon. Indeed, news broke just this past week that a human trafficking police action in China resulted in 700 arrests and secured the rescue of 178 children.

Human trafficking is a particularly serious problem in China, and as CNN reports:

Since the government launched a national campaign against human trafficking in April 2009, police have arrested almost 50,000 suspects, rescuing more than 18,000 children as well as some 35,000 women, the ministry said.

Those are horrific numbers, although even one is horrific.

We cannot look at just one country, of course, and human trafficking in isolation. As OSCE special representative and coordinator for combatting trafficking in human beings, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro noted in an address to global parliamentarians last month 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.

The statistics are shocking and saddening in their own right. We have heard many figures in House debates on human trafficking, such as the UN estimate that nearly 2.5 million people from 127 countries are being trafficked into 137 countries around the world, that trafficking has an annual revenue of more than $5 billion, that profit from human trafficking may be in excess of $31 billion annually, that 1.2 million children are trafficked globally each year, and that more than a million children are in situations of forced labour as a result of being trafficked.

With all these numbers, it is easy to forget that behind every number is a name, a face, a real person, a life, a world shattered by the evil that is human trafficking. Lest it be thought that Canada does not have any role to play in this global phenomenon, the U.S. state department, earlier this year, released a chilling report on human trafficking which found that:

Canada is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. 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;--

That is talking about Canada.

Indeed, some Canadians have a hand in human trafficking, and we must send a strong signal that complicity in the trafficking of persons is not acceptable in any way. This includes extending the reach of our laws to actions that happen beyond our borders.

Canada, last year, 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 expands this provision to apply not only to sexual offences against children, as it does now, but to offences related to trafficking in persons. Indeed, with specific regard to Bill C-310, World Vision Canada has said:

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.

I think I may speak for all members of this House when I say that these are goals we wholeheartedly support.

While the bill we are debating today is a step in the right direction, there is much more that needs to be done to address all aspects of the trafficking process. In that regard I would like to note two other items the U.S. report of this year found with respect to Canada. First:

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.

Simply put, changing the law is not enough without adopting a national approach to its enforcement that includes and co-operates with provincial and local authorities.

Second:

--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 is very saddening and disappointing.

We must ensure that we are not only looking at human trafficking with a view toward punishing and prosecuting those involved but also with a view to helping those who have been victimized in the process.

Addressing and redressing this most profound of human rights assaults, an assault on human dignity, requires a comprehensive approach, an approach that will allow us to prevent problems to begin with and to protect the victims of trafficking, while also pursuing the traffickers themselves, and subsequently prosecuting and punishing them.

To make human trafficking offences abroad subject to prosecution in Canada is, as such, a step in the right direction and something all Canadians can support.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul for her dedication to this important issue. I am honoured to have the opportunity to speak in support of legislation that would strengthen Canada's ability to prosecute human traffickers.

Bill C-310 is an important piece of legislation that proposes an amendment to section 7 of the Criminal Code which would add the current trafficking in persons offences to the list of offences which, if committed outside Canada by a Canadian or permanent resident, could be prosecuted in Canada.

I proposed a similar type of legislation, Bill C-212, which would empower the courts to prosecute the offence of luring a child when the offence is committed by a Canadian or permanent resident outside Canada's borders. Giving our courts the ability to prosecute offenders regardless of what jurisdiction the crime was committed in is an important tool in combatting crime like human trafficking or child exploitation in the 21st century.

Bill C-310 also proposes an amendment that would provide evidentiary definitions for exploitation by providing specific examples of exploitative conducts, such as use of threats, violence, coercion, and fraudulent means. The courts would be able to provide clear examples of exploitation.

Human trafficking, also referred to as the modern day slave trade, is a despicable crime against humanity that I know all members of this House would agree requires our utmost efforts to eliminate.

The international trafficking of people is a problem larger than average Canadians would assume. We often hear stories of the sex trade of women and girls, and men and boys occurring in faraway countries. However, when it comes to human trafficking, Canada is a destination country, a transit country, and a source country. Up to 16,000 people are trafficked to or through Canada every year.

The U.S. state department estimates there are between 600,000 and 800,000 global victims of human trafficking each and every year. While the majority of victims are women and girls, men and boys are also victimized. Regardless of gender, victims are knowingly lured into a criminal world that views them as objects, to be bought and traded, used for a certain amount of time and, in many cases, discarded when they no longer serve the criminals' purposes.

As a source country, many of our young vulnerable Canadians have been lured away from communities by the prospect or the promise of economic opportunity, and then sold into a dark underworld that steals from young people their freedom, their hope and, in some cases, their lives.

In Canada, we know young aboriginal women are particularly vulnerable to being victimized by traffickers and other parasitic criminals. We know about the Stolen Sisters, some 500 missing or murdered aboriginal women from across Canada. In northern British Columbia, Highway 16 has earned the unfortunate moniker “Highway of Tears”. There are a series of unresolved disappearances and murders of aboriginal women in the region and of course, we know of the dozens of prostituted women who have fallen victim to unspeakable crimes in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

In Canada, and around the world, victims of human trafficking and other forms of exploitation often come from the impoverished and marginalized conditions that make them vulnerable to violence and abuse. What cannot be ignored when discussing human trafficking is its root cause, which is poverty.

Growing economic inequality across the globe is a major cause for concern. In fact, this is the foundation of the occupy Wall Street protests and the similar protests it has sparked in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and, indeed, across the globe. Economic inequality creates conditions where people are desperate to provide a more secure future for themselves and for their families.

As labour markets increasingly see no borders, people are easily preyed upon by those offering the promise of a new job in a prosperous country. Once they fall into the trap, they are often manipulated into believing they themselves are criminals and oftentimes, the safety of their families are threatened should they ever try to escape.

Predators of human trafficking are often highly sophisticated, multinational criminal organizations that are experts at trading humans, just as they would weapons, drugs or firearms. The existence of modern-day criminal organizations like this requires our governments to enact clear, legal frameworks to protect victims and prosecute offenders. Experts argue that to effectively combat human trafficking we must adopt a three-pronged approach: prevention, prosecution and protection.

Bill C-310 would strengthen our ability to prosecute human traffickers. I believe Canada must also take steps to strengthen the prevention of human trafficking and the protection of its victims. In so many complex issues our community faces today, the key to achieving success is prevention, but often politicians have a difficult time justifying investing taxpayer dollars in preventive measures, which, despite a policy's proven effectiveness, may not have the same immediate gains like a new ice rink or a ribbon-cutting ceremony would.

In terms of prevention, we know that education is the key. A lack of awareness about the issue of human trafficking persists in our society. We need a national strategy to combat human trafficking that emphasizes coordination and partnership with various levels of departments of government, the RCMP, other countries, non-profit organizations and others. This level of coordination is key to ensuring protection is adequately provided to the victims of human trafficking.

There are many obstacles to identifying the victims of human trafficking. Oftentimes the first and only opportunity to identify them is at the border when many of them may still falsely believe that they are entering the country for legitimate purposes.

When we come across a potential victim of human trafficking, there are many challenges to providing the necessary elements of protection. We must protect them against unjust detention and deportation. There is a need for support services, such as shelter, health care and counselling. As I mentioned earlier, the lives of these victims and their families are often threatened, which makes it imperative that we offer witness protection services.

Members of the House have spoken about the police resources required to combat human trafficking. Our communities have been asking the federal government to provide adequate levels of resources so police can do their jobs. Canada's New Democrats have been calling for an increase of 2,500 police officers and resources to combat gangs and gang violence and to prevent our youth from being lured into criminal organizations.

In 2006, the government issued new guidelines for the issuance of temporary resident permits to victims of human trafficking, a step forward in combatting this serious crime. However, these permits have had their shortfalls. According to the Canada Council for Refugees:

—the temporary residence permits have proven inadequate: they are discretionary and are not always offered to trafficked persons; they impose an unreasonable burden of proof on the trafficked person; and the mandatory involvement of law enforcement agencies has deterred some trafficked persons from applying.

Canada's official opposition is calling on the government to provide victims of human trafficking a permanent option to stay in Canada. We call for this in part due to the shortcomings of the temporary resident permit, but also because of the very nature of this heinous crime. Victims must be given the choice to remain in Canada as permanent residents. They must be protected from prosecution themselves. There must be mechanisms in place to ensure victims are offered a full range of support services rather than treated as criminals.

I am hopeful that all members rise to speak in support of this bill. They will recognize that the fight against human trafficking is not over. Much work remains to be done to ensure that our country is doing all it can to combat the widespread scourge of human trafficking.

I would again like to recognize the efforts of my hon. colleague from Kildonan—St. Paul and would call on all members of the House to support Bill C-310.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to again speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-310, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons).

I will begin by thanking all hon. members who spoke today, as well as those who spoke during the first hour of debate on October 25. The careful attention paid to this legislation, and even more so to the issue of modern-day slavery during the speeches, is quite encouraging. There are few matters of justice that require our constant attention as much as slavery.

Bill C-310 would amend the Criminal Code to add the current trafficking in persons offences, sections 279.01 and 279.011, to the list of offences, which, if committed outside Canada by a Canadian or permanent resident, can be prosecuted in Canada.

Extending extraterritorial jurisdiction to Criminal Code offences is, indeed, a rare step. This was noted by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, as well as the NDP justice critic, during the first hour of debate. In particular, the parliamentary secretary stated that, in the limited number of cases in which Canada has extended prosecutorial discretion, it was because there was an international consensus to do so.

However, I want to refer to an extensive report on the practice of extraterritorial jurisdiction released by the Law Commission of Canada entitled, “Global Reach, Local Grasp: Constructing Extraterritorial Jurisdiction in the Age of Globalization”. This report states that, while most exercises of extraterritoriality are deliberately multilateral, it is open to Canada to act extraterritorially in advance of consensus having been formed; in effect, to attempt to lead international opinion by example.

What is most notable is that the report provides Canada's child sex tourism laws as an example of this and states that the child sex tourism provisions, though now perfectly in line with international treaties, actually preceded the signing of these treaties. Bill C-310 is an opportunity for Canada to again take international leadership in combatting this heinous crime.

I want to note that, during the first hour of debate, I mentioned that I would be seeking a friendly amendment to add sections 279.02 and 279.03 to this clause. These are offences of receipt of material or financial benefit from human trafficking and withholding or destroying travel documents in the process of human trafficking. This would ensure that all of the acts around human trafficking are covered by extraterritorial offences and there is no chance of a Canadian human trafficker falling through the cracks. I am pleased that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice was supportive of this amendment and I look forward to the discussion at committee.

The second clause of Bill C-310 amends the definition of exploitation and the trafficking in persons offence to add an interpretive aid for courts to consider when they are determining whether a person is exploited. The heart of this amendment is to provide an aid to the courts that clearly demonstrates the factors that constitute exploitive methods. In my amendment, I have proposed including use of threats of violence, force or other forms of coercion and fraudulent means.

I will also be seeking a friendly amendment at committee to include the terms “use deception” and “abused a position of trust, power or authority”. These minor changes would ensure that the bill is sound and accomplishes what we all want it to do.

Trafficking in persons is a fast growing crime in terms of profit, and it is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians to confront slavery in all its forms, both within our nation and abroad. That is why I am so pleased to see the unity of members on all sides of the House taking such a strong position on this matter before us today. By supporting Bill C-310, each member of the House plays an important role in strengthening the tools used by police officers and prosecutors and to secure justice for victims of trafficking, both here in Canada and abroad.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The time provided for debate has expired.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would ask that you see the clock at 12 o'clock.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Is that agreed?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Suspension of Sitting
Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The House stands suspended until 12 p.m.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:36 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)