An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons)

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.


Irwin Cotler  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to
(a) create an offence of trafficking in persons that prohibits a person from engaging in specified acts for the purpose of exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of another person;
(b) create an offence that prohibits a person from receiving a financial or other material benefit that they know results from the commission of the offence of trafficking in persons;
(c) create an offence that prohibits concealing, removing, withholding or destroying travel documents or documents that establish or purport to establish another person’s identity or immigration status for the purpose of committing or facilitating the offence of trafficking in persons; and
(d) establish that a person exploits another person if they cause them to provide, or offer to provide, labour or a service by engaging in conduct that could reasonably be expected to cause the other person to believe that their safety or that of someone known to them would be threatened if they failed to do so or if, by means of deception or the use or threat of force or of any other form of coercion, they cause the other person to have an organ or tissue removed.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 10th, 2023 / 1:40 p.m.
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Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, before I begin my speech, I want to commend the hon. parliamentary secretary for giving so much of his speech in French. That takes effort and the results speak for themselves. I want to congratulate him on that.

This bill “amends the Criminal Code to specify what constitutes exploitation for the purpose of establishing whether a person has committed the offence of trafficking in persons.” As my hon. colleague from Saint-Jean said a few sitting days ago, the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of this bill.

It is imperative that we discuss all of the tools that could help authorities combat this scourge, which is getting worse with population movement and the growing number of refugees. This bill also responds to the demands of several human trafficking survivors' groups and would make the definitions of exploitation and human trafficking more consistent with those set out in the Palermo protocol, which Canada signed at the beginning of the millennium.

The bill is very simple but very important. It removes a phrase from the Criminal Code so that an accusation under these provisions must be based on the fact that the victim believes that a refusal on their part would threaten their safety or the safety of someone known to them.

According to the International Justice and Human Rights Clinic at the faculty of law at the University of British Columbia, asking victims to demonstrate that they have reasonable grounds to fear for their safety may be an obstacle to obtaining convictions for human trafficking.

Elements of the offence of human trafficking are more difficult to prove than those of other similar offences. For example, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which prohibits human trafficking, does not require the person involved to prove that they fear for their safety. This standard is no longer appropriate.

Let us look at the chronology of legislation against human trafficking. In 2002, Canada ratified the Palermo protocol, a “protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime”.

Article 3 clearly defines trafficking in persons as follows:

“Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs . . . .

That is the definition.

That is how human trafficking came to be added to the Criminal Code in 2005. The Canadian definition, however, is different from the Palermo Protocol definition in that the issue of consent or the victim's sense of safety is taken into consideration. Thus, the victim must prove that they were in danger if they refused to be exploited.

In human trafficking cases, regardless of whether the victims were initially willing or felt safe, victims should never have to justify the circumstances under which they were lured into the situation in order to prove they were trafficked. Human trafficking is not limited to sexual exploitation, as we have already heard. Traffickers exploit their victims in many ways, including for forced labour. It is important to remember, for example, that even if victims did consent to come to Canada, they did not consent to the forced labour or sexual exploitation to which they may have been subjected afterwards, especially if they end up being dependent on someone because of isolation, lack of resources or language barriers.

Section 118 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, passed in 2002, makes it a criminal offence to “organize the coming into Canada of one or more persons by means of abduction, fraud, deception or use or threat of force or coercion”. Although human trafficking and human smuggling are two different concepts, the act also prohibits human smuggling into Canada.

In 2005, Bill C-49 added three offences related to human trafficking to the Criminal Code, as well as a definition. The offences include trafficking in persons; receiving a financial or other material benefit from the commission or facilitation of trafficking in persons; withholding or destroying a person's identity documents, such as a passport, whether authentic or not, for the purpose of committing or facilitating trafficking in persons; and exploiting another person in the context of trafficking in persons offences.

In 2008-09, the first case involving a charge of human trafficking under the new law was ruled on in adult criminal court.

In fall 2008, a 20-year-old woman went to Peel Regional Police to report that a 22-year-old Ontario man named Vytautas Vilutis was using intimidation and threats to sexually exploit her. She said that she made $10,000 for him in just a few weeks through online Craigslist classified ads. She added that he took her phone calls, set up her “dates” and kept track of her appointments, so he knew how much money she owed him each morning. It was not until he threatened her for not leaving all the cash out for him one morning that she reported him to police. Vytautas Vilutis pleaded guilty in April 2009 to charges of human trafficking and receiving a material benefit from human trafficking.

He was convicted under both provisions and was the first person in Canada to be convicted for benefiting from human trafficking. In 2010, another section was added to the Criminal Code, setting out a mandatory minimum sentence for persons charged with trafficking of persons under 18. That was Bill C‑268.

In 2012, the Criminal Code was amended to allow the prosecution of Canadians and permanent residents for the offence of trafficking in persons committed outside Canada, and added factors that judges may consider when determining whether exploitation occurred. That was Bill C‑310.

In 2015, mandatory minimum sentences were imposed for the main trafficking in persons offence, receiving a material benefit from the proceeds of child trafficking, and withholding or destroying documents to facilitate child trafficking. Bill C‑452 was put forward by my political party.

In 2019, the Hon. Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, released the national strategy to combat human trafficking 2019‑24. With $75 million in funding over 6 years, this strategy followed the Palermo protocol. The national strategy to combat human trafficking 2019‑24 was adapted from the previous five-year plan.

It was adapted due to some deficiencies identified during policy assessment, namely that most of the resources were being allocated to the fight against sexual exploitation whereas forced labour is a growing issue. This is nothing new, but it is being increasingly recognized and discussed.

Bill S-224 is part of a long legislative quest to combat human trafficking, which is extremely important. In closing, I would like to paraphrase author Ralph Champavert and say that the stigma of human trafficking will disappear when the sun of human dignity rises in all hearts.

February 15th, 2018 / 3:20 p.m.
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Acting Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Policy Sector, Department of Justice

Matthew Taylor

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I thought it might be helpful to the committee for me to provide information for you on two separate things: first, the legislative history of Canada's criminal laws on human trafficking, and second, some background information on the types of programs that Justice Canada has funded to enhance services for victims of human trafficking.

Canada's first human trafficking specific offence was enacted in 2002 as part of the enactment of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Section 118 prohibits the trafficking of persons into Canada and targets the means used by traffickers, such as force, fraud, abduction, deception, or coercion to bring victims into our country. It should be noted that the enactment of this offence coincided with Canada's implementation of the UN protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, which Canada ratified in May of 2002.

In 2005, Parliament passed Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), and enacted three specific Criminal Code offences to more comprehensively address human trafficking, specifically, section 279.01 which prohibits all forms of human trafficking, domestic or transnational, and for any exploitative purpose; section 279.02, which prohibits the receipt of a financial or a material benefit knowing that it was derived from human trafficking; and, third, section 279.03, which prohibits the holding of identity documents to facilitate human trafficking.

Since that time, additional criminal law reforms have been passed by Parliament. In 2010, a private member's bill, Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years), was enacted, creating a separate offence of trafficking in children that is punishable by mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment.

In 2012, two years later, a private member's bill, Bill C-310, was enacted, enabling Canada to assume extraterritorial jurisdiction to prosecute in Canada Canadian citizens or permanent residents who commit human trafficking abroad. It also enacted a provision in subsection 279.04(2) that provides guidance to the courts in helping them to determine whether exploitation has been made out, exploitation being an essential element of the trafficking in persons offence.

In 2014, former Bill C-36 was passed, enacting the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.This act provided new mandatory minimum penalties for human trafficking involving adult victims and for the financial benefit and documents offences involving child victims.

Most recently, the government has introduced Bill C-38, an act to amend An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons), to bring in force certain amendments that were passed in Parliament in 2015 through a private member's bill, Bill C-452, and also An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons). These provisions would enact an evidentiary presumption to help prosecutors prove an element of the human trafficking offence.

That's a bit of a summary of the changes that have been enacted by Parliament. As you can see, these criminal laws in respect of human trafficking have been the subject of ongoing interest and concern by parliamentarians.

At the same time, Justice Canada has supported their implementation in various ways, including through the provision of regular training to police and prosecutors, in conjunction with the RCMP and other police forces, victim services, and other experts. We've developed a handbook for police and prosecutors and fact sheets on key criminal justice issues for police and prosecutors, such as sentencing submissions, bail proceedings, and things of that nature in a human trafficking context. Justice officials have participated in similar efforts internationally, working closely with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to develop similar technical assistance tools to support implementation around the world.

The department is also supporting improvements to victim services. A copy of initiatives that have been funded since 2012 by the department through the victims fund has been provided to the clerk of the committee, I believe, detailing the specifics of each project. Examples for your information include: enhancing victim services delivery in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec; supporting the development of a resource handbook for indigenous women and girls who were victimized through human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation; and, developing a mental health and addictions program for women and girls who were victims of trafficking.

I'm going to conclude my remarks there. I look forward to any questions.

May 1st, 2013 / 5 p.m.
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Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Thank you very much.

Thank you very much for coming to committee today. We appreciate it.

As you know, we're talking about human trafficking. Research is showing us that it's primarily underage youths who are duped and deceived into servicing men, and if they don't do it, they get beaten, raped, shot up with drugs. I've worked with victims for 14 years now, so that's the way it happens.

As you know, in this country, Bill C-49 was the first bill, in 2005, that addressed human trafficking. They got one conviction, Imani Nakpangi. He trafficked a 15-and-a-half-year-old girl. You know about that one. Then Bill C-268 and Bill C-310 came in, in 2010 and 2012. Now we have this bill before us today.

I ran out of time on the other session, but this is why we don't have all the hard statistics, because the bills are so new. They are brand new in Canada.

You mentioned something that I thought was so relevant. I want to talk to Ms. Duval. You talked about human dignity. You talked about the right for people to be free, the right for them to make their own choices. Can you tell me, in terms of this bill of Maria Mourani's, why this is so important to help the victims of human trafficking?

May 1st, 2013 / 4:25 p.m.
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Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

I'll address this to Mr. Hooper.

The question keeps coming up as to why don't we have the statistics. We all know that in 2005, Mr. Cotler, one of the members from the Liberal Party, passed Bill C-49, and that Imani Nakpangi, the first offender, was convicted in Canada. Then my bills came in—Bill C-268, in June 2010, and Bill C-310, in June 2012—so there was very little time....

People sometimes get human trafficking mixed up with human smuggling. Can you define the difference between human trafficking and human smuggling?

Mr. Hooper, could you perhaps answer the question?

Bill C-31—Time allocation motionProtecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 10:20 a.m.
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Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I can. In fact, there is a very clear and compelling deadline that we are rapidly approaching which requires the rapid adoption of Bill C-31, the protecting Canada's immigration system act.

In the last Parliament, the 40th Parliament, this place adopted then Bill C-11, the balanced refugee reform act, that included major revisions to Canada's asylum system which are scheduled to come into force by June 29, 2012.

Since that time, we have seen the growing problem of both human smuggling and a large and growing wave of unfounded asylum claims particularly coming from the European Union. Therefore, we have concluded that it is necessary to strengthen the asylum reforms and adopt measures to combat human smuggling. That is why we have had to delay the coming into force of the balanced refugee reform act from the last Parliament. To be blunt, we are not in a position to implement the new system contemplated in Bill C-11 in the 40th Parliament. If we do not adopt this legislation, if it does not receive royal assent by June 29 of this year, a new law will come into effect that the appropriate administrative agencies, such as the IRB, are not yet ready to put in place.

I would point out to my hon. colleague that this bill has received 13 days of debate, 47.5 hours of debate and 130 speeches at second reading and report stage. It had 15 committee meetings with over 43 hours of committee study and 109 witnesses. It was preceded in a previous Parliament by Bill C-49,, which had many similar provisions including 3 days of debate, 10 hours of debate and 30 speeches.

In fact, this bill and most of its provisions have received an enormous amount of debate and consideration both in this place and at committee. There is a deadline with a great deal of urgency that we adopt this by June 29.

March 15th, 2012 / noon
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Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

We know right now of cases that are sitting there. We know Canadians right now who are doing exactly that. They have brothels. We have a man who set up a brothel in Haiti. Publicly I hate to say too much because we're just waiting for this bill to get through. His youngest victim is four years old. Not only that, he comes back to Canada and he continues what he does to Canadian children. It's a matter of putting as many tools in place for police officers so they can grab these cases.

If you look at our history right now, we had Bill C-49, our first trafficking bill, which had royal assent in 2006. That's a brand-new law. Then my bill went through, Bill C-268, mandatory minimums, and now we're getting more tools for them. If you look at the grid, we used to have no trafficking cases. To date we have 19 human trafficking cases in Canada with specific charges related to Bill C-268, and we have 55 human trafficking cases now before the courts that are related to other laws that we have here in Canada. Of the 19 cases or 55 cases, what I am trying to get across is we used to have none. Now, suddenly because we have put those laws in place, they are catching these people, and with Bill C-310.... I know right now of one case extremely close to the Hill that we've been looking at for some time.... We can't touch him unless he goes through the States, and he doesn't.

June 15th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.
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Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning and welcome.

With respect to your concerns about the bill's title, if it's helpful, I would say that I also don't think it makes any sense. It means... How can I put it? It's precisely because the government cannot measure its own words that it chooses these types of titles.

I'm going to use an example to show you how the Conservative government works. When we were talking about minimum sentences and law and order, Sébastien's Law was created. This law made people emotional. Another act amending the Criminal Code referred to “trafficking in persons”. That meant that the government, if we didn't agree on certain parts of it, could say, for example, that the Bloc Québécois was protecting pedophiles. So you can see how this government doesn't know how to measure its words.

Now, in terms of fairness at the pump, it should be pointed out that Bill C-14 deals with all weights and measures for electricity and gas, obviously. On the other hand, we also know that the federal government has to market its message. We know that it hasn't received good press over petroleum, with western petroleum companies and everything that's happening. Therefore, it's making the retailers shoulder the responsibility. I don't think that's the way to do things. The title of this legislation could simply have included words such as “fairness in measuring”, “accurate measuring” or something like that that involves all devices for weights and measures.

The government refers mainly to petroleum because it does not want to give more power to the Competition Bureau. You know, collusion is much more profitable than inaccurate instruments and differences of 0.5% at the pump. Neither do they want any sort of monitoring agency. They know that this affects many individuals and people who buy gas. So they come up with a pompous title for marketing purposes, simply because they're concerned with their image, it's obvious. They think they can improve their image by doing that.

That said, we know perfectly well, as Mr. Lake said earlier, that the government is surprised by that $20-million loss to the consumer. Obviously, that's not right. However, it's a relatively small amount compared to the $40 billion worth of gas sold every year in Canada. If retailers wanted to, rather than manipulate their instruments—this is what Mr. Lake is claiming—they could simply increase their costs by a tenth of a cent, or a cent, and that would easily cover it.

Generally speaking the Weights and Measures Act covers all measuring devices. What's important is that consumers can feel confident that when they buy something they're getting the right amount.

I do not believe that retailers are going to manipulate their pumps to get a price that will set them a few cents more. Not everyone sells 10 million litres annually. In any case I don't believe it. That would be rare. They should not be accused without any proof. Accusing them offsets to some degree everything the Conservatives have done on the other side. Twenty million dollars is a lot of money for Mr. Lake when the issue is pump adjustments, but $1 billion over three days doesn't appear to be a problem. We could pay for a lot of inspections with that money.

With respect to inspection costs, I've heard that they would vary between $50 and $200. How much are they now? How much does a retailer pay currently for inspection and calibration, approximately?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

September 29th, 2009 / 6:10 p.m.
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North Vancouver B.C.


Andrew Saxton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

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

This bill addresses a pressing issue – child trafficking involves the exploitation of society’s most vulnerable – and the bill would ensure a strong criminal justice response to what we must all agree is amongst the vilest of criminal conduct. For this reason, this bill has enjoyed widespread support in this House. For this reason, I add my own voice of support for it.

Might I add that the amendment proposed by the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, which would remove the provision for mandatory minimum penalties for trafficking in persons under the age of 18, shows the true colours of the Bloc Québécois' soft approach to serious crime in this country.

Trafficking in persons is often referred to as the modern-day form of slavery. It involves the recruitment, transportation and/or harbouring of people for the purpose of exploitation, typically sexual exploitation or forced labour.

Traffickers control their victims in many ways, but often through force, sexual assault and threats of violence. As a result, victims provide labour and services in circumstances where they believe that their safety or the safety of someone known to them would be threatened if they failed to comply with the demands of their traffickers.

I am sure we all agree that this is a serious issue that warrants attention from all levels of government.

Toward that end, I am pleased that this House again has the opportunity to consider Bill C-268 introduced by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul,which would amend the Criminal Code to impose mandatory minimum penalties for the offence of trafficking in children.

Bill C-268 would create a new separate offence of trafficking of a person under the age of 18 years. This offence would mirror the existing offence of “Trafficking in Persons”, found in section 279.01 of the Criminal Code, that protects all victims, adult and child.

The bill was amended by the justice committee in June. Now Bill C-268 proposes to impose a mandatory minimum penalty of six years for the aggravated branch of the offence of trafficking in children, for which the maximum penalty is life imprisonment, in addition to the five-year mandatory minimum penalty with a maximum penalty of fourteen years, as originally proposed by the bill.

In my view, this law reform is an important part of our efforts to combat this terrible crime. What do we really know about trafficking in persons, given that it is so often hidden from public view due to its criminal nature? Global estimates show us just how widespread the problem is.

The United Nations estimates that more than 700,000 people are trafficked globally each year. Further, a February 2009 United Nations report states that over 24,000 victims of trafficking were identified by 111 countries in the year 2006, that 79% of these cases involved trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and that 18% involved trafficking for the purpose of forced labour. However, the actual number of forced labour cases may be even higher, as forced labour is less frequently detected and reported than is trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Also in 2005, the International Labour Organization estimated that at least 2.45 million people across the world are in situations of forced labour as a result of human trafficking. Of these, it is estimated that 32% are trafficked for economic exploitation and 43% are trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, with 98% of the latter being women and girls. Finally, UNICEF estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked around the world each year.

These estimates confirm that this crime affects the most vulnerable. We know that trafficking in persons also occurs within Canada. As is the case with all countries, it is difficult to estimate the full extent of human trafficking within Canada. This is so not just because of the clandestine nature of the activity, but also because traffickers may be charged with trafficking in persons and/or other related offences.

In Canada, law enforcement has a tool box of offences that may apply in trafficking cases. As hon. members know, in 2005, three new trafficking-specific Criminal Code offences were enacted. These provisions address all forms of trafficking in persons.

The main offence of trafficking in persons, section 279.01, which provides the model for the new child trafficking offence proposed by Bill C-268, prohibits anyone from engaging in specified acts such as recruiting, transporting, harbouring or controlling the movements of another person for the purpose of exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of that person. This offence is punishable by up to life imprisonment, reflecting the severity of the crime and its harmful consequences for victims and Canadian society.

Section 279.02 makes it an offence to receive a financial or material benefit knowing that it results from the trafficking of persons. This offence is punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment.

Section 279.03 prohibits the withholding or destroying of travel or identity documents in order to commit or facilitate the trafficking of persons. This offence is punishable by a maximum of five years' imprisonment.

These offences supplement existing Criminal Code offences such as kidnapping, forceable confinement, assault and the prostitution-related provisions, which have long been used to address trafficking cases, as well as section 118 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which prohibits cases involving victims who are foreign nationals.

Police and Crown now have the ability to charge the offences that best meet circumstances of a given case. To date there have been five convictions in Canada under the specific offence of trafficking in persons. Many other cases are currently being investigated or are before the courts.

There have also been numerous charges laid and convictions secured in trafficking cases under other related Criminal Code offences. These cases reflect international estimates. The majority of known victims are women and girls who are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Further, anecdotal information suggests that aboriginal girls are particularly vulnerable to this type of exploitation.

We must continue to be vigilant in ensuring a strong criminal justice response to this global scourge that victimizes the most vulnerable among us. I believe that we are doing just that. The issue of trafficking in persons transcends party lines. I am sure that hon. members remember the all-party support that Bill C-49 received in 2005. It enacted the three Criminal Code trafficking offences that I have already mentioned.

In 2006, the House unanimously supported Motion No. 153, which was also introduced by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul. This motion condemned the crime of trafficking in persons and called for a national strategy to combat the trafficking of persons worldwide.

Further, in 2007, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women released its report entitled “Turning Outrage into Action to Address Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation in Canada”. The government's response to this report reiterated the importance of a multidisciplinary response to trafficking in persons. This response is reflected in the international framework established by the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its supplemental protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

Canada continues to use this framework as its overarching model for a comprehensive response to the issue by focusing on the four ps: the prevention of trafficking, the protection of its victims, the prosecution of offenders and the building of partnerships, both domestically and internationally.

I believe we all understand and appreciate the seriousness of the issue, which Bill C-268 addresses. I hope that all honourable members will join me in supporting this important initiative.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 27th, 2009 / 1:55 p.m.
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Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

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

This bill would add a new offence to the Criminal Code. It would distinguish offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of 18 years from those involving adults.

The goal of this bill is to impose a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of five years for anyone found guilty of trafficking a person under the age of 18.

This bill is simple enough. There are eight clauses, but the heart of the bill is in the second clause, in its creation of a new offence in the Criminal Code, namely, section 279.011. The wording in this provision is exactly the same as section 279.01, regarding the trafficking of a person, but adds the distinction “under the age of eighteen years” to the definition of an exploited person. With this addition, a separate offence would be created when the trafficking involves a minor.

Although we are well aware of the worldwide scourge that is human trafficking, the Bloc Québécois cannot support this bill. Allow me to explain the reasons for its decision.

In 2005, the Bloc Québécois voted in support of Bill C-49. Creating an offence to specifically condemn human trafficking was necessary, and we willingly cooperated to see it passed. The amendment to the Criminal Code gave law enforcement authorities the legal tools they need to prosecute and convict anyone who unfortunately engages in these horrible practices that show no respect for human dignity.

Bill C-268, however, we believe is a step in the wrong direction. By automatically imposing a minimum sentence of five years on anyone convicted of the trafficking of persons under 18, the government is not solving anything. I will explain why.

First of all, many experts have established that minimum sentences have negative effects and dubious value when it comes to fighting crime.

For instance, criminal lawyer Julian Roberts, from the University of Ottawa, conducted a study in 1997 for the Department of Justice of Canada in which he concluded:

Although mandatory sentences of imprisonment have been introduced in a number of western nations... the studies that have examined the impact of these laws reported variable effects on prison populations and no discernible effect on crime rates.

In early May 2006, during a press conference on the controversial passing of Bill C-10, the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety at the time were forced to acknowledge that no Canadian study has demonstrated that new measures to introduce minimum penalties are effective in fighting crime.

Minimum sentences can also have a negative impact. According to André Normandeau, a criminologist at the Université de Montréal, minimum sentences can encourage plea bargaining by lawyers wanting to have their clients charged with offences that do not have minimum sentences. Minimum sentences can also force judges to acquit an individual, rather than be forced to sentence that individual to a penalty the judge considers excessive under the circumstances.

When it comes to sentencing, the first consideration must be individualization. The justification of this individualized approach lies in the principle of proportionality. The sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. This is because no two crimes are identical, no two offenders are exactly alike and no two sets of circumstances are exactly the same. For all those reasons, the Bloc Québécois believes in the importance of maintaining judicial discretion.

When judges sentence an offender to prison, they take into account the offender's degree of responsibility, the seriousness of the offence and the best way to serve justice while maximizing the likelihood of rehabilitation.

People who know only the offence and the sentence often do not realize that there are other important factors that must be taken into account in sentencing.

Moreover, studies have shown that when people have the chance to go beyond what is reported in the media, the body of evidence and the factors considered by the judge, most conclude that they would have handed down a similar sentence.

The Bloc Québécois is therefore opposed to mandatory minimum sentences because it believes in the justice system and the importance of maintaining judicial discretion. We believe that judges, who are best able to assess the information presented in court, have to be free to decide.

In addition, Bill C-268 is not consistent. It does not provide for a minimum sentence when an offender found guilty of trafficking of a minor kidnaps, commits an aggravated assault or aggravated sexual assault against or causes death to the victim during the commission of the offence. The bill does not change the subsection that covers this.

We are having a hard time understanding the logic behind Bill C-268. On the one hand, they say that they want to prevent serious offences involving the trafficking of minors by imposing minimum sentences, but on the other, they are not changing sentences for offenders who use extreme violence in committing the crime.

To ensure the most appropriate court rulings possible, we would be wise to look at recommendation 33 of the House Standing Committee on the Status of Women's report on human trafficking. Judges and prosecutors should be informed of, educated about, and made aware of the Criminal Code provisions concerning human trafficking and the disastrous impact of this crime on its victims.

When it comes to justice, the Bloc Québécois firmly believes that the most effective approach is still, and will always be, prevention. We have to attack crime at the root. That being said, the Bloc is aware that the existing legal system needs considerable improvement, and that some changes to the Criminal Code are necessary. The government's duty is to intervene and use the tools at its disposal to make sure that people can live peacefully and safely.

On June 15, 2007, in response to the Conservatives' ideological approach, the Bloc Québécois recommended a number of measures. The party proposed a series of recommendations for major changes to Canada's justice system. Unlike the Conservatives' measures, which lacked nuance, the Bloc's measures reflected the concerns of Quebeckers, who want a more balanced system, one that is consistent with modern realities and will have a real impact on crime, but that avoids the pitfalls inherent in the repression-based American model, whose negative effects are manifest.

The Bloc Québécois proposed measures that are in line with Quebeckers' values, measures based on prevention, rehabilitation, social and economic integration, and better distribution of wealth. Our proposals included the following: streamlining the parole system, stepping up the fight against organized crime, eliminating double credit for time served before sentencing—which British Columbia's Minister of Justice supports—and more funding for the national crime prevention strategy.

The Bloc Québécois does not support the bill because we believe its approach is harmful and ineffective and we are convinced that it will do nothing to improve the safety of citizens. The Bloc defends a model of justice based on a process tailored to each case and founded on the principle of rehabilitation. Any measure seeking to automate the nature of the sentence given to the offender represents, in our opinion, a dangerous approach. Minimum sentences unnecessarily tie the hands of judges who, we believe, remain in the best position to determine what sentence is the most appropriate in light of all the facts of the case.

In closing, experts tell us that minimum sentences do not lower crime rates or the rate of recidivism.

January 30th, 2008 / 5:25 p.m.
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Director, Public Safety, Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness

John Muise

Minimally, Mr. Karygiannis. In terms of enforcement locally around the country, we are at baby steps. When there is actually enforcement, whether it's the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act or Bill C-49 or the Criminal Code, it's more often an accident because there's a unit looking at all of this. We are in the Dark Ages.

January 30th, 2008 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Director, Public Safety, Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness

John Muise

What exactly consultants are doing is not my expertise.

The other thing is that human trafficking, from an enforcement perspective in this country, is a very new thing. I can tell you my ex-counterparts in policing, with whom I communicate on a regular basis, all know about Bill C-49, from 2005, and they know about the amendment in terms of expanding the work visa. They recognize that they have a special victims unit, and these people are victims. They need to change the way they conduct business, and they have done it across a number of fronts.

You can pass this amendment—and I support it—but you're not going to get to where you want to go, Ms. Chow, without, for instance, that back-and-forth where you have, as one example, dedicated police units on the ground that are actively working with the visa officer or CBSA or the visa officers' counterparts here in this country and sharing the kind of information, for instance, where they can tell the overseas visa officer they now have evidence, as opposed to gossip, that a particular consultant or a particular employee on the ground here in Canada is doing bad things, they are trafficking and have indentured sex slaves, who are working at this place.

That's how it happens. Right now, I have to say, in terms of exploitation, much of the focus by the police services, law enforcement, that actually have specialized units has been on Internet child abuse. They need the resources.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2007 / 1:20 p.m.
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Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to make some comments on Bill C-57. Certainly it is an issue which I know a fair amount about and I am glad to have the opportunity to comment on it.

Bill C-57 is about a page and a half long. It makes an amendment to our immigration laws. Certainly on the face of it, it should not take very long for any of us to deal with it, whether we are debating it at length or not. Part of our role in Parliament is not just to take something at face value and say that it looks good, it is an area that many of us care about and that we would like to see some improvements to strengthen it. Parliament is about debate and discussion to make things better.

For a bill to pass without our having a full opportunity to debate and discuss it, frankly, would be viewed upon as our not carrying out our responsibilities to ensure that legislation brought forward accomplishes what the intent of it clearly is, and if possible, to go further than that. That means we should look for areas to add further strength in the bill and make sure it is going to achieve the same goals that all of us in the House want to achieve.

I am pleased to take a few minutes to comment on this important issue today in an attempt to move the bill forward to committee so we can ensure that it accomplishes what we all want it to accomplish. The bill is an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which recognizes quite clearly, “Whereas Parliament recognizes the importance of protecting vulnerable foreign nationals who come to work in Canada from exploitation and abuse”. That is very clearly written into the Immigration Act and I know all of us want to ensure that happens.

This bill proposes to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to allow immigration officers the ability to refuse or authorize foreign nationals to work in Canada based on if they are considered to be vulnerable persons and/or at risk of exploitation or abuse. That very much is left up to the person who is doing the interviewing.

Currently, the visa officer can explain to individuals that they have certain rights when they go to Canada. The visa officer can hand them pamphlets outlining that they may be asked to do certain things and that they do not have to because they have certain rights under their visa applications. That does not always sink in with the person on the other side of the desk who is fleeing poverty or for whatever reason desperately wants to come to Canada and is willing to take a chance. This bill would end that opportunity. It would give the visa officer the opportunity to decide that the person would be exploited. It gives the officer a huge power. It is something that needs to be seriously looked at.

The bill would also allow immigration officers to determine if granting authorization would be contrary to public policy considerations that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has specifically outlined or based on evidence that people are at risk of exploitation. Often it is a feeling that someone gets. When we ask why a visa was refused, the visa officer will say that it was instinct, just a feeling that a certain person would find himself or herself in a vulnerable position. It puts a lot of emphasis and trust on the minister giving visas on judgment.

I do not see where there is harm in doing that as long as we make sure the checks and balances are in place. In reading at least the beginning of this bill, I see it is going to require a second person to comment and that is helpful.

Under the proposed amendments to the IRPA, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration could issue written instructions to immigration officers giving them the authority to deny work permits to applicants who appear very vulnerable to them. The instructions would be based on clear public policy objectives and evidence that outlines the risk of exploitation that the applicants face.

Written instructions could help identify, for example, individuals who would be vulnerable to humiliating and degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation. All of us as parliamentarians have been around for a few years and we have certainly had an opportunity to hear firsthand about the exploitation of many people who come here on a variety of different permits. They are very vulnerable and do not have a lot of support or resources, or even know where to turn to get help. They often end up in our offices, sometimes even our campaign offices.

These could include low skilled labourers as well as potential victims of human trafficking. Immigration officers would make their decision on a case by case basis. Each application for a permit is always assessed on its own merits.

Without this authority, immigration officers cannot deny a work permit to someone who meets all the requirements to enter Canada, even if they believe there is a strong possibility of exploitation or abuse.

Clearly, if we have licensed establishments that have a labour shortage, and through our process through HRDC, they can apply to have someone come over to fill that shortage. That is a problem for those of us who are trying to find ways of tightening up the system.

Either we start to ban some of these businesses and decide we are not going to have them. But if we have them, we have to recognize that they have the rights under the law to apply for workers to come to their legitimate businesses.

Strengthening these rules will hopefully provide a tool to respond to situations where a permit applicant could be at risk. Again, it puts a lot of effort and a lot of trust into the visa officer who is making that decision.

Here in the House I am sure that all parliamentarians support the protection of human rights and the prevention of exploitation of foreign nationals, and in particular, women who are at risk.

I must point out that we talk a lot about the exploitation of women, but it certainly goes on with the exploitation of many men who are in positions who do not know any other way out. They are fleeing again from poverty, looking for money to send home to their families, and often find themselves doing work that would be quite unacceptable to Canadians who are born here.

I would like to assure Canadians who are watching at home that the Liberal Party is committed to working closely with the international community to prevent human trafficking. Bill C-49 was an excellent piece of legislation that was just enacted at the beginning of 2006 specifically on the issues of human trafficking. We all recognize that it is a very important area that we need to do all we can to prevent that.

Previously, we had made substantial changes to restrict visa applications to temporary foreign workers who we believe to be at risk.

We also endorse the recent Standing Committee on the Status of Women report, “Turning Outrage into Action to Address Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation in Canada”. It calls on the government to do more to address existing systemic problems involving the most vulnerable members of our society. Clearly, on this side of the House we are waiting to see what kind of action the government takes to address those very issues.

As the former chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and throughout my political career at the municipal and the federal levels, I heard heart-wrenching stories from marginalized women who fell victim and also heard many constructive suggestions for solutions to this grave problem.

I believe that we need strong laws to protect the most vulnerable, so I will be supporting sending the bill to committee for further review and study. We need further consultation and possible amendments that I am sure will come from some of the members of the House to strengthen the bill.

Although the intent of the legislation is critical, it no doubt needs to be improved and we will do that at committee, which I hope will be done quickly and hastily.

There are considerations that first must be made to ensure the legislation truly achieves the goal of protecting all foreign workers. This is why I believe it should go to committee and I am confident that the work will get done there.

A serious shortcoming of the bill is that all classifications under the foreign worker program could potentially be adversely affected, including agriculture workers and live-in caregivers. If the bill were enacted as it is written today, these workers would have to be denied entry to Canada, exasperating temporary foreign worker shortages in certain sectors of the labour economy.

Therefore, the committee needs to find that balance to ensure protection and avoid exploitation, but still allow people to come into the country to carry out the needs that we have as far as labour shortages. It must ensure that these people know what their rights are and that they have an avenue to complain, to make changes, and to change an employer if the employer is abusive.

Refusing foreign workers entry to Canada based on the potential risk for abuse does not decrease the demand for these workers. This has the potential to create underground economies which render temporary workers even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse which is exactly what we are trying to avoid with the intent of this legislation.

We need to ensure that blame is placed on the abusers, not on the victims. This is so important because victims of human trafficking, which my colleague continues to refer to, are often so frightened to come forward and admit what has actually happened to them.

I look forward to the bill being sent to committee, for improvements to be made, and for it to be referred back as soon as possible. I hope that we will be able to work together in a non-partisan way to prevent temporary foreign workers from being subjected to exploitation or abuse in Canada and for people to clearly know that they are welcome.

We need them to come to Canada. We want them to come and do well, and to move forward.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2007 / 12:55 p.m.
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Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would love to get a copy of those speaking notes. Obviously they have been lined up for each party. It would be fascinating to have them and see the arguments that are presented: this is what we say to the NDP, this is what we say to the Bloc, and this is what we say to the Liberals.

That aside, I believe that in my comments I made it very clear that Bill C-49, passed in 2005, which was a bill that amended the Criminal Code dealing with trafficking, was a very significant bill. It was passed in the House. It had significant hearings. It was based on the concerns about exploitation and trafficking. Does that bill need to be amended?

In the subcommittee that I mentioned, of which I was a member, in our study of Canada's criminal prostitution laws we had a recommendation on trafficking that stated:

The Subcommittee recommends that the Government of Canada ensure that the problem of trafficking in persons remains a priority so that victims are provided with adequate assistance and services, while traffickers are brought to justice.

It was a unanimous recommendation from all parties.

As I also pointed out to the member, the response we got from the government, his government, was as I actually read it into the record. It talked about the interdepartmental working group and it referred to the legislation in 2005, and apparently things were in order.

What I am saying to the member and to the minister is that if there are continuing problems in terms of dealing with trafficking and abuse, then the government should bring forward that amendment to the Criminal Code. Certainly the status of women committee has been looking at it. The subcommittee that I was on was looking at it. We said to keep it as a high priority.

However, the bill that we are debating today, Bill C-57, does not deal with that. The bill is about the Conservatives' moral agenda to basically ban exotic dancers, that is what it is, or to give the minister incredibly broad powers to do I do not know what. It does not really spell it out. That is not good legislation.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2007 / 12:35 p.m.
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Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the first debate on Bill C-57. I have been sitting here listening to the debate and, frankly, I was quite appalled to hear the Conservative member within an hour accuse the opposition of stalling tactics when we are debating the bill. I get the feeling that the member would be quite happy if the opposition completely disappeared off the face of the earth and then the government could run on its high-minded agenda with no one in the House to debate legislation on what it is doing. It is an outrage that within 50 minutes of the bill being debated, the member had the gall to stand and say to the Bloc member, and the Liberal member who just spoke and who legitimately raised concerns about the bill, that they were using a stalling tactic.

I would say shame on the Conservative members for being so arrogant in their attitude that they will not even tolerate debate in the House on a bill that we are sent here to deal with representing our constituents and public interests. However, we have come to expect these kinds of tactics from the government. Any time debate takes place in this House the government makes accusations and allegations that the opposition is doing a political job.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that we are here to debate this legislation and we will do exactly that. The sad part of this is that this bill, which does raise a lot of serious questions about the Conservative agenda, will probably be over in a few hours and it will be sent off to the committee. I do not know what will happen after that but that is the sad commentary on what is taking place.

I felt like I had to begin with those comments because I was sitting here feeling a sense of outrage about the political spin and the messaging that the Conservatives were engaging in when we had barely begun debate on the bill. I say shame on them for doing that. It is quite offensive the way democracy seems to take a back seat in this place.

I will now make a number of comments on the bill because I think it has some fundamental problems. At this point we in the NDP feel that we cannot support the bill.

First, the bill itself purports to propose amendments that would give authority to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to instruct immigration officers to deny work permits to foreign strippers. I noticed the government seems intent on using the pejorative term “strippers” as opposed to exotic dancers, which is what they are actually called. Again, that gives us a little understanding of the government's agenda. This authority would give enormous powers to the minister, on what basis it is hard to know. Giving the minister the power to cast a yea or a nay on a permit that comes on her desk raises the question as to whether or not this is really a ban.

The minister has been reported in the media as saying that she would like those permits to go down to zero. Even the government's own press release points out that over the last year it has significantly cut back on the number of people coming to Canada as exotic dancers so we know it has been doing this. This raises the question as to whether we are actually dealing with a ban, in which case the government should be up front and say that this is something it will not allow as opposed to saying that it is a discretionary thing because it has already cut permits back. I think only 17 permits were approved in the last year. This is something that is a serious concern to us in terms of the bill's real intent.

Second, as was pointed out by the NDP women's critic, the member for London—Fanshawe, when the bill was first introduced a few weeks ago, she said that if the issue is exploitation and harm, then instead of banning workers and the program, we should be focusing on workplace safety and on the rights of workers, whether they be exotic dancers, other foreign workers or domestic workers. Surely that is the issue.

When I read in one of the news reports that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration was introducing this bill as a humanitarian response, I just about fell off my chair laughing. I spent three years on a subcommittee of the justice committee studying the sex trade in Canada. We held extensive hearings across the country and heard from sex workers, in camera and in public, and we heard from police and advocates. When we finally issued our report, although I must say that it was a disappointing report, the government's response was quite pathetic. It completely ignored the danger, the exploitation and the incredible risks that sex workers already face in this country because of our laws.

I find it incredible that the minister would pop up and say that she was introducing this bill, in which she uses the term “strippers”, based on humanitarian reasons. This is nothing more than part of the Conservatives' moralistic agenda. They see enforcement, the Criminal Code and sanctions against people as the answer to everything, instead of focusing on what the complex issues are.

I must point out that even the government, in its response to the subcommittee's report on prostitution, the Minister of Justice told the committee:

...the Interdepartmental Working Group on Trafficking in Persons...coordinates all federal anti-trafficking efforts. The IWGTIP is composed of 16 participating federal departments and agencies and works in collaboration with its provincial and territorial partners, as well as civil society and its international partners, to prevent trafficking, protect its victims and hold perpetrators accountable.

The government goes on to point out that Bill C-49, which dealt with new trafficking specific offences, was passed in 2005 under the previous government. I remember debating that bill in the House of Commons. In 2006, Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced a further series of measures to deal with the vulnerable situation of trafficking victims.

Therefore, by the government's own admission, a bill had already passed through the House and further measures were taken to deal with the serious question of trafficking, which must be dealt with, and we supported those measures. I know that the Status of Women committee has looked at that and studied it.

We now have this weird little bill before the House and we are being told that it is a most important bill. I would agree with the Liberal member for Mississauga—Erindale who pointed out all the other issues that the Conservative government has failed to address on immigration and citizenship, and the list can become very long.

With all the problems that do exist within the system, whether it is foreign credentials, family reunification or the massive backlog, none of them are being dealt with. However, all of a sudden we have this bill before us even though the government, in its response, said that it had taken significant measures in previous legislation that was enacted to deal with trafficking. One has to question what is behind this bill.

We cannot support the bill because it is does not actually deal with the problem that exists. If we want to deal with exploitation, abuse and people's rights, then we should deal with that, but to simply give the minister power, with no accountability, to accept or deny permits when she feels like it, is a completely irrational legislative response. I do not see how we in this Parliament can support that kind of legislation. I would much rather see us focusing this debate on the real exploitation that is taking place and on what the government is prepared to do about it.

Again, I will come back to the subcommittee of the justice committee that dealt with our laws on prostitution, where there are very serious issues, where we have seen a high rate of violence because of law enforcement and because of the way laws operate. Women have disappeared. Aboriginal women have disappeared at an alarming rate, a rate higher than that of any other sector of our society.

I represent the riding of Vancouver East, the downtown east side, where we have had 63 women who were missing and murdered. The evidence is piling up that the prostitution law itself, because prostitution is not illegal but all the activities around it are, is one of the main contributors to the harm these women are suffering. In fact, just yesterday in Vancouver a new report was unveiled as a result of a two year community process called “Living in Community”, which tried to grapple with this issue in a very holistic, comprehensive and sensitive way in terms of dealing with safety in the community and the safety of people involved in the sex trade.

This bill has nothing to do with that. This bill will not address any of those issues. All it will do is allow the Conservatives to say they were responding to the issues of women's equality and violence against women, to say that this is what this bill is about, but the bill does not even come close. In fact, it is offensive in terms of the way it lays out its purported response.

I want to say in today's debate that we in the NDP believe this bill is very short-sighted. There were already mechanisms in place that allowed the government to take action in terms of dealing with visas. We know that because the Conservatives themselves admitted that they were cutting down on the permits for exotic dancers. It seems to me that rather than focusing a ban on those individuals and what may be legitimate situations, what they have chosen to do is basically bring in a ban on the whole program. That is what really underlies this, because that is what the minister has told us in the media. That is what the real intent is.

Instead of focusing on the issue of the workplace and abusive employers, no matter what workplace it is, whether it is for exotic dancers or in other areas that employ foreign workers or Canadian workers, what the government does is separate out the problems into little boutique bills. It creates a sort of moral high ground around them and then claims that this is how the government is moving forward when really it has not done anything. What it may do, by an unfortunate consequence, is actually drive the sex trade further underground.

Instead of focusing on the workplace and violations that may take place, instead of focusing on the rights and the safety of sex workers or exotic dancers, because those are real situations that could be dealt with, this bill has moved in a completely different direction.

In our caucus, we have had a lot of debate about this bill. We believe it is important to deal with exploitation and abuse. We believe it is important to focus attention on women's equality in this country. We believe it is critical to ensure that foreign workers are not exploited.

In fact, I find it ironic that the government is actually accelerating the foreign worker program. Pilot studies have taken place in Alberta. We have seen a huge acceleration of the program in British Columbia, because there now is a demand from employers who want foreign workers for the Olympics, for construction and the service and hospitality industries. We actually have seen an acceleration of the foreign worker program.

In fact, it is the NDP that has been calling for a review of this program because we are concerned with the exploitation and abuse of foreign workers that is taking place as a result of this program. However, to bring in this bill and say that it is going to resolve these problems flies in the face of reality.

We in the NDP will not be supporting this bill. I think the other two opposition parties have laid out some very good issues and arguments as to their concerns as well. We of course will be participating in the discussion at committee, where I am sure there will be witnesses, and there may be amendments.

We find that the bill as it is now is not supportable. We are not prepared to support a bill that gives such open-ended powers to a minister. We are not prepared to support a bill that in effect bans these particular workers, the exotic dancers.

The NDP is not prepared to support a bill that really is based on the Conservative government's political ideology. The NDP would much prefer to deal with this issue in a real fashion. We would much prefer to deal with exploitation and to deal with, for example, the prostitution laws that have been ignored by the government. That is where the debate needs to be focused.

I would urge the minister and the parliamentary secretary and others in the government who are supporting the bill to read the report that came out of Vancouver just yesterday. It is called the “Living in Community Action Plan”. I would urge them to take a look at what a genuine community debate is all about in terms of the sex trade and what needs to be done. Government members could see how different stakeholders came together, whether it was police, government representatives, city representatives, community advocates, or sex workers themselves, and produced not only a process but a report with recommendations and conclusions that actually make some sense. That was genuine. It has a lot of merit and a lot of legitimacy because of what the individuals went through.

Something like this bill, which almost seems to have been pulled out of a hat because it serves a political purpose, needs to be called what it is, and that is what we are doing here today. The NDP will not be supporting this bill. There are a lot of problems in the citizenship and immigration department. A lot of things need to be fixed. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, this bill ignores all of those issues.

We certainly will debate this bill on its merits. We will deal with it in committee. We will debate it when it comes back. However, we believe that we have a responsibility to tell the Canadian public that this bill is a sham and that it is not going to deal with those harmful situations. All the bill is going to do is ban those workers instead of focusing on safety and rights in the workplace, which is really how this intervention should be made.

NDP members are not in a position to support this bill. I have given the reasons why. I certainly am now expecting a barrage of indignation from the Conservatives as they once again get on their little pedestals, but that is okay. We understand what that political spin is about.

I am just glad that there are members in the opposition who understand that debate is not about stalling. Debate is debate. Dialogue and different points of view are legitimate. That is why we are here. Part of our job is to hold the government to account and to look at legislation with a lens as to whether or not it has merit. We take that very seriously.

I look forward to questions and comments. I will respond to them as best I can.

Human TraffickingPrivate Members' Business

February 22nd, 2007 / 5:40 p.m.
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Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are many different figures given in regard to the number of people believed to be victims of human trafficking. The United Nations estimates that the number of humans trafficked is about 700,000. UNICEF estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked annually.

The International Labour Organization estimates that the figure may actually be as much as 2.45 million. This organization also estimates that 92% of the victims of trafficking are used for prostitution and that 98% of them are young women and girls. The remaining 2% are boys and transvestites.

It is important to note here that trafficking can occur in many sectors that depend on migrant labour, such as agriculture, the garment sector and domestic work.

According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, approximately 800 people, primarily women and children, fall victim every year to trafficking for purposes of prostitution in Canada. However, non-government organizations estimate the number to be closer to 15,000.

In 1998, a report submitted to the Solicitor General of Canada stated that between 8,000 and 16,000 persons were estimated to be entering Canada every year with the help of smugglers. These vastly different numbers tell us two things: first, that human trafficking is a serious global problem; second, that it is an incredibly difficult thing to count, never mind combat.

I would like to point out that in the last session of the House Bill C-49 was passed with all party support. This bill addressed the issues of human trafficking and assessed our international commitments to combating this very serious crime. The previous government and now the current government have failed to act on Bill C-49. The bill called for an increase in resources for police forces to actually deal with human trafficking. The motion before the House today highlights this lack of action.

There are things we can do to combat this crime in Canada.

First, we need to improve victim support services. They are currently insufficient in Canada, particularly when it comes to victims of human trafficking. Regular victim services are not adequate. People need services geared to people who are victims of organized crime, people who have been terrorized and brutalized. Organizations need the resources and training to deal with these vulnerable victims. These organizations must also be able to work with law enforcement officials, both to protect the victims and to apprehend the criminals trafficking their fellow human beings.

Second, we need to ensure that officials and legal experts are trained and briefed on the issues surrounding human trafficking. We need to better inform the public about the issue. In other words, we need a systemic approach to implement the provisions of Bill C-49.

Third, we need to develop local strategies, because this problem will be most effectively addressed by various agencies at the local level. We need to give local organizations the resources they need to really combat this problem. We also need a coordinated effort among federal, provincial and local governments to combat human trafficking. All levels of government are affected and need to work together to produce real results. Of course this is an international problem and thus we need to cooperate with international bodies and foreign governments to strategically deal with this very serious issue.

Next, we need to collect data and information about human trafficking in Canada. Right now we know very little about it. We need data from police and other organizations that deal first-hand with human trafficking victims to learn how best we can help those already in the system and how to stop others from being sucked in.

Finally, the protection of victims must be paramount and must be placed at the centre of the preoccupations of all of those responding to the problem.

We need to do these things because human trafficking is a very serious issue across the world, but we need to be intelligent about it. I would like to note that past anti-trafficking measures often ended up restricting female migration rather than protecting women's rights.

People move around in the hope of improving their lives. That is a reality. Sadly, some people try to take advantage of others' innocence, trust and vulnerability. As more women migrate to find better paid work, it appears that more will fall victim to trafficking or an exploitative work situation they cannot easily escape.

I would like to also acknowledge that identifying human trafficking victims is a challenge. I sit on the Standing Committee for the Status of Women, where we studied this issue at length. One witness outlined the difficulties quite clearly.

The witness said victims of crime did not necessarily come forward. They did not necessarily know until it was too late that they were victims. How would they know that they should report it? Once they knew they were being victimized, there were all kinds of reasons why they could not report. They were intimidated. They were victims of violence. They were afraid. They did not trust police officers. Sometimes they would come from other countries where police officers were not to be trusted. There were all kinds of reasons why women fail to report.

One witness to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women told us that we had to work together and give ourselves good mechanisms, good means to encourage victims to come forward and let them know that it was safe for them to do so.

Another witness, Mr. Richard Poulin, a professor at the department of sociology and anthropology at the University of Ottawa, described to the committee the recruitment methods used to lure women into trafficking. He said:

Recruitment methods vary, but traffickers almost always resort to deception and violence. The most common method involves putting ads in the papers proposing jobs in another country as a hairdresser, caregiver, domestic worker, waitress, au pair, model or dancer.

Another method involves recruiting them through placement agencies, travel agencies or dating and matrimonial agencies, which are often nothing more than a front for procurers.

Victims of trafficking have also been sold by their family, their boyfriends or institutions such as orphanages.

Once someone has been recruited, that person is kept in a situation of dependency throughout the period that she is trafficked. She is passed from one person to the other until her arrival in her country of destination....

Rape and other forms of servitude are often used....As soon as they arrive in their country of destination, their documentation is confiscated by the traffickers and they are immediately placed on the sex markets. In Canada, that means prostitution, nude dancing, and so on.

In the country of destination, the trafficking victims, whether or not they were already prostitutes in their own country, will see their passport and other papers confiscated by the people organizing the prostitution. They will have to repay their travel debt. To that are added fees for room and board, clothing, make-up, condoms, and other items that are all deducted from their income. Once all the costs have been paid, there is practically nothing left for them.

A recent investigation by the International Labour Organization determined that prostitutes who are victims of trafficking end up keeping only about 20 per cent of generated income, with the rest going to the procurer.

If the prostitute does not bring in enough money, she will be threatened with sale to another procuring ring, to whom she will again have to repay her debt. She will frequently be moved from one place to another, be threatened with reprisals against her family back home, be subject to psychological, physical and sexual violence, and if she manages to escape her procurer, she runs the risk of being deported as an illegal immigrant. She is completely vulnerable, and rare are the countries that provide services to such persons and protect them from the procurers.

No human being deserves such a life or to be treated like that. We in Canada have an obligation at home and internationally to address this issue. I hope the House and the government finally will.