Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House this afternoon to lend my voice to this very important issue.
I would like to thank the hon. member for having brought this matter to the attention of the House because trafficking in persons is a vile criminal act. It strips individuals of their freedom and basic humanity, and leads ultimately to a life of exploitation, usually in the sex industry or forced labour. These individuals are coerced into such a life, often through violent assault or threats to their families.
I also rise at this time to remind opposition members that they do not have the monopoly on care and compassion for Canadians. Our government takes this matter very seriously and we have taken a number of measures to deal with this issue.
I would like to take the time to explain the role that our public safety agencies are playing in combating this crime in Canada and abroad, led by the hon. Minister of Public Safety.
The Government of Canada is taking a collaborative approach to dealing with trafficking in persons. The government has made the interdepartmental working group on trafficking in persons the focal point for all federal anti-trafficking efforts. This working group brings together 16 departments and agencies, and serves as the central depository of federal expertise. It works to strengthen federal responses through the development of government policy on human trafficking, information exchange and the facilitation of international and national cooperation.
We are also working collaboratively with the provinces and territories to respond to this issue. For example, we are utilizing various federal, provincial and territorial networks, including FPT ministers responsible for justice, the FPT heads of prosecutions, the coordinating committee of senior officials, and criminal justice and FPT victims issues.
The federal government's strategy for dealing with this heinous crime is consistent with other international approaches. This reflects the unanimous agreement for the need for a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral response.
In essence, the government is addressing this issue through a variety of responses aimed at prevention, protection of victims and bringing perpetrators to justice. The government is committed to fighting this crime within its own borders and abroad.
Victims may be exploited within Canada or transported through Canada for final destinations in the United States. This is a challenging issue, but fortunately our public safety agencies are working diligently to crack down on this crime.
Both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Border Services Agency play a crucial role in combating trafficking in persons. For instance, the RCMP has established the human trafficking national coordination centre to coordinate the federal government's law enforcement efforts to combat human trafficking and provide training.
This includes offering specialized training for law enforcement; producing awareness-raising material for municipal, provincial, federal and international law enforcement officers to help identify a potential victim and traffickers through, for example, a new awareness video; building an extensive network of partnerships with domestic and international agencies; and gathering, sharing relevant domestic and international information and intelligence through a team of analysts across the country to help law enforcement at home and abroad coordinate their approach.
For its part, the CBSA is contributing greatly to the fight against human trafficking by providing enforcement at various ports of entry, but more than that, the CBSA works to screen and intercept inadmissible individuals before they arrive in Canada. It has been proactive by doing research and making sure checks and balances are in place as much as possible before these individuals arrive into the country.
The CBSA monitors regular migration to Canada and publishes regular intelligence analysis which identify trends and patterns in irregular migration and migration-related crimes, including trafficking in persons.
The CBSA also performs a number of functions to help shut out the flow of victims by preventing their transport to Canada as well as to deter trafficking organizations from using Canada as a destination country or a transit country.
CBSA's network of migration integrity officers works overseas with airline security and local authorities in 39 countries around the world to prevent irregular migration, including migrant smuggling, by taking measures to intercept individuals before they arrive in Canada.
CBSA intelligence officers also work with Canadian and U.S. partners and integrated border enforcement teams, known as IBETs, that bring a harmonized, specialized approach to cross-border criminal activity. IBETs are strategically placed at our shared borders to detect and apprehend individuals who commit illegal activities, including migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons.
Integrated border intelligence teams also support IBETs and partner agencies by collecting, analyzing and disseminating tactical, investigative and strategic intelligence information pertaining to cross-border crime between Canada and the United States. This intelligence is shared with participating agencies to target international, national and criminal organizations, once again an example of an integrated, coordinated, unified approach.
To effectively combat trafficking in persons, the government is providing additional resources and encouraging training for law enforcement agencies. One of the most horrible aspects of human trafficking is the fact that young children get caught up in this exploitation.
As we have heard from various speakers today, it is truly the ultimate when children are being victimized. Consequently, in budget 2007 our government allocated an additional $6 million to strengthen current activities to combat child sexual exploitation and trafficking.
Initiatives related specifically to human trafficking include: reinforcing law enforcement capacity to combat trafficking in persons; providing for public education, awareness and outreach to combat trafficking in persons; and working with the Canadian Crime Stoppers Association to launch a national campaign on human trafficking and provide for a central point to report potential cases of trafficking in persons.
The central Okanagan and the area that I represent, Kelowna—Lake Country, have incredible crime stoppers organizations that have been recognized internationally for their efforts. I would like to applaud them as well for their coordinated work in helping to reduce human trafficking and identifying those involved in human trafficking in British Columbia, Canada and around the world.
Coming from British Columbia, I am very concerned. It will be two years next Wednesday that the countdown will start to the Olympics. We are doing all we can to ensure that we can stop the trafficking of humans, not only in 2010 but from today forward.
There are initiatives to conduct research to assess the impact of trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children and the impact on aboriginal and visible minorities communities, as well as help communities and individuals whose social economic status affect their prosperity and allow them to be victimized.
Funding is one thing, but promoting training to ensure our people are well equipped to deal with this crime is all the more crucial. That is why, for example, in November 2007 officials from the RCMP, Justice Canada, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the CBSA provided four one-day intensive workshops on trafficking in persons to RCMP officers, municipal police, border services and immigration officers, as well as to victim service providers in Alberta. These workshops were built on previous ones organized in Toronto and elsewhere.
I had the privilege of attending a workshop in my own riding that involved a variety of organizations throughout my riding and the province that are very concerned about human trafficking. It was hosted by a member of the RCMP. It was well attended and was an excellent education forum, an example of how we are trying to continue to raise the awareness and education for all Canadians of this heinous crime that is taking place.
The RCMP and CBSA continue to provide training for their officials on this issue, supported by a range of resource materials, including computer-based learning modules, videos, toolkits and reference cards.
I would like to say in conclusion that trafficking in persons is a horrible crime. We are taking a multifaceted approach to fight it and it is providing results. Back in mid-January, for example, Toronto police arrested four individuals allegedly involved in a human trafficking ring. Such arrests give hope to law enforcement agencies that this difficult crime can be thwarted.
From speaking to RCMP members, they find it very discouraging. They go through the exercise, but when they go to court, the accused persons often get off on a technicality. The government and all elected officials need to stand and give the tools to the men and women who are providing the safety in our communities, so they can bring justice where it is required, in this case arresting these individuals involved in human trafficking and making sure justice prevails.
More important, it gives hope to victims that someone is working to end their ordeal. It gives hope to our RCMP officers, hope to those agencies that are working in the communities to support and encourage the elimination of human trafficking. It gives hope to our children, who are our future.
As the hon. member for Kelowna--Lake Country, I thank the member for bringing this issue to the House. My concern is that our government has been working diligently and cooperatively with all these agencies, as I mentioned, and we are trying to bring forward legislation such as Bill C-2, which is being delayed in the Senate right now. We would like to see some cooperation from the opposition parties, specifically the Liberals, to get their members in the other house to pass that legislation. One item that is on the agenda for today that is being delayed because of this concurrence motion is Bill C-3, which deals with security certificates.
Hopefully we can all agree that we need to work more cooperatively and get action from both houses so we can make Canada a stronger, safer, better country.