Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate our colleague for her work on this private member's bill. I know she has worked very hard. However, I would like to caution her and all of us with regard to certain reactions that could unfortunately be likened to demagoguery.
I was an MP in 2005 and at that time the Bloc Québécois supported a bill introduced by the now defunct Liberal government, which had established a new provision in the Criminal Code, namely the offence of human trafficking. At the time, we unanimously supported the Criminal code amendment proposed by Bill C-49.
Bill C-49 created clause 279.01(1) which stated that “...Every person who recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds, conceals or harbours a person, or exercises control, direction or influence over the movements of a person, for the purpose of exploiting them...” must be considered to be trafficking in persons.
I would like to remind my Liberal colleague that, at the time, his government did not see fit to make a distinction between persons under the age of 18 and over the age of 18. The government at the time did not see fit to impose mandatory minimum sentences. In 2005, I believe that this House unanimously adopted these provisions which, to date, have not surfaced much in the judicial system given that we have only had about ten convictions. I will come back to that.
It would be quite inflammatory to suggest that any member of this House is not vigilant, pro-active or dedicated when it comes to dealing with the trafficking of children or sexual exploitation.
The question we must ask ourselves is what are the objectives of the bill introduced by the member? Does the bill contain the right tools to achieve these objectives? The member leads us to believe that the courts have not been tough enough or that there have not been charges in cases of exploitation or trafficking involving young children.
From spring 2008 to spring 2009, five charges were laid under section 279, four of them involving persons under 18 years of age. So it is not true that the courts have not dealt with charges involving persons under 18. The proposed sentences contain at least three: a five-year sentence, a seven-year sentence and a ten-year sentence. Clearly, under section 279.01, as it stands, prosecutors can charge persons under the age of 18.
Does anyone in this House believe that, in a properly constituted case by a crown prosecutor involving a child victim of human trafficking, any judge worth his or her salt would fail to take that fact into account?
That is where the Bloc Québécois and the government disagree. The Bloc Québécois trusts judges and believes in their wisdom. If the sentence is not harsh enough, prosecutors must appeal. Our colleague did not say anything to suggest that these provisions conflicted with charges for trafficking in victims under the age of 18.
I can see that my time is up. I would like to congratulate the member on her bill, and I hope she understands that we are just as dedicated as she is to fighting human trafficking, but that we would rather find other ways to do it. That was the argument we heard from the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.