moved that Bill C-612, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure today to speak to Bill C-612, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons). This is a bill upon which we have been working for more than a year. Many women’s groups have been consulted, as well as victims’ groups, police forces and even the Barreau du Québec. Before giving a brief outline of the bill, I would like to sketch a quick picture of trafficking in persons and provide some information, including statistics.
According to 2009 figures from the UNODC, 79% of trafficking victims in the world are trafficked for purposes of prostitution. According to 2005 figures from the International Labour Organization, 80% of trafficking victims are women and children, particularly young girls, and 40% to 50% of all victims are children.
Women and girls make up 98% of the victims of sexual exploitation. Hence the violence inflicted in this sort of trafficking mainly affects women. According to 2007 figures from the UNODC, the annual proceeds of this criminal activity are estimated at $32 billion. This is estimated to be the third-largest criminal trade after drugs and weapons trafficking. Certain research even estimates it to be the second-largest. This trade is dominated by criminal groups, and the traffickers are difficult to apprehend since they are extremely dangerous and violent. Naturally, as one can understand, the victims are forced to remain silent.
Here is a picture of the situation in Canada: Canada is considered to be a country of recruitment, destination and transit, particularly transit to the United States. Unfortunately, Canada is also a place of sex tourism. Contrary to what one might think, this sort of thing does not happen only in Thailand. Criminal Intelligence Service Canada indicates in its 2001 report that, in Canada, the average age of entry into prostitution is 14. According to 2004 figures from the U.S. State Department, every year an estimated 1,500 to 2,200 persons are victims of trafficking from Canada to the United States. It is estimated that traffickers bring approximately 600 women and children into Canada to service the Canadian sex industry.
The main points of transit and destination for victims of interprovincial and international trafficking are Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. It is estimated that over 65,000 persons in Canada engage in the online exchange of child pornography, in photos and videos. And this is a fairly conservative figure, if one can say that.
The Sûreté du Québec estimates that 80% of the strip clubs in Quebec under its jurisdiction are owned by criminal groups, often under fronts. So this is an industry that is dominated by organized crime and, of course, street gangs. It is said that a girl can be ordered much as one orders a pizza. This is quite incredible. In the city of Montreal alone, it is estimated that 300 minor girls aged 12 to 17 are sexually exploited, whether through pornography or prostitution, although the figures vary depending on the research. Some studies talk about 800, others 488, or even 1,500 children and adolescents in the Montreal region alone.
The city that comes second to Montreal is Quebec City. The sites of prostitution are varied: bars, strip clubs, prostitution networks, escort agencies and massage parlours. A girl may be moved from Canada to the United States or from one province to another. With reference to sexual exploitation, the majority of prostitution networks can be found in the big cities such as Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Vancouver, Niagara, Peel, etc.
Girls recruited in Atlantic Canada can wind up in Quebec and Ontario, or in Alberta and British Columbia, and vice versa. Although this odious trade is dominated by organized crime, street gangs have now become new players in this trafficking. The Montreal police service has declared human trafficking to be its number one priority.
It is estimated that since the late 1990s, members of street gangs have changed from small recruiters to high-level procurers. They are also involved in interprovincial trafficking and of course in trafficking with the United States. Their preferred clientele, not to play on words, their target, is girls between the ages of 11 and 25. They specialize in child prostitution. One girl can bring in around $280,800 per year. Twenty girls earn $6.552 million a year, and 40 girls $13.104 million. This is a business that is not very risky and that is also inexpensive and very lucrative.
The penalties are negligible. I will give you an example of a pimp in Peel region who exploited a 15-year-old girl for two years. This earned him $360,000 per year. He received a three-year sentence. Unfortunately, the girls refuse to testify, simply because they are understandably afraid, for they are frequently beaten and tortured, and so on.
So you will understand the full importance of this bill, which targets a number of different points. Given the time allotted to me, I will try to review them very quickly for my colleagues.
The first point was to clarify the definition of the words “trafficking” and “exploitation”, because they were sometimes confusing. It was explained to me by the police community that sometimes, or even very often, the legal community regards trafficking as being international. All that we have done in subsection 279.01(1) of the Criminal Code is add “in a domestic or international context”. It must be made clear that trafficking is interprovincial, inter-country and transnational, in the same way as it can be from city to city or district to district.
We have also clarified the definition of the word “exploitation”, for the current definition is a bit of a catch-all, in the sense that it can cover anything from forced labour to sexual exploitation. So we have added a clause that clarifies and adds sexual exploitation and that in a way allows prosecutors, legislators and the police to pinpoint this type of crime. Section 279.04 of the Criminal Code is amended by adding the following at the end of paragraph (a): “(a.I) cause them to provide or offer to provide sexual services by the use or threat of force...”. Everything has been included.
In a way, this definition copies or is modelled on the Palermo protocol and would permit Canada to honour its signing of that text. I leave it to my colleagues to take a closer look at this. I continue with the reading of the clause: “...or of any other form of coercion, by fraud, deception, manipulation, abuse of authority or situation of vulnerability...”. So we touch upon different ways in which a pimp or a trafficker can cause a victim to be exploited.
In modifying this definition, Canada will thus be able to comply with and honour its signing of the Palermo protocol.
In listening to the police, we realized that the common complaint was that sentences were not harsh enough. We did not consider minimum sentencing because we think judges should have as much latitude as possible in handing down a sentence. Nonetheless, we focused on consecutive sentencing. When a person is charged with trafficking, prostitution or aggravated assault—quite often these types of charges go hand in hand with this type of crime—the judge, after all the legal steps, all the plea bargaining, could add up the sentences he will impose according to the remaining charges. We are leaving it up to the judges, but at the same time we are leaving room for more substantial sentences than what we are currently seeing. This provision will apply to human trafficking—therefore sections 279.01 to 279.03—and could also apply to provision 212.01—or procuring offences.
What is more, we tried to resolve the issue of evidence. I believe we have done well. The police were telling us that it was often very difficult to get testimony from a victim. Victims do not necessarily want to testify, out of fear. The police suggested establishing reverse onus, as in subsection 212(3). If the police could have enough evidence, they would not need a victim's testimony to press charges. The wording for the provision was modelled after the wording for the provision on prostitution.
For the purposes of subsection (1), a person who is not exploited and who lives with or is habitually in the company of or harbours a person who is exploited shall, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, be deemed to be exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of that person.
This point has already passed the constitutional hurdle in regard to the provisions on procurement. I do not think there will be any constitutional problems in this respect, given that this was already tested regarding prostitution. I submitted it to the Barreau du Québec and have not heard anything back. We were very careful about proposing this.
The victims groups with whom I met were very happy with this provision because it removes the burden of proof from victims.
There is another very important point that will address what is reported to us from the field. This will be very beneficial financially of course, but also in terms of arrests, charges and denunciatory sentences. By introducing subsection 462.37(2.02), we are adding the offences of procuring and human trafficking to the existing section of the Criminal Code, which deals with offences committed by criminal gangs liable to sentences of five years or more, as well as all offences under section 5, 6 or 7 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
This section already exists in the Criminal Code. We are just adding the offence of procuring and human trafficking so that people charged with human trafficking can have the proceeds of their crimes confiscated. This is not done now, unfortunately, and these people continue to enjoy the proceeds of their crimes. When someone is charged with and found guilty of trafficking, he will have to prove that the millions of dollars he has in the bank, his big houses and cars, are not proceeds of crime.
Finally, our changes to section 7 of the Criminal Code are based on what the police told us, especially the child sexual abuse unit. They said Canadians could go abroad, commit human trafficking offences there, and return to Canada with impunity. They could not be prosecuted. I was told about three Canadians who went to Somalia and opened an orphanage, where they trafficked several children. They returned to Canada with impunity, without being charged with anything at all, because unfortunately there is still no provision in the Criminal Code providing that a Canadian or permanent resident, within the meaning of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, who commits such an act abroad can be charged as if he had committed the act in Canada.
We have worked very hard on this bill, which was supported by a number of groups and various police forces we consulted. I did not consult them all, of course.
I encourage all my colleagues to support this bill. Not only will it give police and prosecutors the tools they need to do their jobs, but it will also do justice to the victims, who will no longer have to bring a case before the courts. They can be better protected. Finally, the bill will make it possible to confiscate property.