Bill C-452 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons)
This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.
This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.
Maria Mourani Bloc
Introduced as a private member’s bill.
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 in order to provide consecutive sentences for offences related to trafficking in persons and create a presumption regarding the exploitation of one person by another.
It also adds the offence of trafficking in persons to the list of offences to which the forfeiture of proceeds of crime apply.
- March 6, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Private Members' Business
November 26th, 2013 / 6:15 p.m.
Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC
moved that Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons), be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, as you know, this is not the first time we are debating this bill. It received the unanimous support of the House during the previous debates, and all along I have tried to ensure that it remain non-partisan and that it bring people together. The humour in this is not lost on me and I take a philosophical approach as this bill reaches the final stage while I sit as an independent member.
I want to thank everyone who shared their skills and put their hearts into creating this bill, including police officers, the women's groups that work with victims of trafficking, and the criminal law experts and parliamentary law clerks. I thank everyone. I would also like to thank all of my colleagues in the House for the support they have given this bill, speech after speech, stage after stage. I thank them for agreeing to send this bill as quickly as possible to the Senate.
We will not be able to fix the problem of human trafficking unless we address the root issue, which is prostitution. We all know that more than 80% to 90% of human trafficking victims in Canada are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The September 2013 report from the Service du renseignement criminel du Quebec revealed that the sex industry in Quebec is doing better than ever. This report highlighted a huge increase in the number of massage parlours: there are more than 200 of them in Montreal. The report states that 39% of the victims caught are minors and that 91% of the victims are women. The numbers are similar in other Canadian provinces.
The average age—
Private Members' Business
November 26th, 2013 / 6:30 p.m.
Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to support Bill C-452, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons). This is an important bill that would address a pressing issue. Human trafficking involves continuous violations of fundamental human rights whose protection forms the basis of our free and democratic society.
I would like to start by thanking the member of Parliament for Ahuntsic for bringing this pressing issue to the attention of the House again. As she knows, this is a very important issue for our government. Her previous bill, former Bill C-612, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), which proposed similar amendments, died on the order paper in 2011.
Before I turn to the proposals in the bill itself, I would like to make some general comments on the nature of human trafficking and its severe impacts on its victims, to underscore the importance of ensuring the strongest possible criminal justice response to this crime.
Traffickers force victims to provide labour or sexual services in circumstances where they believe their safety or the safety of someone known to them will be threatened if they fail to provide that labour or service. They are deprived of the very rights that underpin a free and democratic society. The reality is that victims suffer physical, sexual and emotional abuse, including threats of violence or actual harm to their loved ones. This abuse is compounded by their living and working conditions.
To further aggravate the problem, this type of criminal conduct is not something that just happens occasionally or on the margins of society. Rather it is widespread, as evidenced by the global revenues garnered by it, which are estimated to amount to as much as $10 billion U.S. per year. This puts human trafficking within the three top money makers for organized crime.
What are we doing about it? I am pleased to report that the government's response to this crime is strong and multi-faceted.
First, we have a virtual arsenal of criminal offences that apply to this reprehensible conduct.
In 2003, trafficking specific offences were added to the Criminal Code.
In 2010, a new offence of child trafficking was enacted through Bill C-268, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years), which was sponsored by myself, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul. This offence imposes mandatory minimum penalties on those who traffic persons under the age of 18.
In 2012, former Bill C-310, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), sponsored by myself, the member of Parliament for Kildonan—St. Paul, extended extra territorial jurisdiction for all Criminal Code trafficking offences and enacted an interpretive tool to assist the courts in interpreting the trafficking in persons provisions.
All of this is in addition to the trafficking specific offence contained in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, section 118, which prohibits transnational trafficking and the numerous Criminal Code offences that address traffic related conduct, such as forceable confinement, kidnapping, sexual assault and uttering threats, to give a few examples.
However, that is not all. In recognition of the multi-faceted nature of this problem, the government launched a national action plan to combat human trafficking on June 6, 2012. The action plan recognizes that a comprehensive response to human trafficking must involve efforts to ensure what we refer to as the 4 Ps: the protection of victims; the prosecution of offenders; the partnerships with key players; and, of course, the prevention of the crime, in the first place. All activities are coordinated through the human trafficking task force, which is led by Public Safety Canada.
This is, without a doubt, a comprehensive response to a complex problem, but more can always be done and where more can be done, more should be done, especially, when efforts serve to address a crime as insidious as human trafficking.
Bill C-452 proposes a number of reforms that would strengthen the response I have just described. It seeks to impose consecutive sentences for trafficking offences and any offence arising out of the same event or series of events.
The bill would also create a presumption that would assist prosecutors in proving the main human trafficking offence and it would require a sentencing court to order the forfeiture of an offender's property, unless he or she proved that the property was not proceeds of crime.
Although some amendments would be required to address specific legal concerns, Bill C-452 would undoubtedly strengthen the response to human trafficking and, as such, merits our support.
Legal concerns would have to be addressed. For example, the bill should not overlap with amendments that have already been enacted by the previous bill, such as the former Bill C-310, as this would cause confusion in the law. The bill should also avoid compromising the government's efforts to defend the living on the avails offence, paragraph 212(1)(j), along with other prostitution-related Criminal Code offences whose constitutionality is now before the Supreme Court of Canada in the Bedford case. The procuring provision, which Bill C-452 proposals would affect, contains the living on the avails offence.
However, these concerns and others should not detract from the positive contributions the bill would make if it were enacted. The legal concerns I have outlined can easily be addressed through amendments.
We must continue to be vigilant. We must continue to support legislative initiatives that would improve our ability to hold accountable those who exploit the vulnerabilities of others. The impact of human trafficking on its victims is almost impossible to comprehend. We cannot tolerate it. We must ensure that those who engage in such heinous conduct are brought to justice, that their punishment appropriately reflects their crime and that they are not permitted to reap the rewards gleaned from the suffering of others.
Toward that end, I ask all members in the House to join me in supporting Bill C-452. I look forward to examining and analyzing its proposals more deeply in the context of committee review. At that stage, amendments can be moved to ensure that the bill achieves its laudable objectives without creating any confusion or inconsistency in the law.
I am sure that we all agree that we can never do enough to combat human trafficking. I am grateful that Bill C-452 has provided us with yet another opportunity to do more.
Again, I thank the member for Ahuntsic for her attention to this very important bill. Certainly it has our full support on this side of the House.
Private Members' Business
November 26th, 2013 / 6:35 p.m.
Isabelle Morin Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC
Human trafficking is an issue that I am really passionate about. I have had the opportunity to talk with groups such as CATHII, the International Bureau for Children's Rights, World Vision Canada, Half the Sky Québec and Walk With Me Canada, and also with experts such as Professor Yvon Dandurand, Professor Jill Hanley and Detective Sergeant Dominic Monchamp of the Montreal police force.
I have also listened to evidence from many experts and victims at meetings of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and when I travelled to Thailand with World Vision Canada two years ago. As a result of these experiences, I am truly horrified by this serious situation, and I believe that it is urgent that we move quickly to make progress in this area.
For that reason, I support Bill C-452, which would amend the Criminal Code in order to provide better protection for victims of trafficking by setting out a legal definition of exploitation and including consecutive sentences for offences related to procuring and trafficking in persons.
To start with, we must take some time to explain what we are really talking about when we use the words “trafficking” and “exploitation”.
Trafficking in and exploitation of persons is an odious crime that can take several forms. The most common are forcible confinement; forced movement from one country to another, one province to another or one city to another; and forced labour and prostitution, when a profit is made by the person exploiting these victims. What all these crimes have in common is the fact that they are degrading, violate human dignity, and are characterized by incredible abuse, which can be physical, verbal or psychological.
The main victims are women and children, who represent 80% of persons affected by human trafficking, as indicated by a 2005 International Labour Organization study. The most vulnerable are the usual victims of this scourge, and it is our duty to do everything we can to protect them. We must not forget that almost 50% of victims are minors.
Sexual exploitation is the most common form of human exploitation. Once again, women and children are the main victims. In fact, 98% of the victims of sexual exploitation are women. Over half of them are minors.
Canada is not immune to the scourge of human trafficking. We have a real problem of human trafficking and exploitation right here in this country, and yet very few people realize the scope of the problem.
I know because, about a year ago, I showed the film Avenue Zéro in my office. I received many calls and emails from people who said that they had no idea that this was happening in their own backyards. Part of my riding, an area of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, is unfortunately known for human trafficking and prostitution. However, the general population is completely unaware of this problem.
As for human trafficking across international borders, the most recent official figures from the RCMP date back to 2005, which is quite a while ago. Perhaps more statistics are needed. In fact, the RCMP estimates that every year, about 800 individuals enter Canada illegally as a result of human trafficking, and about 1,500 to 2,000 are trafficked from Canada to the United States.
As for human trafficking within Canada, we do not currently have sufficiently clear and reliable statistics to establish exact figures. The studies done in Canada on human trafficking and exploitation often overlook the issue of trafficking in Canadian citizens and residents within the country.
It is possible, however, to assess the scope of this phenomenon and paint a picture of the people affected by human trafficking and exploitation in Canada based on studies done by international organizations and on the ample testimony of victims.
In 2009, for instance, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime led a study that found that 80% of the victims of human trafficking are trafficked for the purpose of prostitution. This observation also applies in Canada. Those most affected are women who enter Canada illegally through human trafficking, but Canadian citizens are also affected, including a significant proportion of young women from aboriginal communities. As we know, exploitation is often the result of extreme economic insecurity and a lack of knowledge of individual rights.
Like these hundreds of people who enter Canada each year to flee deplorable living conditions in their country of origin, a growing number of Canadians are faced with poverty and limited access to education. Every year, poverty pushes young girls from disadvantaged communities and aboriginal peoples to move to urban centres and leave their families behind. They are easy prey, for pimps in particular who force them to sell their bodies no matter how old they are.
The figures provided by Criminal Intelligence Service Canada on this are clear: the average age of entry into prostitution in our country is 14. As my colleague mentioned, if the age of entry into prostitution is 14, that means there are clients requesting 14-year-old girls, which is absolutely disgusting.
In light of the gravity of the facts and the extent of the tragedy, I think it is necessary to act as quickly as possible. We must remain focused because solving the problem of trafficking and exploitation requires a comprehensive strategy, including reducing the economic inequalities in our country and fighting the organized crime that is at the root of human trafficking worldwide.
Nevertheless, I know that Bill C-452 introduced by my colleague, the hon. member for Ahuntsic, is a first step in the right direction. Her bill considerably improves the legal avenues we have for fighting exploitation and it sends a clear message to human trafficking abusers and victims: we will not allow the current situation to go on much longer.
I support the legal approach taken by Bill C-452. The bill's proposed changes to sections 279.01 and 462.27 of the Criminal Code are essential for giving our police officers and our lawyers the means for effectively fighting human exploitation and trafficking.
First, the new section 279.01 would give the justice system the necessary tools for identifying cases of exploitation, through a complete list of circumstances that are deemed to constitute exploitation. That said, Bill C-452 provides a clearer and more precise definition of exploitation to ensure better victim protection. The changes made to section 462.27 of the Criminal Code, which seek to introduce offences of procuring and human trafficking, will enable more effective police action.
Bill C-452 would give the police and our justice system the means to work together to successfully combat human trafficking and exploitation. I had the opportunity to listen to Inspector Gordon Perrier, from the Criminal Investigation Bureau of the Winnipeg Police Service, when he testified before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in April. He said the following: “Combatting exploitation requires a broad range of commitments on many fronts, and all the practices police and our partners employ come together when the laws are comprehensive”.
I am absolutely convinced that, in addition to being a significant legal breakthrough in the fight against human trafficking, Bill C-452 also holds great symbolic value. Indeed, it sends a strong signal to victims of human trafficking—to women, especially aboriginal women. There is an opportunity here to refocus the law on victim protection by providing for denunciatory and consecutive sentences, which the accused must serve consecutively to any other sentence handed down by a judge.
Indeed, making the perpetrators spend more time in prison gives their victims enough time to begin their healing process, with greater peace. In doing this, we show our commitment to uphold human dignity. When we fight human trafficking we are fighting against the commodification of women and children, who are now being imported and exported, sold and resold. We are also fighting against the commodification of men who are forced to work, and against the sexual exploitation of the weakest and poorest by unscrupulous individuals and organized crime.
To conclude, I would like to take the time to talk about human trafficking for forced labour, which we might call “slavery”. In my riding, I know that there are both domestic and seasonal workers who come to Canada and are forced to work. This is not sexual exploitation; although it was mentioned that sexual exploitation accounts for 80% to 90% of cases, there are all kinds of trafficking, which Bill C-452 is designed to reduce as much as possible.
I also think that we will soon need to talk about prevention, because when some young women arrive in cities and urban areas, they often fall into prostitution at the age of 14, through no fault of their own. We should therefore start working on prevention with these young women.
Private Members' Business
November 26th, 2013 / 6:45 p.m.
Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC
Mr. Speaker, I rise to address Bill C-452, as have my predecessors this evening, which seeks to combat human trafficking and exploitation.
As I have said previously in debate on the bill, the true measure of a society's commitment to equality and human dignity is the protection it affords its most vulnerable members, and the victims of human trafficking are among the most vulnerable of all. It is therefore to the credit of this House that efforts to deal with this compelling concern have been initiated and supported by hon. members on all sides.
I was proud to introduce Canada's original human trafficking legislation, as minister of justice, in 2005, and I am pleased to acknowledge the subsequent and ongoing special contributions of the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, who spoke this evening.
Of course, I would like to thank the member for Ahuntsic for introducing the bill that we are looking at today. I intend to support it.
The bill before us seeks to bolster efforts to combat human trafficking and exploitation in three important ways.
First, by adding these offences of trafficking to those for which the forfeiture of the proceeds of crime applies, the bill seeks to ensure thereby that traffickers do not profit from their actions.
At committee, several witnesses testified that the average annual profit from trafficking one woman is $280,000. Moreover, according to the 2012 U.S. State Department report, the international trade in human beings generates approximately $32 billion each year. It is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.
Éliane Legault-Roy, from the Concertation des luttes contre l'exploitation sexuelle, testified that this industry “responds solely to profit and customer demand”.
I completely agree that the government must be able to seize the proceeds amassed by those who treat human beings as goods to be sold.
Second, the bill aims to facilitate the prosecution of human trafficking offences by reversing the onus of proof such that an individual habitually in the company of a person who is exploited would be presumed complicit in the exploitation, absent evidence to the contrary.
The justice committee heard from several witnesses that victims in such cases are reluctant to testify in court due to fear of facing their abusers and to the trauma of having to talk openly about their ordeal. It is therefore important to minimize the demands placed on victims in human trafficking trials to prevent their re-victimization, as this provision seeks to do.
At the same time, it is generally a fundamental principle of our justice system that the burden is on the state to prove that the accused is guilty, rather than requiring the accused to prove his or her innocence. The member for Ahuntsic has correctly noted that reversals of the burden of proof do exist in our Criminal Code, but they are rare, and for good reason. Accordingly, reverse onus provisions must be implemented with the utmost caution so as to minimize the risk of wrongful conviction.
As such, the Liberal member on the justice committee proposed amendments that would have specified that the reverse onus in Bill C-452 would apply only to those who live off the avails of exploitation and are over the age of 18. This change would have preserved the bill's intent of lessening the burden on victims at trial while reducing the chances that this reverse onus provision might, in exceptional circumstances, entrap an innocent person. I regret that these amendments were unsuccessful, although, as I say, I will support the bill nonetheless.
Finally, Bill C-452 aims to deter the expansion of human trafficking operations by requiring offenders to serve their sentences consecutively, such that each additional victim represents an additional penalty to the offender. Many witnesses at the justice committee expressed frustration that concurrent sentences are currently the norm in human trafficking cases. For example, Robert Hooper, of Walk With me Canada Victims Services, told the committee:
...when you are able to garner upwards of $200,000 to $300,000 per trafficked victim in one year, and the only real risk in sentencing is a concurrent sentence for each additional victim, the trafficker is almost compelled to expand his business empire with little risk of significant ramifications to him in the criminal justice system here in Canada.
I share the goal of making consecutive sentences the norm for human trafficking convictions. At the same time, I am reluctant to remove discretion from judges, as the bill does, by making consecutive sentences mandatory in all such cases. It is certainly possible to make consecutive sentences the norm while still allowing judges to order concurrent sentences in exceptional cases, providing they give reasons for departing from the usual practice.
This is precisely what a Liberal amendment proposed at committee would have done, and I regret that it, too, was unsuccessful. As with the amendment to which I earlier referred, this one would have preserved the bill's raison d'être while ensuring that our justice system remains well equipped to deal with unusual and unforseeable circumstances. Still, once again, I share the objectives of this legislation and believe that its effects would be generally positive, and I will, as I mentioned, vote in favour of it.
I will now turn to a matter of process that arose at committee and that warrants our attention.
The justice committee began clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-452 on May 6. At that meeting, the bill's sponsor, the member for Ahuntsic, was present and permitted to speak by the chair. This was both appropriate and helpful for committee members and for all parliamentarians, who benefited from hearing the perspective of the member who proposed the legislation.
However, at the end of the meeting the Conservative members chastised the chair for having let the member for Ahuntsic participate. When clause-by-clause study resumed on May 8, at which time additional amendments were considered and a clause that had previously carried was reviewed and deleted, Conservative committee members refused to allow the member for Ahuntsic to take part in debate on her own bill.
The member for York West moved to let her speak. The government still rejected the motion. In the words of the committee chair, “...for a private member's bill I think every member has the right to come and talk to the bill and the amendments to it. ... I think that's only fair....”
I agree fully, and I find it deeply regrettable that Conservative members denied the member for Ahuntsic the opportunity to address significant changes proposed to her own legislation.
As we know, in most cases the sponsor of a private member's bill can substitute for a colleague from the same party and so participate in committee discussion. However, when the bill is that of an independent member, as happened in this case, that option is not available to them. It is therefore, as the chair said, only fair to invite them as an additional and important voice. The Conservatives' refusal to do so was prejudicial to the principle of open and informed debate, essential to our legislative process. Moreover, the silencing of the member for Ahuntsic constituted a missed opportunity to act in a collegial manner on important legislation that enjoys all-party support.
I would hope that hon. members would take pains to act collegially even when we disagree. How much more so should we seize opportunities such as this to join together in mutual respect and common cause?
In that same spirit, I would like to thank the member for Ahuntsic for introducing this bill.
I thank the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, who made yet another important intervention this evening, and others in the House for their efforts on this issue. I thank the many Canadians, including the witnesses who testified at committee, for their daily efforts to combat human trafficking and to help the survivors of exploitation rebuild their lives.
I will close by importantly recognizing the victims, both those bravely attempting to recover from the horrors of past ordeals and the millions in Canada and around the world who, as we speak, are exploited and enslaved. I look forward to continuing with members of all parties in the fight for their freedom.
Private Members' Business
June 18th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC
moved that Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons), be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I must say that it is a great victory that Bill C-452, a private member's bill, has made it as far as third reading. It is not my victory, but that of many groups. I feel it is important to name them because they are the ones who worked hard to develop this bill and who supported it throughout the process.
They are: the Council on the Status of Women, police experts from the SPVM morality branch and child sexual exploitation unit, the Comité d'action contre la traite humaine interne et internationale, the Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale, the Regroupement québécois des centres d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel, Concertation-Femme, Concertation des luttes contre l'exploitation sexuelle, the Association québécoise Plaidoyer-Victimes, the Collectif de l'Outaouais contre l'exploitation sexuelle, the diocèse de l'Outaouais, Maison de Marthe and the YMCAs of Quebec.
Many groups participated in the development of this bill. I thank them very much and I commend them for all the work that they did. These groups also appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to explain the importance of this bill and, in particular, the results it will achieve on the ground.
I would like to quickly mention the things that came up in committee that I found a bit surprising, since a significant number of amendments were made to the bill. First, no major changes were made to the provisions related to human trafficking, whether with regard to presumption or the reversal of the burden of proof, consecutive sentences for offences related to trafficking in persons, or the forfeiture of the proceeds of crime for people who are charged with human trafficking. These provisions did not really change, and that is a good thing.
The provision regarding the definition of sexual exploitation was changed. A government amendment removed this provision on the basis that it could make the definition hard to understand. These were not major changes. The principles underlying the provisions on human trafficking stayed the same. I am very pleased about that.
By the way, the NDP did not propose any amendments. The Liberals proposed amendments that were rejected and that I did not support either, and the majority of the amendments proposed by the Conservatives were kept since the Conservatives have the majority. Nonetheless, some of the amendments they proposed were supported by the NDP and the Liberals.
One of the government's amendments leaves me extremely perplexed. It is the amendment that replaced our wish to have the bill come into force 30 days after royal assent. The government's amendment would have the bill come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council. It seems that the government wants to control the implementation of the bill.
If the bill receives royal assent, I hope that it will come into force very quickly because, as all the witnesses said, this is an urgent matter. It is essential that the police, prosecutors and victims advocacy groups have the necessary tools to combat human trafficking.
As far as the provisions on procuring are concerned, I was very shocked. I did not at all expect the government to propose amendments to the procuring provisions. On the contrary, I expected the consecutive sentences for pimps, and the forfeiture of the proceeds of crime of pimps, to be provisions that the government would support.
In committee, the government said it wanted to wait for the Supreme Court ruling in the Bedford case.
We know that 80% to 90% of people who are victims of human trafficking are trafficked into prostitution, especially in Canada.
Private Members' Business
June 18th, 2013 / 6:20 p.m.
Robert Goguen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of private member's Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons). I would like to thank the member for Ahuntsic for introducing this important piece of legislation.
The purpose of Bill C-452 is essentially to step up the criminal justice system's response to human trafficking, one of the most odious violations of fundamental rights and freedoms.
It is generally acknowledged that trafficking in persons occurs in three stages: the recruitment, transportation and accommodation of a person for a specific purpose; exploitation, usually sexual exploitation; and forced labour. The existence of one of these factors is enough for a person's conduct to constitute the crime of trafficking in persons. A person who recruits a victim for the purpose of exploiting that person is engaged in human trafficking to the same degree as someone who transports or houses a victim for that purpose.
Traffickers force victims to work or provide services in circumstances in which they believe that any refusal on their part would threaten their safety or that of a person they know. The expression “labour or a service” includes, for example, all types of sexual services, domestic services, agricultural work and factory work.
Victims suffer physical, sexual and psychological violence and face threats of violence against family members, including violence or threats of physical violence that may be carried out.
A crime this serious requires that more rigorous measures be taken in criminal law. My colleague, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, has introduced two bills to combat these reprehensible crimes. We must all stand up and help the victims of human trafficking.
I see that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights made amendments to this bill. I believe my colleague who introduced the bill is of the view that those amendments contribute to the bill's main objectives, particularly those of making offenders accountable for their acts, providing for penalties that reflect the seriousness of the crime and ensuring that offenders do not reap the benefits of their unlawful acts.
Before commenting on the specific proposals contained in the bill and explaining why I believe they deserve to be supported, I would like to put them in context. This bill would make it possible to expand the exhaustive framework of statutory provisions against trafficking in persons.
In 2005, three specific human trafficking offences were added to the Criminal Code. In 2010, a new offence of trafficking in children was adopted when Bill C-268 sponsored by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul was enacted. An offender convicted of that offence is liable to mandatory minimum penalties when trafficking victims are under 18 years of age.
In 2012, another bill sponsored by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul granted extraterritorial jurisdiction over all Criminal Code trafficking offences and created a tool to assist the courts in interpreting the human trafficking provisions.
In addition, section 118 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act prohibits transnational trafficking in persons, and many acts related to trafficking in persons, such as forcible confinement, kidnapping, sexual assault and uttering threats, to cite only a few examples, are offences under the Criminal Code.
However, it is possible to do more. Bill C-452 provides, first of all, for the creation of an evidentiary presumption that would help prosecutors establish that trafficking in persons has been committed. We know that victims are vulnerable and that they fear their traffickers. That means that they may well be reluctant to testify, and we understand that.
The presumption would allow prosecutors to establish the commission of the offence of trafficking in persons by submitting evidence that an accused lives with or is habitually in the company of a person who is exploited.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights amended this proposal to make it compatible with other similar presumptions currently set out in the Criminal Code, particularly subsection 212(3), which establishes a presumption for the purposes of procuring provisions, namely paragraph 212(1)(j), and subsections 212(2) and 212(2.1).
Prosecutors also find it difficult to establish that the offence was committed because victims in these situations are often too afraid of their pimps to testify against them.
In 1992, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the constitutional validity of this presumption in R. v. Downey. The final submissions of the majority are significant and directly relevant to trafficking in persons:
Prostitutes are a particularly vulnerable segment of society. The cruel abuse they suffer inflicted by their parasitic pimps has been well documented. The impugned section is aimed not only at remedying a social problem but also at providing some measure of protection for the prostitute by eliminating the necessity of testifying.
Surely the same considerations apply to the victims of human trafficking.
Bill C-452 also provides that a sentence handed down for an offence involving trafficking in persons shall be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the person for another offence arising out of the same event or series of events. Establishing mandatory consecutive sentencing sends a clear message: committing an offence leads to a long prison term. Is this not a message we want to send to the perpetrators of human trafficking offences? There are few crimes that deserve such lengthy sentences. I applaud this proposal.
Bill C-452 would also require an offender to prove that his property does not constitute proceeds of crime for the purposes of the Criminal Code forfeiture provisions. Trafficking in persons necessarily involves profiting from the suffering of others. In fact, global revenues generated by this crime are estimated at some $10 U.S. billion a year. That is unacceptable.
Trafficking in persons is thus one of the three most lucrative organized crime activities. We must ensure that traffickers are not allowed to keep their ill-gotten gains. It is essential that we strip them of the monetary benefits they derive from the exploitation of others so that the public can trust in the justice system's ability to hold offenders accountable for their actions and to bring them to justice. Justice is not served if an offender is allowed to profit from the suffering he inflicts on others.
The provisions of Bill C-452 contribute to the existing legislative framework to fight this crime, supplemented by a multi-pronged response to a complex problem.
I am particularly pleased to note that, on June 6, 2012, the government introduced the national action plan to combat human trafficking, which acknowledges that an exhaustive approach must be taken to consolidate efforts to fight this crime by emphasizing the four Ps: the protection of victims, the prosecution of offenders, partnerships with key stakeholders and, of course, the prevention of trafficking in persons.
All activities are coordinated by the working group on trafficking in persons, which is managed by Public Safety Canada. This shows that Canada is currently taking a strong approach to human trafficking. However, that does not mean that we cannot do more. We must be vigilant and do everything in our power to ensure that our approach is as rigorous as possible, which inevitably presupposes ongoing analysis to determine what else we can do.
Bill C-452 is precisely an example of what else we can do. We can support Bill C-452, which would assist in securing convictions, guaranteeing penalties that are proportionate to the severity of the crime and depriving offenders of their ill-gotten gains.
I believe that all members of the House should join me in supporting this bill.
Private Members' Business
June 18th, 2013 / 6:30 p.m.
Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise today to talk about Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons).
I would first like to congratulate the member for Ahuntsic on the work she has done. I know that she has worked extremely hard on this bill, which she tabled in Parliament so that we could debate and discuss it. She may rest assured that the NDP will support it.
Such a bill naturally generates a great deal of emotion. I had the good fortune, as deputy justice critic, to sit on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Some of the evidence was so touching that it left us shaking. It made us realize certain things. The victims who came to testify have all my admiration. I would like once again to salute the courage they showed in coming to share their experiences in order to give us a better understanding of what is happening on that front.
We also heard from numerous experts, people working in community organizations and people in law enforcement. Those working in the field emphasized the importance of this bill. They felt it was something that could really attack the problem of human trafficking, a problem that exists in Canada. We all agree that it is a heinous crime and that we must amend the Criminal Code in order to deal with it. This is one more step in that direction.
Witnesses talked about the lack of resources. It is all very well to have a bill, but you have to have the necessary resources on the ground. In that respect, we shall continue to pressure the government. This will not be just a bill and some words. We must have the means to attack the problem.
I am going to talk quickly about what this bill offers, since we are at third reading, and we have already supported it.
Bill C-452 would amend the Criminal Code in order to provide consecutive sentences for offences related to trafficking in persons. It would create a presumption regarding the exploitation of one person by another. It would also add circumstances that would be deemed to constitute exploitation. It would add the offence of trafficking in persons to the list of offences to which the forfeiture of proceeds of crime would apply.
Witnesses stressed the importance of the changes made in the Criminal Code. It was just as important to create a presumption and attack the problem of financial resources. The topic of consecutive sentences is always somewhat controversial, but it is something we can nevertheless support because we are talking about very serious crimes.
What is human trafficking, in broader terms? This is the RCMP's definition:
Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation or harbouring of persons for the purpose of exploitation (typically in the sex industry or for forced labour). Traffickers use various methods to maintain control over their victims, including force, sexual assault, threats of violence and physical or emotional abuse.
I raised this question with the bill’s sponsor. It is important to address sexual exploitation, but forced labour is also a very serious factor. While it may be more serious abroad, the problem does exist in Canada.
In committee, therefore, it was important for me to emphasize that the problem exists here. Fortunately, this bill covers trafficking in people who do forced labour. In some cases, this involves domestic work. In committee, the testimony of the victims was very touching. It was highly emotional. It was obvious that many people were affected.
When listening to anyone who has been a kidnapping victim speak about their experience, no one can remain unmoved by their story. Once again, I wish to say how much I admire the victims who are willing to talk about it. It is important to do so, to look for help and to discuss the problem so that we can be aware of the severity of the problem and the need to take action. Everyone, including ordinary people and law enforcement agencies, needs to know that parliamentarians are there to support and listen to them.
As for human trafficking, the RCMP estimates that some 600 women and children enter Canada each year through trafficking for sexual exploitation and that this figure increases to 800 when those who enter illegally for other forms of forced labour are included. Once again, I wish to point out that there are two aspects to human trafficking.
Most of the time, the victims are, of course, exploited women. What is even worse in my view is the fact that many of them are aboriginal women. There is a real problem here. The government has been mightily criticized because of the shortage of resources for aboriginal communities. This is yet another sign that there are problems. We would therefore like the government to work harder and to provide the resources needed to address this scourge.
Needless to say, it is essential to work together with the first nations, Inuit and Métis to attack the problem proactively and combat human trafficking. Unfortunately, when funding for these communities is cut, things only become worse.
As I was saying, we tend to think that human trafficking only affects foreign countries and that it cannot possibly exist in a country as developed as Canada. Yet it does. In my riding of Brossard—La Prairie I met people from the bar association in Longueil who explained to me clearly that in some areas, like the DIX30 complex, the problem—this scourge—existed. This demonstrates just how real it is. That is why I am proud to support this bill so that the problem can be addressed.
The reason I mentioned my own riding is that we all, as parliamentarians, need to realize that we are surrounded by these problems. We need to open our eyes and talk about them. That is why I take a great deal of pride today in speaking about these issues and being willing to address them.
I briefly mentioned resources. Providing resources is very important. We need a plan that will mobilize the police and that will also provide them with the resources they need to truly attack this problem. I said that the bill was a step in the right direction, but the people who work in the field need resources.
Unfortunately, it is important to look at what is actually happening. Once again, I will take an example from my riding. I learned that there was an Eclipse squad, a team of 10 to 15 police officers from several municipalities working specifically to combat street gangs, and all of this exploitation and human trafficking. Surprisingly, however, the federal government eliminated funding for the project. This was on April 1, 2013. What they told me in the field was that these people had to return to their offices. They had to walk away from all the expertise they had built up. They now need to work on their own on certain cases without the benefit of all the expertise that had been available.
It is all very well to have a bill that is moving in this direction, but resources are also needed. The government is clearly not headed in the right direction. It is hypocritical for the government to claim it is fighting and introducing bills when there is no evidence of funding to do the work. I gave the example of a group that was working in my riding. I find it deplorable.
I would like to conclude by saying that human trafficking is an important matter.
We in the NDP do not believe that this is a partisan issue. That is why we are proud to support the bill to tackle this scourge.
Private Members' Business
June 18th, 2013 / 6:40 p.m.
Lise St-Denis Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC
Mr. Speaker, the introduction of the human trafficking bill, which the Liberal Party supports, calls the attention of the House to the darkest aspects of the human soul. All over the world, women, children and men are deprived of their freedom and dignity. Examples of mistreatment and abuse abound in many countries, on every continent.
It is almost impossible to restrict human trafficking within a country, a city or a community. Children are forced to become soldiers in regional conflicts. Women are sexually exploited in the western world. Men toil in farming operations in the new world and the old. We powerlessly witness the proliferation of the most diverse forms of exploitation.
In earlier centuries, the slave trade was the bedrock of colonial settlement. From Santo Domingo to Haiti to Senegal to the Andean countries to the confines of Asia, this form of human exploitation prospered everywhere. We wrongly believed that eliminating the major slave trade networks from the colonial period had for all practical purposes disappeared.
However, the world today still appears to be heavily imbued with the stench of neocolonialism, in which servitude plays a fundamental role in the underpinnings of our economies.
Nowadays, efforts are being made to identify the contours of these new exploitation networks that have become an essential component of our production, distribution and consumption systems.
Children toiling on machines to produce consumer goods can be counted in the thousands. Countless women sell their bodies working for pimps. Thousands of exploited men work on tenant farms and unsanitary farms until they reach exhaustion.
All these products and services can be used to bind, exploit, abuse and discriminate. All these girls and women are raped and held against their will because of power relationships and the absence of justice.
A new bill has been added to the order paper to take away some of the latitude available to exploiters and abusers. Bill C-452 asks a fundamental question about trafficking in persons: what can be done to curb a growing phenomenon that has been taking the most unexpected forms?
By becoming more interdependent, the world can work to further advance the principles that underpin democratic regimes on the one hand, while on the other hand, it allows the proliferation of criminal systems for exploiting people. Canada's role in protecting people has been made increasingly complex as a result of the new human mobility provided by modern modes of transportation.
How can children be protected from compulsory service in armed conflicts? To be sure, concerted action has been taken by the nations of the world, at the instigation of exemplary people like General Roméo Dallaire who urge us to draw up international conventions and treaties.
Something must also be done to address the exploitation of stateless people who should have real access to international labour organizations.
Sexually exploited women should not simply be sent back, beyond our borders, but rather given our protection and the protection of other nations of the free world.
However, while Canada's ratification of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is a step in the right direction, it must be based on criminal penalties designed to restrict the latitude of all kinds of abusers and exploiters.
This bill and its aims are certainly compelling.
We are attentive to the needs of the victims of this system of exploitation, and we believe that the elected members of this House are all aware of the social havoc wrought by human trafficking.
In another age, abolitionist legislation could have a definite effect. The centuries-long slavery of the colonialists of the past no longer exists, but has transformed itself into a modern form that is insidious and far-reaching.
We are wholeheartedly behind this bill and its goal of eliminating trafficking in children, women and men. We support this battle for freedom and dignity. However, given the scale of the phenomenon and its highly sinister ramifications, we are bound to note the limitations of our judicial intervention.
Mankind now has the financial and technical resources to eliminate human trafficking, but does it have the necessary awareness and empathy to do so?
The debate generated here by these amendments to the Criminal Code necessarily goes beyond the boundaries of parliamentary life. This is a step in the right direction. However, are the provisions for consecutive sentences contained in this bill, and the presumption of guilt established by living with an exploited person contrary to the principle this bill seeks to defend?
In Canada, in recent years, we have unfortunately seen significant restrictions placed on judicial discretion with respect to sentencing under the Criminal Code.
How can we reconcile the elimination of human trafficking systems with respect for the fundamental rights entrenched in the Canadian charter? How can we reconcile the new criminal restrictions on present-day servitude and slavery with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
We face a tremendous challenge: that of aligning our domestic legislation with the great humanist principles that guide our society. We can only be inspired by our colleague’s initiative, as she searches with us for a solution to this scourge. We believe that the elimination of these practices demands further political action along the lines of what we find in the form of this bill.
Federal policy in this area is unequivocal with respect to the educational effort required here and abroad in order to change these appalling behaviours. An inventory of the various types of human trafficking in Canada is contained in a report published in 2010 that leaves no doubt about the dimensions of modern slavery and the forms it takes.
We can only embrace this 21st-century challenge of restoring to millions of individuals a place and the resources to live their lives in dignity and respect. We must therefore be vigilant in everything we do that has an impact on the victims of human trafficking. Our refugee protection policies, our foreign policy, our financial investments and our criminal justice system are all things that can definitely contribute to the elimination of human trafficking.
I repeat: the Liberal Party will support this bill.
Private Members' Business
June 18th, 2013 / 6:50 p.m.
Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB
Mr. Speaker, I would very much like to again thank the member for Ahuntsic for Bill C-452. It is a very important bill. We have talked tonight about the importance of the bill, including the consecutive sentencing and the things in the bill that would enhance the Criminal Code here in our country. That is very important. Our government, on this side of the House, is supporting this bill.
I would like to comment on some of the other comments that have been put forth in this House.
Just a week ago I led the Canadian delegation against human trafficking to Ukraine, which was hosting a meeting on human trafficking, where 52 countries attended. As I was sitting there, each country's representatives were talking about what happens to the victims of human trafficking who are pushed into brothels. The member for Ahuntsic spoke very eloquently about what happened to the girls, young women and young men who are forced into those brothels. For one moment, parliamentarians and people from non-governmental organizations from all across the nations were sitting together and talking about what we all know.
Up on the screen came the gateways and routes that the human traffickers use with their victims. They were all over the map. In Canada the traffickers use certain routes where they send their victims, who go through their own private hell.
What a lot of people do not know is that the traffickers target young people under 18 years of age. Why? It is because they are easy to manipulate and scare and control, and they are afraid and ashamed. As soon as they have serviced one man, they are afraid and ashamed, and the predators use that so that they can manipulate and coerce the girls.
A victim brings in between $250,000 and $260,000 per year to the predator. That is really a lot of money. If they have one victim it is one thing, but many of the predators have a lot of victims whom they traffic across this country.
For one moment in this Parliament tonight, I would like members to imagine their own daughter or grandchild and how they relate to them, or how members of the community listening to this telecast tonight relate to their whole families. These are children who watched Sesame Street as young children. These are children who give hugs when they go to bed at night. Then they become beautiful young girls and beautiful young boys, and that is when they are targeted.
I want all parliamentarians to know how predators work. The predators approach their victims in a very friendly manner and get their trust. Their objective is to get the victims' trust so that they can start influencing them. Sometimes it is young men or women who give the kids anything they want. It can be friendship. It can be parties. It can sometimes be drugs. It can be a lot of things, but the objective is to get them away from their support systems. Those support systems can be schools, families, friends or sports teams. They want to get them away and separate them from their support systems. Once they get them away, they persuade them to give them their identification, which can be drivers licences, charge cards or other things.
If parliamentarians think it cannot happen to the girl next door or to their own families, they would be mistaken. Hundreds of young girls have shared with me the terrible experience they have gone through, and to this day they have not told their parents.
It marks the victims forever. A lot of these girls never really get over it, but they do grow and become rehabilitated to a degree, and they do a lot to help others who are in the same predicament.
Therefore, when we talk about Bill C-452 tonight, let us put a face to the real people it would affect, the real people who have to live with it day to day, the real people who tonight are suffering not 10 minutes from Parliament Hill. We know of the very well-known case here in Ottawa with Mrs. Emerson, and there are other cases in Ottawa. The victims were manipulated. As parliamentarians, we have the wherewithal to take up the torch and stop this horrendous crime.
In Ukraine, 52 countries said they had the ability to stop human trafficking and they would do it.
As I was sitting in Kiev, Ukraine, there came an email from Calgary, Alberta. The email indicated that Staff Sergeant Rutledge and the Calgary police had taken down a trafficking ring and rescued some kids. I stopped the meeting and I read the email to the people in attendance. There was not a dry eye in the place. These high-profile, high-level conference people knew what this was all about. I told them that was the reason we were in Kiev that day, and I say to members tonight that it is the reason we are here in Parliament tonight working together as parliamentarians to stop this horrendous crime.
Private Members' Business
March 1st, 2013 / 1:35 p.m.
Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-452 at second reading, in anticipation that it will pass and go to committee. It has the support of the Liberal Party to go to committee stage. The idea of having a discussion and hearing representations, possibly from different stakeholders coming before committee, we see as a positive thing. I trust and hope that the member from the Bloc Party will be receptive to amendments, because the issue needs to be addressed.
Slavery, exploitation or human trafficking needs to be put into a couple of different perspectives. One is locally, here in Canada. Also, we do have a responsibility, on the world front, to demonstrate leadership and address the broader issue of exploitation and the trafficking that occurs worldwide.
Most people would probably be surprised to know there are more people who are slaves today than there have been in the history of the world. It costs a lot less today to purchase a slave in many different countries than it did 150 or 200 years ago. There is a need for us to address the issue of slavery and human trafficking.
When I think of the stories I have heard over the last number of years, it is horrific what individuals have had to go through in order to survive. It is not to point to any particular country in the world, but we should all be reflecting on our own countries.
Earlier we were talking about the aboriginal community, our first nations. Many thoughts came through my mind when the member was talking about the first nations. It is not necessarily the most exploited community worldwide. I do not know all the statistics on the province of Manitoba and our country, but I know there is a real issue with exploitation of many of our children in our communities. These are not necessarily individuals who have been brought in from outside of Canada.
We need to get a better understanding as to why that exploitation happens. What is the environment we have created in many of our communities that allows our children to be exploited to the degree they are? It sickens me to see the number of young children, ages 8, 10, 12, who are being trapped in a situation where ultimately they are being used for the sex trade or to sell drugs or in gangs. A lot of that is done through exploitation.
We could talk quite a bit about that particular issue, but I want to focus more attention on the trafficking that brings people from outside of Canada into Canada and the United States, with special focus on Canada.
We need to recognize that human trafficking is an industry that facilitates things such as prostitution. I suspect the sex trade is likely the number one reason that human trafficking is taking place in Canada to the degree it is today. We see individuals coming from countries, whether from Asia or Europe, to Canada, and quite often they are forced into prostitution or strip clubs and so forth. It is not by choice.
I remember meeting a family while I was in the Philippines a number of years ago. The father told me he was very concerned about Canada because of what he had heard about someone else and that now his daughter was being recruited. He referred to an ad that said, “Go to Canada and work in the hospitality industry”.
This particular young lady bought into the ad and applied, and then found out that it was more the entertainment aspect of the hospitality industry. They had a difficult time getting their daughter back to the Philippines.
At the end of the day, I believe a great deal of misinformation is out there trying to attract individuals to Canada to enter into what I believe is likely the greatest exploitation there is today in human trafficking—that is, our sex industry here in Canada.
There are also areas of concern with respect to slavery. Maybe it is not to the same degree as in the continent of Africa or other countries, but we still need to be concerned about it. We need to be aware of and concerned about the degree to which people are being trafficked into Canada and turned into servants.
One of the things that I take a great sense of pride in is a decision Canada made a number of years ago. Paul Martin, the former prime minister, said that not only do we want to have national museums in Ottawa but we also would like to see them elsewhere. Winnipeg was awarded the human rights museum, which is nearing completion. I hope it will allocate space to the whole issue of human trafficking, because that issue is very real and alive today. By doing that, hopefully, we will be able to better educate the population.
I started off by saying that there are more people in slavery today than there ever have been in the history of the world. That was, I must admit, a bit of a news flash even for me. I do not think that people realize the degree of exploitation.
I think that is the reason the member brought forward this legislation. We do have some concerns about it and our Liberal Party critic, the member for Mount Royal, has addressed this bill and will continue to follow it, but at the end of the day it will bring more public attention to the issue, so in that sense I see it as a positive.
Ultimately, human trafficking exists today because of money. It is profit that really drives it to the degree we have today. In fact, only drug trafficking brings in more money illegally. Of the top three, number one is drugs, and then it might be a toss-up between human trafficking and illegal arms. I suspect it is likely human trafficking.
We have to demonstrate through leadership, and Canada is in a great position. Our provincial governments have departments of labour to deal with labour exploitation if it is occurring. A member made reference to live-in caregivers; if live-in caregivers are being exploited, we should be encouraging them to contact the provincial departments of labour and we should be encouraging members of parliaments or MLAs to speak out and be there for them in a very real and tangible way.
I believe that at the end of the day, Canada is in a great position to not only do more to fight it at the local level but also to demonstrate leadership around the world.
Private Members' Business
March 1st, 2013 / 1:55 p.m.
Annick Papillon Québec, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak about such an important issue, particularly since I am a young woman working in politics. Bill C-452 seeks to amend the Criminal Code in order to provide consecutive sentences for offences related to procuring and trafficking in persons.
Bill C-452 also makes it possible to reverse the burden of proof for this type of offence. The accused would therefore be considered guilty until he proves beyond doubt that he is not exploiting others. Finally, this bill adds the offences of procuring and trafficking in persons to the list of offences to which the forfeiture of proceeds of crime apply.
Public Safety Canada accurately describes human trafficking as one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, often described as a modern day form of slavery. It is nothing less than that. The victims, who are mostly women and children, are deprived of their normal lives and compelled to provide their labour or sexual services, through a variety of coercive practices all for the direct profit of their perpetrators. Exploitation often occurs through intimidation, force, sexual assault and threats of violence to themselves or their families.
Human trafficking is a scourge that knows no borders and affects many countries, including Canada. We must not put on our rose-coloured glasses. People need to know that this is happening here, not far from where we live.
According to the Department of Justice, it is difficult to provide accurate estimates on the full extent of trafficking in persons within Canada because victims are reluctant to come forward, and understandably so. Often victims are afraid to testify against a procurer for fear of reprisal.
The RCMP described human trafficking as a growing phenomenon. Statistics are hard to ascertain; however, estimates indicate that between 1,500 and 2,200 people are trafficked from Canada into the United States every year. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police estimates that around 600 women and children are trafficked into Canada each year for the purposes of sexual exploitation, and that this number rises to 800 when broadened to include those trafficked into Canada for other forms of forced labour.
Contrary to popular belief, victims of trafficking in Canada are not just young women from abroad. They are often Canadians. Unfortunately, trafficking of Canadian men within the country is a problem not often covered by studies and statistics about human trafficking, especially trafficking related to the sex trade. People who come to Canada to flee conditions of abject poverty in their own country can end up in a work environment where they are taken advantage of. So, too, can women from all over Canada, many of them young women in crisis and socially or economically disadvantaged women who leave their homes to join the sex trade in major Canadian cities.
There are a number of reasons why a vulnerable woman may be convinced to become a prostitute. We do not have to identify them all here. But no matter the circumstances, trafficking of Canadian men and women is a reality in our country, and it affects the most disadvantaged communities in particular.
For that reason, although Bill C-452 is a step in the right direction, we need a more comprehensive response to the problem of human trafficking. We have to wage this battle with practical resources. To solve the problem of human trafficking, we need a plan that will mobilize human, police, electronic and material resources that goes far beyond a simple bill. We need political leadership.
Surveillance of strip clubs, massage parlours and Internet networks and the creation of a joint investigative unit are solutions that should be studied. Canada must implement a strategy that will not only attack the source of the problem, but will also help the victims and support the work of our police services.
Julie Miville-Dechêne, president of the Conseil du statut de la femme du Québec, also recommends establishing shelters for female trafficking victims. She said:
There are no shelters specifically for female trafficking victims. But their issues are very different from those of domestic abuse victims.
However, there could be some problems with the proposed consecutive sentencing and the presumption that reverses the burden of proof for procuring and human trafficking offences. The reversal of the burden of proof could be challenged on constitutional grounds. As my colleague, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, has said in the past, passing Bill C-452 does not guarantee that sentences will be much longer. The courts could potentially base their decision on the principle of proportionality, which means that sentences served consecutively may not end up being longer than if they had been served concurrently.
Despite these pitfalls, we will be supporting Bill C-452 so that it can be studied in committee. The problem is simply too serious to ignore. I have had the opportunity to meet with organizations in my riding that help boys, girls and women who are involved in prostitution. I would like to commend Projet intervention prostitution Québec and Maison de Marthe, which do excellent work with the limited resources available to them.
I want this government to take a comprehensive approach to the issues of prostitution and human trafficking. I would like it to address them here in the House, by amending the Criminal Code, as well as on the ground, where more help is needed for truly effective action. To me a comprehensive approach includes these simple bills that allow us to deal with other related issues.
This Conservative government has dismissed a bill as effective as Bill C-400 on social housing on more than one occasion. Organizations across Quebec are scrambling to get together and call on the Conservative government not to wait until the end of March 2014, but to renew the homelessness partnering strategy, the HPS, immediately.
This strategy provides a solution to associated problems and can help us take a comprehensive approach to this issue. It is important. The government must renew funding for the HPS immediately, for example, by adding an extra $50 million for Quebec. I know that my colleagues agree with this idea because it is an excellent decision. It is simple. We are talking peanuts here. Compared to all the F-35s and ships that will cost billions, $50 million is nothing.
The government is slowly destroying our social safety net, which would help us take a much more sensible and thoughtful approach to this problem we are facing.
I heard my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. Movies can sometimes have a huge impact on us. The movie that hit me the most was Human Trafficking, which came out in 2005 or 2006. This movie shows us how international the problems of human trafficking and prostitution are.
It is so insidious and pervasive that we must be aware. Who knows, we may have crossed paths with people who are experiencing these problems, in downtown areas, for example. We cannot be indifferent to what they are going through. My heart goes out to them, which is why I support Bill C-452. That said, I think we must do more, because small, simple actions could help us take a broader and more sensible approach.
Private Members' Business
March 1st, 2013 / 2:05 p.m.
Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-452, which seeks to address the issue of human trafficking. I have already spoken several times about different aspects of this issue.
For example, in April, I spoke in favour of Bill C-310 to combat human trafficking in Canada and abroad. Then, in October, I spoke about Bill C-4, which seeks to combat the irregular arrival of refugee groups. At that time, I spoke out against the government's approach, which risks unduly punishing legitimate refugees rather than going after traffickers.
The issue of human trafficking is very broad and takes many forms. It is very important for Parliament to address the various forms of slavery because I firmly believe that the state has a duty to protect the most vulnerable members of society.
I am pleased to support Bill C-452, which amends the Criminal Code in order to provide consecutive sentences for offences related to procuring and trafficking in persons. It also creates a presumption regarding the exploitation of one person by another and adds circumstances that are deemed to constitute exploitation. Finally, it adds the offences of procuring and trafficking in persons to the list of offences to which the forfeiture of proceeds of crime apply.
I am pleased to support this bill because, first, instead of punishing victims of human trafficking, it seeks to punish procurers and traffickers. I would like to commend my colleague for introducing this bill because she really took the time to consult the community and get the primary stakeholders in the field involved.
I would like to mention some groups that support the principle of the bill. They are: the Council on the Status of Women, the Comité d'action contre la traite humaine interne et internationale, the Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale, the Regroupement des centres d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel, Concertation-Femme, Concertation des luttes contre l'exploitation sexuelle, the Association québécoise Plaidoyer-Victimes, the Collectif de l'Outaouais contre l'exploitation sexuelle, the diocèse de l'Outaouais de la condition des femmes and Maison de Marthe. It is important to consult experts and the community stakeholders affected by this issue.
In order to help hon. members grasp the scope of this problem, I would like to quote some excerpts from a recent RCMP report on this issue:
Recent convictions of human trafficking have mostly involved victims who are citizens and/or permanent residents of Canada trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation has been mostly associated with organized prostitution occurring discreetly behind fronts, like escort agencies and residential brothels.
...foreign national sex workers who engage illegally in the sex trade are vulnerable to being exploited and trafficked.
Organized crime networks with Eastern European links have been involved in the organized entry of women from former Soviet States into Canada for employment in escort services in the Greater Toronto Area and possibly in massage and escort services in the Montreal area. These groups have demonstrated transnational capabilities and significant associations with convicted human traffickers in the Czech Republic, Germany, Belarus, and Israel.
Some convicted offenders of domestic human trafficking were found to be affiliated to street gangs known to law enforcement for their pimping culture.
[Finally, we note that] [s]ignificant human trafficking indicators were identified in some cases involving foreign national domestic workers who were smuggled into Canada by their employers. These live-in domestic workers were controlled, threatened, underpaid, and forced to work by their employers.
There is no question that the violence associated with this type of trafficking mainly affects women and girls, and therefore children. In 98% of the cases, the victims of sexual exploitation are women.
I want to point out that aboriginal women are overrepresented among victims. As I explained earlier, this is a worldwide phenomenon that represents a lot of money. According to the UN, this crime reportedly brings in $32 billion a year for organized crime groups.
Since we are talking about sexual exploitation, I want to mention the controversial comments made by Tom Flanagan that were reported in the news this week. Tom Flanagan is a former advisor and mentor to the Prime Minister. This week he said that looking at child pornography does not hurt anyone. This libertarian said:
What’s wrong with child pornography—in the sense that it’s just pictures?...I do have some grave doubts about putting people in jail because of their taste in pictures.
Although he later apologized, these uninformed comments are quite shocking coming from someone so educated and with so much influence. It is shameful. For someone to look at child pornography, the child pornography must first be produced, which means that children suffer and become victims of abuse.
As Elizabeth Cannon, the president of the University of Calgary, said, “...child pornography is not a victimless crime. All aspects of this horrific crime involve the exploitation of children.”
I know that the Prime Minister has condemned Tom Flanagan's shameful comments about victims of child pornography. But the Prime Minister has been surrounding himself with some rather unsavoury people, which would lead us to believe that he is the one who is lacking judgment. In addition to Tom Flanagan, who trivialized child sexual exploitation, there is Arthur Porter, the fraudster involved in the McGill University Health Centre scandal who was appointed by the Prime Minister to the Security Intelligence Review Committee. There is also Bruce Carson, a former member of the Prime Minister's inner circle who is now facing charges of influence peddling. And, of course, there is Senator Brazeau, who was appointed to the Senate even though there were many complaints of misconduct against him, and he has now been charged for assaulting a woman.
So it does not mean much to me when government members criticize opposition members for being too soft on criminals. They should start by taking a look at their own ranks. But I digress. I will now get back to talking about the content of the bill.
As I said at the beginning, this bill is a step in the right direction. However, we need to address the issue of human trafficking with a far more ambitious plan that mobilizes human, police, electronic and material resources and goes far beyond a simple bill. I would like to see a comprehensive program that addresses the root of the problem, helps victims and supports the work of law enforcement agencies. I would like to see this bill studied in detail in committee, so that we can specifically look at whether it is constitutional to reverse the burden of proof in relation to the presumption regarding the exploitation of a person.
The other problem with this bill is that it provides for consecutive sentences for offences of procuring and human trafficking. That is the key measure in this bill. It may be struck down by the courts. The Supreme Court of Canada often cites the principle of proportionality in sentencing. For example, the bill provides that a pimp who assaults and exploits a woman would receive consecutive sentences. But even if we pass this measure, the courts may adjust the sentences for each offence in order to comply with the principle of proportionality. The punishment must fit the crime.
Once again, I would like to say that I support the content and principle of the bill, but I would like to hear from experts in committee so that they can provide us with constructive proposals.
The Criminal Code
Private Members' Business
January 29th, 2013 / 5:30 p.m.
Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC
moved that Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, after a number of years of work and consultation, it is a great honour for me to introduce in the House Bill C-452, which seeks to help victims of human trafficking obtain justice in an environment in which they are better protected.
This bill also seeks to help the police officers and prosecutors who are working to combat this new form of slavery—let us say it—get the tools they need to lay charges and ensure that criminals are given sentences that reflect the seriousness of their crimes.
I would like to thank the individuals and groups who worked with me to put this bill together, including police officers from the SPVM morality branch and child sexual exploitation unit, criminal lawyers from the Barreau du Québec and women's and human trafficking victims' advocacy groups, such as the Comité d'action contre la traite humaine interne et internationale, Afeas, the Regroupement québécois des centres d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel, Concertation-Femme, Concertation des luttes contre l'exploitation sexuelle, the Association québécoise Plaidoyer-Victimes and Maison de Marthe. These groups were very involved in the drafting of this bill.
I would also like to thank everyone else who has supported this bill, namely the Collectif de l'Outaouais contre l'exploitation sexuelle, the diocèse de l'Outaouais de la condition des femmes and, of course, the Conseil du statut de la femme du Québec.
Before introducing the bill, I would like to quickly describe human trafficking in Canada. Unfortunately, it is a rather significant problem in Canada and also in Quebec.
There is no question that, in Canada, an estimated 80% to 90% of the victims of trafficking are destined for the sex trade. There are also victims exploited for forced labour in Canada. This is quite atypical, but it does exist nevertheless.
Canada is unfortunately considered to be a country of recruitment, destination and transit, transit to the United States in particular. The most popular cities are Fort Lauderdale, Miami, New York and Las Vegas, as you can imagine. Canada is also considered a tourist destination: not just the usual tourism, but also sex tourism.
Contrary to what one might think, this sort of thing does not happen only in developing countries. Criminal Intelligence Service Canada indicates in its 2001 report that, in Canada, the average age of entry into prostitution is 14. In Canada, the majority of victims of trafficking are women between the ages of 12 and 25.
According to 2004 figures from the U.S. State Department, every year an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 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. 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, unfortunately, street gangs.
Girls recruited in Atlantic Canada can wind up in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta or British Columbia, and vice versa. They are on the move. That is typical of human trafficking. Although this odious trade is dominated by organized crime, street gangs have become new players in recent years. The Montreal police service has declared human trafficking to be one of its priorities in the fight against crime.
It is thought that since the end of the 1990s, street gang members have transitioned from small-time recruiters to high-level pimps, specializing in child prostitution of young girls, mostly between the ages of 11 to 25. A girl can bring in around $280,000 a year, depending on her looks and age. Twenty girls could bring in around $6 million. That is a lot of money.
This is a business with little risk and is inexpensive to manage. Most of these guys say that they just have to beat, rape or torture the girl or give her some drugs and she will go to the meeting on her own. As it stands right now, the punishments are insignificant. For example, a pimp in Peel region exploited, tortured and raped a 15-year-old girl for two years. This earned him about $360,000 a year and he was sentenced to three years.
This bill would bring justice to the victims and make it easier for police officers and prosecutors. What does the bill do? Many prosecutors and police officers I spoke to told me that, in general, human trafficking was seen as an international phenomenon and that people were trafficked either from Canada to other countries or from other countries to Canada. Unfortunately, the Criminal Code is misinterpreted.
This misconception is gradually disappearing, but there are still some people who believe it. Young people from the regions of Quebec or from aboriginal reserves across Canada are unfortunately ending up in trafficking rings that bring them to large Canadian cities and tourist areas such as Niagara Falls or Montreal during the Grand Prix.
Domestic trafficking definitely happens in Canada. In my opinion, it accounts for a significant proportion of criminal activity in Canada. Victims of this type of human trafficking are between 14 and 25 years of age. The bill before us improves subsection 279.01(1) by making it clear that human trafficking is not only an international phenomenon, but also a domestic one. I have added the phrase, “Every person who, in a domestic or international context, recruits, transports...” This clarification will ensure that individuals, police officers and prosecutors understand exactly what that section means.
The current section 279.04 includes provisions on trafficking in organs and forced labour. As we all know, most human trafficking is for purposes of sexual exploitation, and as such, I added subsection 279.04(1.1), which is specifically about sexual exploitation. This definition, if I can call it that, is drawn from the Palermo protocol on human trafficking and international crime, which Canada ratified on May 13, 2002. This addition addresses all aspects of sexual exploitation, thereby enabling Canada to fulfill its Palermo protocol commitment.
On another note, human trafficking and procuring offences are often associated with other violent crimes. However, even when several charges are associated with a particular incident, traffickers often get away with short sentences because they are served concurrently. Unfortunately, sentences for human trafficking are softer than sentences for drug trafficking.
This is despite the fact that these people, whom I would call slavers, commit very serious crimes. Victims are tortured, confined, raped, forced into prostitution and so on. It is important to take all of the factors related to an incident into account. This bill would ensure that sentences for human trafficking or procuring and associated crimes are served consecutively.
The other problem that police officers and prosecutors have raised is their ability to help or persuade a victim to testify. Those practising in this area of the law often find that victims do not want to testify. Why? Because they are experiencing severe post-traumatic stress and are, quite naturally, afraid of being victimized. Many groups that work with these victims have told me that the victim should no longer have to bear the burden of proof.
Subsection 212(3) of the current Criminal Code already includes the notion of reversal of the burden of proof in cases of procuring. The same reversal of the burden of proof for the offence of trafficking was therefore added to this bill in subclause 279.01(3).
Therefore, as soon as the police have enough proof to lay charges, they will not necessarily need a victim's testimony. The reversal of the burden of proof exists for procuring. I believe that it should simply also be applied to human trafficking.
My favourite part of this bill deals with the forfeiture of proceeds of crime. Unfortunately, it is well known in the policing world that human trafficking is very profitable. It is profitable because a girl can bring in a lot of money for a pimp and it is highly unlikely that she will file a complaint against him. The pimp does not need to manage anything or make large purchases to run the business. So the pimp makes a lot of money.
Currently, subsection 462.37(2.02), which deals with forfeiture of proceeds of crime, allows for criminally obtained goods to be seized in cases of criminal organization offences punishable by five or more years of imprisonment and offences under section 5, 6 or 7 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
I feel that human trafficking and procuring offences should also be covered by this section. This bill adds those two provisions to section 462.37.
To conclude, I would like to ask my colleagues to do something meaningful for victims of human trafficking. We need to remember that we do not need to go to Thailand to see children as young as 12, 13 or 14 in this business. And, unfortunately, we cannot forget that adults are victims of this business as well. The majority of the victims of this business—if we can call it that—are women, young girls and children. I feel it is more a form of slavery. I believe that we need to rise above partisan politics on this issue. It is our duty to strengthen the human trafficking provisions of the Criminal Code.
I would like to thank the members, and I ask them to support this bill in the name of justice and, above all, in the name of humanity.
The Criminal Code
Private Members' Business
January 29th, 2013 / 5:50 p.m.
Kerry-Lynne Findlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the second reading debate on Bill C-452, an act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons). I believe the bill addresses a matter of utmost importance: the criminal justice system must respond effectively to the crime of human trafficking.
Bill C-452 seeks to achieve the important goal of strengthening the criminal justice system's response to this heinous crime. Bill C-452's predecessor, Bill C-612, an act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), also sponsored by the member of Parliament for Ahuntsic, proposed similar amendments but died on the order paper at second reading with the dissolution of Parliament in 2011.
The objectives of the bill merit support. Its proposals seek to hold offenders accountable, impose penalties that befit the severity of the crime and assist in ensuring that offenders do not reap the rewards of their wrongdoing. There are, however, some legal issues raised by the bill's proposals, which I have no doubt can be addressed through amendments.
Bill C-452 proposes to amend the Criminal Code in a number of different ways.
First, it seeks to require that sentences imposed for procuring, section 212, and trafficking offences, sections 279.01 to 279.03, be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed. It also seeks to clarify that the main trafficking offence, section 279.01, would apply regardless of whether the crime occurred in a domestic or international context.
Further, it would add a presumption that an accused is exploiting a trafficking victim if he or she is shown to be habitually in the company of that victim. It would modify the definition of exploitation for the purposes of the trafficking offences to include specified means.
It would also modify the provision that imposes a reverse onus for forfeiture of proceeds of crime for certain offences to apply to both procuring and trafficking offences. Finally, it would make a small technical amendment to the French definition of exploitation, in section 279.04.
One concern raised by certain proposals in the bill involves the Bedford case, which is currently before the Supreme Court of Canada. Bedford involves a Charter challenge to three prostitution-related Criminal Code provisions, including living on the avails of prostitution offence, paragraph 212.(1)(j), which is contained in the procuring provision, section 212. Any amendments impacting on this provision could compromise the government's defence of its constitutionality.
Another concern is that some of the proposals relate to issues already addressed by former Bill C-310, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), which was sponsored by the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul and came into force in June 2012.
Former Bill C-310 extended extraterritorial jurisdiction for all Criminal Code trafficking offences and clarified the definition of exploitation in section 279.04 by creating an interpretive tool to assist courts in determining whether a person has exploited another for the purposes of the Criminal Code trafficking offences.
New amendments that overlap with recently enacted reforms could cause confusion in the law, which may create inconsistency in enforcement and interpretation. These concerns and others could be addressed through amendments to ensure consistency and clarity in the law and manage legal risk.
The bottom line, however, is that we should all support any proposals that would strengthen our response to a crime that is as pernicious and heinous as human trafficking. This crime is commonly referred to as a form of modern-day slavery.
There has been some confusion, both within Canada and internationally, about the nature of this crime. Given the breadth of the issue, the complicated way in which it can be carried out and the diversity of both its victims and its perpetrators, it is no wonder that the global community has struggled with defining it.
However, I can say to Canadians that our government continues to take steps to improve our responses to this very destructive criminal activity.
On June 6, 2012, the government launched Canada's national action plan to combat human trafficking to enhance our ability to prevent this crime, better support victims and ensure that traffickers are held accountable. We are directing more than $25 million over four years to implement this plan.
Specifically, the national action plan emphasizes the need for awareness in vulnerable populations, support for victims, dedicated law enforcement efforts and for all Canadians to prevent the trafficking of individuals.
Among other things, the national action plan launched Canada's first integrated law enforcement team dedicated to combatting human trafficking; increased front-line training to identify and respond to human trafficking and enhance prevention in vulnerable communities; provides more support for victims of this crime, both Canadians and newcomers; and strengthens the coordination with domestic and international partners who contribute to Canada's efforts to combat human trafficking.
Further to this, Canada ratified the United Nations protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children. The protocol's definition of human trafficking is consistent with Canada's four specific trafficking in persons offences, which provide us with a comprehensive domestic definition of this horrible crime. There are also many other Criminal Code offences that can be used to address related conduct.
As I mentioned, we have four trafficking-specific offences in our Criminal Code. The main offence of trafficking in persons, section 279.01, protects all persons by prohibiting the recruitment, transportation or harbouring of a person for the purposes of exploitation.
The child trafficking offence, section 279.011, is the same as the main trafficking offence, with the exception that it imposes mandatory minimum penalties for trafficking in children. It was enacted by another bill sponsored by the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul, former Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years), which came into force in June 2010.
I noticed that my colleague from the Bloc, who was speaking, mentioned a person under the age of 12. This unfortunately is something that does touch our children.
The two other trafficking-specific offences prohibit receiving a material benefit from the trafficking of a person and withholding or destroying documents in order to facilitate the trafficking of a person, sections 279.02 and 279.03. The Criminal Code also defines exploitation for the purposes of these offences in section 279.04.
Bill C-452 would add heavier penalties to this important group of offences by requiring the imposition of consecutive sentences for engaging in this type of reprehensible conduct. No one would disagree that penalties for this type of offence should be severe.
Bill C-452 would also require a sentencing court to order the forfeiture of offenders' property unless they disprove that their property is the proceeds of crime. We must ensure that traffickers are not permitted to keep the financial benefits of their insidious exploitation of others.
Bill C-452 would also create a presumption that would assist prosecutors in proving the main trafficking offences by proving a related fact, that the accused lived with or was habitually in the company of an exploited person. This type of offence is very difficult to investigate and prosecute, especially given that witnesses are usually afraid to come forward due to threats and intimidation. In particular, such a presumption could assist in holding an accused accountable or the prosecution's case rests heavily on the fact that the accused was living with or habitually in the company of an exploited person. However, this proposal requires amendments to ensure that it applies equally to the child trafficking offence, and the language should also be consistent with other Criminal Code presumptions so that the proposed presumption achieves its goal. These amendments would assist in securing convictions, ensure that punishment is proportional to the severity of the crime and deprive offenders of their ill-gotten gains.
I believe these are goals we can all support.
Private Members' Business
January 29th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud and happy to rise in this House today to speak to Bill C-452, which was introduced by the member for Ahuntsic. This is not exactly her first try, but I hope it will be the last and that it will be successful, possibly just as successful as the work that was done by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul on Bill C-310. I had the pleasure of examining this bill, debating it and discussing it. It opened my eyes.
I come from Gatineau and we do not often hear about human trafficking there. I learned about it when we examined the bill from the member for Kildonan—St. Paul. This will sound strange, but I also met with the US ambassador-at-large, who came to speak to me about human trafficking and how this problem exists all over the world. I was then able to see that issues that we sometimes consider foreign are also going on right here at home. It can be quite ugly, even horrific, as described by the member for Ahuntsic, and it is often happening right under our noses and we have no idea.
As the justice critic for the official opposition, the New Democratic Party, I can say that we will support sending our colleague's Bill C-452 to committee. I have also taken note of some of the comments the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice made.
When it comes to justice issues, the NDP always wants to be reasonably satisfied with the laws that are passed and that have a significant impact in terms of justice. These laws must pass the tests they will be subject to when they go before the courts. As legislators, we must do our job properly.
I wish I had a little more time. Five minutes is not long enough to ask questions. We have to talk about reversing the burden of proof. In cases like this one, that is a real concern given the seriousness of the offences. Still, we have to see if this passes the test to which the courts usually subject such a reversal of the burden of proof. This always seems counter to the presumption of innocence that is central to criminal law in Canada.
It is also important to ensure that laws do not contradict one another. The parliamentary secretary alluded to that. Will the passage of Bill C-310 cause parts of Bill C-452 to be reviewed? Are some of these elements in conflict? At first glance, I do not think so. However, we will consider all of these issues during meetings of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights once we complete our two hours of debate here. From what I have seen, I do not think that our colleague will have any trouble getting her Bill C-452 referred to committee. That will give us the opportunity to hear from witnesses.
The fact that we have the right to debate these issues, to have our say and to hear from witnesses is extremely important. As I said, if not for Bill C-310, even people who watch television, who are well-informed and up to date, would not have had the opportunity to hear first-hand about what is going on, often under their very noses, what is happening to society's most vulnerable people, to women and children. The situation is appalling. It would serve us well to hear about other specific cases.
I was pleased to see that in my region, the Outaouais, there was a great deal of support in the community from women's groups. My colleague mentioned the Collectif de l'Outaouais contre l'exploitation and the diocèse de l'Outaouais, among others, but I know even more groups that have told me that they support this bill.
I will support any law that we can enact to eliminate these scourges. We have to do everything we can and use every tool we have to stop this.
The message I would like to send to my friends opposite is that it takes people to implement these great laws. If we have good laws against human trafficking, then we have to ensure that we have the police officers needed to do the work and to find these vile human traffickers. We must drag them before the courts and they must serve these sentences so that one day we will no longer have to adopt such laws. When we go home, we have to be able to say that we did a good job because the most vulnerable are not being sexually exploited, tortured or are afraid to speak out and stop being victimized. Would it not be wonderful to have a society where there are no victims?
In addition to these fine speeches and bills, we have to ensure that there is a coherent approach. If we say that we support the victims and that we want to be there to help them, then we have to provide assistance and services. If we say that we are against the criminals, then we have to ensure that we catch these damn criminals and that we have enough police officers. We can reverse the burden of proof all we want, but if the victim is terrified and will never report the horror experienced, all this work is in vain.
We have to realize that this is happening in our communities. It may be happening in a street not far from our own homes. It is scary, but it does happen. We have to have our eyes wide open and realize that a bill such as this one solves real problems. However, it takes more than that.