Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Attorney General of Canada v. Bedford and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Peter MacKay  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to, among other things,

(a) create an offence that prohibits purchasing sexual services or communicating in any place for that purpose;

(b) create an offence that prohibits receiving a material benefit that derived from the commission of an offence referred to in paragraph (a);

(c) create an offence that prohibits the advertisement of sexual services offered for sale and to authorize the courts to order the seizure of materials containing such advertisements and their removal from the Internet;

(d) modernize the offence that prohibits the procurement of persons for the purpose of prostitution;

(e) create an offence that prohibits communicating — for the purpose of selling sexual services — in a public place, or in any place open to public view, that is or is next to a school ground, playground or daycare centre;

(f) ensure consistency between prostitution offences and the existing human trafficking offences; and

(g) specify that, for the purposes of certain offences, a weapon includes any thing used, designed to be use or intended for use in binding or tying up a person against their will.

The enactment also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • Oct. 6, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • Sept. 29, 2014 Passed That Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Attorney General of Canada v. Bedford and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as amended, be concurred in at report stage.
  • Sept. 29, 2014 Failed That Bill C-36 be amended by deleting the long title.
  • Sept. 25, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Attorney General of Canada v. Bedford and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and that, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at report stage and on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.
  • June 16, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
  • June 12, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Attorney General of Canada v. Bedford and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and That, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I rise today, I am pleased to say that we are in third reading on Bill C-36, one of the most important bills this country has ever had in this Parliament. I will tell you why. It is because so many innocent victims are being lured into the sex trade under human trafficking. We have numerous cases all across this country.

Last Christmas, Canadians got a Christmas present. While they were busy packaging their presents, while they were busy doing things around the house, getting ready for Christmas preparations, the Supreme Court of Canada deemed all the laws around prostitution unconstitutional.

What happened after that? One wise thing the Supreme Court did was to give the government a year, until December 20 this year, to respond to that proclamation. Having done that, our government has put together Bill C-36. It is the first of its kind that Canada has ever seen. For the first time in Canadian history, those who buy sex will be brought to justice. It will be against the law to do that.

Second, the thing that is so unique about Bill C-36 is that there is help for the victims of human trafficking. Many in this Parliament do not understand human trafficking. They talk about prostitutes, the rights of others to set up shop and control a bunch of women, and young men now, in Canada, control and force them into the sex trade. It is the most devious, under-the-surface kind of crime that people now, finally, are starting to understand.

In this country right now it has been accepted that the buying of sex is just fine, because that is what women do. However, women do not want to service up to 40 men a night. Women do not want to be coerced into the sex trade. Women do not want to give their money to people who beat them if they do not. This is not what women want.

What women want in this country is to be safe. They want to be able to grow up. They want to be able to have a life they can be proud of, and grow and prosper like anybody else.

In this House, I have heard so many speeches, but what I need to tell my colleagues is that Bill C-36 has to be supported. It has to be supported because all of Canada is watching what is going on in this country right now. All of Canada, Canadians all across this country, have sent numerous emails to me, numerous petitions, numerous postcards, and what they have said is that they want their children to be safe. The majority of trafficked victims are underage, and we are finding that now. We know that now.

If members put human trafficking in a Google search, they would see how many human trafficking cases have come to the forefront, from coast to coast to coast across this country.

I have to tell my colleagues in the House what I have done with all those petitions, all those postcards and all those emails. I have categorized them. I know every single part of what is happening in this country, because of all the compilation we have done over 10 years. I know what the people are saying in each of the constituencies across this country.

I am going to be making sure that trafficked victims and their parents are very well aware in every constituency of what all the parliamentarians are saying and doing as far as it relates to Bill C-36.

There is no reason now to do archaic thinking. There is no reason now to say, “I am confused.” Quite frankly, that is a very stupid comment. It does not matter who they are or on what side of the House, right now, in this country, Bill C-36 is a bill that parliamentarians from all sides of the House should embrace.

As I said, for the first time in Canadian history, the buying of sex will be illegal. For the first time in Canadian history, there is significant money being put in to help the victims of human trafficking. For the first time in Canadian history, the advertising of sex, those big ads for fresh Asian girls, any size, any age, anything people want, will be illegal. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that it is not the girls putting that kind of advertisement in the newspaper. It is predators who are making between $260,000 to $280,000 per year, per victim.

In this Parliament, a mom, who members would know but I cannot name right now, came to see me because her 16-year-old daughter was trafficked. When I met her, she was a typical staffer, a typical person, well-dressed, well-educated, well-respected. She sat on my couch in my office with tears rolling down her face when she said, “Why don't the parliamentarians in this country stand up for the victims of human trafficking?”

I have heard some of the speeches in the House. They are all in Hansard and everyone knows what members are saying. Parliamentarians ought to know more than the average citizen about human trafficking. It is the right of every single young person to be safe in this country. I heard a speech the other day by a member who talked about how we are taking away the rights of a person to set up a brothel. Basically what the member said was that it is a woman's right to exploit other women. Meanwhile right in her riding there is a trafficking ring going through to the U.S. It has not hit the papers yet, but it will.

However, I am going to take that speech and I will personally put my feet in that constituency and get the parents and the trafficked victims together and tell them what their MP said and ask them what they think about that.

In Parliament it seems that all of us think that we are wonderful, learned people. We are here for one thing. We are here to serve the people of Canada. We are here to listen to what is going on in our country and everyone here knows about human trafficking. Some members on all sides of the House have really taken up the torch. There are members from the NDP, the Liberals and from our side who have taken up the torch. Unfortunately, many members and leaders have suppressed the voices of members who want to support Bill C-36.

Today is the last time I will have a chance to speak to the bill. Over summer, we came to Parliament to sit on the justice committee and we brought in the most dynamic people, the survivors. I say survivors, not victims, because these victims now have a voice. They have become the survivors and they are listening to everything that is happening in Parliament. Members should choose their words carefully and choose their vote carefully because their voices will go across. The voices of parents, grandparents, victims and organizations that take care of victims, my dear colleagues, are far stronger than anyone else who has a vested interest.

When we hear people saying this is a right to legalize prostitution; it is an industry. Members should shake their heads. It is not an industry and it is not what the elected people in this Parliament of Canada should be professing. They should not do that. If they dare to do it, I promise I am going to make sure I will go to every city, every town, every constituency and I will let their constituents know. They can decide whether they want to elect them to the Parliament of Canada with that kind of attitude.

We have to do something in this Parliament to suppress the human trafficking that is happening across this country.

All we have to do is talk about the victims. All we have to do is talk about what happens to them. Predators come on as the victim's friend to get their confidence and lure them. It can even be a family member. It can be a friend. It can be a woman. It is not just men.

I had one case very recently where a boyfriend said to this young girl, “We'll get married. I love you”. He was her knight in shining armour. What she did not know was that behind the scenes he was part of a little gang that were targeting young girls, getting their confidence, taking away all their support systems through their families, their schools, their churches, all their supports, my beloved colleagues, and he sold her. She serviced up to 40 men a night before we got her out of that ring.

This is something we cannot be silent about. This kind of crime has been below the radar screen for so many years here in Canada. Everybody talks about every other country but Canada. In Canada, predators are making between $250,000 to $280,000 a year off their victims. That is tax-free money. That is why they do it. Mostly, it is because they follow the cash.

Unfortunately, in this country, we have had films like Pretty Woman. We have had films glorifying prostitution. It is not prostitution; it is human trafficking. This is where people do not have a choice, where they are being targeted and are mostly underage victims. What happens is that these victims just give up after a while. They get post-traumatic stress. They sort of look to their predators because that is where they get their one meal a day. That is where they have some semblance of security. This is how they look at it. It is a very sick kind of crime in our nation.

If we look at the trafficking cases in Vancouver Island, the Nanaimo newspaper and the people who work with the trafficking victims say that this ring has been undisturbed for years. We know that.

In Ottawa, 10 minutes from Parliament Hill, we have had trafficking cases.

What is happening in this country, now, is that police officers are beginning to become schooled in human trafficking. Some police officers who used to think it was just part of a daily occurrence that they did not need to pay attention to, are starting to understand now that behind those young women and young boys on the street is a very sad story where they are being brutalized on a daily basis and huge money is being made off them.

In the country right now “herds of girls”, as they call them, are actually tattooed by the person who owns them.

Years ago, long before the Speaker and I came to Parliament, Wilberforce said that once you know, “you can never again say you did not know”. The other part of that is: what are you going to do about it?

Every parliamentarian in this Parliament knows that human trafficking is happening. Every parliamentarian knows that it is basically our young people. This is not about politics. This is about doing the right thing. This is about representing our constituencies so that our children, our young people, are safe and they are not targeted, because this trafficking has grown to epidemic proportions at this point in time.

We had a nanny in Ottawa who was caught up in human trafficking. They are people who are often in a position of trust, a position where they can have access.

It happens everywhere. It happens in our communities, in our schools, in our churches—everywhere—and the victims have been silent. They are silent no longer, and they will not be silent during the next election, no matter what happens on any side of the House.

Bill C-36 is one of the most important bills we have ever put through Parliament. It makes a statement about our country. When the bill goes through, parliamentarians, on all sides of this House, can say that we will not allow our children to be bought and sold in this country.

When one talks about the pornography and everything around human trafficking, that is a conditioning of a society. A 10-year-old boy wrote to me about being addicted to porn. I was interviewed at the National Post, and the next day the National Post stated that this parliamentarian did not know a 10-year-old who was addicted to porn. The parents read this and called the National Post, and said, “We're the parents. I'll tell you about what happened”.

They came to visit me in Ottawa. I met the little boy, and we found out that a whole school division, and other school divisions all across this country, had porn popping up on their computers. It was not because they wanted it, but because the system is set up in a way that porn inadvertently pops up at random. It has happened on everybody's computer. It is a type of conditioning, a type of acceptance.

We should not accept, in any way, shape, or form, the exploitation of our youth. We should not do that. However, let us be careful. The world is watching what we are doing as parliamentarians here in the Parliament of Canada, on all sides of the House. They all know. It is not a partisan thing.

We have talked about human trafficking, and I have to commend you, Mr. Speaker. You are a man of great honour and you have given much support for this human trafficking. You stood by me a long time ago, when I first introduced Bill C-268. I honour the set of standards you have for what you feel is good for Canada.

There are people on all sides of the House who have done that, but there are too many today who are resisting Bill C-36 and are making statements in this Parliament that they will live to regret.

I have been in Montreal a great deal. I have worked with the head of the vice squad there, Dominic Monchamp. I have worked with and rescued victims of trafficking around that area. I do not speak French. Two of my children speak French very well. I wish I did. I try. I love French. However, I have not had the time to speak it eloquently, like most of the people do here. However, I have done a lot of work, and it does not matter what language we have, people know. Some of the most courageous people have come from Montreal, in terms of the human trafficking initiative. They are amazing people. I want each parliamentarian here to be able to leave this place knowing that their lives made a difference in the life of someone who has no voice.

I look forward to the speeches, and I would implore members to get behind Bill C-36. It is the right thing to do. If they have anything to say, they will hear it again in the subsequent months. I will ensure that happens in each constituency that each one of us lives in.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her work on human trafficking. I encourage her to visit my riding. I could translate what she is saying because most people in my riding speak French. As an MP, I spend time with my constituents to make sure I am on the right track.

I have a few questions for my colleague opposite. She began her speech by saying that, for the first time in Canadian history, it will be against the law to buy sexual services. First, I would like her to tell me what is meant by sexual services, since no one—not the minister nor the committee members—will tell me. Second, how does the member explain the fact that her government refused to also make the sale of sexual services illegal?

There is a dichotomy in the Conservative rhetoric. Even my colleague from Ahuntsic, who was probably one of the biggest Conservative government supporters when it came to Bill C-36, said that she could not support the bill after the committee had finished its work. She introduced an amendment to make prostitution completely illegal because that is what this government wanted to do.

How does the member explain this dichotomy? In this context, why object to removing the criminal records of the victims, the survivors of prostitution?

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is quite simple. People are now discovering that when people in prostitution rings get arrested—I call them the victims—they are revictimized.

I will take the member to the case of Samantha. She was trafficked by her boyfriend and was arrested and re-arrested. In fact, statistics tell us that 60% of the women are arrested, as opposed to the johns who actually purchase sex, because the law has not passed yet. She was revictimized. She had two children at home. It did her no good.

Through Bill C-36, as it is right now, she would be counselled. She would be helped out of that dilemma, which is like a black hole in which the women lose everything. They lose their dignity, their confidence. They lose everything. That is why we should not be arresting the victims.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the hon. member that all members of the House are opposed to human trafficking, the exploitation of any Canadian, the exploitation of women. We are all pro-victim. We are not anti-victim, as the government likes to say.

The member alleged that an opposition member of Parliament in the House, who holds a different opinion from the member on some of this legislation, has a human trafficking ring in her riding, that I believe the member said is funnelling women to the U.S. She has alleged this. She also said that she intended, once this became public, to go to the member's riding to seek political advantage against the member as a result of this human trafficking ring that she alleges is occurring.

I would urge the member, if she is aware of this kind of criminal activity in anyone's riding, to report it to the police. I would urge that she approach the member to whom she referred to discuss this issue in a constructive way. If she cares about victims, which I am certain she does based on her long-standing work in the House on this issue, she should not try to seek political advantage on the backs of victims in this case. That is what she said in her own words that she intended to do. I would suggest that she try to help with the situation and work with the other members of the House, as opposed to trying to seize political advantage in some member's riding.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have to say categorically that it is the member opposite who is trying to twist the words. I know of many cases of human trafficking, and I have worked with the police. Nothing can be said publicly until they have all of the evidence and it comes to fruition.

When I came to Parliament, in 2004, we did not hear about human trafficking. Now we have cases all over the place. How does that happen? I heard a very good comment from the member on TV last night, and I admired him. He was admonishing a reporter who made an inappropriate comment. The member mentioned that he had twin daughters. I think we are all victim oriented, in a way, but we have to put our feet to the ground and support Bill C-36. Everyone will know the outcome of what every parliamentarian says about this bill.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

Lévis—Bellechasse
Québec

Conservative

Steven Blaney Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to my colleague, the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul. I have a great deal of respect for her because she is a passionate woman who tells it like it is. Because of her, I discovered something that I did not believe existed in Canada and that is modern slavery or human trafficking.

Perhaps the hon. member does not speak French, but a few years ago, she went to Quebec to speak out against human trafficking and make Quebeckers aware of this issue. I had an opportunity to be there with her. Today, I am very proud of that because I have seen her introduce a number of bills that would punish those who victimize the most vulnerable members of our society. Because of that, I have great respect for my colleague. What she is doing goes beyond party lines and has great historical significance for our country.

I had the opportunity to meet with groups that help victims of prostitution. I heard some heart-wrenching stories from young aboriginal people. Unfortunately, this is happening on our streets. That is why it is important to develop strategies to help victims of prostitution and human trafficking, who are exploited and stripped of their dignity. They need help breaking the cycle of dependence and constant violation of their dignity.

My question is very simple. Governments may put measures in place and organizations may be there to help, but as long as society feels it is acceptable to exploit people by choosing to ignore these issues, there will be a problem. This is then my question:

Does the member believe we can bring about a change of mentality, a paradigm shift, to raise awareness and make it criminal? It would be criminal to buy sex in this country, if this law is adopted. However, socially it is totally unacceptable to purchase sex from victims of exploitation. How does she feel with respect to that? As a society, we were successful at making impaired driving socially unacceptable. Can we do something about the purchasers of sex who are luring young victims?

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful to my colleague who has been supportive of this issue. Parliamentarians must take leadership in making this socially unacceptable. I will help any member on any side of the House who has it in their heart to support Bill C-36 for the good of Canada and the good of our children.

We have to stop being partisan. There are good people on all sides of this House. This bill is very important. We cannot mess around with it. I am paying attention and will move forward if I see other things happening. I know the victims. I know the police officers who work with them. I know the families who have to endure the aftermath of human trafficking. Parliamentarians on all sides of this House can rise up, in a non-partisan manner, to stop this terrible crime.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the debate surrounding Bill C-36 is really not that simple. Nevertheless, we can and should make it simpler, by focusing carefully. With that in mind, I would like to start by making certain things very clear.

Bill C-36 does not address the issue of human trafficking. The Bedford decision, handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada in December 2013, focused on three specific provisions of the Criminal Code, namely sections 210, 212 and 213. Those three sections of the Criminal Code are found in part VII, titled “Disorderly Houses, Gaming and Betting”. Human trafficking is not even covered in part VIII, titled “Offences Against the Person and Reputation”.

I wholeheartedly agree with the member for Kildonan—St. Paul when it comes to the issues regarding sexual exploitation and human trafficking. I even supported legislation in this area when it was being studied by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, since I was actually a member of that committee.

However, it is important to not confuse the issue. Yes, people—especially people who want to abolish prostitution in Canada—sometimes call on us to prohibit the purchase of such services. There is a certain logic behind that. I see where the government is headed. However, it is also important that they stop trying to fool us and stop pretending that they are fixing every problem on the planet. The government is following a certain logic by saying that if we prevent the sale of such services by making it an offence, then there will be no sexual exploitation or prostitution.

I would like to come back to the Bedford decision, which is important, because the Conservatives are claiming that Bill C-36 responds to the concerns raised in that case. Bill C-36 is an act to amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Attorney General of Canada v. Bedford and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. The Bedford case was about three prostitutes, or former prostitutes, who argued that the three provisions I mentioned earlier should be struck down. Those provisions were in part VII of the Criminal Code, under “Disorderly Houses, Gaming and Betting”, which criminalizes various prostitution-related activities.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the three prostitutes, or former prostitutes, were seeking a ruling declaring that three Criminal Code provisions—provisions that criminalize various prostitution-related activities—infringe on the rights guaranteed under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Section 210 of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to keep a common bawdy-house or being found in one. Section 212(1)(j) makes it an offence to live wholly or in part on the avails of prostitution of another person. Finally, section 213(1)(c) makes it an offence to communicate in public for the purpose of engaging in prostitution.

The three people involved argued that these restrictions on prostitution put the safety and lives of prostitutes at risk by preventing them from implementing certain safety measures that could protect them from violence, including hiring security guards or screening potential clients.

They also alleged that section 213 (1)(c) infringes on the freedom of expression guaranteed under section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that none of the provisions are saved under section 1. They won. The Supreme Court ruled in their favour.

Do not think that the Canadian government sat back and did nothing. It was quite the case and it took more than a year to hear it, present it, prove it, and so on and so forth. There was social evidence to consider.

The Supreme Court focused specifically on the subjects in question. At the end of the day, it found that the act of driving this activity underground put the lives of these people at risk. All those who support Bill C-36 call these people victims. In this context, the risk could not be justified by the clauses in question. The Supreme Court therefore decided to strike them down.

The Supreme Court found that this compromised the right guaranteed under section 7 of the charter. The court ruled that the restrictions increased all the risks to which the claimants expose themselves when they engage in prostitution, an activity that in and of itself is legal.

My heart ached when I heard the stories shared by some victims of human trafficking, which is covered by section 279 and subsequent sections in the Criminal Code. Police officers came to testify in committee and I asked them questions. Absolutely nothing prevented them from conducting the necessary investigations, finding the traffickers, arresting them and prosecuting them to the full extent of the Criminal Code. If we need longer sentences for human trafficking, then that is something to work on. In fact, that is being done with some of the bills introduced by the member opposite, which I fully support. That is the real problem.

Street prostitution, which is what we are discussing, perhaps started with human trafficking. We need to give resources to police officers. Instead, the government is choosing to lecture everyone. It is making cuts to police forces and border services, and it is asking the various police forces to reduce their budget, but this comes at a high cost to our country. The government is not making any sense.

All of the police officers told me that the tools were there. The only tool they thought they could use was the power to give an exemption. That is what they do. We cannot be blind or stupid here. They stopped short of saying what constitutes prostitution as a whole. Even I do not know what it means. Are we talking about the sale of sexual services? Is it the act itself? Does it include escort agencies? Strip clubs? I have so many questions that they did not want to answer.

I heard the member opposite say that she took note of what we were saying. I am taking note of what the government is or is not doing. I am taking note of the fact that statistics were hidden from us for months. The government did not want to tell us what Canadians thought about this issue, even though Canadians themselves paid for the survey. I am taking note of the fact that, according to the minister, a consultation was conducted on the Internet. However, we do not know how many people responded. A hundred? Two hundred? I am also taking note of the fact that most of the people the minister had more personal consultations with felt the same way he did.

That is understandable; however, we are talking about the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and an unequivocal decision by the Supreme Court that clearly explains the situation and what it entails. Parliament was not given carte blanche and told that it had a year to introduce Bill C-36 or the court would do it for us.

That is not at all what the Supreme Court said. The court stated that the government had a year to introduce a bill, if it so wished, but that the bill must comply with the decision that was handed down. In other words, if the life of even one person were endangered, that would be enough to conclude that the proposed provisions are illegal.

Numerous experts told us that there was a problem. The minister himself came to tell us that he expected his bill would be brought before the Supreme Court. I have lost count of the number of times I asked the minister if it would not make more sense to refer Bill C-36 to the Supreme Court. Given what even the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul said, we cannot risk making a mistake and then realizing, a few years down the road, that we have created a quagmire.

The Manitoba minister came to tell us that he would not enforce the legislation this way. We create laws, but it is the provinces and territories and the police that then enforce them. How will they do that?

A whole variety of people came to talk to us. There were members of feminist groups and police officers. They came from all walks of life. Their problems are different, and that is understandable. Time and again we heard about the Nordic model, and I thought it would be discussed here. I think that most of the groups I spoke to before Bill C-36 was introduced expected that the Nordic model would be proposed. Many think that it is the solution to the issue of prostitution and that it has an impact on human trafficking.

I want to believe that. That is what everyone was telling us. It was unanimous. However, we cannot forget that the government is aiming to completely eradicate prostitution one day. While I hope that does happen, I also wish the government good luck. If that is what the government wants to do, I would suggest that it put its money where its mouth is.

In other words, the government is going to have to put some money toward this because it has been proven, even by those who support Bill C-36, that there are two main reasons why people enter this profession. I agree with my colleague that more than three-quarters of these people, the vast majority, do not enter it willingly and do not really consent to it. The two main problems are poverty and drug addiction.

It is inconceivable that a person starving on the streets is going to jump for joy and say she is getting out of prostitution because of Bill C-36. She is not going to do that. She will not even know that the bill exists. Only the Conservatives believe that a criminal commits a crime with the Criminal Code close at hand. For goodness' sake, that is not what happens.

I am saying that the Conservatives do not have the courage of their convictions. I would like to trust them, but they voted against an amendment that would have made all prostitution illegal and a criminal offence. I told my colleague from Ahuntsic that she was wasting her time because they really do not believe in it.

The Conservatives want to pass moral judgment on consenting people. Even my colleague opposite said that a small percentage of people are in the profession voluntarily. She and I may have difficulty understanding this—in fact we may not understand it at all—but if there is consent, it is none of our business.

However, we have put these people at risk. There could be court challenges to Bill C-36. We proposed more than a dozen serious amendments to improve this bill. We constantly heard the word “victim”.

The Conservatives are smart; I will give them that. They realized that they cannot criminalize victims, since one cannot be both a criminal and a victim at the same time.

I therefore introduced an amendment that I thought made sense, based on the premise that all these individuals are victims, and that was to have all their criminal records erased. A victim should not have a criminal record for something she did while she was being victimized.

However, when the time came to walk the walk, the Conservatives voted against it. When you believe in what you are doing and you really want to eliminate prostitution, you do not vote against an amendment that calls on the minister, who is proposing a tiny investment of $20 million over five years, to report back to the House.

The Manitoba justice minister told us in committee that that was peanuts for his province. It is not enough to get people out of poverty and give them any hope of getting out of that despicable human trafficking situation.

Nor is it enough to solve the problems of substance abuse. The vast majority of people working in this industry, including aboriginal women, are not there because they want to be. Those issues need to be resolved.

For anyone who believed in the Nordic model, an expert from Sweden appeared before the committee and said that that model could not be implemented without a huge financial investment. Opinions varied widely on that. This is not the easiest file I have ever had to deal with as the justice critic for the official opposition. Everyone, however, whether they were for or against Bill C-36, said that $20 million was a ridiculously low amount.

This makes me wonder whether the government truly believes in what it is doing. The Conservatives' speeches on Bill C-36, which is supposed to be the response to Bedford, are not the legal speeches they should be. Our Conservative colleagues are not talking about the fact that under Bedford, the Criminal Code sections in question will be declared completely unconstitutional in December.

These are awful, heartbreaking stories of human trafficking. It is a scourge around the world. My colleague across the way is going on a crusade, but that is okay. I will open the doors to Gatineau for her. I talked to the people of Gatineau about this. When people find out that Criminal Code provisions on sexual exploitation, including section 279 of the Criminal Code, exist without Bill C-36, that changes things.

We do not want to put the lives of sex trade workers at risk. Everyone sees eye to eye on that, and I doubt the Conservatives are any different. If someone says it is not serious, then I have a problem with that. We have to be realistic and logical and strengthen the laws, as my colleague across the way has done with a number of bills that address human trafficking. That is what we have to focus on.

We must also give our police officers the tools they need. Do we want them to arrest the woman on Murray Street in Ottawa? Do we want them to investigate the cases my colleague mentioned without naming the riding? I hope it is not my riding. It was as though she was telling us in a roundabout way to be careful what we say.

I am speaking off the cuff, like it or not, but I am weighing my words carefully. This comes from the heart, with great feeling. I worked for months on this file while trying to remain as neutral as possible. There were good arguments on both sides. Feminist groups were saying that prostitution should not be criminalized under any circumstances because it is a form of exploitation. Other groups, such as Maggie's, Stella, the Pivot Legal Society and POWER, told me that many women are in positions of control in this industry and that this was a choice they had made. They were asking who we were to impose something else on them.

From my perspective, the role of the police is to ensure that this consent is real. They need to have the means to do that, and they do under the Criminal Code. Beyond that, this is none of our business. We certainly should not change the fact that people can, according to what they say, voluntarily choose to work in this trade and do so in safety. Now, under Bill C-36, there will be no exceptions. The purchase of sexual services will always be a criminal offence.

There are serious problems associated with this issue. The government is using sound bites and shocking stories about human trafficking, which are true, by the way, to try to tell us that Bill C-36 addresses that. However, this bill does not respond to the ruling in Bedford, and that is unfortunate.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

Mississauga—Erindale
Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, my honourable friend talked about the courage of convictions of parties with respect to the issue of prostitution and referred to the Supreme Court decision in the Bedford case. She will know that the Chief Justice said that it will be for Parliament, should it choose to do so, to devise a new approach reflecting different elements of the existing regime.

Our government is taking a courageous stand. For the first time in Canadian history, we are saying that prostitution victimizes people. It victimizes vulnerable women and girls and young men, it drives the demand for human trafficking, and for the first time, we are making the purchase of the sexual services of another person illegal. That is a courageous stand.

When that hon. member last stood in this House to speak to Bill C-36, I asked her very specifically what the NDP would do if the NDP were in our shoes and had the opportunity to bring in a bill in response to the Bedford decision. How would it address the Chief Justice's request that Parliament do something that is within its purview? How would New Democrats be courageous in helping to reduce the scourge of prostitution that victimizes people in our country?

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Two things, Mr. Speaker, because there are two elements in the question from my esteemed colleague.

The first one is about the Supreme Court of Canada.

I would like to clarify something, because the Conservatives always fail to mention it. When the Conservatives talk about how the Supreme Court found that “[c]oncluding that each of the challenged provisions violates the Charter does not mean that Parliament is precluded from imposing limits on where and how prostitution may be conducted”, they always fail to mention that this is true “as long as it does so in a way that does not infringe the constitutional rights of prostitutes”. That is clear.

The Conservatives have asked me twice what the NDP would do in these circumstances. We will spell it out when we form the government. Hopefully that will happen soon because we are tired of listening to this type of rhetoric. What I can say is that we will not hide important statistics on such a major issue as prostitution. We will not hold bogus consultations and we will not hide crucial information about such an important issue. When a government makes decisions like that, claiming they are in people's best interests, it loses all credibility. When you do something in people's best interests, you do not have to hide things from them.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Ève Péclet La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to give my colleague the opportunity to say more about the mixed messages the minister is sending. He introduced a bill in the House of Commons and said that his legal experts studied the bill and everything was fine. However, a number of experts appeared before the committee and said that there were constitutional issues and that the bill failed to comply with the Supreme Court ruling. The minister is saying, in essence, that the bill may not comply with the ruling and may be unconstitutional.

My colleague spoke about that. Was the bill constitutional or not, and why was the minister unable to give a clear answer?

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, as a lawyer who will be celebrating 30 years of legal practice in November, I would venture that we cannot say that it is completely unconstitutional or completely constitutional.

The minister says that he is convinced that this will end up in the Supreme Court of Canada. I got a minor amendment passed. I do not really boast about it because I find that ridiculous. Once again, the Conservatives do not want to be clear and transparent.

We asked the minister to report on prostitution and human trafficking two years after the passage of the bill. They amended my amendment to increase the time period to five years. With Bill C-13, they increased it to seven years. We all know that this will be before the courts well before that.

I would like to reiterate that this is a health and safety issue. We must not put the lives of people who work in a very dangerous environment at risk. This is very serious.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

That is probably the best question ever, especially for me.

I wanted to speak more about the amendments that we presented.

We often feel that the government opposite rejects outright the amendments that we put forward and believes we propose amendments just for fun. That is not at all the case. We take our role as legislators seriously.

I am still wondering why the government rejected these amendments given its philosophy and its basic principles with respect to Bill C-36. In one of our first amendments, I made suggestions about the application of the Criminal Records Act and the criminal records of individuals—the same people the government called victims—convicted of offences for which they will no longer be prosecuted but exempted. Why would the government not suspend their criminal records?

I also do not understand why the government refused an amendment to make an addition to the preamble. Although we often say that the preambles are not the law, they convey the spirit of the law. Our suggestion seemed to be in keeping with the government's comments.

We suggested that the following be added to the preamble:

Whereas the Supreme Court of Canada decided in Attorney General of Canada v. Bedford that certain provisions of the Criminal Code have a grossly disproportionate effect on persons who engage in prostitution by putting their health and safety at risk and making them more vulnerable to violence;

That was the whole point of the Bedford decision. We thought it was important to highlight that and once again underscore how important it is to look at issues such as poverty, housing, health care needs and other socio-economic problems affecting women who are in the sex trade because they lack other options.

These amendments were not dangerous. They reflected exactly what we heard from witnesses, who testified because the government asked them to.

That is where it becomes clear that Bill C-36 is, sadly, part of the Conservatives' ideology. It does not address human trafficking. Frankly, it brings a proverbial sledgehammer down on those who are already vulnerable.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Tarik Brahmi Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, about a year ago, when the former member for Bourassa joined the mayoral race in Montreal, his election platform included a plan to close all of the massage parlours that were basically brothels and employed minors.

When he was elected mayor, people asked if he was going to follow through, and he said that he would only shut down the ones that employed minors. In the end, none of them were closed because the authorities could not find any that employed minors.

Is that the same argument that we are hearing from the other side—that no one should trade sex for money, in order to protect children? Is that argument not indicative of the deception hidden in this bill? Is the government using children to justify the religious Conservative ideology, according to which it is wrong to pay for sex?