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 ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to debate 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.

In my speech, I will read excerpts from the unanimous ruling of the Supreme Court to provide some context for the decision and the government's response, which takes the form of the bill we are debating.

Last December, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that section 210, as well as paragraphs 212(1)(j) and 213(1)(c) of the Criminal Code—which prohibit people from keeping a bawdy-house, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating for the purpose of engaging in prostitution—violate the charter, because they infringe upon the right of sex workers and the security of their person.

The court ruled that current laws impose:

...dangerous conditions on prostitution; they prevent people engaged in a risky—but legal—activity from taking steps to protect themselves from the risks.

The court therefore asked the government to regulate prostitution “as long as it does so in a way that does not infringe the constitutional rights of prostitutes”.

In addition, an article in today's edition of La Presse indicates that the government seems more interested in imposing a new repressive model than in eliminating the problems identified by the Supreme Court.

Is the Minister of Justice's Bill C-36 a thoughtful and sensible response to the Supreme Court decision in the Bedford case? It would appear not. Once again, the Conservatives are using the big stick approach rather than a nuanced one. I would even go so far as to say that they are using a snowplow to remove everything in their path.

Will this bill protect the health and safety of sex workers? I do not think so. Will the bill protect women and girls caught in a cycle of dependence, violence and victimization? I do not think so. Will this bill prevent women, girls and boys from getting caught up in prostitution? I do not think so. Will this bill help support programs to assist people who want to get out of this situation? I do not think so.

I do not think so because this bill does not focus on prevention, but rather on repression. It does not consider the complexity of human nature and the reality of the society we live in, a society where appearances and money are strong lures, to the detriment of human beings and helping each other.

This was mentioned yesterday in the Winnipeg Sun's editorial:

Like with other criminal activity, laws prohibiting it rarely eliminates the problem....

While we want the government to crack down on pimps, human traffickers and people preying on the truly vulnerable, there’s nothing to suggest this law will reduce the demand or increase protections for women.

This is a newspaper that I do not often quote, but it was quite revealing.

Last winter, I attended an information session organized by station 13 of the LaSalle police. Representatives from all the community organizations in greater southwest Montreal heard from two community officers with the multidisciplinary investigations and youth coordination unit of the Montreal police service.

These experienced police officers gave us a realistic and frank description of prostitution and pimping. They want to change people's thinking about prostitutes and, above all, suggest ways to help those prostitutes who want to get out of the business. The program that they have put in place, “Les survivantes” or “the survivors”, gives female victims of this vicious circle the means to break out of it.

They also said that the image of pimping was somewhat glorified in popular culture and could be appealing to individuals who decide that the sexual exploitation of others is an easy way to make money. In their presentation, they demonstrated that prostitution was not a choice for many, but rather a lack of choice.

In our opinion, this bill, introduced by the Minister of Justice, does not respond to the Supreme Court ruling regarding the safety and protection of prostitutes. By making successive cuts to programs to prevent violence against women, the Conservatives really dropped the ball when it comes to dealing with this problem. Their systematic refusal to move forward with a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women leads us to believe that they have a very limited understanding of prostitution and violence against women.

The NDP recognizes that real action needs to be taken right away to improve the safety of sex workers and help them to get out of the sex trade, if they are not there by choice. To that end, significant resources must be allocated to income support, education, training, poverty relief and substance abuse programs for these women. We need a government that works with them to implement a comprehensive strategy to protect and support women.

I would also like to point out that clauses 46 to 48 refer to an equally controversial bill that was criticized by the new Privacy Commissioner, and that is the bill on cyberbullying. We call on the government and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to go back to the drawing board and hold real consultations that take into account the opinions of a wide range of legal experts, stakeholder groups, the appropriate authorities and the main people involved, sex workers. The minister should also refer Bill C-36 to the Supreme Court to get its opinion on whether the bill honours the ruling in the Bedford case.

This government, as a legislator, must ensure that the bills introduced in the House are consistent with our Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What is more, the government has a moral responsibility to protect and ensure the safety of communities and workers, no matter what their occupation. We believe that the measures introduced and the announcements made by the Minister of Justice are inadequate and will not achieve the expected results.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 4:55 p.m.
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Mississauga—Erindale Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, my colleague quoted some sex workers. I wonder if she has heard some of these quotes.

Earlier today, Katarina MacLeod, who was beaten, abused, and raped repeatedly from the age of five, forced into the sex trade when she got a little older, and then worked for 15 years in that business, said that first of all there is no safe place to carry on the sex business, and second, had Bill C-36, the government's new prostitution legislation, been around when she was in the business, there would be no more demand and no more supply

Had that bill been in place, maybe she would be less scarred today.

One of her colleagues, Timea Nagy, a native of Budapest, Hungary, came to Canada 14 years ago as a housekeeper. However, when she arrived, she was kidnapped and forced to work in Toronto's sex industry until, one day, she escaped. She is now a founder of an organization that helps victims of trafficking. She said:

I speak for the hundreds of children and girls I have met and talked to and rescued in the last 14 years who have been and continue to be raped, violated and exploited against their will.

She challenged the idea that prostitution is a profession. She called it “oppression 90% of the time”.

She, too supports Bill C-36. She said women deserve to be protected by this country.

Casandra Diamond, another former prostitute, who operated a brothel, said sex workers should feel safer because of this bill. She said:

I wish Bill C-36 had been in place for me when I needed it.

I wonder if the member would comment.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice keeps using the same examples.

I would like to remind him that the Criminal Code already has provisions on human trafficking, exploitation and abuse. What he is talking about is not part of the bill. Rape and other such offences are already covered by the Criminal Code. Bill C-36 should be a response to the Bedford decision on the safety of sex workers. The Criminal Code of Canada already covers what the hon. member provided as an example. The Criminal Code has the answers for the cases he just mentioned. It is in the Criminal Code and not in Bill C-36. That is not the purpose of the bill.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to pick up on what the parliamentary secretary was saying. I mentioned in my speech something that I have noticed many times when talking to people. There are those who strongly believe, with conviction, that the Swedish model is the way to go, while others believe that New Zealand's model, which is based on decriminalization, is the right choice. Neither of these models are perfect, even to those who defend them. Each group felt that their model was the best, but no one said that their model would get rid of prostitution completely.

However, I just heard the parliamentary secretary suggest that Bill C-36 would succeed in doing what no other country in this world, on our planet Earth, has done.

I would like the hon. member to say a few words about that and tell me whether she is as optimistic as the Conservatives about the 100% success rate we can expect from Bill C-36.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleague, who is our justice critic and who does an extraordinary job providing us with guidance on bills that we do not understand. It is true that the government often takes parts of the Criminal Code and rewrites them, even though things already exist.

In fact, she is entirely right. The Conservatives carried out token consultations that they used as a basis for drafting a bill. They are always telling us about the same tragic and pathetic cases, even though they are already covered in the Criminal Code and could give rise to charges if there are complaints.

I think that the government is going to have to sit down, conduct real consultations and listen to a broader variety of points of view, so that it is able to put forward bills that comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and will not be called into question by the Supreme Court.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this debate today because this is a topic in which I have been involved for many years, stretching back to before I became a member of the House.

I became involved in this issue because of the work of a group in my riding called PEERS, the Prostitution Empowerment Education and Resource Society, which runs a drop-in centre and an office in the municipality where I was a councillor. Everything that allows me to speak with some grounding today comes from my experience working with this group. I want to thank PEERS at the beginning of this speech for the time it has shared with me in helping me understand the realities of sex work in Canada.

This group is a peer-led drop-in centre and outreach program, meaning the sex workers themselves run these programs. Who better to try to work with people involved in the sex trade than those who have credibility with their colleagues to talk about those kinds of realities?

We have heard many things in the media discussion of this bill that clearly do not reflect the reality that sex workers face every day.

The PEERS outreach programs run both day and night. The night programs are extremely important for the safety of sex workers. They do everything from involving sex workers in safe sex education to providing things like condoms. They also keep a check on where sex workers are, and if they are not seen, they are checked on to find out if they are safe.

The group helps to compile a bad date list, which it disseminates, bad date list meaning those men who have used violence against sex workers. This list is compiled so sex workers can identify them and avoid becoming victims of violence.

The day program does a lot of other things.

PEERS still continues to operate these programs despite a severe funding crunch, which has reduced the amount of money available to it and the number of hours it can run its outreach day and night programs. Its day program has been reduced to one day a week.

These services operate on a shoestring. The drop-in centre is not a glamorous place with a large screen TV or many other things people might associate with a drop-in centre. It is a basic operation and really runs on the volunteer services of people who are either sex workers themselves or are allies who are trying to make sure that those involved in sex work are as safe as they can possibly be.

For its efforts, PEERS was recognized by the provincial Ministry of Justice with an award for leadership in crime prevention and community safety, a recognition by the provincial government of the extremely important role it plays in helping to reduce crime and keep everybody in the community safer.

PEERS is the result of an initiative of sex workers themselves assisted by a woman who had been a long-time columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. Jody, who worked with PEERS for many years, really became involved because of some of the work she was doing as a journalist. She met sex workers and found out about the difficulties they were having. She played a large role in helping to get the centre together.

I first went to the PEERS centre in my riding more than five years ago. I saw first hand the wide range of services if offers. It plays an important role in getting access to health and social services in the community for primarily women but also transgender women and some gay men. Quite often these people lack ID because it might have been stolen or they lack a fixed address. As a result, they face obstacles to getting the services that all of us take for granted. PEERS plays an important role in helping them find housing. Victoria is an expensive community with very limited housing options. One of its important roles is to locate safe housing.

A lot of people are not aware of the fact that many of the sex workers in my community are mothers with kids to support. Whatever we think about people involved in sex work, those mothers I met were just trying to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. One of them told me that she has three kids and a minimum wage, part-time job. She cannot put a roof over their heads. She cannot clothe her kids or feed them. That is how she ended up in sex work. She continues in sex work for the future of her kids. This lady is a volunteer at the centre, who helps other people make the best of the life they find themselves in at the time. That is important because of the stigma that is placed generally on sex workers.

The drop-in centre became a place that offers support for those involved in sex work. It is a safe place they can go. There is someone they can talk to and a connection to the community to help end the isolation that many sex workers find themselves in. The centre also offers support for those who desire to leave the sex trade. A very important part of what it does is identify those who want out, who may have gotten there through circumstances that are not so pleasant. However, they end up at the centre. The centre helps them access job training programs, access education and even to the point of helping them to prepare resumés to find a different kind of employment.

All of these things go on because of the generosity of volunteers and the solidarity that sex workers in my community have shown for each other to help themselves out and to keep themselves safe.

A key part of everything that PEERS does is harm reduction, such as education on safer sex, access to addiction counselling and, as I mentioned, collecting and disseminating bad date information about violent clients in my community.

When the Bedford decision was clearly approaching last fall, I decided I needed to get better informed about the issue. I had been involved with PEERS since I was a city councillor. It had come to us to ask for a property tax exemption for its drop-in centre. I am proud to say that the community of Esquimalt unanimously voted a property tax exemption for the centre, as we would any other community service organization that was putting in these huge volunteer hours. It was not even controversial. The community agreed it was performing this very valuable role in our community.

I had been on walks with PEERS people. They do an annual walk, for which the theme is sex workers rights equal human rights. They were very surprised that I continued to go on that walk after I became a municipal councillor, and then after when I became a member of Parliament. It is not a large walk and it does not always attract the right kind of attention. However, what they are trying to do is what we in the House are trying to do: to get people to recognize that sex workers come from all kinds of backgrounds. They come from all kinds of life circumstances. They are Canadian citizens with the right to be treated with dignity and the right to live their lives free from violence.

I expected the Bedford decision would go the way it did. Having taught criminal justice for many years it seemed likely the Supreme Court would throw out these laws around prostitution, which actually made life more dangerous for those involved, As part of trying to inform myself, I met with Stella. I met with other national organizations. I met with social science researchers at the University of Victoria in my community. I learned a lot from all of those. However, where I learned the most was I asked PEERS if a group of sex workers would be willing to sit down with me and talk for an afternoon about what they thought should happen if the Supreme Court threw out the laws on prostitution.

I spent an afternoon sitting with a group of 12 women actively involved in sex work in my community. People have asked do people know sex workers, or have they talked to sex workers. I got to know these people very well and I have nothing but respect for them for the way they are trying to do their best in the circumstances in which they find themselves.Some have chosen to be there, and I do accept when they say they have chosen to be there. Some, like the single mom, have made bad choices and have made the best choice they can for their kids.

None of the women I met with were trafficked, although all of them knew of cases where that had happened in the community. However, one thing they had in common was they had all experienced violence at some point as a sex worker. Therefore, at the end of that discussion, when I asked them what the goal for legislation should be, their answer was harm reduction and safety for those involved in sex work.

When this government bill was tabled, I got a call from the people at PEERS. Like most MPs, I was not able to take it immediately because I was in the House, but when I went back and talked to them, it was a very emotional conversation. They were very, very upset with the legislation they saw tabled. Many of them felt there were some very good intentions from many people on the other side of the House, but that the bill had missed the mark for them. They felt very strongly that it would make their lives more difficult and more dangerous.

When we talk about what some people like to call the Nordic model, they were very clear that criminalizing one half of a transaction inevitably makes the other half dangerous. It will drive it underground and make it more difficult to identify the clients in advance, because the clients will become more secretive. All of the various objections we can imagine that involve safety were raised with me in that phone call.

Subsequently, the executive director, Marion Little, made a public statement. I want to read her public statement, because it reflects the conversation that I had with members of the board of directors of PEERS when this legislation was introduced. Marion Little said:

This is devastating. People’s lives will be affected, and we barely have the resources to help them now....

I don’t have any confidence those funds will go to experienced organizations providing unconditional care for sex workers.

That is what PEERS does. PEERS does not judge the people who come through the door. It does not judge why they are there and it does not insist that they are doing anything that needs to be changed. What PEERS says is, “How can we help with unconditional care for sex workers?” It is opposed to the legislation and worried about the $20 million of funding that the government is talking about. It is worried that it will go to organizations that have no experience in working with sex workers, or organizations not run by sex workers themselves, as PEERS is, or organizations that apply a moral stigma at the beginning of their approach to sex workers. It is very concerned about that.

I would like the government to develop an approach that better protects women and offers increased support to women who are involved in sex work. In addition, on this side we want to address all the related issues about vulnerable people who have been ignored, issues like education, addiction treatment, affordable housing, all the things that will enable people who may have ended up in the sex trade and do not want to be there to make better choices for their future. We have to address those issues that surround the sex trade and the limited opportunities that many women have to take care of themselves, which is what they want to do.

The bill before us would amend the Criminal Code to create an offence that prohibits purchasing sexual services or communicating in any place for that purpose. That is a big concern that the PEERS director who I spoke with had. The bill says “any public place”. Therefore, where is it that sex workers are going to be forced to practise their trade where there are no other people? If they practise their trade where there are no other people, they are inherently placed in danger.

The bill would create an offence that would prohibit the advertisement of sexual services and authorize the courts to seize materials containing such advertisements and their removal from the Internet. Many of the sex workers I talked to use ads and the Internet to help screen clients and share information about who is dangerous and who is not.

The government is again doing what it quite often does, which is addressing a problem that really does not exist when talking about sex work around schools. I know one commentator who said he had taken his kids to school thousands of times and had never seen sex workers working, first of all, at those hours and, second, around schools. Somehow it casts this aspersion on sex workers that there are some kind of predators after our children. In fact, what I have found in my community is many of them have children of their own they are really trying to provide for.

I do not believe that this bill is consistent with the Supreme Court decision on the charter. I was very pleased to hear the member for Gatineau expressing our position that we would like to see this referred to the Supreme Court now. Let us send it to the Supreme Court. The government has the ability to do this. Instead of wasting many years of battles in court, we could get advice from the Supreme Court at this point, which would say whether this meets the test that it set in the Bedford decision. I personally do not believe it does, but the government must believe it meets those tests or it would not have introduced the legislation in the House. There should be no risk for the government in referring this to the Supreme Court if it genuinely believes that it meets the tests of the Bedford decision.

The other thing that, again, was expressed directly to me by sex workers from PEERS in my riding is that they wonder who is going to look after sex workers while this bill that would make their lives more dangerous and more difficult goes through. We would have many more years before this would get to the Supreme Court, perhaps four, five, or six years. In the meantime they feel that this would make their lives more dangerous in ways that were absolutely prohibited by the Supreme Court decision. They would be forced to undergo that violence and be subjected to those negative conditions for an additional four to five years, when all the Supreme Court really authorized was one year for Parliament to get a new bill together that respects the Bedford decision.

Again I would echo the member for Gatineau in her call that this be referred to the Supreme Court now, before it is enacted into law and before it has those damaging impacts. If the government members do not believe that, then I do not understand their reluctance to refer it to the Supreme Court. The Conservatives have certainly referred other decisions to the Supreme Court, and I know this did not always go well for them, but obviously they have more confidence in this bill.

Others have said to me that I certainly must support the $20 million that the government is devoting to assisting sex workers. I would say to that, “Yes, absolutely; I think that is a great idea.” I would like to see where that is in the budget. I would also like to see that it does not have strings attached. Again, it was the director of PEERS who said to me that she is afraid this money will go to an organization that stigmatizes the sex trade and therefore will not be able to reach the women who most need the help.

I do not sense a great appetite for the government to listen on this bill and make changes to the bill. That would be my second choice after referring it to the Supreme Court. I guess what we will be forced to do on this side as it proceeds is try to make the arguments and attract the government members' attention and have them listen to the people who would be placed most at risk by this bill, and that is the sex workers.

I want to close by thanking the sex workers in my community for helping me understand the situation of their daily lives and how this bill would actually be a threat to them. I want to conclude my remarks by saying I look forward to the day when we have a truly inclusive society in Canada that does not stigmatize any of our members and put them at risk of violence.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite. I know his heart is in the right place and I congratulate him for working with this one group in his area. I think that is really great.

However, saying that, I just want to correct a couple of things.

The first thing is we do not take the bill back to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said, “It will be for Parliament, should it choose to do so, to devise a new approach, reflecting different elements of the existing regime.” The Supreme Court has demanded that we give a response within a year.

Also, when the member was saying that the sex workers were alarmed because he told them that they would get arrested in any public place, that is in places only where children under the age of 18 could be. The whole purpose of this is to respect the sex workers and to help them, as I know the member opposite obviously wants to do. However, I want to read something. There is a mother, Kathy King, whose daughter was in prostitution. She said that she would like to express her appreciation that Bill C-36 declares the purchase of sexual services an illegal act and supports the sex worker. She went on to say that since the disappearance of her daughter in 1997 and the discovery of her mutilated body a month later, she speaks for those who did not survive their entanglement in a world many of us do not understand. Here is a mom who really loved her child. With Bill C-36, there would be exit programs. The $30 million would help those girls to have a different kind of life.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that all of us have our hearts in the right place in this House, which is why we come here. We come here to represent the diversity of Canada, and so it is not a question of someone here having their heart in the wrong place.

I would say, with respect, that the Supreme Court gave Parliament a year to come up with a new approach. Nothing in that says that we cannot ask it if this new approach meets the test in Bedford.

Cabinet always has the right, in our legal system, to refer a matter directly to the Supreme Court in advance. Nothing prevents us from checking at this point. As I said before, if the government thinks the bill is constitutional, then it should then be very happy to send it off, get a ruling, and then proceed.

The member said that I told sex workers that they could be arrested in any public place, and I want to go back to that. When I got the call, I had not even read the bill. They told me what was in the bill; I did not tell them what was in the bill. However, the impact of the bill is plain for them to see.

I have the greatest of sympathy for people who have been trafficked or who end up involved in violence and death as a result of their involvement in the sex trade. My sympathy is no less than anyone else's in this House. However, I think we have to be careful in making policy by selecting the most extreme cases.

In my riding, the PEERS organization works with 450 women who are involved in the sex trade. They are a representative sex worker-run organization, and their concerns need to be taken very seriously.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciated the comments put forward by my colleague from the NDP.

The government has maintained that the proposed legislation is in compliance and satisfies the Supreme Court Bedford ruling. A lot of people do not agree with the government in that case.

When the Conservative member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley was speaking to some party faithful in Parrsboro just last week, he said the Conservatives will not put up with the Supreme Court decision. This was the comment he shared, which no doubt was a little home cooking for the base. However, he went on to say, “We don't care what the constitutional lawyers say”.

Does this sort of peel back the veil on what has been put forward by the government? Does my colleague believe that this peels back the veil and tells us what the legislation is really all about, which is to appease the Conservative base?

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it does not serve much purpose for me to speculate today on the motives on the other side. I am really talking about the content of the bill.

As the member pointed out, the government seems to believe that the bill meets the constitutional tests set out in the Bedford case. Therefore, I would like to see the Conservatives refer it to the Supreme Court to find out if they are right or not.

We have seen some signs of disrespect for the court system from some members on the other side of the House, but I would hope that is not a general pattern. One of the ways they could demonstrate that is by sending this proposed law to the Supreme Court to get a ruling before we engage in long and involved legal wrangling and spend thousands of dollars that could better go to benefiting sex workers involved in the trade than to lawyers and court processes.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his very thoughtful presentation and for his years of service in both orders of government. It is very appreciated, and he has brought actual on-the-ground experience to share today.

I too have been reaching out to people in my community. I have met with a series of groups of sex workers. I have also met with an incredible organization, the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation. As this organization, CEASE, reviews the bill and looks at it more carefully, it is shifting its initial perspective. Initially members of CEASE were very excited that the government had come forward and was providing some money to support their efforts. They work diligently to support sex workers and to try to work with those who are purchasing sex, explaining to them that in many circumstances they are putting women or men or children at risk in trafficking and trying to get them to understand the risks inherent in the trade.

It was deeply troubling to hear, in a question from the other side to my hon. colleague, the suggestion that the court just said to come up with something that would work. That is not actually what the Supreme Court said. It said very clearly that there would be a problem if legislation infringes article 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I keep hearing concerns expressed about section 15. We keep hearing this invention of what the government thought this section might mean, but when we actually read the provision, we see that it puts a lot of sex workers at risk.

I wonder if the member could speak to that aspect in relation to the very workers he is talking about. Of course, he comes from the land of Pickton. Is this bill putting these very kinds of victims at greater risk?

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will say to the member for Edmonton—Strathcona the same thing I said earlier. I want to avoid the dramatic today. I want to avoid the other parallels and just say that I am not claiming to have done great work with the PEERS organization myself. I am claiming to benefit from the great work that they have done in my community and from their advice in saying to me very clearly that they believe that the bill puts their lives at risk. For that reason, I will be voting against the bill.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2014 / 4:55 p.m.
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Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to commence the second reading debate on Bill C-36, the protection of communities and exploited persons act, a comprehensive and compassionate Canadian response to the Supreme Court decision in Bedford.

It may come as a surprise to some, but to put this in context, in current Canadian law, neither the sale nor the purchase of sexual services is illegal. That would be known to many in the chamber who are police officers or former police officers, many of whom are joining us for this debate.

It is well known to the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, who has dedicated much of her life to helping those who find themselves in prostitution, and I want to express appreciation for that work.

The existing criminal offences prohibit activities related to prostitution. This bill is in direct response to the Supreme Court of Canada's Bedford decision, on December 20, 2013, which found three of the prostitution-related offences unconstitutional, based upon the court's view that the offences prevent those who sell sexual services from taking measures to protect themselves when engaged in prostitution, which I think can fairly be described as a risky, but previously legal, activity.

That would change, as a result of the bill, in terms of its legality. It was a key consideration for the government's response.

The Supreme Court was clear. Its decision does not mean that Parliament is precluded from imposing limits on where and how prostitution may be conducted.

Significantly, the court recognized not only the complexity of the issue but also the ability of the government to legislate. I am quoting from the decision, at paragraph 165, which states:

The regulation of prostitution is a complex and delicate matter. It will be for Parliament, should it choose to do so, to devise a new approach, reflecting the different elements of the existing regime.

Bill C-36 would do just that. It is a brand new approach, one that would transform Canada's criminal provisions of prostitution laws. It is a new approach based upon the prevailing thinking in modern industrialized countries.

Bill C-36 proposes law reform that would signal a significant shift in prostitution-related criminal law policy from treatment of prostitution as a nuisance toward treatment of prostitution for what it is: a form of exploitation.

This is not a life from a Hollywood movie, portrayed in movies like Pretty Woman. It is an inherently dangerous pursuit, often driven by factors such as violence, addiction, poverty, intimidation, and mental illness. These are very often the most marginalized and victimized of our citizens, vulnerable Canadians, often aboriginal, new Canadians, brought into a life of prostitution at a very early age and most often through no fault of their own.

The bill is about protecting vulnerable Canadians, as encapsulated in the title.

Let us be clear: we do not believe that other approaches, such as decriminalization or legalization, could make prostitution a safe activity.

The evidence, including the evidence submitted to the courts in the Bedford case, shows that prostitution is extremely dangerous no matter where it takes place. It also proves that decriminalization and legalization lead to increased human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Failing to ensure the consistent application of criminal law to the wrongful acts of prostitution is simply not an option.

The Supreme Court gave Parliament one year to respond to its findings in Bedford. We have introduced Bill C-36 well ahead of time to ensure that the court's ruling does not result in decriminalization, and to have even greater opportunity to examine legislation, and to ensure that even greater harm to vulnerable persons, particularly women and children, does not follow.

For the first time in Canadian criminal law, the bill would criminalize the purchase of sexual services; in other words, it would now make prostitution illegal.

The impact of the new prohibitions would be borne predominantly by those who purchase sex and persons who exploit others through prostitution. The bill is intended to reduce the demands for prostitution, which disproportionately impact on society's most marginalized and vulnerable.

The bill would also modernize existing procuring offences, to ensure that those who exploit others through prostitution are held to account for capitalizing on the demand created by purchasers.

These reforms are informed by new, contemporary legislative measures outlined in the bill's preamble, which include protecting communities and those who are exploited through prostitution from prostitution's implicit harms, which include sexual exploitation, the risk of violence and intimidation, exposure of children to the sale of sex as a commodity, and related criminal activities such as human trafficking and drug-related and organized crime.

Also in the preamble is recognizing the social harm caused by prostitution's normalization of sexual activity as a commodity to be bought and sold; and protecting the human dignity and equality of all by discouraging prostitution, which we know disproportionately impacts women and children.

Bill C-36 proposes two entirely new offences, which I would submit differentiates it from other models as a distinctly Canadian approach: purchasing sexual services and advertising the sale of sexual services. Both are hybrid offences with maximum penalties of 5 years on indictment and 18 months on summary conviction. The purchasing offence would also carry mandatory minimum fines.

The purchasing offence targets the demand for prostitution, thereby making prostitution an illegal activity, and to complement this offence, the advertising offence targets the promotion of this exploitative activity, thereby furthering the legislation's overall objective of reducing the demand for sexual services.

An additional objective is to reduce the likelihood of third parties facilitating exploitation through prostitution for their gain, and the key and operative word here is “exploitation”. Consistent with the bill's treatment of persons who sell their own sexual services as victims, the persons would be immunized from prosecution if they advertised their own sexual services.

Never before have these activities been criminalized in Canadian law, and the bill would also criminalize receiving a financial or material benefit, knowing that it was obtained by or derived from the prostitution of others. This offence replaces the existing offence of living on the avails of prostitution, struck down by the Supreme Court.

The proposed approach has been carefully tailored to address the specific vulnerability of those involved. The material benefit offence strikes a careful balance and ensures that those who sell their own sexual services have the same ability to interact with others as anyone else, while also recognizing the dangers, harms, and risks involved in allowing the development of economic interests in others' prostitution.

Legislated exceptions clarify that the offence does not apply to non-exploitative relationships. For example, those who are in legitimate living arrangements with persons who sell their own sexual services, such as children, spouses, or roommates, would not be caught under these sections. Neither would those who offered goods or services to the general public, such as accountants, taxi drivers, or security companies. Moreover, the material benefit offence would not apply to those who offered goods or services on an informal basis, which could include such things as babysitting or even protective services.

To be clear, Bill C-36 also recognizes the risks associated with allowing persons to benefit from the profits of others' prostitution. A person who initially poses as a benevolent helper may become unscrupulous in order to maximize profits that are contingent on the provision of sexual services for others. We know this happens. For that reason, the bill stipulates that none of the exceptions to the material benefit apply where the person who received the benefit engaged in coercive measures, such as using violence or intimidation, abusing a position of trust or power, or engaging in conduct that amounts to procuring or receiving a benefit in the context of a brothel.

This approach affords some room for sellers of their own sexual services to take steps to protect themselves in response to the concerns raised by Supreme Court of Canada in Bedford, while also ensuring that the criminal law holds to account the pimps or anyone else in an exploitative relationship, working through prostitution.

The bill also proposes to modernize existing procuring and child prostitution offences. The proposed procuring offence reformulates existing offences with respect to procurement—paragraphs 212(1)(a) to (i)—to ensure consistency with the new material benefit and purchasing offences.

Procuring, as we know, is a serious offence that involves inciting or causing others to sell sexual services. That is why this legislation proposes to increase the maximum penalty to 14 years from 10 years imprisonment.

Bill C-36 modernizes and reformulates child prostitution offences as aggravating forms of offences related to the purchase of sexual services, receiving a material benefit and procuring. In addition, it increases the applicable sentences. The maximum penalty for the offence prohibiting the purchase of sexual services from children would increase to 10 years imprisonment from the current five, and the mandatory minimum would increase from six months to one year for repeat offenders.

Offences related to receiving a material benefit and procuring involving children would have a maximum sentence of 40 years and a mandatory minimum of two and five years, respectively.

Moreover, through these amendments, the government would send a clear message to those who exploit vulnerable persons and, in particular, inflict trauma and revictimization on women and children.

All of the offences that I have just described comprehensively address the exploitative conduct engaged in by those who create the demand for sexual services and those who capitalize on that demand.

Bill C-36 does not stop there. It recognizes and addresses the harms that prostitution also causes to communities. It would achieve this objective in two ways. It would impose higher mandatory minimum fines for purchasers if they commit the purchasing offence in public places that are near schools, parks, religious institutions, or places where children can reasonably be expected to be present. This is the same description found in the Criminal Code in other sections. There is an already well subscribed definition of a public place. This approach would also provide an additional measure of protection to those who are vulnerable in our communities.

The bill would also comprehensively protect children from exposure to the sale of sex as a commodity. In that regard, it proposes a new summary offence that would criminalize communicating for the purpose of selling sexual services in public places where children can reasonably be expected to be present.

The bill recognizes the vulnerability of those who sell their own sexual services by immunizing them from prosecution for any part they may play in the purchasing, material benefit, procuring, or advertising offences vis-à-vis their own sexual services.

As I mentioned, children, on balance when doing the calculation, can also be considered vulnerable, so the bill seeks to strike that careful balance, part of that being the provision of a tool that would allow law enforcement to ensure that children are not harmed through exposure to prostitution. Parents in particular will be relieved to hear this.

The bill also proposes related amendments that would complement its approach to prostitution. First, with the definition of a weapon, this part of the Criminal Code has been somewhat overlooked in the public debate on this legislation. This section is intended to ensure that offenders who possess weapons of restraint, such as handcuffs, rope, or duct tape, with the intent to commit an offence, or use such weapons to commit a violent offence, are held accountable. I suspect that much of the focus on this stems from the horrific circumstances that we know occurred in the Picton case in British Columbia.

This amendment has implications for three offences: possession of weapon for dangerous purpose, section 88; assault with a weapon, section 290; and sexual assault with a weapon, section 291. This approach will better protect all of the victims of these offences, including those suffering from extreme exploitation as prostitutes, who are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault and assault.

Bill C-36 would also ensure consistency of penalties between human trafficking offences and the proposed prostitution ones. We know that prostitution and human trafficking are related criminal activities. It follows that the penalties for both should reflect the severity of that conduct. That is why this bill proposes to increase the maximum penalties and impose mandatory minimum penalties for receiving a material benefit from child trafficking and withholding documents for the purposes of committing child trafficking. The maximum penalty for both child-specific trafficking and prostitution material benefit would be 14 years of imprisonment, with a mandatory minimum penalty of two years. The maximum penalty for withholding documents for the purpose of committing child trafficking would increase to 10 years, with a mandatory minimum sentence of a year.

The bill would also amend the offence prohibiting trafficking in persons to impose mandatory minimum penalties when the victim is an adult. The mandatory minimum penalty would be five years if the offences involved kidnapping, aggravated assault, sexual assault, or caused death, and four years in all other cases. The offence prohibiting trafficking of children already includes mandatory minimum penalties.

These are reforms proposed by this bill, but why are they necessary? In particular, what do we know about prostitution in the country today?

Although the incidence of prostitution is impossible to truly ascertain, given its clandestine nature, we know from research that prostitution occurs in all parts of the country, most often on the street but also through escort agencies, in massage parlours, in private apartments and houses, and in strip clubs, hotels, and restaurants. It is facilitated through the Internet and print media advertising.

We know that 75% to 80% of those involved in prostitution are women. As I mentioned earlier, many come from the most marginalized groups of society and share common vulnerabilities, such as childhood abuse, neglect, poverty, and addictions, and they lack the education and skills necessary to exit prostitution.

Research indicates as well that a large number of those who provide sexual services entered prostitution when they were mere children, and that they experienced sexual abuse prior to their first prostitution experience. Furthermore, aboriginal women and girls are disproportionately represented among those who are exploited through prostitution.

There is simply no getting away from the fact that prostitution is an extremely dangerous activity. Studies before the courts in the Bedford case have shown that prostitution is multi-traumatic. It regularly involves physical violence, sexual violence, forceable confinement, and drugs, and involvement in prostitution often causes post-traumatic stress disorder, which can result in permanent harm.

Communities are also negatively affected by all forms of prostitution. Used condoms and drug paraphernalia may be discarded in public places, such as parks, playgrounds, or school grounds. Other community harms may include noise, impeding traffic, children witnessing acts of prostitution, harassment of residents, unsanitary acts, and unwelcome solicitation of children by johns.

Prostitution also poses other risks because of its link with human trafficking, as mentioned, which is another form of sexual exploitation, as well as its link to drug-related crimes and organized criminal groups that thrive in that environment. Two recent international studies indicate that there is cause for concern in these areas. These studies show that jurisdictions that have decriminalized prostitution have often experienced increases in human trafficking and further violence, which is unacceptable.

The risks and harms associated with prostitution are readily acknowledged. However, the issue of which legal framework should govern adult prostitution remains highly contentious. The results of the government's extensive public consultations indicate and demonstrate that Canadians are still divided on this issue, but overall the results show that the majority of Canadians consulted prefer a criminal law response, one that involves the criminalization of purchasers of sexual services and of those who exploit prostitution for their own gain.

In addition to the legally oriented response through this legislation, we have also, in a compassionate and Canadian way, brought forward additional resources to partner with provinces and organizations throughout the country that provide front-line services to help prostitutes to exit from prostitution by giving them choices and alternatives that would allow them to leave this exploitative field and find a better life.

Noting the time, I urge all members to support this important piece of legislation. There will be ample time to examine it at committee. There will be an opportunity to hear from Canadians further on this important matter. The objective here is clearly to protect the vulnerable, to protect our communities, and to move, for the sake of all those involved, to a better place and a better life.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2014 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his speech even though I feel that he took quite a bit of liberty with the Supreme Court decision. I am not sure his quotes from the court's decision were altogether complete.

This is a very emotional issue for many people. Some have based their careers on this issue, and many others are much less aware and have not necessarily had the opportunity to do the consultations the minister has done. We have repeatedly asked him to refer this bill to the Supreme Court to be sure no mistakes have been made. I gather from the minister's response to journalists—which was much clearer than his response here in the House—that the answer was no and that he had no intention of doing so.

That being said, if he is not prepared to send his bill to the Supreme Court, seeing as this bill has been the subject of much criticism from coast to coast with the exception of a few Conservative voices, is he prepared to share the legal opinions? As the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, he is obligated to ensure that bills before the House comply with the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If he has those legal opinions, including the survey his department commissioned, can he forward them to us before the committee begins its study? That will give us a chance to consult them before our study.

I would also like him to define the expression “sexual services” because it is used frequently throughout the bill. What does the government mean by “sexual services” in Bill C-36?

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2014 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the member that the polling that was done internally by the Department of Justice will of course be made public in due course, as it always is.

I completely disagree with her characterization of the response from the public as negative. There are arguments on both sides. That is natural and to be expected.

As for my interpretation of the Supreme Court decision, I can assure her and the House that I examined the decision very carefully, as did the department. It did provide framework references for the legislation itself to respond, particularly in the areas that I outlined in my remarks, if she listened or wanted to go back in Hansard, with regard to the ability of prostitutes to protect themselves. That is a primary consideration and is something that we were very concerned with.

I would point her as well to the sections of the bill that are aimed specifically at protecting prostitutes, as well as the community. That is the balance that was sought. This bill takes a very comprehensive approach. There were extensive consultations; some 31,000 Canadians participated in the online consultation, and I personally took part in round tables and heard from both ends of the spectrum, both those in favour of legalization and those in favour of complete criminalization. People currently and actively involved in prostitution attended some of those sessions, so we did hear from a broad cross-section of Canadians on the subject. We feel we have struck the proper balance in the best interests of the public and of prostitutes.