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

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

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, this excellent question is worthy of a full dissertation. Clearly, no one has an simple answer.

Indeed, there are a few problems related to my colleague's question. First of all, I still do not know how this bill defines the concept of sexual services. How does that affect the things my colleague mentioned? This is not yet clear. The minister has not provided a clear answer to these questions.

The example of Montreal is typical of the promises that the current mayor made during the election campaign. This just goes to show that words can sometimes be a far cry from reality. When our intentions are sincere we provide the necessary means to back them up, in other words, in this case, more police officers and a lot more than $20 million over five years. This requires a firm commitment. It is not enough to announce an investment of $20 million at the end of a press conference.

The government needs to walk the talk, which it does not always do.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure that I rise to speak today on what is no doubt an important piece of legislation. I will talk about the issue for the first part of my debate, and then the second part will be more specifically with respect to the bill and why the Liberal Party has expressed so much concern about it.

As a number of members might be aware, I have been a parliamentarian, whether in this House or in the Manitoba legislature, for well over 20 years. There are a number of issues that come into play every so often on which I feel compelled to speak. This is one of those issues.

If members are familiar with Winnipeg North or the riding I used to represent at the Manitoba legislature, they would be aware that to drive to work I would drive down Burrows Avenue, from roughly the 1900 block all the way down to Salter Street, which is at the 300 block of Burrows Avenue. I would then turn right and head straight to the legislative building.

If there is a heart of this social dilemma that we find ourselves in, I was driving through it virtually every day that the Manitoba legislature sat. When the Manitoba legislature sat, I drove through the core of Winnipeg North, in particular the older neighbourhood of Winnipeg North.

I think of the streets where there are serious issues of prostitution, and everything around it. We are talking about streets, from Mcgregor , Salter, square blocks to Main Street, and streets like Pritchard Avenue, in part. These streets are part of a community which at one time were the pride of Winnipeg. There is so much richness and cultural diversity there today.

However, there are also some very strong social needs there. What I have witnessed over the last couple of decades is a sense of desperation, a community that in many ways is in need of government attention. When I say government attention, I am not just talking about attention from Ottawa or the province; I am referring to the different levels of government and the many different stakeholders.

There are many different non-profit groups in that little box, if I can put it that way, from Arlington Street to Main Street, from the tracks almost all of the way up to Inkster, and definitely up to Mountain, that do fabulous work in terms of trying to deal with the social issues there.

Over the years, I have observed first-hand the seriousness of prostitution and how that has destroyed the lives of our young people. I have seen prostitutes who would appear to be in the early teens, and when I say early teens, that is even questionable. I know 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds, and even younger, who get engaged in prostitution. Even though it is predominantly females or young girls, there are also males who get engaged in prostitution. It is not by choice that this is taking place; it is a destructive force that needs to be recognized.

I have always felt that the best way to deal with this social issue is to see a higher sense of co-operation from the different stakeholders, and in particular from the different levels of government.

When this bill came before the House of Commons, I was intrigued. Winnipeg North is not unique. There might be a dozen or more other constituencies similar in nature, so I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity for us to exchange ideas, because many of the issues that need to be dealt with when it comes to prostitution go far beyond the Criminal Code.

I have heard a lot of discussion through this process. I appreciate the time various individuals put in over the summer to sit on the committee. I would often tune in from Winnipeg to catch up on what was taking place in Ottawa, and there has been a lot of debate about the criminal element of prostitution. However, not only is there a role for criminal law to play in this issue; there is also a far greater role for us to play in dealing with prostitution and human trafficking by looking beyond our criminal laws.

I have had first-hand experience and heard sad stories. A family in Tyndall Park had a young lady torn from their lives. She was murdered. She was enticed by drugs and was sucked into prostitution. From what I understand, this particular young lady was drawn into prostitution through crystal meth and the criminal element present at the time. She even had children.

Thank goodness for her parents, who were able to provide a loving, nurturing family. They never lost hope for their daughter, but sadly, she was brutally murdered.

There is no doubt in my mind and in the minds of others that the system failed that young lady. There is this sense that we, collectively, need to do more. When I say “we”, it goes beyond members of Parliament, beyond elected officials at all levels, beyond bureaucrats at all levels. It goes to the non-profit groups that we refer to and to the core of our communities themselves. I saw first-hand the impact on a family and in part on a community.

Another individual I have known for a number of years tried to provide care to a foster girl. As much as this individual wanted to provide protection for the girl, the system did not allow him to provide the type of protection that he and his wife and his family wanted to provide. That foster child ultimately ended up falling victim to the criminal element and was roped in to prostitution.

I could relate endless stories that I have heard through the years. I can recall one touching one. A family overseas thought they could get their daughter over to Canada. She was told that she would be able to work in the hospitality industry. The family thought, of course, of a restaurant or a hotel or something of that nature. Once this young lady arrived, she was brought into the criminal element, which included prostitution among many other things.

There are numerous stories. I like to believe that we as a whole will do what we can to ensure that we are protecting the vulnerable people in the communities we represent.

I am a very strong advocate for the Marymound centre, which is a wonderful north end care facility that is, in essence, run by volunteers and some paid staff. They take some very troubled individuals into their care and under their tutelage to try to get them out of the rut of the dark side, out of criminality, including prostitution.

I had the opportunity to tour that facility years ago. In the Manitoba legislature and here in Ottawa I have had the opportunity to talk about Marymound as an organization that assists young girls in proving an opportunity to succeed in life. In many cases, they are taken right from the street or from dysfunctional families and brought into a situation where they can feel safe and, hopefully, get on a track that ultimately leads to a much more positive outcome for many of them.

We need to look at how we can build upon organizations with proven track records of success. When I get into discussions on crime bills, I talk a lot about how we can come up with progressive ideas that would enable governments at whatever level to support initiatives that would prevent crimes from occurring in the first place.

I would apply that very same principle here. Can government do more than it is currently doing to prevent young girls and boys from becoming prostitutes? What can government do to assist individuals who have already been captured by the criminal prostitution element and are currently in the system? What can we do to assist them in getting out of it? This is where my interest really lies, and I think government can make a difference.

I cited two specific examples. The first example I talked about was the prostitute with the crystal meth. This is someone who was already in the system. The parents had a tremendous amount of frustration in trying to find ways to get her out of the system. That was the first example that I gave.

The second example that I gave was the loving, caring family that realized their foster child was sneaking out late at night and being drawn into the system. The social services system failed, and no one was able to prevent this particular individual from falling into this brutal system.

That is where I believe we can do more. That is why I brought up the Marymound system. If we have resources like Marymound, which I am using as an example, they can help individuals who are currently involved with the criminal element and hopefully pull them out.

There are so many other things that we could be doing, such as providing educational opportunities, providing basic life skills that would ultimately lead to alternative forms of employment, and providing hope in many ways. We could look at ways to develop programs that would build self-confidence. There are all of these things.

I know the member for Kildonan—St. Paul is very much aware of the impact of the system on what could be a wonderful, bright young lady with all sorts of hope and future, and how individuals try to keep a person down through the enticement of drugs or often the beatings that take place. They are used to keep individuals in a place where they should not be.

Governments and non-profit agencies do have a role to counter that. I have made a few suggestions as to how we could move in that direction, and I would challenge the government to work in co-operation on other initiatives that will make a tangible difference.

When I was first elected, I remember Vic Toews saying to me that he wanted to see more community policing. He believed we needed to have more policing in our communities. He actually assigned a significant amount of money to ensure that there would be more police hired, but when I looked into it, I found that there was some money, but it was tied. When it was sent to my province of Manitoba, the provincial government sat on that money. For different reasons, It did not want to use it for policing, but the point is that it was sitting on that money, and in my last few days as an MLA, community police offices were actually being shut down.

Community police officers would go into schools and try to make a difference in the lives of individual young people who found it challenging to be out on the street in the first place. What was missing was the sense that we have not just a responsibility, but a higher responsibility to start working together to make sure that the job is actually getting done. That is something that is very lacking.

If there is anything I can contribute to this debate on Bill C-36, I believe it is to emphasize is a very significant point, and it is this: it is more than Ottawa and more than the provincial and municipal governments. It includes the stakeholders and so many others who need to get involved on this issue.

I would like to indicate the primary concern that the Liberal Party has with this legislation. It can be referred to as 200-plus lawyers. It is the constitutionality of the legislation.

The government has not been able to provide, outside of its own department, official legal opinions that the bill would stand a chance with the charter, and the reason we have the legislation before us today is that the current laws themselves have failed the charter. That led to the legislation before us today, but from everything we are being told, this legislation will not be able to meet the charter either.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member skated around the issue four times from Sunday. Two weeks ago, the leader of the Liberal Party tweeted, “The days when old men get to decide what a woman does with her body are long gone. Times have changed for the better. #LPC defends rights”.

The Liberal Party is not supporting Bill C-36. We heard the member speak over and over again about human trafficking in Winnipeg North. Will that member toe the party line or will he vote “yes” to Bill C-36?

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is important to recognize that we have legal experts from all over Canada who are challenging this legislation's ability to even clear the charter. The reason we have the legislation before us today is because of the Bedford decision. There have been many commentaries throughout this whole process regarding that. It is one of the reasons I wanted to try to personalize it.

There is much more that we could be doing outside of criminal law. It is more important that when we pass criminal law, we ensure we have it right. The government has not been successful demonstrating that it has it right.

It is not just the Liberal Party or the NDP saying that. We are talking about hundreds of lawyers and different stakeholders that go beyond lawyers.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, the examples my colleague brought forth from his riding were well taken.

I will remind him that we are in third reading, so it is unfortunately a little late for all of the suggested improvements. We are now at the point where we will be voting to accept or defeat the legislation. On this side, we will be voting against it.

Having brought all of these great ideas and knowing that they cannot be brought forward anymore, what is member for Winnipeg North going to be doing regarding this legislation as far as supporting it further down the road? What are we going to be looking at as far as bringing this forward in the community?

Specifically, I would like to know from him if it is a good idea to be passing legislation like this without giving the opportunity and the tools to those who are disenfranchised and have fewer resources in the country to bring forward legislation to the courts. This legislation, from so many experts that I have spoken to, is almost certainly going to be challenged in the courts. It is almost certainly going to be defeated, because it does not actually address the single most important issue that the courts brought up, which is harm reduction.

Could the member please give some comments on how the community groups that he spoke to are going to be able to challenge this on the ground?

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my attempt in delivering my comments was to try to emphasize that the Liberal Party believes we have a very serious social issue in facing human trafficking and prostitution. We need to recognize that government has a role to play that goes beyond the Criminal Code.

What we have before us today is a direct result of a ruling from the Supreme Court. We have been advised, as others have been.

Let me quote a letter that was addressed to the Prime Minister and authored by, from what I understand, well over 200 lawyers. It says:

We are concerned about the direction your government is taking with respect to adult prostitution in Canada. Bill C-36, also known as the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, proposes a legal regime that criminalizes many aspects of adult prostitution, including the purchase of sexual services, the advertisement of sexual services, and most communication in public for the purpose of prostitution.

As the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously held in Canada...three of Canada’s current adult prostitution laws are an unjustifiable infringement of sex workers’ right to security of the person, pursuant to s. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms...These laws were found to create and exacerbate dangerous conditions and prevent sex workers from taking action to reduce or mitigate the risks they face. We are concerned that, for the very same reasons that caused the Court to strike down these prostitution laws, the criminal regime proposed by Bill C-36 is likely to offend the Charter as well.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 1:20 p.m.
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Mississauga—Erindale Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, the member has just mentioned that the government did not present any witnesses who were, outside of government, legal experts who would support the constitutionality of Bill C-36. I am happy to have the opportunity to stand and correct him.

The member said that he watched the House of Commons proceedings in the summer. I hope he had a chance to hear the testimony of Professor Benedet of the University of British Columbia, not a government lawyer, at both the House of Commons and the Senate committee hearings.

I would like to read for him the transcript from Professor Benedet's appearance before the Senate proceedings where she was asked a question by Senator Plett.

Senator Plett said:

My question is whether you believe that this proposed law is, in fact, in accordance with the Bedford ruling. If so, how? Do you believe that, in fact, it will stand the test of a challenge to the Supreme Court?

Professor Benedet answered:

Yes, I do. I do believe both that the law is a genuine attempt to respond to the restrictions put on Parliament by the decision in Bedford, and it does seem to me, that the law is crafted in a way that it meets the demands of the Charter.

She further went on to say:

Overall, I see here a bill that is largely attuned to the concerns that the court raised. If the argument that is being made is that criminalizing the purchase of sex is inherently unconstitutional, we have to recognize what is being asserted then is that there is a constitutional right to buy women in prostitution. My reading of the Charter of Rights, particularly in light of the equality provisions, doesn't support that conclusion.

Could the member comment on Professor Benedet's analysis and at least acknowledge that in fact there are legal experts who support the constitutionality of this bill?

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would defer to the Liberal Party critic on the issue. I was present when he made the speech indicating that it was very clear that the overwhelming response from the legal community was that this would not pass the charter.

A Winnipeg Free Press story, written on June 10, states:

Shawna Ferris, a founding member of the WWG, said the bill would put sex workers in danger. Apart from the overall criminalization of purchasing, she said other proposed changes make it harder for sex workers to do their jobs safely.

My understanding is this was the attitude in part that ultimately led to the Supreme Court to make some sort of a decision.

At the end of the day, it is the vast majority of the legal community. When I say “the vast majority”, we are probably talking, outside of the ones who maybe work for the department, 95% plus who would have said that this would not pass a charter test. People should be concerned about it.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend all the hard work done by our colleague, the member for Gatineau, on this file.

She highlighted two important priorities of the NDP, specifically, the safety of sex workers and the constitutionality of this bill. Clearly, this bill does not address either priority.

I would like to come back to something my colleague said. Women who resort to prostitution are usually very poor, and unfortunately, many of them have substance abuse problems. What concrete measures does she think the government could take to address the root causes of prostitution, specifically, poverty among women?

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 1:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the things the government can do is demonstrate leadership and work with the different stakeholders to make a difference at the ground level within our communities. It can build upon things such as the Marymound association. It can look at ways in which to encourage these young people to upgrade their education or to get back into school. It can look at ways to find alternative forms of employment, or support them through child care, as an example, or look at drug addiction issues.

If we had a strong leadership coming from Ottawa to work with the different provinces and the other stakeholders, there is a multitude of different programs that could be put into place that would have a profound positive impact. However, there has to be the political will and the sense of need to work with everyone from the community groups within the small communities to the different levels of government.

If we achieve this and we are successful at doing it, then we will be able to deal with some of the literally hundreds or thousands of cases that occur every year where young boys and girls are being exploited of which a vast majority are female.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 1:25 p.m.
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Mississauga—Erindale Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the third reading debate on Bill C-36, the protection of communities and exploited persons act.

Bill C-36 is the government's response to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in December 2013 in the Bedford case, a decision that will result in the decriminalization of most adult prostitution related activities if this bill is not enforced before expiry of the court's one-year suspension, on December 20 of this year.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights studied the bill in July 2014 and a Senate committee on legal and constitutional affairs pre-studied it in early September. Both committees heard from many witnesses, reflecting a wide range of views. That evidence also included consideration of the available research evaluating different approaches to prostitution taken in different jurisdictions.

The government has always maintained that failing to respond to the Bedford decision is not an option and that the testimony before these two committees reaffirms this position.

At committee, the Hon. Andrew Swan, minister of justice and attorney general for the Government of Manitoba, stated the following:

The Manitoba government does not support the legalization of prostitution, it does not support the full decriminalization of prostitution or a de facto decriminalization of prostitution, which would occur if there was no response to the Bedford decision. All those options would continue to allow the purchase of others for sex, devalue human life, and enable tragedies associated with prostitution to continue to occur.

I acknowledge that there are some individuals who will say that they have freely chosen to sell their sexual services. The two committees heard from some witnesses who wanted the law to recognize a profession that they called “sex work”, who wanted the law to help them earn a living selling their own sexual services. They wanted the law to allow them to run commercial enterprises in which sexual services would be sold so they could capitalize on the prostitution of others.

These witnesses told the committees that existing laws prohibiting assault, sexual assault, forceable confinement and human trafficking provided them with sufficient protection and that they were not victims, that they freely chose what they referred to as “sex work” and that the state had no right to tell them that they could not earn a living doing what they chose to do.

Conversely, so many of the witnesses who appeared before the two committees spoke of their tragic stories of pain, suffering and victimization, stories of johns who had abused and degraded them for their own sexual pleasure and pimps who had harmed and exploited them to maximize their own profits.

These stories are also supported by statistics that clearly show that prostitution targets the marginalized, the disenfranchised and the vulnerable, including those who suffer disadvantages because of gender, poverty, race, youth and a history of abuse for addiction. We do not accept that this group should have to wait until a violent offence is committed against them to avail themselves of the law's protection. Make no mistake about it, Bill C-36 is for them.

Even if in some cases prostitution involves some who identify themselves as consenting adults, that does not detract from the validity of Bill C-36 objectives. Some times it is necessary to prohibit conduct that produces harm or risk of harm to individuals or society, even if not in every case. The courts have recognized that the liberty of some to engage in certain conduct can be constrained to protect others who are vulnerable to the harms associated with that conduct. This includes polygamy, incest, possession and trafficking of drugs and the trade in human organs and tissues. These are practices that so often involve a power imbalance between the participants. That imbalance often results in the more powerful party taking advantage of the less powerful party.

The criminal law has an important role to play in protecting the less powerful and the vulnerable. Even if in some cases a power imbalance is not present, the elevated risk that the vulnerable could be targeted, that the vulnerable could suffer if the activity is allowed to persist, warrants prohibition of the activity itself because harm results to everyone when a practice that targets the vulnerable is allowed to flourish.

Prostitution is a case in point. We know that women are disproportionately and negatively impacted by prostitution. We know that indicators of socio-economic disadvantage are risk factors for entry into and remaining subjected to prostitution. We know that involvement in prostitution results in the experience of high levels of violence, both physical and sexual, and emotional trauma, regardless of venue or legal regime. The individual and societal risks of validating this activity are simply too high.

Simply put, we cannot condone this so-called industry for the benefit of those individuals who claim to freely choose it, because doing so would exacerbate the harm experienced by that vulnerable group who are most at risk of subjection to prostitution, and importantly, do not choose it. Facilitating this industry would also harm communities, including through proliferation of associated criminality such as drug-related offences and human trafficking, as well as society at large by reinforcing gender inequalities and normalizing the treatment of primarily women's bodies as bought and sold.

Make no mistake, this is not a business like any other. It is not an industry like any other, or work like any other. It is exploitation of our most vulnerable and our law must say no, this is not acceptable. If that means that some who would like to profit from the trade in sexual services can no longer do so, then that result is necessary to prevent the ongoing and future victimization of others.

I have focused thus far on the vulnerability of so many of those who sell their own sexual services, but what about those who purchase those same services? Some have asked why Bill C-36 would label this group “exploiters” when some are not.

We must take into account a variety of societal factors when determining whether the criminal law should apply to certain conduct, including when that conduct can be engaged in consensually. If allowing that conduct results in a reasonable apprehension of harm to some, particularly the vulnerable, the application of the criminal law is justified.

Bill C-36 recognizes that the act of purchasing sexual services, regardless of the circumstances, contributes to a serious societal problem that implicates the equality of rights of marginalized and vulnerable groups. That practice must be stopped to protect the dignity and equality of those vulnerable groups and indeed every member of our society. This approach reflects one of the fundamental roles of criminal law, which is to protect the vulnerable.

These are the reasons Bill C-36 proposes a fundamental paradigm shift toward treatment of prostitution as sexual exploitation. These are the reasons Bill C-36 proposes to continue to criminalize those who capitalize upon the exploitation of the prostitution of others. These are the reasons Bill C-36 proposes to criminalize those who fuel the demand for prostitution.

I would like to recap. The important objectives of Bill C-36 are to reduce the incidence of prostitution, a practice that targets the vulnerable; to discourage entry into it; to deter participation in it; and ultimately, to abolish it to the greatest extent possible.

For the first time in Canadian criminal law, Bill C-36 would make the purchase of sexual services a criminal offence. Although the sale of sexual services would not be prohibited, criminalizing the demand for sexual services in fact makes prostitution an illegal activity.

Some have said that an approach involving asymmetrical criminalization of a consensual activity is unprecedented, but the purchasing offence is almost identical to the existing offence that prohibits the purchase of sexual services from minors. That offence has been on the books for years and is the basis for widespread agreement on the fact that our existing law makes child prostitution illegal.

Here we see the very same power imbalance to which I have already alluded, and Bill C-36 recognizes that this power imbalance does not cease to exist simply when a person turns 18 years old. The law also treats sexual activity with minors asymmetrically. The consent of persons under the age of 16 to such activity is not valid. In several instances, the criminal law applies asymmetrically to ensure that the person who has less power, who is considered to be vulnerable, is not held criminally liable for engaging in illegal activities.

I come to the critical question that seems to have caused a great deal of confusion. How does Bill C-36 make prostitution illegal?

The Supreme Court of Canada has defined prostitution as the exchange of sexual services of one person in return for payment by another. Criminalizing the purchase of sexual services invalidates the entire prostitution transaction.

This is no different from the criminal law's approach to child prostitution, and research shows that there is good reason to treat child prostitution and adult prostitution as activities that exist along the same continuum rather than separate activities, warranting suppression in one case and facilitation in the other. In far too many cases, there is no practical difference in warranting differential treatment by the law.

Professor Benedet's testimony before the Senate committee drives this point home. Although long, I would like to quote her fully.

She said:

It is a crime to buy a young person for sex, and no one seems to be disputing the continued existence of that provision or questioning its constitutionality. No one is going to come to you and ask you to repeal that provision because it makes kids unsafe by pushing prostitution underground, even though exactly the same argument ought to apply.

The reason they will not argue it is that it is generally accepted that buying a young person is exploitation because of the inequality of power based on age, even if the kid says yes.

She goes on to say:

Of course, there are usually many other inequalities at work, including some combination of gender, colonialism, poverty and addiction. Yet, when the inequality of age is no longer present, people refuse to see any of the other inequalities that are so prevalent in the prostitution industry, even when that prostitute, now an adult, started as a child, which was true of many of the witnesses in the Bedford case.

I submit that it is time to stop ignoring those inequalities and that Bill C-36 does something very important in recognizing that there are other inequalities beyond age that make the prostitution industry exploitative and worthy of the criminal law's attention.

That is the end of the quote.

As I have said, Bill C-36 does not propose to criminalize the sale of sexual services, instead it proposes to immunize sellers from prosecution for the part they play in the illegal prostitution transaction.

This immunity does not, however, make that transaction legal. The approach does not in any way allow, authorize, facilitate or condone the selling of sexual services. Rather, it recognizes the power imbalance that so often manifests itself in this transaction.

The solution is to assist, not punish, the less powerful party to that transaction. I stress that so many sellers, some who courageously appeared before the two committees, rarely freely choose prostitution. For many, their choices were constrained, whether by the brute force of those who would profit from their exploitation or by the lack of meaningful options from which to choose.

This is the reason the bill proposes to immunize them from prosecution for the part that they play in the illegal prostitution transaction.

It is also why the government has dedicated $20 million in addition to other existing federal initiatives to assist sellers in leaving prostitution. Protecting those who are so vulnerable to the dangers and risks posed by prostitution involve preventing entry into it, helping those involved leave it, and directing the full force of the criminal law at those who fuel this trade, as well as those who capitalize on it.

I want to read to the House the words of a very courageous woman who appeared before the House of Commons justice committee in July this year. Her name is Bridget Perrier and I have to say that I was moved by her testimony. I think all who hear it will be equally moved. I want people to hear this. I think it is important that my colleagues here in the House hear it and that Canadians across the country hear it. She said:

I was lured and debased into prostitution at the age of 12 from a child welfare-run group home. I remained enslaved for 10 years in prostitution. I was sold to men who felt privileged to steal my innocence and invade my body. I was paraded like cattle in front of men who were able to purchase me, and the acts that I did were something no little girl should ever have to endure here in Canada, the land of the free.

Because of the men, I cannot have a child normally, because of trauma towards my cervix. Also, still to this day I have nightmares, and sometimes I sleep with the lights on. My trauma is deep, and I sometimes feel as though I'm frozen—or even worse, I feel damaged and not worthy.

I was traded in legal establishments, street corners, and strip clubs. I even had a few trips across the Great Lakes servicing shipmen at the age of 13. The scariest thing that happened to me was being held captive for a period of 43 hours and raped and tortured repeatedly at 14 years of age by a sexual predator who preyed on exploited girls.

My exploiters made a lot of money and tried to break me, but I fought for my life. My first pimp was a woman who owned a legal brothel, where I was groomed to say that I was her daughter's friend, if the police ever asked. My second pimp was introduced to me when I was in Toronto. I had to prostitute for money. He was supposed to be a bodyguard, but that turned out to be one big lie.

Both are out there still, doing the same thing to more little girls somewhere here in Canada.

In my view, if there is one more little girl like Bridget Perrier anywhere in Canada, we need to do something about it. We cannot stand idly by.

The Supreme Court said it is for us as parliamentarians to do something about this. It is within our jurisdiction to do something about this. She did not talk about legalizing brothels and bringing in municipal bylaws to regulate their hours of operation. She talked about using the laws for which Parliament is responsible, the criminal laws, to bring in a new way of responding to what is a horrible practice in our country.

We must aspire to a society free from the exploitive practices that target our most vulnerable members, a society that prioritizes dignity and equality of all. For Bridget Perrier, for Timea Nagy, for Katarina MacLeod, and for the dozens and hundreds of others out there, we must do this.

I hope my colleagues on the other side of the House, especially the Liberals, who do not seem to be able to make up their minds, will choose to support Bill C-36. Do the right thing and recognize the women who are trapped in this business as victims and help them to bring an end to this awful practice that has enslaved far too many in our society.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, like the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, we were deeply moved by the testimony we heard in committee, especially that of Bridget Perrier.

I was at least happy to know that the Criminal Code still has very strict provisions regarding human trafficking and sexual exploitation. I would like to repeat that, because the Conservatives would have people believe that without Bill C-36, Canada would have no such protections, when in fact those provisions provide an excellent framework.

Since this will probably be my only opportunity to do so, I would like to ask the same question.

If at first we do not succeed, try, try again.

I will ask this again to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. Can somebody please define for me what Bill C-36 means when it talks about sexual services? It is not an idle question. It is important. Does it cover sexual acts that are done that are pretty close to—whatever, I will not qualify it—but that happen in some clubs? Does it touch escort agencies? That is a very important question.

On the review and report, why did the government push back to five years our motion to get a review and report in two years?

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is pretty clear I think to everyone, to the courts, that sexual services means the sexual gratification of the other person. There are many cases heard on the definition of that particular phrase, and I would suggest to my hon. friend that she take a look at some of those cases.

We need to take this opportunity, which was presented to us by the Supreme Court, to finally address this terrible trade that is enslaving far too many people in our country.

The hon. member asked why we would want to review the law in five years rather than two. The reason is that we need time to see how the law is being enforced and to have evidence come forward. Two years is a very narrow amount of time for that evidence to become available, but in five years we think it will be sufficient time. That was why I was pleased to support her suggestion for a mandatory review of the bill going forward, and with that small amendment to make it a five-year review as opposed to two.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Kildonan—St. Paul for her question. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the tremendous work she has done over many years to fight for the rights of trafficked persons in Canada and around the world. She deserves a lot of credit for that.

The Liberal member said earlier that he had a letter from 200 lawyers saying they thought the bill was unconstitutional and did not live up to the test in the Bedford decision. I practise in a law firm of over 950 lawyers, and there are 14,000 lawyers practising in the city of Toronto, if my memory serves me correctly. I think there are plenty of lawyers who agree with the constitutionality of this bill, and I am one of them.

The bill was crafted to directly respond to what was requested by the three litigants in the Bedford case. They asked for the right to carry on their trade from a fixed indoor location where they could adequately screen their clients and protect themselves, and Bill C-36 provides exactly for that. It allows them to get off the streets, to do it in a fixed indoor location, a safe place which has a receptionist and bodyguard, paid for on reasonable commercial terms which are not exploitive.

I believe those things, coupled with the statement of the purpose of the bill, which is to reduce prostitution and the harm done to both society and communities by prostitution, would ensure that the bill is found constitutional by the Supreme Court if it is ever tested in the future.

I want to say one further thing. Criminal lawyers know that if they cannot defend their clients on the facts, they always challenge the constitutionality of a bill. That is just common law practice.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2014 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is quite simple.

I would like my colleague to tell us precisely what new tools Bill C-36 adds to the law. The minister's proposed money and programs aside, what section of the Criminal Code affected by the bill does not already deal with human trafficking and human exploitation? Sections 279 and 279.01 are clear: human trafficking and human exploitation are offences that, committed together with violence, assault or confinement, are punishable to life in prison.

What tools does Bill C-36 add to existing legislation?