An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons)

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

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Maria Mourani  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

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 in order to provide consecutive sentences for offences related to trafficking in persons and create a presumption regarding the exploitation of one person by another.

It also adds the offence of trafficking in persons to the list of offences to which the forfeiture of proceeds of crime apply.

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

March 6, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

January 29th, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in debate on Bill C-452, on the question of human trafficking and how best to combat it. In particular, this legislation would seek to strengthen the provisions that punish exploitation and trafficking in persons.

I would like to congratulate my colleague from Ahuntsic for this bill and this very important step.

The true measure of a society's commitment to equality and human dignity is the protection it affords its most vulnerable members. And victims of human trafficking are some of the most vulnerable.

Accordingly, we must recognize and denounce human trafficking as the persistent and pervasive assault on human rights that it is, while providing increased protection for those who are most vulnerable to this massive criminal violation of human rights, namely women and children. At the same time, we must work to bring the perpetrators to justice and ensure that human traffickers are held to account fully for this reprehensible criminal conduct. My remarks this evening will focus on the implications this bill would have for the justice system, while situating the debate in the broader context of how we ought to combat human trafficking.

The crime of human trafficking, as I have said many times in this House, is one of the most pernicious, persistent and pervasive assaults on human rights. According to the 2012 United States Department of State report on human trafficking, an estimated 27 million people worldwide each year are victims of various crimes of exploitation and servitude, while an estimated $32 billion is generated by this immoral and illegal trade, making it one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world today. The struggle to eradicate this crime, therefore, must certainly include legal tools to prosecute the offenders. It must also include policies to protect and support the victims while engaging in public education efforts to promote awareness of the trends and the means used to exploit and traffic the victims.

Accordingly, a holistic approach to this problem would require addressing the social factors that allow the crime of exploitation to occur in communities across our country, while working with all levels of government and community leaders to identify trends and patterns of exploitation, to communicate with the victims and to support the victims and their families during these moments of tremendous vulnerability. I commend the member for Ahuntsic for her involvement in this regard with the various stakeholders for this purpose.

To combat human trafficking, we need to do more than just impose new criminal penalties. For example, we need to correct the flaws in our immigration system because they leave temporary and foreign workers open to exploitation and abuse by their Canadian employers.

Bill C-452 makes a number of important amendments to the Criminal Code. First, it provides for consecutive sentences to be served for human trafficking convictions. Second, it grants the Canadian judiciary jurisdiction over human trafficking offences whether they are committed in Canada or abroad. Third, the bill clarifies the provisions related to human trafficking involving sexual exploitation. Fourth, it creates a presumption regarding the exploitation of one person by another. Finally, the bill adds the offences of procuring and trafficking in persons to the list of offences to which the forfeiture of proceeds of crime apply.

All of these proposed changes are indeed well intentioned, but some are somewhat flawed, particularly when viewed from a charter perspective. The Liberal Party will support this legislation and vote to send it to committee for further study and review in the hope that the concerns may be appropriately addressed.

I will begin with a provision that I wholeheartedly support.

The legislation expands the scope of the human trafficking provision in the code to the international arena. This is an important and most welcome change to our law. Simply put, the reach of this egregious trafficking crime is beyond our national borders and our laws must therefore reflect this reality.

For many human trafficking victims, exploitation may bring them to Canada. However, the original incident of abuse or threats made to their families occurs in far distant lands. We must seek justice not only for the final leg of this crime, but for the full scope of the abuse and cruelty inflicted on victims by their abusers.

Accordingly, while I support that provision and the provisions relating to human trafficking that include sexual exploitation, as well as extending or adding the offences of procuring and trafficking to the list of offences to which the proceeds of crime would apply, I am concerned by some other sections of the legislation. For example, Bill C-452 provides that sentences imposed upon a conviction of human trafficking are to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed and punishment for an offence arising out of the same event or series of events.

I understand the well-intentioned motive behind this recommendation. My concern is that doing this could limit judicial discretion in a way that not only encroaches on judicial independence but may, however inadvertently, result in sentences that infringe upon charter-protected rights. Certainly these heinous acts should be punished severely. However, there may be situations where the imposition of consecutive, rather than concurrent sentencing is inadvisable. This is why judges should be allowed to retain their discretion in this regard, though certainly at committee we could address whether it might be best to encourage such sentences while perhaps not specifically requiring them.

As well, the bill establishes a presumption under section 279.01(3) of the Criminal Code that may be overly broad. It reads:

—a person who is not exploited and who lives with or is habitually in the company of or harbours a person who is exploited shall, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, be deemed to be exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of that person.

While one of the major issues in combatting trafficking since the crime of exploitation was first introduced in our Criminal Code has been the low number of criminal convictions for this crime, we should nonetheless be very mindful of casting too wide a net as this could raise both charter and common law concerns. Again, I am hopeful this can be addressed at committee.

Another change proposed by the legislation, which I support, modifies section 279 of the Criminal Code by enumerating the various elements of the crime of exploitation, particularly sexual services. This is an important change, in part because our own Department of Justice has found that trafficking for sexual exploitation is more prevalent in Canada than any other form of exploitation, especially in our large urban centres. By adding these new provisions in the code, we would provide law enforcement officials with additional tools to take on this challenge and better protect the Canadian public.

Let me reiterate that while it is vital that our criminal justice system be equipped to handle the full prosecution of this brutal crime, any success on this issue will only come with greater public awareness, mobilization and participation in combatting the crime to begin with. Because the perpetrators of human exploitation count on various social stigmas to isolate their victims, it is vital that we remove these stigmas and those barriers that prevent victims from seeking assistance. We must strengthen our grassroots strategy to detect and prevent human trafficking to begin with, as well as to support and protect victims in a manner that would enhance their co-operation and ability to report this abuse. As a country looking to address this challenge, we must not only seek to punish those who do harm to the innocent, we must also seek to heal and care for those who have been harmed in this fashion.

In summary, I am hopeful that the bill will be improved in committee. I applaud my colleague from Ahuntsic for bringing it forward and for her hard work on this issue, as well as that of the member for Kildonan—St. Paul. I am hopeful that by working together we can eradicate this evil of human trafficking in Canada once and for all.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

January 29th, 2013 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, tonight I am so pleased to have the opportunity to support Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons).

As I have listened to the speeches tonight. It warms my heart to see members in the House who have worked together, and are continuing to work together, to stop this heinous crime in our country.

The member for Mount Royal has done much over the years to stand up for human rights. His Bill C-49 did much to bring the awareness of human trafficking to the forefront, and I thank him for that.

I also want to thank you, Mr. Speaker, as the member for Windsor—Tecumseh. When I first started working on my Bill C-268, I remember your support and your questions. I remember your input in making that bill go through.

As parliamentarians we are standing up against the perpetrators who feed on innocent victims in our country. Now public awareness is coming to the forefront. This is a pressing issue that we are addressing. Human trafficking, as we all know, continues to be a violation of fundamental human rights whose protection forms a basis of our free and democratic country. I want to thank all members for the input we have heard today.

Before I turn to the proposals in the bill itself, I would like to make some general comments on the nature of human trafficking and its severe impact on the victims to underscore the importance of ensuring the strongest possible criminal justice response to this crime.

Traffickers force victims to provide labour or services in circumstances where they believe their safety or the safety of someone known to them will be threatened. If they fail to provide that labour or service, they are deprived of the very rights that underpin a free and democratic society, a society that we hold dear in Canada.

The reality is that victims often suffer physical, sexual and emotional abuse, including threats of violence or actual harm to their loved ones. It does not only encompass the victims. One technique the predators have is to threaten their siblings and their relatives by telling them that they will be next. I have numerous cases where that has happened. That is how they control the victim from whom they earn so much money. Records show right now that a perpetrator earns between $250,000 and $260,000 a year from a victim. It is all about money. It is all about a despicable crime that is happening in our country that touches everybody. Everybody should be aware of it because sooner or later they will hear about it or be touched by it.

In Parliament today we are taking one more step to ensure that Bill C-452 is passed, examined in committee to make it even stronger. By working together, we can make this happen.

To further aggravate the human trafficking problem, the type of criminal conduct is not just something that happens occasionally on the margins of society. Rather, it is widespread in our communities as evidenced by the global revenues generated by it, which are estimated to be about $10 million U.S. per year. This puts human trafficking within the top three money-makers for organized crime. However, it is not just organized crime that is involved in human trafficking. So too are entrepreneurial people who feed off the suffering of innocent victims and control them so they can have money in their pockets to have a better life.

What are we doing about it? I am pleased to report that the government's response to this crime is strong and multifaceted.

First, we have a veritable arsenal of criminal offences that apply to this reprehensible conduct. In 2003 three trafficking offences were added to the criminal code. In 2010 a new offence of child trafficking was enacted through Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years), which was sponsored by myself at that time. This offence imposes mandatory minimum penalties on those who traffic in persons under the age of 18.

In 2012 former Bill C-310, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), which was another bill sponsored by myself, extended extra territorial jurisdiction for all Criminal Code trafficking offences and enacted an interpretative tool to assist the court in interpreting the trafficking in persons provisions. Why did that happen? When we sat in a court, we heard lawyers trying to prove that the victim initially was not afraid. Was not afraid, why? How perpetrators work is the victim is not afraid. Most perpetrators come on as the victim's friends. They give the victims everything they want. It is only after they separate them from their infrastructure, family, community and friends and get them alone and take all their identification does the relationship change.

That is when the victims are beaten, raped and shot up with drugs. They are unrecognizable when they are seen on the street corners. These are innocent victims who need the love, care and rescuing to renew their lives. Many young girls who have been rescued are doing phenomenal things.

I was at a special event for Walk With Me, with Timea Nagy, a former trafficking victim in our country. She has done much to rescue victims, much to help restore the lives of these innocent victims.

All of these things, in addition to the trafficking specific offence contained in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, section 118, which prohibits transnational trafficking and the numerous Criminal Code offences that address trafficking-related conduct, such as forcible confinement, kidnapping, sexual assault and uttering threats, are few examples of the arsenal of crime bills that we have to protect the innocent victims in our country.

That is not all. In recognition of the multifaceted nature of this problem, our government launched the national action plan to combat human trafficking June 6, 2012. The action plan recognizes that a comprehensive response to human trafficking must involve efforts to ensure what we refer to, and I know everyone here in the House is familiar with, as the four Ps: the protection of victims; the prosecution of offenders; partnerships with key players; and the prevention of the crime in the first place.

All activities are coordinated through the human trafficking task force, which is led by Public Safety Canada. This is without a doubt a comprehensive response to a complex problem, but more can always be done. Where more can be done, more should be done, especially when efforts serve to address a crime as insidious as human trafficking.

That is why I commend the member for Ahuntsic who has put forward Bill C-452, which proposes a number of reforms that would strengthen the response I have just described.

It seeks to impose consecutive sentences for trafficking offences and any other offence arising out of the same event or series of events. The bill would also create a presumption that would assist prosecutors in proving the main human trafficking offence. It would require a sentencing court to order the forfeiture of the offenders property unless they could prove their property was not the proceeds of crime.

The very first trafficking case that came to justice in Canada was a very short while ago. It was the Imani Nakpangi case where a 15 and a half year old girl was trafficked. He made a lot of money out of her, over $360,000 that we know of today. The forfeiture of the proceeds of that crime is so important. Bill C-452 has that element in the bill.

Although some amendments would be required to address specific legal concerns, Bill C-452 would undoubtedly strengthen the response to human trafficking and as such merits all our support.

Legal concerns would have to be addressed. For example, the bill should not overlap with amendments that have already been enacted by previous bills, such as Bill C-310, as this would cause confusion in the law. We do not want that to happen. The bill should also avoid compromising the government's efforts to defend the living on the avails offence along with other prostitution-related Criminal Code offences. These are the kinds of things that we will examine and work on in committee, and we are very proud to do that.

I want to thank the member once again for her hard work on this human trafficking issue. I want to thank all members in the House for taking up this cause and protecting the rights of innocent victims.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

October 16th, 2012 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons).

Mr. Speaker, trafficking in persons is an increasingly common global phenomenon, and unfortunately, Canada is not immune.

According to 2007 figures released by the UN, the annual proceeds of this criminal activity are estimated at $32 billion. It is the third-largest criminal trade after drugs and weapons trafficking.

The main entry points into Canada include Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Canada is considered to be a country of recruitment, destination and transit, and even a sex tourism destination. Our current laws must be reviewed in the age of this new, modern-day slavery.

I applaud the determination of one my colleagues, the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul, and her efforts to combat human trafficking. She has also introduced two bills on this matter in the House.

Thus, my bill is part of a broader effort to combat this particular crime, which destroys lives.

On the one hand, this bill sets out consecutive sentences for offences related to trafficking in persons and prostitution. Thus, it sets out tougher sentences.

On the other hand, it clarifies the provisions related to human trafficking and sexual exploitation. It creates a presumption regarding the exploitation of one person by another. Finally, it adds the offences of procuring and trafficking in persons to the list of offences to which the forfeiture of proceeds of crime apply.

I therefore encourage all of my colleagues to set aside partisanship and support this bill, which can save lives.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)