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

Sponsor

Status

Second reading (House), as of Feb. 9, 2017

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Summary

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

This enactment amends An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons) so that certain sections of that Act can come into force on different days.

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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 8:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments and also for his service to our country, especially to the city of Toronto.

As I mentioned earlier, the bill is made up of three separate bills that have already been tabled in the House: Bill C-28, Bill C-38, and Bill C-39. One deals with the victim surcharge, one with exploitation and trafficking, and one with unconstitutional provisions, which we support.

During the last campaign, in 2015, we heard over and over from Liberal members that there would be no omnibus bills, there would be no closure, and MPs would be allowed to speak individually and have adequate time for debate.

There are so many promises that have been broken. How can the member and his colleagues stand here tonight and speak to the bill, which is clearly an omnibus bill? We support many parts of it, but because of the fact that the Liberals rolled three bills into one, it made it impossible for us to even accept some of the good things in it without buying into all of these very negative implications, which I outlined earlier.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 8:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the constituents of Kitchener—Conestoga to participate in the debate on Bill C-75, the omnibus Liberal justice bill.

This bill is over 300 pages long and amends several different acts. One does not have to look too far into the past to recollect some of the comments made by members of the Liberal Party in regard to omnibus legislation. I am sure that many of us in this House remember the promises made during the all-candidates debate in the 2015 election not to have more omnibus bills, and many others as well. I will refer to those a little bit later tonight in my comments. However, it seems as if the Liberals have kept their reputation and have changed their minds to suit their own interests. It is a reputation they have developed quite well.

Not only is it a very lengthy bill, but its timing is also suspect, given that on the eve of the Easter long weekend, the Liberal government tabled this piece of legislation that would drastically change our criminal justice system and how criminals and victims are treated. We see again in this bill that the needs of victims are discounted and the lighter treatment of criminals is a priority of the Liberal government.

Tabling Bill C-75 on the eve of the Easter weekend, just prior to the two-week parliamentary break, clearly shows that the government knew it would not go over too well with Canadians or members of the legal community. That, in fact, is definitely what has happened since the tabling of this bill, in spite of the best efforts of the Liberal Party to hide these facts from Canadians.

Another interesting fact about this piece of legislation is that it re-tables three bills already on the Order Paper: Bill C-28, Bill C-38, and Bill C-39 have all been rolled into this new bill, Bill C-75. If anything speaks to the government's inability to handle a legislative agenda, this is surely it. The government has proven to be so badly organized that it is now just combining several previously tabled pieces of legislation in order to make broader changes to our criminal justice system in less time with less scrutiny, and less debate. It is a real shame, especially, as I said earlier, when during the 2015 campaign they promised to allow all members of Parliament to have a voice, and that the government would not use omnibus bills. They also promised that that election would be the last first-past-the-post election, and that they would run small deficits and not use time allocation. All of those promises are out the window with no respect shown for Parliament.

A primary stated objective of Bill C-75 is to reduce delays in our justice system. The R. v. Jordan ruling, which imposes strict time limits on criminals, has made this objective very important. It is a crucial issue that needs to be addressed.

Thousands of criminal trials across Canada have been stayed, including those involving murderers who have been charged. The reason these charges have been stayed is that the time limits imposed by R. versus Jordan were exceeded.

However, we know that this legislation does not achieve the objective. Do not take my word for it. A number of members of the legal community and journalists have also written about this. For example, an opinion piece in the Toronto Star stated:

On Thursday, the federal government released Bill C-75, an omnibus bill aimed at reducing court delays. Unfortunately, good intentions stop at the preamble, especially for those of us who believed in the government’s pre-election promise to bring a principled approach to criminal justice reform.

The author goes on to state:

However, C-75 reclassifies a myriad of offences, giving the Crown discretion to prosecute them summarily. To further incentivize this option, the bill increases the maximum penalty for summary offences from six months to two years. Summary offence trials, like preliminary inquiries, occur in provincial courts, which are already the most congested courts in our system. C-75 may very well take many preliminary inquiries off the provincial court docket, but it will replace them with many more trials.

What has proposed here are more backlogs, more delays, longer time limits. This justice minister is abdicating her responsibility to ensure that there is a functional justice system in Canada.

We see this inability to ensure a functional justice system with this current legislation, as well as with this Liberal government's extremely poor record of appointing judges.

I have one more comment from a legal expert from McElroy Law, a firm located right in Ottawa. She notes, “Under Stephen Harper, the Conservatives justice policies drew a clear line in the sand between criminals and victims. It was an easy sell to promise law-abiding citizens that those convicted of criminal offences will be punished harshly, in order to keep the good guys safe.”

She goes on later to say:

...the government is tinkering with the guts of criminal trials themselves, such as seeking to have police provide evidence by way of affidavit and having an accused person apply to be able to cross-examine them. The changes, if the bill is passed, will not aid in reducing delay, but will instead undermine trial fairness and may adversely affect Indigenous and other marginalized communities that are so often over-represented in our justice system.

Taken from the Ottawa citizen is the following:

Bill C-75 promises to speed up court cases by eliminating preliminary hearings for all but the most serious matters. Also, quietly slipped into the bill is a provision that would allow Crown prosecutors to simply file written copies of police officers’ evidence instead of actually calling them at trial to testify. Not only will these changes waste more court time than they save, they will erode fundamental safeguards of trial fairness.

The number one responsibility of a government is to keep its citizens safe, and this bill is seriously failing in that responsibility. It seems the government, despite all of its comments about “rigid ideology”, is clearly implementing its own rigid ideology without proper consultation with experts and lawyers in the field who are actually going to be dealing with the ramifications of this poor legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I have just been informed that I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner. I thought I had 20 minutes, but I guess I will have to move quickly.

I have not yet addressed the aspects of the bill that my colleagues and I consider to be the most egregious. I am going to move to those now, as I see my time is elapsing quickly.

Some of the offences that would see penalty decreases include, but are not limited to, leaving Canada to participate in a terrorist group or participation in the activity of a terrorist group. The bill proposes to actually reduce the penalties for these crimes, and it is important that Canadians understand that.

There is a long list of criminal offences that the government appears to think are not worthy of indictable charges: leaving Canada to participate in the activity of a terrorist group; punishment of rioter and concealment of identity; breach of trust by a public officer; municipal corruption; influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices; prison breach; infanticide; concealing the body of a child; neglect to obtain assistance in child birth that results in the permanent injury or death of the child; assisting a prisoner of war to escape; obstructing or violence to, or arrest of, an officiating clergyman; keeping a common bawdy house; causing bodily harm by criminal negligence; and impaired driving causing bodily harm. The bill proposes to reduce the sentences for all of these offences.

One of the hybrid offences that the bill adds to the sequence is the obstruction of, or violence toward, an officiating clergyman. This is in section 176. This is the same section that the government proposed to repeal in Bill C-51, the justice omnibus bill. However, eventually it caved in to public uproar and feedback that was carried by our opposition members. Clearly, the government is not listening to the thousands of Canadians who are very concerned by the softening of punishment for this crime. The government is trying to diminish the severity of this crime. The issue is of crucial importance, especially now, given there is an increasing concern about sectarian violence in our world.

I could go on and speak for another 10 minutes, but hopefully I will get a chance to finish later.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 11:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to hear from the member on this particular piece of proposed legislation. It is a combination of three other justice bills, namely Bill C-28, the victims surcharge bill; Bill C-38, the exploitation and trafficking in persons bill, which I know the member has a great interest in, as he has formed a bipartisan group of legislators in the House to study the issue much more deeply; and Bill C-39, the unconstitutional provisions bill.

I would like the member speak on the fact that the bill is a few hundred pages of what would otherwise be considered an omnibus justice bill, as it combines different parts of the justice system into one bill.

Does the bill speak to the failure of the Liberals to push forward reforms in our justice system in a meaningful way and in a reasonable time line?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 11:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Shepard.

Bill C-75 is an enormous 302-page omnibus bill that includes major reforms to our criminal justice system. This is the second large bill that has been proposed by the Liberals. Under the proposed changes, many serious offences may be prosecuted by summary conviction and thus will result in lighter sentences.

I would like to spend much of my time talking about human trafficking and what it looks like in Canada.

First, I would like to talk a little about the government's record. The human trafficking offences are being changed a bit by this bill. I have addressed this issue many times in this place already. Modern-day slavery and human trafficking are a horrific form of injustice. They are extremely profitable. They are growing in Canada and around the world, and are probably taking place within 10 blocks of where we live.

We know the vast majority of human victims in Canada are female and young. While those most at risk include indigenous women and youth, teenage runaways, and children who are in protection, we know anyone can become a victim of human trafficking.

Sadly, the government has been in power for 30 months, and never has a government done anything so little to fight human trafficking in so much time. Every time I have asked the government what it is doing, its only response is that it is reviewing the Criminal Code. We know that fighting complex and clandestine crimes, like human trafficking and modern-day slavery, require more than just changes to the Criminal Code. They require vigorous development and application of policy.

Since coming to power, the Liberals have done little to fight against human trafficking, and they have allowed the fight to languish. The Liberals allowed the national action plan to combat human trafficking to expire and they made no effort to replace it. It is not that they did not have the time or were not prepared, they could have announced an extension or launched a new one. However, they let it lapse, becoming one of the few developed countries that no longer has a comprehensive plan to eliminate human trafficking.

The Liberals ended federal funding to NGOs that provided support and options for victims of human trafficking. They blocked important tools that were adopted in the House over five years ago. Then the Liberals introduced legislation in Bill C-38 to lighten sentences for sex traffickers. The contents of Bill C-38 are now in Bill C-75.

It was not until budget 2018 that the Liberals finally addressed human trafficking and committed to funding the national hotline and a referral mechanism. While I applaud this, and it is important, it is long overdue.

I also want to recognize the fact that the announcement came after the Canadian Centre To End Human Trafficking, which is a great Canadian NGO, partnered with an American NGO, the Polaris project, to launch the official Canadian hotline. After it was public that Canada's national hotline was supported and funded by the United States, the government stepped in to offer support to it.

In 2011, the Conservative government became the first and only party to include a campaign promise in its platform to end human trafficking. Specifically, the Conservative Party committed to developing and launching the Canadian national action plan to combat human trafficking.

On June 6, 2012, only 13 months after the election, the Conservative Party launched its four-year national action plan to combat human trafficking. The primary goals of the national action plan were focused around the four Ps, prevention, prosecution, protection and partnerships, and included launching Canada's first integrated law enforcement team dedicated to combatting human trafficking; increasing front-line training to identify and respond to human trafficking and enhance prevention in vulnerable communities; providing more support for victims of this crime, both Canadians and newcomers; and strengthening coordination with domestic and international partners that contributed to Canada's efforts to combat human trafficking.

It is also worth noting that the Conservative Party was the only party in 2015 committed to fighting human trafficking, with its promise to establish new RCMP human trafficking teams in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg, at an annual cost of $8 million for five years, and to renew the national plan to combat human trafficking for five years at a cost of $20 million.

Here we are today. It has been two years since the national action plan has expired under the current government and, interestingly, in December, the government's own Department of Public Safety quietly released a report called “The 2016-17 Horizontal Evaluation of the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking”. I want to share with the House what the report said. It stated:

There is a continuing need to have a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking in order to consolidate federal initiatives, for federal organizations to partner together, and to strengthen accountability:

Prior to the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, each federal organization conducted its own anti-human trafficking initiatives. The National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking consolidated federal initiatives to combat human trafficking under one plan;

The National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking is required to meet Canada’s ongoing international commitments to combat human trafficking:

That means without one, we are not even fighting human trafficking at the same level as other countries. It further states, “There are opportunities for the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking to evolve.” The department was preparing to help the government develop and advance further action items to combat human trafficking.

Human trafficking is an extremely profitable crime that preys on young and vulnerable Canadians, especially in indigenous communities. Police officers and NGOs across Canada work incredibly hard to end human trafficking and help victims, but their resources are strained. Many hours go into this, and a lot of their own time. They are asking for federal support and leadership. As I mentioned earlier, the Conservative government committed $25 million over four years to build on and strengthen Canada's significant work to date to prevent, detect, and prosecute human traffickers. The Liberal government allowed that plan to expire in 2016 and, with it, critical funding for victims of human trafficking and law enforcement. Many organizations appeared at the justice committee's study on human trafficking and urged the government to renew its national action plan.

When the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-38 in February, she misled Canadians and the House by claiming that it had tools for police and prosecutors to combat human trafficking. Bill C-38 was only one paragraph and it is now included within Bill C-75. Let me be clear that the changes proposed by the minister, first in Bill C-38 and now in Bill C-75, have no provisions whatsoever to give police and prosecutors new tools to investigate human trafficking. However, the tools that Liberals pretend are in Bill C-38 and Bill C-75 were, in fact, unanimously adopted by the House over five years ago in an NDP private member's bill, Bill C-452.

Bill C-452 was supported by a Conservative government and voted for by the current Prime Minister. It was Bill C-452 that contained provisions to provide tools to police and prosecutors. It created a presumption with respect to the exploitation of one person by another, added the offence of trafficking in persons to the list of offences to which the reverse onus forfeiture of proceeds of crime provisions applied, and it corrected a technical discrepancy and included a provision that human trafficking sentences be served consecutively.

Bill C-452 received royal assent in June 2015 and when the Liberal government came to power, it blocked that bill from coming into force. Why? It is because the Liberals do not like the idea that sex traffickers might face consecutive sentences. They feel it is too harsh to expect that a child trafficker could serve a long sentence for exploiting a minor in sex slavery. The only thing the proposed amendments would do in Bill C-75 is prevent sex traffickers from receiving consecutive sentences. That is it. It does nothing more. This certainly does not help the police.

Eighty per cent of the victims of human trafficking never come forward out of fear. All of the human trafficking investigators who testified on Bill C-452 welcomed the consecutive sentences and highlighted that long sentences gave victims the confidence to come forward and testify. They also pointed out that without consecutive sentences, a pimp who trafficks one minor would receive the same sentence as a pimp who trafficks five or 10 minors. Consecutive sentences allow for punishments that better reflect the gravity of the offence.

When will the government stop misleading the public about its intentions with this bill, when will it stop blocking important tools for the police, and when will the Liberals stand up for victims of sex trafficking rather than blocking tough sentences for those who enslave them?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 9:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's speech. He is very learned and comes from a profession that understands things well. I did pass through law school at one time, but decided that another profession was of more interest to me, so my speech will probably be a little more the layman's type, and will probably have some rhetoric in it that I am sure he will rather enjoy.

I will be speaking on Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts. That is quite the title, and it probably should come as no surprise that it is an omnibus bill. It makes massive reforms to our criminal justice system, and in fact, it re-tables three bills already on the Order Paper: Bill C-28, on the victim surcharge; Bill C-38, on consecutive sentencing for human trafficking; and Bill C-39, which repeals unconstitutional provisions.

The government simply cannot seem to manage its legislative agenda. It waited until late in its mandate, and now Parliament is expected to rush through debate on these important matters.

What is apparent is that Bill C-75 is a big, complicated bill that is supposed to fix the issues facing our justice system. It does contain provisions that I could support. Repealing unconstitutional provisions in the Criminal Code is a positive proposal. Increasing the maximum term for repeat offenders involved in domestic violence also makes a lot of sense.

However, the bill also introduces a host of other issues. This legislation should have been split so we could have debated and voted on some of its parts, rather than as an omnibus bill. There is far too much here to be considered in such a short time. The Liberals promised they would not introduce an omnibus bill, but here we are.

We have known for a long time that our justice system is dangerously backlogged. A primary stated objective of Bill C-75 is to reduce delays in our justice system. The R. v. Jordan ruling, now known as the Jordan rule or principle, imposes strict timelines on criminal trials: 30 months for the criminals, and 18 months for the indictable.

This objective is very important. Thousands of criminal trials across Canada have been stayed, including murder trials, for going over the imposed time limits. We have seen the stories of individuals accused of horrendous crimes being let off because of massive delays in the court system. The problem is only getting worse, but this bill is finally supposed to do something about this serious problem.

Before I get into the details of this bill, I have to ask: Why has this government not taken steps to appoint more judges? It has been pointed out that the government has appointed many, but we still have 59 vacancies. Let us get them all filled so that we can improve the justice system. Appointing judges may have been a faster way to address the delays in our justice system, rather than forcing an omnibus bill through Parliament. I know that the Liberals have left appointments unfilled in other government agencies, but the judicial ones are critical. At the very least, they need to fill those. I am sure that is something they will do quickly, right?

The biggest red flag in this legislation is the hybridization of many indictable-only offences, done by adding summary convictions as a sentencing option. Simply put, serious crimes deserve serious penalties, but some of the offences listed in the bill are undoubtedly, to me and many of my constituents, serious crimes. These include participating in a terrorist group; impaired driving causing bodily harm; kidnapping a minor; possessing stolen property over $5,000, which is a huge concern in my rural riding; participating in activities of a criminal organization; municipal corruption or influencing a municipal official; committing infanticide; extortion by libel; advocating genocide; arson for fraudulent purpose; advertising and dealing in counterfeit money; and many more. There are a lot of serious crimes in here that are going to change. Many of these crimes are classified as indictment-only for a reason. They should not be punishable under a summary conviction, with a possible mere fine. That option has been included, and it should not be there.

The bill would also delay consecutive sentencing for human traffickers. Human trafficking is a severe crime. There is a cross-party committee dealing with this crime. It is a severe problem and deserves severe punishment. We know it is taking place in Canada. It is an international issue that needs to be combatted with all the tools at our disposal. Why would the government weaken our criminal justice system with these changes? We all need to address the backlogs in our courts system, but some of these measures just do not make sense.

In my riding of Bow River, we have been dealing with serious issues involving rural crime. I am happy that motion by the member for Lakeland, Motion No. 167, was passed last week in this House. I believe it will be an important step toward actually doing something about rural crime. The statistics show that crime in rural areas has increased significantly in all three prairie provinces. However, right on the heels of adopting this important motion, we have this bill taking two steps backwards. This is going to be hard to explain to the constituents in my riding who are dealing with constant rural crime. Residents across the country are going to be shaking their heads in disbelief at this one. I have heard from many constituents who have suffered break-ins, property theft, and threats to person. We have held round tables in locations in ridings across Alberta and heard from many people who are living in fear. They do not have confidence that the criminal acts taking place around their homes will be addressed. In many cases, the RCMP is simply stretched too thinly across the vast rural areas to respond promptly.

I am particularly concerned that this bill would relax sentences for crimes like possession of stolen property and participating in criminal gangs. It is hard enough to catch criminals engaged in rural crimes. In many cases, the criminals are long gone before anyone can show up to deal with them. When it takes police officers hours or until the next day to get to the scene, there is plenty of time to disappear. This is not like crime in a city where people reasonably expect police to show up on their doorstep in minutes. When criminals are caught, there is a reasonable expectation that they will face serious consequences for their actions. It is hard enough to convince people to report crimes when they occur. We encourage them to do so because it is very important for the statistics of the police services. The police need to know what is actually happening in communities, but people are afraid to report crimes, or they say it is a waste of time. The police need the statistics to make decisions related to how to best enforce the law, but my constituents do not always believe they will make any difference in the justice system anymore. It is going to be that much harder to encourage people to report rural crimes if this bill receives royal assent. At a bare minimum, people need to know that if they report a crime and the criminal responsible is actually apprehended, there will be serious consequences for that individual. We need real deterrents, not slaps on the wrist, to keep Canadians' faith in the justice system.

They talk about Alberta judges, and yes, we are short of judges, but here is the other side of it. I have spoken with legal people and they say that the number of crown prosecutors is drastically short. There are few crown prosecutors willing to do it. As the number of crown prosecutors has decreased, there are fewer of them who will work on this huge workload. The average caseload that crown prosecutors have is twice what it used to be years ago. Legal aid lawyers are quitting. The pay they are getting has decreased, or they are not being paid at all. If they are moving to summary convictions, two years less a day, the jails are full. I have seen downloading from governments before; this is a huge download from the federal government to the provincial governments. They are going to download into the provinces' judicial systems by changing convictions from indictable to summary convictions. As the prosecutors have told me, they have been told to clear the docket and keep only the very serious cases and kick all the rest of the cases out, not to take them to court but to get the charges dropped, to kick them out.

There is a joke around the provincial jail system that if there is an arrest for car theft, the officers should make sure their car is locked when the criminal goes out the door, because the criminal is likely to steal their car to go home. With the shortage of prosecutors, the time that is available to put people in jail for two years less a day is a huge download to the provincial system.

It is especially wrong that this bill is being introduced at the same time we are considering Bill C-71. That bill would do nothing to address rural crime and gang violence. Nothing in it would make a difference to the criminals using illegal firearms. All the bill does is target law-abiding firearms owners with new, poorly designed, heavy-handed regulations.

Farmers in my riding make use of all kinds of firearms on their property. Firearms are basic to rural life in many cases. I have heard from many constituents who are very concerned about Bill C-71. Why would the government treat farmers like criminals, while reducing sentences for rural criminals at the same time? Summary convictions and fines are just kicking the cases out, because there is no time to deal with them.

Again, it makes no sense. The government's agenda is looking increasingly incoherent, especially from the perspective of rural residents. Will these measures do anything to reduce the backlog? No. They are just downloading the problem on the provinces. Just as Chrétien did with the transfer payments, the current government is going to do it with the judicial system to download to the provinces.

Our legal institutions are overwhelmed by the number of cases that need to be addressed. The bill could stretch them to a breaking point, as the crown prosecutors in Alberta told me. We could have many more cases thrown out for taking too long. Jordan's principle is going to come in and many people will walk the street because of it. In other words, criminals will walk. That is not a result anyone wants to see, especially when rural crime is involved. It is deeply painful for victims of crime and it is dangerous for the Canadian public at large to lose faith in the justice system, like the rural residents in my constituency.

The government seems to be dumping more problems on provinces and municipalities. It leaves them to clean up the mess. We have already seen how the government has done this with cannabis legislation. Its approach has left provinces and municipalities scrambling to accommodate the new laws and pay for their implementation.

I have heard from town councillors across my constituency how concerned they are about the cannabis legalization and how they are going to pay for it. They do not know how the small towns and villages will handle all the issues that are coming down the pipe, just like the carbon tax. The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association has expressed grave doubts about how its members are going to get ready for legalization. It has been conveying these concerns to the government for a long time, but the Liberals are not listening.

The federal government simply punts its problems on to subnational governments and claims to have taken action. That is exactly what it did with the cannabis legalization, and that trend is continuing with Bill C-75. We need real leadership, not just passing the buck to the provinces.

The legislation would weaken our criminal justice system by relaxing the sentences for many serious crimes. That list was not even the extent of it. It is a very broad bill. It downloads the delays in our court system onto the provinces. It also changes the victim surcharge, which is a deeply disappointing departure from our former government's priority of putting victims first. It would remove the requirement of the attorney general to determine whether to seek an adult sentence in certain circumstances. It would remove the power of a youth justice court to make an order to lift the ban on publication in the case of a young person who receives a youth sentence for a violent offence. It would delay consecutive sentencing for human traffickers, and that is wrong. It would make our justice system more like a revolving door than it is now. It would make rural crime in my riding and across Canada even harder to deal with, and it would make people not trust the justice system.

We need to deal with the problems in our justice system, but this is not the way to do it. This is simply a huge, poorly designed bill. It would make many changes that I simply cannot support.

May 29th, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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Québec debout

Rhéal Fortin Québec debout Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak here today.

As you can imagine, this issue — which we have often addressed in the House — concerns us very much in Quebec. The issues seem quite well defined. The solutions also seem quite well defined, but for reasons I do not understand, the government does not seem to want to move forward, which concerns us greatly. I will explain what I mean.

In Quebec, the problem of prostitution is especially concerning for young girls of 18 years of age or less. Our Montreal youth centres have become recruitment points for prostitution. There have in fact been numerous interventions over the past few years. As a member of Parliament, and as a lawyer in my previous life, I had the opportunity of meeting with many of the workers who work with these organizations, who say that they are concerned, and have been for years.

Before the 2011 election, Bloc Québécois MP Maria Mourani presented Bill C-612 on this topic, but the bill died on the Order Paper following the 2011 elections. It was presented again in 2013. In 2015, Ms. Mourani's Bill C-452 was adopted unanimously by the House of Commons. It was then passed by the Senate and received royal assent on June 18, 2015.

What did this bill say? First, it created a presumption that an individual living in the same apartment as a person practising prostitution is reputed to be living from the avails of prostitution, and reputed to be a pimp. This reversed the burden of proof, which meant that these young girls, often very young, as my Senate colleagues have said — young girls who were sometimes 12, 13, 15 or 16 — could avoid having to testify about the guilt of a pimp, who scared them and controlled them. This made it very hard for them to give this kind of evidence. And so the burden of proof was reversed.

The bill also made it possible to seize goods acquired from the avails of prostitution. There was an issue of consistency, and also the matter of consecutive sentences, which seemed to us to be an important deterrent in the fight against prostitution.

Bill C-452, which dealt with these important issues, received royal assent in June 2015. Everyone had hoped that during the summer, it would be enacted, and we could finally tell young girls that we would provide some effective protection. Unfortunately an election was called at the end of the summer, and when the new government took power in October 2015, Bill C-452 was shelved and forgotten about for a time.

Subsequenty, as you know, considerable pressure was applied by my party and its members, and by civil society, and finally the current government decided to introduce another bill, C-38, on February 9, 2017. Bill C-38's only objective was to bring Bill C-452 into effect. It did nothing else. It indicated that we were in agreement with Bill C-452 and that its clauses 1, 2 and 4 would be adopted immediately; as for clause 3 regarding consecutive sentences, that was not certain. People felt that this clause would not survive a constitutional challenge. So the coming into force of consecutive sentences was postponed to a later date.

In February 2017, everyone hoped that the bill would be tabled and that it would be passed quickly. Unfortunately, today, in May 2018, a year and several months later, nothing has yet been done, and moreover, another way of doing nothing is to simply push things forward. And so Bill C-75 was introduced, a mammoth bill, as you know. Bill C-38was included in it, and it will be dealt with at some point.

Since 2011, we have not dealt with this seriously. I am embarrassed to say that I am sitting in a Parliament that is not taking this issue more seriously. We keep postponing it. There were bills C-612, C-452, C-38 and C-75.

Are we in agreement or aren't we? We adopted a bill unanimously, it received royal assent, and then we let things go. Personally, I think it is indecent and embarrassing that these young girls who are counting on us are still having to deal with pimps. People don't just depend on us to extend apologies and say that what happened to them 100, 50 or 200 years ago was very sad. They are counting on us to help eliminate daily, current problems they are facing.

Sometimes there is no solution. It happens. In certain cases, solutions are complicated and take time. However, we are talking here about a problem to which there is a solution we agreed on and had adopted.

Can this order be issued?

That is what I had to say today, Mr. Chair. I'll stop here. I think my message is clear.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-75, another omnibus bill introduced by a government that said it would never introduce an omnibus bill, but here we are again with another 300-page bill.

Quite frankly, there are some provisions in Bill C-75 that I support, but on the whole I believe this legislation to be deeply problematic.

Before I address the substance of Bill C-75, I want to talk a bit about the process surrounding Bill C-75.

This omnibus legislation reintroduces four government bills currently before the House of Commons: Bill C-28, Bill C-32, Bill C-38 and Bill C-39. This is the third piece of legislation the government has introduced to repeal section 159 of the Criminal Code, the unconstitutional section related to anal sex.

With much fanfare, the Liberals introduced Bill C-32. They wanted to take tremendous credit for introducing that bill that proposes to repeal section 159. It was such a priority for the government that a year and a half later, Bill C-32 remains stuck at first reading.

Not to be outdone, they proceeded to introduce Bill C-39, which would remove unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code, also known as zombie laws. That included section 159 of the Criminal Code. It was introduced on March 8, 2017, and it was such a priority of the government that more than a year later, Bill C-39 remains stuck at first reading.

Now, for the third time, the government has introduced, with Bill C-75, another attempt to remove section 159 of the Criminal Code.

How many bills is it going to take the Liberal government to repeal one simple section of the Criminal Code? It speaks to the utter incompetence of the government and its complete inability to move justice legislation forward. In light of that record of incompetence and failure, Canadians should be left to ask the question: how it is that the government can be trusted to address delay in our courts when it cannot even manage its own legislative agenda?

The purported objective of Bill C-75 is to deal with the backlog in our courts. It arises from the Jordan decision that was issued by the Supreme Court almost two years ago. The Supreme Court of Canada determined that there would be strict limits before delay would become presumptively unreasonable. The remedy that the Supreme Court provided in the case of delay was that the charges against the accused person would be stayed, in other words, thrown out of court. The strict timeline that the Supreme Court provided was 30 months between the laying of charges and the anticipated or actual conclusion of a trial for matters before superior courts, and 18 months for matters before provincial courts.

It has been almost two years since the Jordan decision and in those nearly two years, the Minister of Justice has sat on her hands and done absolutely nothing to deal with delay and backlog. The minister is so incompetent that she could not get around to doing the simplest and easiest thing, which is to fill judicial vacancies in a timely manner.

Under this Minister of Justice's watch, we have seen a record number of judicial vacancies. Indeed, the average number of vacancies has consistently been between 50 to 60. In the province of Alberta, where the issues of backlog and delay are most acute, the provincial government tried to respond in 2016, by way of order in council, establishing 10 new judicial positions, nine Court of Queen's Bench positions and one Alberta Court of Appeal position. The government, to its credit, in budget 2017, provided funding for additional judicial positions. All the minister had to do was fill them.

Do members know how long it took the minister to appoint a new judge in Alberta?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 3:15 p.m.
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Vancouver Granville B.C.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to speak to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts. The legislation represents a key milestone in our government's commitment to modernize the criminal justice system, reduce delays, and ensure the safety of Canadians.

For more than a decade, the criminal justice system has been under significant strain. Although the crime rate in Canada has been declining, court cases are more complex, trials are getting longer, and the impacts on victims are compounded. In addition, indigenous people and marginalized Canadians, including those suffering from mental illness and addictions, continue to be overrepresented in the criminal justice system. For these reasons, I was mandated by the Prime Minister to reform the criminal justice system, and it is why I was proud to introduce this legislation as part of our government's response to those fundamental challenges.

Bill C-75 also responds to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in 2016 in R. v. Jordan. The decision established strict timelines beyond which delays would be presumptively unreasonable and cases would be stayed. In such cases, the accused will not stand trial. This is unacceptable, and it jeopardizes public confidence in the justice system.

The bill also addresses issues raised in the June 2017 report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which called on the government to address court delays, and it reflects our government's commitment to bring about urgent and bold reforms, many of which were identified as priorities by all provincial and territorial justice ministers in April and September of last year.

The bill proposes reforms in seven key areas. First, the bill would modernize and streamline the bail system. Second, it would enhance our approach to addressing administration of justice offences, including for youth. Third, it would bolster our response to intimate partner violence. Fourth, the bill would restrict the availability of preliminary inquiries to offences with penalties of life imprisonment. Fifth, it would reclassify offences to allow the crown to elect the most efficient procedure appropriate in the circumstances. Sixth, it would improve the jury selection process. Seventh, it would strengthen the case management powers of judges. The bill includes a number of additional reforms related to efficiencies, which I will touch on briefly later.

As noted, the first area of reform would modernize and streamline the bail regime. Under the charter, an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. If charged with an offence, that person has the right not to be denied bail without just cause. The Supreme Court of Canada has repeatedly stated that bail, including the types of release and conditions imposed, must be reasonable, yet we know that police and courts routinely impose conditions that are too numerous, too restrictive, and at times directed toward improper objectives, such as behaviour and punishment. These objectives do not protect public safety.

We also know that there are more individuals in remand than those convicted of a crime. In other words, our correctional facilities are more than half-filled with people who have not been convicted of an offence.

In addition, the current approach to bail uses a disproportionate amount of resources, taking away from more serious cases. It perpetuates a cycle of incarceration.

Consistent with the 2017 Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Antic, the proposed bail reforms would codify a principle of restraint. This would direct police and judges to consider the least restrictive and most appropriate means of responding to criminal charges at the bail stage rather than automatically detaining an accused. The individual circumstances of an indigenous accused and a vulnerable accused, such as a homeless person or one with mental illness and addiction issues, would become required considerations when making bail decisions. This means that an accused's circumstances would have to be considered prior to placing conditions upon them that were difficult or impossible to follow.

The principle of restraint would make bail courts more efficient by encouraging release at the earliest possible opportunity, without the need for a bail hearing in every case, and would take significant steps to reduce costs associated with the growing remand population currently detained in custody awaiting trial.

The bill would also strengthen the way our bail system responds to intimate partner violence by providing better protection for victims. If an accused has a history of violence against an intimate partner and is charged with similar conduct, the amendments would impose a reverse onus at the bail hearing, shifting the responsibility to the accused to show why the accused should not be detained pending trial.

I will now turn to the second area of reform proposed in Bill C-75, which is to enhance the way our justice system responds to administration of justice offences. These are offences that are committed by a person against the justice system itself after another offence has already been committed or alleged. Common examples are failure to comply with bail conditions, such as to abstain from consuming alcohol; failure to appear in court; or breaching a curfew.

Across Canada, accused people are routinely burdened with complex and unnecessary bail conditions that are unrelated to public safety and that may even be impossible to follow, such as when a curfew is broken by an accused because he or she missed the bus in a remote area. In other words, accused people are being placed in circumstances in which a breach is virtually inevitable. We are setting them up to fail.

Indigenous people and marginalized Canadians are disproportionately impacted by breach charges, often because of their personal circumstances, such as a lack of family and community supports. As a result, indigenous people and marginalized Canadians are more likely to be charged, more likely to be denied bail, and if released, more likely to be subject to stricter conditions.

In addition, administration of justice offences impose an enormous burden on the criminal justice system, as nearly 40% of all adult cases involve at least one of these administrative charges. To respond to these challenges, Bill C-75 proposes a new approach. Police would retain the option to lay a new charge for the breach or failure to appear where appropriate. However, if the offence did not involve physical or emotional harm to a victim, property damage, or economic loss, the police would have an additional option of referring the accused to a judicial referral hearing. This would be an entirely new tool that would serve as an alternative to an unnecessary criminal charge and that would substantially increase court efficiencies without impacting public safety.

In the youth context, these proposals would encourage police to first consider the use of informal measures, as already directed by the Youth Criminal Justice Act, such as warnings, cautions, and referrals, and would require that conditions imposed on young persons be reasonable and necessary. This aligns with the overall philosophy of the act, which is to prevent our youth from entering a life of crime, in part by providing alternatives to formal criminal charges and custody.

At the judicial referral hearing, a court would hear the bail conditions and have three options: release the accused on the same conditions, impose new conditions to better address the specific circumstances of the accused, or detain the accused. This approach would allow for alternative and early resolution of minor breaches and would ensure that only reasonable and necessary conditions were imposed. This is a more efficient alternative to laying a new criminal charge and would help prevent indigenous persons and marginalized Canadians from entering the revolving door of the criminal justice system.

The third area of reform in Bill C-75 is with respect to intimate partner violence. In 2015, Canadians elected our government on a promise to give more support to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment and to ensure that more perpetrators were brought to justice. I am proud to follow through on this commitment within this bill.

As I already noted, those accused of repeat offences involving violence against an intimate partner would be subject to a reverse onus at the bail stage. In addition, the bill does the following: (1) proposes a higher sentencing range for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence; (2) broadens the definition of “intimate partner” to include dating partners and former partners; (3) provides that strangulation is an elevated form of assault; and (4) explicitly specifies that evidence of intimate partner abuse is an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.

Intimate partner violence is a reality for at least one in two women in Canada. Women who are indigenous, trans, elderly, new to Canada, or living with a disability are at increased risk for experiencing violence due to systemic barriers and failures. The personal and often lifelong consequences of violence against women are enormous.

The fourth area of reforms is to increase court efficiencies by limiting the availability of preliminary inquiries. Preliminary inquiries are an optional process used to determine whether there is enough evidence to send an accused to trial. Bill C-75 would limit their availability to accused adults charged with very serious offences punishable by life imprisonment, such as murder and kidnapping.

I recognize this represents a significant change. It is not a change we propose lightly. It is the product of an in-depth consultation process with my counterparts in the provinces and territories and with the courts, and it is based on the best available evidence. For instance, we know in 2015-2016, provincial court cases involving preliminary inquiries took more than four times longer to reach a decision than cases with no preliminary inquiry.

It is important to note that there is no constitutional right to a preliminary inquiry, and one is not necessary for a fair trial so long as the crown satisfies its disclosure requirements. In the Jordan decision, the Supreme Court of Canada asked Parliament to take a fresh look at current processes and reconsider the value of preliminary inquiries in light of the broad disclosure rules that exist today. The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs also recommended that they be restricted or eliminated.

The proposed measures would reduce the number preliminary of inquiries by approximately 87%, ensure they are still available for the more complex and serious offences, help unclog the courts, and reduce burdens on witnesses and victims from having to testify twice, once at a preliminary inquiry and once at trial. For example, this measure would eliminate the need for a vulnerable witness in a sexual assault or child sexual assault trial from having to testify twice.

I am confident these reforms would not reduce trial fairness, that prosecutors would continue to take their disclosure obligations seriously, that our courts would continue to uphold the right to make full answer and defence, and that there would remain flexibility in existing processes, such as out-of-court discoveries, that have been implemented in some provinces already—for example, in Quebec and Ontario.

I will now turn to the fifth major area of reform proposed in Bill C-75, which is the reclassification of offences. The Criminal Code classifies offences as summary conviction, indictable, or hybrid. Hybrid offences may proceed as either a summary conviction or as an indictable offence. That choice is made by the prosecutor after considering the facts and circumstances of the case. The bill would hybridize 136 indictable offences and standardize the default maximum penalty for summary conviction offences in the Criminal Code to two years less a day.

These proposals would neither interfere with the court's ability to impose proportionate sentences nor change the existing maximum penalties for indictable offences. What Bill C-75 proposes is to provide more flexibility to prosecutors to proceed summarily in provincial court for less serious cases. This would allow for matters to proceed more quickly and for superior courts to focus on the most serious matters, resulting in an overall boost in efficiency in the system.

Let me clear: this reform is in no way intended to send a message that offences being hybridized are less serious or should be subjected to lower sentences. Rather, it is about granting greater discretion to our prosecutors to choose the most efficient and appropriate procedure, having regard to the unique circumstances before them. Serious offences would continue to be treated seriously and milder offences would take up less court time, while still carrying the gravity of a criminal charge.

A sixth area of proposed reforms in Bill C-75 is with respect to jury selection.

Discrimination in the selection of juries has been well documented for many years. Concerns about discrimination in peremptory challenges and its impact on indigenous peoples being represented on juries was raised back in 1991 by Senator Murray Sinclair, then a judge, in the Manitoba aboriginal justice inquiry report. That report, now over 25 years old, explicitly called for the repeal of peremptory challenges. More recently, retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci addressed these issues in his 2013 report on first nations representation on Ontario juries.

Reforms in this area are long overdue. Peremptory challenges give the accused and the crown the ability to exclude jurors without providing a reason. In practice, this can and has led to their use in a discriminatory manner to ensure a jury of a particular composition. This bill proposes that Canada join countries like England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland in abolishing them.

To bring more fairness and transparency to the process, the legislation would also empower a judge to decide whether to exclude jurors challenged for cause by either the defence or prosecution. The legislation will strengthen the power of judges to stand aside some jurors in order to make room for a more diverse jury that will in turn promote confidence in the administration of justice. Courts are already familiar with the concept of exercising their powers for this purpose.

I am confident that the reforms will make the jury selection process more transparent, promote fairness and impartiality, improve the overall efficiency of our jury trials, and foster public confidence in the criminal justice system.

The seventh area of reforms will strengthen judicial case management. As the Supreme Court of Canada noted in its 2017 decision in Cody, judges are uniquely positioned to encourage and foster culture change. I completely agree. Judges are already engaged in managing cases and ensuring that they proceed promptly and fairly through the existing authorities in the Criminal Code, as well as provincial court rules. These reforms would bolster these powers—for instance, by allowing case management judges to be appointed at the earliest point in the proceeding.

In addition to the major reforms I have noted thus far, Bill C-75 will make technical amendments to further support efficiencies, such as by facilitating remote technology and consolidating and clarifying the Attorney General of Canada's power to prosecute.

Finally, the bill will make better use of limited parliamentary time by including three justice bills currently before Parliament: Bill C-28, Bill C-38, and Bill C-39.

In closing, Bill C-75 proposes meaningful reforms that will speed up criminal court proceedings and improve the safety of our communities while also taking steps to address the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples and marginalized Canadians in the criminal justice system.

Our criminal justice system must be fair, equitable, and just. Victims, families, accused, and all participants in the justice system deserve no less. I urge all members of this House to support this important piece of legislation.

May 10th, 2018 / 3:40 p.m.
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Professor Janine Benedet Professor of Law, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia, As an Individual

Thank you very much to the members of the committee for inviting me.

As has been said, I'm a Professor of Law at the University of British Columbia. For the past two decades, my scholarly research and a good deal of my pro bono legal work has focused on the issue of sexual violence against women, including the criminal laws surrounding sexual assault, prostitution, and pornography.

I'm here today speaking from that perspective, and I'm going to focus on the criminal law specifically. I understand that at least part of the impetus for these hearings was the proposed coming into force of Bill C-38, which originally started as a private member's bill. I've addressed the specific provisions of the bill in my written submissions, and I'm happy to take questions on that.

What I will say overall is that I think the amendments that are being proposed to come into force are positive but modest and really somewhat peripheral to the core issues with the criminal laws relating to trafficking and prostitution.

In the short time I have with you this afternoon, I want to address three things. First, what do we mean when we talk about sex trafficking, and how does it relate to the prostitution industry as a whole? Is Canada meeting its international legal obligations to fight sex trafficking? What role do prostitution laws more broadly play in terms of Canada's meeting those international legal obligations?

Turning to the first of those questions, I'm sure the committee is aware of the confusion and misinformation surrounding these terms and that, really, some of the most common misconceptions are that trafficking requires crossing an international border. That's not true, but it is true that global poverty provides a supply to meet local demands when that local demand is not present, and that's why it's not enough to say we can just leave it to Canadian women to choose or not choose to enter the sex trade, or that if somehow we improve the conditions for Canadian women sufficiently, we'll know whether they are truly choosing or not. The reality is that there is an inexhaustible supply of poor women from around the world to fill that demand.

The second and related misconception is that trafficking requires movement of a person, but, of course, that's also not true legally. You don't have to move anyone to traffick them, although moving victims around does help to isolate and destabilize them. I have met many women who, during their time in prostitution, have been moved around from city to city, motel to motel, and to different provinces to isolate them from family and friends and to put them in situations in which they were wholly dependent on their pimp or trafficker.

Finally, I think the other big misconception about the relationship between trafficking and prostitution is that trafficking is forced and prostitution is free, and that's when we rename it “sex work”. That is not true. The reason these terms are not synonymous is because trafficking requires a third person. You can't traffic yourself, so it's true that not all prostitution is trafficking, but the reality is that plenty of women and girls are exploited in prostitution without a middleman or a trafficker. Their poverty, addiction, youth, indigeneity, or racialization is exploited directly by the men who buy them.

The idea that trafficking is the bad prostitution and everything else is the okay prostitution is wrong. Once you have a third party involved, trafficking is simply the exercise of influence, coercion, threats, or pressure to get someone to participate in or to remain in prostitution. Given the nature of the prostitution industry, trafficking is not rare. It is, in fact, pervasive where third parties are involved.

How has Canada then attempted to meet its international obligations? Well, as you know, Canada is a signatory to the Palermo protocol that requires Canada to take necessary measures to prevent and punish the trafficking in persons. Canada has attempted to meet this in two ways, first through the trafficking provisions of the Criminal Code starting in 2005. The problem, of course, is that we've adopted a definition that is much narrower and much harder to prove than the definition of trafficking that you will find in the Palermo protocol.

The definition of exploitation in Canada requires a proven threat to safety, and does not extend to keeping someone in prostitution through the exploitation of a condition of vulnerability, which is part of the Palermo definition.

The reality is that you don't need to use force or violence or threats if you can find someone sufficiently vulnerable. It's, in fact, better for your bottom line if you can get people who will comply without your having to threaten them with violence or rough them up. It can be enough, in fact, in many cases, for the pimp trafficker simply to threaten to reveal that the girl or woman is in prostitution to have her stay and comply.

It's because of how narrow this definition is that we see cases prosecuted instead under the procuring offence and under what used to be the “living on the avails” offence, now called “material benefit”. The fact that police and prosecutors are shifting trafficking cases over to these other offences, because it's so difficult to actually prove the very narrow and strict definition of trafficking, I think fuels the false claim of prostitution industry supporters that trafficking doesn't really exist in Canada. That's a reminder that with the way we've currently structured our laws, both the procuring and material benefit offences are crucial to the fight against sex trafficking, because, in fact, they are the main charges being laid.

The second way in which these obligations are addressed is through the 2014 amendments to the prostitution laws more broadly. You have already heard Judge Morrison talk about the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act. These provisions respond to the protocol's recognition that it is important to use the law to target the demand for prostitution directly, something that is not addressed at all by the trafficking provisions, which only apply to the traffickers. The greater the demand for prostitution, the more money traffickers stand to make and the more women and girls they need to meet that demand.

Targeting demand by criminalizing sex purchase is consistent with the emerging international trend based on the human rights of women and the evidence of the pervasive inequality of the prostitution industry. Canada has followed the lead of Nordic countries, such as Sweden, Norway, and Iceland, and has been followed by France, Ireland, and Northern Ireland in adopting this kind of model. I would say to you that a society that is committed to sex equality, to reconciliation with indigenous women and girls, and to the rejection of sexualized racism cannot support men's purchase of sex by decriminalizing that activity.

One hundred percent of men who buy sex, at least from everything I have seen, choose to do so. They are choosing. We don't have to know the backstory of each individual woman to see if she is worthy of our compassion in some way. We simply have to know that the men are choosing, and they are choosing to create that market.

I remain deeply concerned, and I will just say this in conclusion. Based on relentless pressure and misinformation from those who want to legitimize a commercial prostitution industry in Canada, this committee's process will be used as a pretext. We will be told that the government has strengthened the trafficking provisions, so we don't need laws that target prostitution. I want to say explicitly that if that happens, I and others will be there to call you on it.

I want to urge you to take a gender-equality and human rights approach that puts the interests of those who make up the vast majority of those in the sex trade first. Prostitution markets are not inelastic. Traffickers are dissuaded by inhospitable environments. I would say that we are not there yet, but in terms of the legal provisions we have put in place, we are moving in the right direction.

That's what I have to say.

JusticeOral Questions

March 29th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Marco Mendicino LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, and our government is working to combat it in many ways. We are committed to strengthening efforts to combat it and to better protect the victims of this crime. Bill C-38 proposes to give law enforcement and prosecutors new tools to investigate and prosecute human trafficking offences that can be particularly difficult to prove. Our government is committed to advancing this legislation and we look forward to receiving support on its passage into law.

JusticeOral Questions

March 29th, 2018 / noon
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Québec debout

Rhéal Fortin Québec debout Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, we attempted to better protect young girls in Canada by fast-tracking the passage of Bill C-38, a government bill to combat pimping.

We would have preferred Bill C-452, but the Prime Minister went back on his vote. In collusion with the Conservatives, the Liberals said no to our motion. They said no to making life hard for pimps. The Liberals and the Conservatives would rather preserve the status quo than protect our young girls.

How can the government justify refusing to pass its own bill?

JusticeOral Questions

March 29th, 2018 / 11:20 a.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Marco Mendicino LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, and our government is working to combat it in many ways. We are committed to strengthening efforts to combat it and to better protect victims. Bill C-38 proposes to give law enforcement and prosecutors new tools to investigate and prosecute certain human trafficking offences that can be particularly difficult to prove. These are strengthening measures, which will help law enforcement.

Our government is committed to advancing this legislation and looks forward to receiving broad support from all parliamentarians on its passage into law.

Status of WomenOral Questions

March 28th, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.
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Québec debout

Rhéal Fortin Québec debout Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think you will find the unanimous consent of my colleagues in the House for the following motion: that, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-38, an act to amend an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding exploitation and trafficking in persons, be deemed debated at second reading, deemed read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, deemed considered by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at the report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

Status of WomenOral Questions

March 28th, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.
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Québec debout

Rhéal Fortin Québec debout Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-452 was passed unanimously and received royal assent in June 2015. This bill included consecutive sentences and reversed the burden of proof. It was a strong and tangible gesture to take action against pimps. However, the Liberals backtracked and introduced Bill C-38, a truncated version of Bill C-452, which itself has been gathering dust since February 2017. It has yet to be debated.

Did the Prime Minister really want to take action against sexual exploitation or was this just another show?

Human Trafficking and Child ProstitutionStatements By Members

March 27th, 2018 / 2 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, human trafficking and child prostitution has been a growing problem in Canada in recent years. Innocent young girls are falling victim to pimps who destroy their lives. In order to address this serious problem, all parties unanimously passed the former Conservative government's Bill C-452, but the current government is refusing to sign the order in council for the coming into force of this bill. Instead, the Liberals introduced their own revised and watered down version of the bill, Bill C-38. Since then, there has been a growing number of victims, making this government complicit in this unacceptable plague on society.

Like all Canadians, I am outraged by the rise in the phenomenon of pimping in Canada and even more so by the fact that this so-called feminist government has stood idly by and allowed criminals to continue to destroy the lives of the young women it claims to want to protect and help reach their full potential. The government has a responsibility to take immediate action to help victims. It is a matter—