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



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

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-38.


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.


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.

May 10th, 2018 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

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.
See context

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario


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
See context

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.
See context

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario


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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context


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—

Access to Information on Prime Minister's Trip to IndiaPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2018 / noon
See context


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your reference to the rules of this place, because that is very important to what I am going to say. My additional representations on my question of privilege of March 2 are based in large part on the submissions made by the deputy House leader on March 20. Therefore, I am trying to take a substantive approach to his response to my privilege motion.

At the outset, I want to thank everyone. I tried to raise a number of these points during our long period in the chamber last week, but I did not have the opportunity to do so. I said I would bring these forward at the first opportunity after the vote series. However, I would be remiss if I did not thank you, Mr. Speaker, as well as everyone else in the Chair and all the table officers, for your tremendous efforts last week. I know that parliamentary democracy is sometimes grinding and tiring, and I appreciate everyone's efforts, including those of Christianne in the library, who helped me with some of the references to previous speakers' rulings that the deputy House leader of the Liberal government brought forward in his rebuttal of my question of privilege.

I will try to be succinct, but it is very important for me to address and distinguish all the decisions he brought forward, because none is germane. It also seems that he did not understand the core elements of my motion.

Very briefly, my parliamentary privilege as an individual MP was sacrificed or fettered, as was the collective privilege of the House, specifically the privilege of the House of Commons to call witnesses and institute inquiries. Those elements of privilege of the House, collectively, are fundamental and well documented. My individual privilege is not just about me as an MP and my right to free speech and inquiry, which I mentioned. I wear an additional hat as the foreign affairs shadow minister. Since the Atwal affair stems from the Prime Minister's trip to India, the international negative headlines that stemmed from it, and the allegations levelled by the government at the Indian government, it falls squarely into my responsibilities. Much like my friend the deputy House leader, who is an MP for Winnipeg North and has an additional hat of responsibility, as an individual MP I have that additional hat.

It appears he believes that I cited the Milliken decision in the Afghan detainee documents case because it was directly relevant to certain elements of this case. I cited the Milliken decision because the Afghan detainee decision of the Chair was fundamental in that it showed that the unconditional authority of the executive, the Minister of Public Safety or the Prime Minister and his office, to censor information is not acceptable. What that decision meant, for purposes of my question of privilege, is that MPs are entitled to all information, and safeguards can be done, such as in camera and other things. However, that was the fundamental element of the Milliken decision I was relying upon, not because of other elements of that decision. I thought I would reiterate that.

The deputy House leader for the government had four or five direct decisions from previous Speakers. I will briefly refute them. He put those forward in response, but none is actually relevant to my question of privilege. The fact that we have spent hours in this place debating our basic request to have the same briefing as the one provided to journalists demonstrates that, as per the Milliken decision, we are entitled to that information, even if it is classified. It should not have been classified, because it could not be going to journalists if it was. We are entitled to that, and the decisions my friend the deputy House leader cited are just not on point.

The first was a decision from your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, who is now the leader of my party. I do not think I can say his name, although he was a fantastic Speaker, and is a great leader of our party.

The June 13, 2012, decision was cited by the member. The decision was brought by an opposition member who was trying to assess the impact of legislation, Bill C-38, and was unable to get satisfactory answers. It was being cited as a means to dismiss my motion.

I will direct you, Mr. Speaker, to that case and quote from the decision. It states:

In the case before us, the opposition House leader has acknowledged that information was unsuccessfully sought through various means including written questions, questions posed during question period and questions posed in committee. I cannot presume to judge the quality of the responses that have been received.

There are many decisions from that Chair, going back to the early days of our Parliament, that clearly say that the accuracy or quality of a response is not subject to privilege. In that case, the quality of a responses was not a breach of the member's privilege. That is what the decision says. It can easily be distinguished from this case, because we cannot assess any quality since there has been an outright refusal to provide the same briefing.

Therefore, it is not about judging the quality of the response, but whether we are entitled. As I will outline to refute several other cases he has made, we have been denied this at committee, in the House, and in question period. On all three of these elements of fundamental proceedings of Parliament we have been 100% stymied. It is not about assessing the quality. That first decision of the previous Chair occupant from June 13, 2012, in no way touched on why my individual privilege was fettered, and the collective rights of the House.

The second decision my friend, the deputy House leader for the government, cited to refute my point with respect to parliamentary privilege was another decision by the previous Speaker. It is from December 4, 2014. That one related to an inquiry from the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley with respect to the launching of an economic update of the government and it being done outside of the confines of Parliament. It is quite regular that economic statements or events surrounding the minister are not always delivered in the House. They can be delivered at Canadian club luncheons and events across the country. Also, it was an economic update, not a budget.

In that decision the Speaker said:

That is not to say, however, that every proceeding or activity related to delivering or accessing information by members implicitly involves their parliamentary duties.

In that case, the question of privilege brought by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley was that his privilege as a member was violated because the minister at that time delivered the economic statement to a private audience of financial professionals and others. This did not meet the threshold for violating the individual privilege of that member. The Chair said that he could find no cases of privilege or points of order in relation to updates happening outside of the House.

It has no application here because, while the briefing by the national security adviser with journalists did happen abroad, the attempts for parliamentarians to inquire, to call witnesses at committee, and to ask questions in the House during question period have been stymied by the government's consistent refusal with respect to Mr. Jean. It does not relate to the fact that Mr. Jean's briefing was held elsewhere. My friend the deputy House leader seems to have conflated the two issues. Therefore, the second case he brought forward is not applicable.

The third case to refute my question of privilege, from Speaker Parent on October 9, 1997, was cited as well in his submission of March 20. That case involved the MP for Wild Rose in Alberta. It related to the MP being in his constituency and attending a meeting on a first nations reserve. At one point in the meeting, government officials from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development asked the member to leave the room because some items would be discussed of which he was not entitled to be a part.

When the House resumed and constituency week was over, the member of Parliament for Wild Rose stood in the House and said that his privileges were violated because he was not entitled to that departmental briefing to the full extent. The departmental officials asked him to leave the meeting and he felt that violated his privilege as a member.

There have been some Speakers' decisions, including this one, that have said the constituency affairs of a member of Parliament, which is what I think all of us believe is a fundamental aspect to our job, does not involve or export the privileges from the chamber.

This is the precedent that the Speaker's decision of 1997 provides to us, that some of the privileges granted to members in the House in a collective sense or an individual sense cannot be ported with us to our riding even if government officials are in an MPs riding for a briefing. The finding in the end was that there was no breach of parliamentary privilege because the member was not “participating in a proceeding of Parliament”.

This is the critical element of what my friend the deputy House leader seems to miss with all of these decisions he is putting forward. He is suggesting that the need to have Mr. Jean does not involve the proceeding of Parliament, thinking that because Mr. Jean provided this briefing to journalists abroad or outside of Parliament somehow it does not apply to a proceeding of Parliament.

We certainly know that the first vote last week before the cavalcade of votes that followed related to the request to have Mr. Jean appear before a proceeding of Parliament, a parliamentary committee. In fact, the opposition day motion that day was a proceeding of Parliament. The question period responses by the minister and the Prime Minister were a proceeding of Parliament.

The fourth decision that he cited, which I am responding to in an effort to show that it can be easily distinguished, was a May 15, 1985, decision of Speaker Bosley. It related to a grant program at the time called “Challenge '85”. MPs were trying to find out whether grant applicants in their ridings were successful in obtaining grants under Challenge '85. I am trying to be brief, so I will not relate to the Liberal government's problems with the Canada summer jobs program, but it came to mind when I read this decision.

In this case, the Speaker found that there was no question of privilege violating the individual rights of MPs to find out the status of their grant applications because “actions or inactions” of a government to update an MP or provide the yes or no to a grant application was a decision of that department. It is not a proceeding of Parliament.

Much like the previous case, finding out whether an important group in one's riding received funding for a grant program does not relate to the MP's privileges as a member in the proceeding of Parliament. Once again, it was a constituency-based issue and that was how it was distinguished. However, that does not apply to this case. All aspects of the request for the national security adviser to appear before a committee, the opposition day motion, all of those things are proceedings of Parliament.

There was another case cited previously, Speaker Parent's decision of November, 1999. This focuses on looking at what is a proceeding of Parliament, and it acknowledges that question period, committees, and those sorts of things are proceedings of Parliament. With respect to privilege, it identifies the categories of individual and collective privilege.

I will highlight a very important quote from that decision because, as I said, my March 2 question of privilege showed that both individual and collective rights were violated. Speaker Parent said:

As for the rights and powers of the House as a collectivity they may be classified as follows: the regulation of its own internal affairs, the authority to maintain the attendance and service of its members, the power to expel members guilty of disgraceful conduct, the right to institute inquiries and to call witnesses and demand papers, the right to administer oaths to witnesses, and the authority to deal with breaches of privilege or contempt.

Former Speaker Parent then goes on to cite Maingot in Parliamentary Privilege in Canada to highlight that in exercising their functions as members, anything they do with respect to committee and other things are proceedings of Parliament.

As I said, my friend, the deputy House leader for the government, seems to suggest a number of cases where MPs were demanding information in their ridings, the status of grants, whether an answer or a response from the government was accurate or fulsome enough. None of that applies here.

In this case, in committees of Parliament, in the House, and in question period, we have been seized for weeks with respect to the issue of Mr. Jean, the national security adviser, and whether members of Parliament, both myself both as an MP and the shadow minister for foreign affairs, or my colleague, our public safety shadow minister, who has been trying to call Mr. Jean at committee, or the responses we have been receiving from members of the executive, our individual and collective rights for proceedings of Parliament, such as question period, debate, and committees, are all being impeded by the government's consistent refusal to provide Mr. Jean under the same circumstances that the executive provided him to select members of the press gallery. Therefore, we have a double standard here or some have suggested a cover-up in respect to our rights to have the same amount of information.

The Minister of Public Safety, again on the weekend, in an interview with CTV Question Period, refused to provide the same briefing that journalists received to—

Impact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

March 2nd, 2018 / 10:30 a.m.
See context


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley is absolutely right. To me, the question suggests its own answer, which is that had we not been put through a process that is not part of that history of environmental review that I reviewed, the National Energy Board had no expertise in doing reviews.

This allows me to mention another carry-over bad aspect of Bill C-38 into Bill C-69. The time limits that were put into Bill C-38 are how the National Energy Board determined that it would not allow people like me as an intervenor to cross-examine Kinder Morgan's witnesses, which led to an abuse of process and not really getting to the facts of the matter.

That aspect of time limits has not only been continued in Bill C-69, but the time limits have also been shortened.

February 15th, 2018 / 4 p.m.
See context

Acting Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Policy Sector, Department of Justice

Matthew Taylor

You're correct that the amendments that were passed through Bill C-452 by Parliament are not yet in force. Bill C-38, which was introduced by the government, is in the House of Commons currently. It proposes to amend the coming into force clause of Bill C-452 for the reasons you have outlined with respect to the mandatory consecutive sentencing. It's no surprise that it's complicated to follow because it also relates to another piece of legislation that was passed by Parliament, Bill C-36, which I spoke about, and that was the bill that enacted mandatory minimum penalties for trafficking.

February 15th, 2018 / 4 p.m.
See context


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Thank you, Chair.

Thanks to all the witnesses for getting us started on this fascinating area.

I want to build on what Mr. Fraser asked Mr. Taylor about initially. I'm trying to get my head around the Criminal Code. Forgive me, but I tried, first of all, to understand where we are with Bill C-38, which you mentioned. To my understanding, the original bill, Bill C-452, was introduced by Maria Mourani to amend the code to provide for consecutive sentences for offences related to procurement and trafficking in persons, and it created what you talked about in another context, a presumption regarding the exploitation of one person by another, and added circumstances that were deemed to constitute exploitation.

Then Bill C-38, which amended that bill, passed with unanimous support almost a year ago, if I'm not mistaken, and it would implement every part of the original bill but the section that implemented the consecutive sentencing part, because the Liberals were reviewing, and still are reviewing, the issue of mandatory minimum sentences.

I just want to know if I have that right. Is that essentially correct? It's not in force yet—or is it in force?

February 15th, 2018 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Acting Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Policy Sector, Department of Justice

Matthew Taylor

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I thought it might be helpful to the committee for me to provide information for you on two separate things: first, the legislative history of Canada's criminal laws on human trafficking, and second, some background information on the types of programs that Justice Canada has funded to enhance services for victims of human trafficking.

Canada's first human trafficking specific offence was enacted in 2002 as part of the enactment of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Section 118 prohibits the trafficking of persons into Canada and targets the means used by traffickers, such as force, fraud, abduction, deception, or coercion to bring victims into our country. It should be noted that the enactment of this offence coincided with Canada's implementation of the UN protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, which Canada ratified in May of 2002.

In 2005, Parliament passed Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), and enacted three specific Criminal Code offences to more comprehensively address human trafficking, specifically, section 279.01 which prohibits all forms of human trafficking, domestic or transnational, and for any exploitative purpose; section 279.02, which prohibits the receipt of a financial or a material benefit knowing that it was derived from human trafficking; and, third, section 279.03, which prohibits the holding of identity documents to facilitate human trafficking.

Since that time, additional criminal law reforms have been passed by Parliament. In 2010, a private member's bill, Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years), was enacted, creating a separate offence of trafficking in children that is punishable by mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment.

In 2012, two years later, a private member's bill, Bill C-310, was enacted, enabling Canada to assume extraterritorial jurisdiction to prosecute in Canada Canadian citizens or permanent residents who commit human trafficking abroad. It also enacted a provision in subsection 279.04(2) that provides guidance to the courts in helping them to determine whether exploitation has been made out, exploitation being an essential element of the trafficking in persons offence.

In 2014, former Bill C-36 was passed, enacting the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.This act provided new mandatory minimum penalties for human trafficking involving adult victims and for the financial benefit and documents offences involving child victims.

Most recently, the government has introduced Bill C-38, an act to amend An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons), to bring in force certain amendments that were passed in Parliament in 2015 through a private member's bill, Bill C-452, and also An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons). These provisions would enact an evidentiary presumption to help prosecutors prove an element of the human trafficking offence.

That's a bit of a summary of the changes that have been enacted by Parliament. As you can see, these criminal laws in respect of human trafficking have been the subject of ongoing interest and concern by parliamentarians.

At the same time, Justice Canada has supported their implementation in various ways, including through the provision of regular training to police and prosecutors, in conjunction with the RCMP and other police forces, victim services, and other experts. We've developed a handbook for police and prosecutors and fact sheets on key criminal justice issues for police and prosecutors, such as sentencing submissions, bail proceedings, and things of that nature in a human trafficking context. Justice officials have participated in similar efforts internationally, working closely with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to develop similar technical assistance tools to support implementation around the world.

The department is also supporting improvements to victim services. A copy of initiatives that have been funded since 2012 by the department through the victims fund has been provided to the clerk of the committee, I believe, detailing the specifics of each project. Examples for your information include: enhancing victim services delivery in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec; supporting the development of a resource handbook for indigenous women and girls who were victimized through human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation; and, developing a mental health and addictions program for women and girls who were victims of trafficking.

I'm going to conclude my remarks there. I look forward to any questions.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2018 / 6:10 p.m.
See context


Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, one of the issues referred to more and more today is the victims and how we need to listen to them. As a Conservative, I know we are very proud of the Victims Bill of Rights that we passed. I know my colleague had something to do with that.

Particularly, I would like to mention the current Bill C-38. It spells out consecutive sentencing for human trafficking. This is a trend we see with the government. It talks a good game but when it comes to actually doing things, like standing up for victims, as we have seen with Bill C-38, the government seems to just avoid the issue altogether.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

December 11th, 2017 / 7:10 p.m.
See context

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, it is regrettable to hear that kind of hyperbole and rhetoric from my hon. colleague. It would be more appropriate to hear that from his usual seat in the House. I notice he has come to this side of the aisle. On this side of the aisle, we are actually quite proud of our record when it comes to human trafficking. I will get to that in just a moment, but I would point out that, perhaps it was not my hon. colleague, but certainly the last Conservative government cut close to $1 billion from the public safety portfolio, including from the CBSA and the RCMP. All of that undermines many of the gross assertions he just made.

Returning to the question at hand, human trafficking is a heinous crime and a human rights offence. In collaboration with provinces and territories, indigenous communities, law enforcement, and community organizations as well as international partners, we are using a wide variety of measures to combat human trafficking, to support victims and potential victims, and to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.

The national action plan to combat human trafficking was a four-year initiative that ran until last year. Since then, Public Safety Canada has been leading a formal evaluation of the action plan to help inform how we move forward on this important issue. While that evaluation has been going on, federal departments and agencies have continued to combat human trafficking through a full range of initiatives. We have, for example, and my hon. colleague referred to it, introduced Bill C-38.

Contrary to what he said, the House has debated, and thoughtfully had a discourse about, reversing or easing some of the presumptions when it comes to the burden of proof so that prosecutors can ensure that offenders who participate in human trafficking are held to account. Unlike the last Conservative government, we believe we have an appropriate sentencing regime where we place faith in our judiciary. That means not supporting unconstitutional mandatory minimums, like the last Conservative government introduced, which was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada. That means ensuring that we have an appropriate mandatory minimum sentencing regime, one that is evidence-based.

In addition to Bill C-38, we also introduced Bill C-21, which will be an important new tool to combat cross-border crimes. The RCMP has several initiatives that target human trafficking. Its human trafficking national coordination centre conducts public awareness campaigns, training, and awareness sessions for law enforcement and stakeholders, as well as national threat assessments on human trafficking.

This past October, the RCMP partnered with police agencies and community organizations across Canada in a coordinated anti-trafficking effort called Operation Northern Spotlight. There was also Project Protect, a joint initiative between the Government of Canada and the private sector. It allows Canadian financial institutions to report transactions that are suspected of money laundering related to trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation. The impact of Project Protect on identifying suspicious transactions linking money laundering to human trafficking has been phenomenal. In 2015, prior to Project Protect, there were 19 such disclosures.

In 2016-17, the government made over $21 million available to provinces, territories, and non-governmental organizations through the federal victims fund. In budget 2017, the government allocated $100.9 million over five years to establish a national strategy on gender-based violence, which obviously overlaps with human trafficking.

The point is, on this side of the House, contrary to where my hon. colleague is currently sitting, we believe in evidence-based policy-making. We believe in supporting our law enforcement branches to ensure women and girls are protected as part of our overall national plan when it comes to human trafficking.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

December 11th, 2017 / 7:10 p.m.
See context


Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, earlier this month I highlighted the fact that every year, hundreds of young Canadian women, girls, and boys are lured into the vicious cycle of sex trafficking. I asked when the Liberal government would start fighting this horrific form of modern-day slavery.

This is not the first time I have raised the issue of sex trafficking and this government's lack of action on it. In fact, exactly one year ago, I stood here to raise the same issue during adjournment, and in the past 12 months this government has done nothing. In fact, since coming to power, the Liberals have allowed the fight against human trafficking to languish. They have allowed the national action plan to combat human trafficking to expire. They ended funding for NGOs. They have blocked important tools for police that were adopted by this House over four years ago, and then the Liberals introduced legislation, Bill C-38, to lighten sentences for sex traffickers.

A week ago the parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety, in his response to my question during question period, claimed that the government's Bill C-38 would give police and prosecutors new tools to investigate human trafficking.

I would never suggest that the member was misleading the House, but I would rather give him the benefit of the doubt that he may not have read Bill C-38 in answering the question. If he had read it, he would know that Bill C-38 is only one paragraph long and does not have any provisions whatsoever giving police or prosecutors new tools to investigate human trafficking. Even the Minister of Justice, when she introduced Bill C-38 last February, wrongly claimed that Bill C-38 included tools for police and prosecutors to combat human trafficking.

However, the tools they pretend to be in Bill C-38 were in fact unanimously adopted by this House four years ago in an NDP private member's bill, Bill C-452, which was supported by a Conservative government and voted on by the current Prime Minister. It was Bill C-452 that created the 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 would apply, corrected a technical discrepancy, and included a provision that human trafficking sentences would be served consecutively.

Bill C-452 received royal assent in June 2015. Then the Liberal government came into power and has since blocked Bill C-452 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 should serve a long sentence for exploiting a minor in sex slavery.

All Bill C-38 does is to prevent sex traffickers from receiving consecutive sentences. That is it. Nothing more. It certainly doesn't help the police.

Eighty percent of the victims of sex trafficking have never come forward because of their fear. All of the investigators of human trafficking who testified on Bill C-452 welcomed the consecutive sentencing and highlighted that long sentences give victims the confidence to come forward to testify. They also pointed out that without consecutive sentencing, a pimp who traffics only one minor will receive the same sentence as a pimp who traffics five or 10 minors. Consecutive sentencing allows for punishments that better reflect the gravity of the situation.

When will this government stop misleading the public about Bill C-38? When will it stop blocking important tools for the police? When will the Liberals stand up for the victims of sex trafficking instead of blocking tougher sentences for those who enslave them?