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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.