Mr. Speaker, I am going to parlay a little off what my hon. colleague before me had to say. It was very interesting that she very much went around the concept of standing up for violence against women.
This bill is, again, one of these things where the Liberals say they are trying to do one particular thing, and then they go off and do something completely different. When this bill was introduced, the minister said that this was going to improve efficiency in the criminal justice system and reduce court delays. The Liberals then just seemed to water down a whole bunch of sentences to reduce backlogs in the courts. They also wanted to improve and streamline bail hearings.
The goals they stated off the top were laudable. I think everyone in this place has the goal to make the justice system work better. That is something I think everyone who comes to this place can agree on. How we get there is where we disagree. If Bill C-75 actually accomplishes some of these things, we would definitely be on the right track.
Conservatives always look at the justice system from the point of view of the victim. It seems to me that the Liberals always want to look at it from the point of view of the perpetrator.
My first concern about this bill is that it is an omnibus bill. It is a mashup of various other policies. We have seen, over the time I have been here, that bills are introduced, and they keep being added to. I think Bill C-36 has been put in here, and a number of other bills have been lumped in with this bill. We have seen the progression of that. Now it is this monstrosity of a bill that is fairly unmanageable. As my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton pointed out earlier, we had the opportunity to fix a number of these things earlier on, but the government has dithered on some of them.
A lot of people say that I am always criticizing the government, so could I just point out every now when it does something good. There are some good pieces in here. Bill C-75 would increase the maximum term for repeat offenders involved in intimate partner violence, and it would provide that the abuse of an intimate partner would be an aggravating factor in sentencing. I am totally supportive of that.
I am also supportive of the reverse onus for bail in the case of domestic assault. Indeed, I have written letters to the justice minister on that as well. Women who have been violently assaulted by their spouses should have confidence that the justice system will protect their interests and put their safety first.
Another important element of Bill C-75 is that the act of strangulation would be made a more serious level of assault. I am totally fine with that as well.
There are a number of areas I have concerns about in this bill, particularly the way it treats human trafficking. With such significant changes, we would have expected the government to consult widely. Over the last number of years, I have been working with a lot of groups that are concerned about the human trafficking happening right here in Canada. We suggested that these folks contact the justice committee to try to become witnesses at the committee.
The justice committee heard from 95 witnesses on Bill C-75. Over 70% of the witnesses at the justice committee were justice system lawyers, which would totally make sense if this bill was about streamlining the justice system. We would want lawyers to show up. However, this bill is not predominantly about that. It is predominantly about lowering sentences for a whole raft of different offences.
When we are dealing with a bill that would lower sentences, or hybridize these offences, which I think is the term that is used, certainly we should hear from some of the groups that represent the victims of some of these offences. However, we did not hear much from them at all. Just over 10% of those groups came to committee.
With respect to law enforcement, we would think that because they are the people who have to enforce these laws and use the Criminal Code to charge people that perhaps we should hear from them as well. Do members know how many police officers were heard at this committee? Out of 95 witnesses, one police officer showed up or was asked to come. That was also kind of disturbing.
From my limited experience travelling across the country, I know that the issues people face in northern Alberta and in Peace River country are quite a bit different from the issues people face in downtown Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver and across the territories. To hear from one police officer how the bill would affect his job seems to me to be limited, particularly when it deals with a whole bunch of different areas the police work in.
The police work every day to keep us safe, and they rely on Parliament to make sure that they have laws they can use. It seems to me that we should have heard particularly from victims and police officers. To have only one police officer, out of 95 witnesses, seems a little interesting.
As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-75 would make significant changes to some of our human trafficking offences, changing them from indictable to these hybrid offences. As legislators, we are about to vote on these changes. It is important that we make informed decisions. Are these amendments going to be useful for police officers fighting human trafficking? We do not know, because again, we heard from only one police officer, and he was not able to address specifically the human trafficking aspect.
What we know is that at committee, not a single organization that works to fight human trafficking across the country was consulted on these changes. In fact, many of these human trafficking units across the country have no idea that these changes could even be coming into effect, which could be a problem, given that the police are investigating crimes as we speak but would now have pieces of the Criminal Code disappear or be reduced. It may be a problem for them.
I would also urge my colleagues in the Senate to ensure that there is better representation of victims and law enforcement during the Senate hearings on Bill C-75. As we know, the bill will be going to the Senate quickly, as just this morning, we were voting on the closure motion for this particular bill.
Clause 106 of the bill would change the material benefit from trafficking offence and the destroying documents trafficking offence. These offences would be changed from indictable to hybrid offences.
The chair of the justice committee was here. I have debated him before on this. He said that we need to ensure that there is leeway within the law, and I agree with him. He used the example of assault and said that there is a great variance in assault, from minor fisticuffs in the parking lot to someone being left for dead. He said that we need to be able to have variance in the law for that, from being able to issue a fine. My point to him on this particular section is that there should be a minimum for material benefit from human trafficking. Could he give me an example of a fairly minor human trafficking occasion? That seems to me to be ridiculous.
Modern-day slavery is an affront to humanity, and there ought to be a minimum sentence of more than just a fine. I think all of us standing in this place would agree. I do not care if one is the nicest slave-owner on the planet, it is still slavery, and there ought to be a minimum sentence for that and not merely a fine. I was very frustrated by that. The other thing is that this will be downloaded to the provincial courts.
We know that the vast majority of human trafficking victims in this country are female. The vast majority are very young, and about half of them are indigenous. We need to ensure that the risk of being caught for human trafficking outweighs the ability to make money from it.
The justice committee in the past, in a different study, heard that human traffickers make between $1,500 and $2,000 a day from a trafficked individual. Under Bill C-75, the trafficker would face a maximum $5,000 fine. A trafficker who is trafficking a young person in this country can make up to $300,000 a year. A $5,000 fine is ridiculous. That is just be the cost of doing business for that individual.
The other thing is that this would take away consecutive sentencing for human trafficking. Victims of human trafficking are afraid to come forward because they fear that it would then just be a short time before their pimp would be back out on the street hunting them down.