One of the interesting things that came out of my consultations is that prosecutors, and sometimes even police officers, often tended to believe that human trafficking was international. When women cross the border to come to Canada, that was treated as trafficking, but when girls from Montreal ended up in Quebec City or even in Niagara, that was considered procuring. For trafficking, it depended on the prosecutor and the police officer.
To make things clear for everyone, I added the following specifications to subsection 279.01(1): whether it is in a domestic or international context, as soon as someone recruits, transports and so on, it becomes a matter of trafficking. Police officers will be appearing on this later. We know that trafficking is very widespread within Canada. In my opinion, it is much more widespread than international trafficking.
Girls from Quebec unfortunately find themselves in Niagara, in strip clubs or brothels. Girls from Montreal end up in Quebec City, and vice versa. Girls from Chicoutimi end up in Montreal and girls from British Columbia end up in Toronto or elsewhere. Human trafficking happens within the country and it concerns all of us, whatever the provinces concerned. There are no borders.
Another very important point that was often raised during discussions that I held with these people is, of course, the definition of exploitation. Section 279.04 of the Criminal Code concerns exploitation. There are provisions on organ trafficking and forced labour, but trafficking for sexual exploitation is not clearly defined. I therefore introduced a specific provision on sexual exploitation. It is subsection (1.1), following subsection (1), which concerns offering or providing labour, etc.
This definition was prepared very carefully to respond to all situations that could arise. Furthermore, it is practically taken verbatim from the Palermo Protocol, which targets human trafficking and transnational crime, and which Canada ratified on May 13, 2002. I think that with this addition, we clarify things and all of the dimensions of the term “exploitation”.
Forfeiture of the proceeds of crime is another very important point that was raised. People who work in policing and prosecutors spoke to me about it a lot. Trafficking is a very profitable crime because it is extremely difficult to prove under the current code. In addition, it involves very few risks. With drug trafficking, the drugs have to be bought and so there is the risk of being caught. But for this type of trafficking, the guys just have to recruit girls. To do so, they can use manipulation or seduction. In fact, what is called “grooming” is not done right away. It can be slow or fast, depending on the traffickers. Then, these girls are raped. They are gang raped. They are tortured and their family is threatened. After that, they make their appointments on their own. They are so terrorized that they do not even have to be forced to do so.
A girl can bring in a lot of money, depending on her looks and her age. The younger she is, the more she brings in. I have met, unfortunately, girls who had started doing that at age 12. A girl can bring in about $280,000 per year. Twenty girls bring in $6,552,000 per year, and 40 girls $13,100,000 per year. These are figures from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
Here, I am not just talking to you about low-level street prostitution. I am talking about a group of things, notably strip clubs. What's more, the SQ estimates that 80% of strip clubs in its jurisdiction belong to organized crime, under front men. We are also talking about massage parlours, which are popping up like mushrooms just about everywhere. I do not know if that is the case everywhere in Canada, but I can tell you that it is in Montreal. In my riding, they are already popping up like mushrooms.
There are also escort agencies and bawdy houses that are too numerous to count.
Paradoxically, confiscating the proceeds of crime is done through drug offences and any offence associated with organized crime. If we do it for drugs, it is high time we did it for human beings, because that is even worse. Slavery is worse than drug trafficking. In fact, all of that is described. Clearly, selling drugs is bad, but selling human beings and treating them like merchandise is repugnant. It is high time for this to stop being lucrative for pimps because at this time, it is quite lucrative. If we seize their big cars and big houses, they may think about it twice.
You said I had two minutes left, so I will be able to tell you more during questions.
The other issue is presumption. Presumption is a fundamental aspect. This bill contains two important elements: presumption or what is known as “reversal of proof” and “consecutive sentences”. That is fundamental for victims. In fact, it was one of the most important issues raised by victims' groups and the police. It was discussed a great deal.
Currently, the Criminal Code is drafted in such a way that the burden of proof rests entirely on victims. Indeed, we know that without their testimony, it is extremely difficult to bring someone to trial. When we are dealing with adults rather than minors, it is even worse. You should know that trafficking victims are quite reluctant to testify. These women have been through hell. They are experiencing major post-traumatic stress. The fact of seeing their attackers again, talking about everything that happened and retelling their horror stories prevents them from testifying, since, quite often, they are afraid their attackers will get out of prison. They wonder what they will do to them. It is extremely difficult to send someone, whoever it may be, to testify after having been victimized by one of these networks.
In closing, I would like to say something about the reversal of the burden of proof. If my colleagues wish, I can tell you more about consecutive sentences a bit later. Several victims' groups asked me to stop imposing the burden of proof on victims as is currently the case for procuring. In fact, presumption, in cases of procuring, does exist in the Criminal Code as we speak. So let us do so, not only to help the police and provide them with tools, but also to relieve victims and give them justice.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. If you wish, I will tell you about consecutive sentences later on.