Evidence of meeting #100 for Justice and Human Rights in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was work.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Rachel Phillips  Executive Director, Peers Victoria Resources Society
Sadie Forbes  Member, Board of Directors, Peers Victoria Resources Society
Julie Kaye  Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Saskatchewan, As an Individual
Emily van der Meulen  Associate Professor, Department of Criminology, Ryerson University, As an Individual
Ann De Shalit  Ph.D. Candidate, Policy Studies, Ryerson University, As an Individual
Melendy Muise  Support Specialist, Coalition Against the Sexual Exploitation of Youth, Thrive
Ellie Jones  Director of Programming, Thrive
Jennisha Wilson  Manager, Alluriarniq Department: Sex Work, Exiting the Sex Trade and Anti-Human Trafficking Projects, Tungasuvvingat Inuit

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

To clarify, I would characterize the visa in that situation as a preventative mechanism to ensure that women aren't being exported from a country into a situation they might not be able to extract themselves from given resources.

Would you agree with that characterization, being cognizant of some of your concerns, that the visa could be used as a tool to prevent extraction where we know there are organized efforts around trafficking?

4:45 p.m.

Prof. Julie Kaye

I think that type of preventative measure too often falls towards a restrictive measure. The effort to prevent actually creates a context where people who may be able to migrate or travel or move away from some of the risks that would put them at risk of trafficking are restricted from being able to do so, as well.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Just to clarify, in terms of somebody who is having their travel paid for by somebody to come to the country to be brought into trafficking, I would want to restrict that travel. I wouldn't want that woman to be in that situation. Would you share that opinion?

4:45 p.m.

Prof. Julie Kaye

I think there are third party agreements that are made often that aren't exploitative, so I think there's caution to be had around it.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Like what?

4:45 p.m.

Prof. Julie Kaye

There are third party arrangements that take place, a number of which have been criminalized, in terms of organizing travel and relying on supports to travel, and relying on family members at times to support travel. That can be taking place. We also see, particularly from countries facing economic challenges, a wanting to move towards Canada, and the reliance on remittance payments at times: families will support somebody to travel in order to support the whole family network, which we often can call trafficking—

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

I apologize, but just in the interests of time—

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

A short last question, please.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Just to be clear, I'm looking specifically at criteria that the government should be looking at in terms of imposing a visa to ensure that women aren't trafficked out of the country. I really haven't heard a recommendation on that.

4:45 p.m.

Prof. Julie Kaye

Yes, I'm suggesting that type of criteria becomes too restrictive. That actually proves harmful rather than preventative, as you're suggesting.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Thank you.

Mr. Boissonnault.

May 31st, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Thanks, Mr. Chair, and thanks to all of you for your testimony.

As members of this panel travelling the country and listening to witnesses, we've learned that there are not just different schools of thought but different schools of experience, and it's challenging to build a bridge between the solitudes. That's our challenge as policy-makers.

You know that there are two different definitions, one in the United Nations world and one in the Criminal Code here in Canada, the big difference being the fear for safety element in our Criminal Code definition here in Canada. I'm interested in knowing which definition you prefer, the more broad or the more narrow, and why. Based on the people you define as victims of human trafficking, what do we as government need to do to curb it or stop it, and how do we best help and support victims?

I have maybe a minute and a quarter for each group, so who wants to start from Peers Victoria?

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Peers Victoria Resources Society

Dr. Rachel Phillips

I'll start.

On preventing trafficking and addressing trafficking, we don't have a lot of experience in working with people who identify as being trafficked in the context of the sex industry. In the last year, we've served two people. Both of those individuals came from outside the region, and what they required in terms of immediate supports were housing subsidies, access to social groups, and, because they were in new cities, people who could help them access health care.

In terms of preventing, I think some of those practical kinds of supports need to be available for people who have experienced trafficking.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

That's helpful—and on time.

Dr. van der Meulen.

4:45 p.m.

Prof. Emily van der Meulen

Your question is about which definition we pick up, the United Nations' one or the Criminal Code's. I would suggest, in fact, that the issue is less about the written legal definition of human trafficking as it's set out in the Criminal Code and more about the way that it's overly broadly applied within the community context, and then who is being harmed as a result.

Police services say they rely on the Criminal Code definition, but in practice what they're doing is interpreting that in, I would suggest, much, much too broad a way, and then capturing all sorts of individuals and instances that I wouldn't think actually meet the threshold of human trafficking itself. You can see that more now in the lack of convictions as well.

I think TI had a fantastic presentation, actually implicating the state itself as a trafficker, right—

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

How do we stop the people you think are being trafficked, and how do we help the people that are?

4:50 p.m.

Prof. Emily van der Meulen

Could you say that again?

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

How do we stop human trafficking as you define it?

4:50 p.m.

Prof. Emily van der Meulen

Well, I think part of the way you would do that is by actually acknowledging the types of harms that actually occur by the definitions of human trafficking and seeing what types of activities are being targeted in human trafficking legislation, versus what types of activities could be dealt with much more appropriately under other pieces of policy or different pieces of legislation.

In the sex trade, for example, which is the context that most people are talking about here, labour law and policy, employment standards, Workplace Safety and Insurance Boards.... There are lots of different ways that we can actually try to address things like unfair labour practices and labour exploitation.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

I'm glad you raised that last point, because we heard from Migrante Alberta and from other people around the country. There was a balance in the presentations of the amount of people who are being labour-trafficked or trafficked for the purposes of labour along our study, and I think that was very important.

I was shocked and saddened to learn about family trafficking. That came up in Edmonton. It broke my heart and continues to.

I want this stopped. I want it ended. I'm a little frustrated by endless debate about the root causes. I want to know the actions moving forward. If we could have your collective brainpower, even in follow-up memos, as to what we actually need to do as opposed to how we got here, that would be really helpful.

Julie.

4:50 p.m.

Prof. Julie Kaye

I don't see what we need to do as disconnected from how we got here, so that is partly why it's so important to consider that.

We've been talking about what's taking place on the front lines. As the witness from Peers mentioned, some of the missing voices and some of the people we aren't able to hear from, who are currently living, resisting, and surviving within these contexts, are not consumed with this debate. Just so you know, most people who are living in the reality are consumed with ensuring they have safety. They're consumed with the fact that they were harassed by the police last night. They're consumed with all the different safety mechanisms they are working on in their day-to-day lives.

It's about supporting individuals within the context in which they're living and within the spectrum of contexts, so I'm not opposed to having exit organizations. It's absolutely necessary for people to have as many choices as possible within constrained circumstances. Within that, we need to not erase or trample over individuals who are further harmed by the laws we have in place, so we need to have some forms of decriminalization to ensure that they're not over-policed and harassed in those ways.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Thank you. I have to pause you there.

Ms. Jones and Ms. Muise, you have a minute between the two of you.

4:50 p.m.

Director of Programming, Thrive

Ellie Jones

I would say the folks we're working with are consumed by how they're going to get their next meal, to be honest. They're not consumed with this debate, because they're hungry. We work with a lot of folks engaged in survival sex. In terms of trafficking, we have intraprovincial trafficking. Within Newfoundland and Labrador, folks are being moved from Labrador to St. John's; they're being moved from Corner Brook, Stephenville, the central region, or what have you.

From our perspective, if we were to suggest what to change right away, starting tomorrow, it would be to have a decent living minimum wage, to have much easier access to affordable housing, to keep our families intact instead of overloading our child protection systems and foster homes, to have trauma-informed services that understand toxic stress, and to address the education needs of young people, ensuring that they have basic literacy and numeracy. Those are the things I would suggest.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

It would be a systemic approach.

4:50 p.m.

Director of Programming, Thrive