We were advised that the committee wanted to hear from the PPSC, which is our common name, rather than the ODPP, on the following issues related to human trafficking prosecutions: challenges to prosecuting human trafficking cases, the agencies that we work with on these cases, challenges to prosecuting human trafficking in the north, and ways in which the Criminal Code's human trafficking offences can be improved.
First, I should say about the PPSC, and you may have heard it in other contexts from other of my colleagues at PPSC, that we are an independent and accountable prosecuting authority, the main objective of which is to prosecute cases under federal jurisdiction in a manner that is free from any improper influence. The PPSC has approximately 1,000 employees, roughly half of whom are lawyers, in offices across the country and in the territories. For those parts of Canada that are remote from our regional offices, we retain private sector lawyers to appear as agents in connection with our prosecutions.
About two-thirds of our work is occupied with prosecutions under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and the remainder comprises tax prosecutions, tax evasion and related offences, and other offences created by federal statutes, such as those in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, or IRPA as we often refer to it. In the territories, however, the PPSC has the exclusive prosecuting authority, so we prosecute Criminal Code offences in additional to all of the federal offences.
Matthew Taylor from Justice already gave you a bit of a road map as to the legislative provisions and when they came into force. The offence that appears at section 118 of the IRPA, the trafficking in persons offence, came into force in IRPA in 2002, and I would say its principal distinguishing feature as compared to the offences in the code is that there's a cross-border element, meaning it refers to somebody who is brought into the country by the means described in the section—fraud or deception, and that kind of thing.
The challenges to prosecuting offences with an international element, I would suggest, are probably quite obvious. There are frequently difficulties in gathering evidence from a foreign country in a format that is admissible in a Canadian court. Witnesses who may be required for the case may be reluctant or unwilling to come to Canada to testify, and we may be stymied with regard to ways of obtaining their evidence otherwise, such as by video link, that just may not be possible or the witness may not co-operate. My colleagues have already adverted to the fact that human trafficking victims, complainants, may be reluctant to co-operate with the efforts of the authorities to prosecute the people who have trafficked them into the country.
The agencies with whom we work in respect of these cases are the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP, and other police forces, which may be involved in investigating and laying IRPA charges. We would have, as I suggested earlier, jurisdiction to prosecute human trafficking offences in the territories. In the last 10 years, as far as I've been able to determine, in the territories there has not been a charge laid under the IRPA trafficking provision.
Finally, with respect to potential amendments to the Criminal Code provisions, because our jurisdiction is with respect to the IRPA offence, we are not in a position to offer any comments with respect to the Criminal Code trafficking-related offences.