Hello Mr. Chair and committee members.
Thank you for having me here today. I do speak English, but it will be easier if I speak French.
As I listened to what you have been saying, it seems clear to me that sexual exploitation and human trafficking are not really part of your reality. That is why I want to come back to the victims and talk about who they are. The victims are your friends, your sisters, your daughters. They are girls who thought that, one day, their prince charming would come along and save them. They watched Sleeping Beauty, where a prince awakens a girl from a deep sleep. They watched Snow White, who is saved by a street gang of seven dwarves and then prince charming comes along and offers her the life of her dreams. They watched Beauty and the Beast in which Belle transforms the beast into her prince charming with her love, a perfect example of Stockholm syndrome.
Slowly and silently, they become desensitized to sexuality and all of a sudden their prince turns into a frog. This happens so surreptitiously that they do not see anything coming and then they feel responsible for what is happening to them. Others go to a party, unknowingly take a date rape drug, and are gang raped. Their lives are forever changed in an instant.
Who are the victims?
I am the founder and director of La Maison de Mélanie. I work with victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The victims are police officers, teachers, or MPs who were captured one day. Sexual exploitation has extremely serious consequences, but today I have the opportunity to speak to you on behalf of myself, as a survivor, and on behalf of all those that I fondly refer to as my little sisters in combat, those who have survived the horror of this heinous crime.
In 2014, it became an offence to purchase sexual services of any kind under the Criminal Code of Canada. The women and girls in the industry are supposed to be considered victims, but that is not at all reflected in the society in which we live or in the way such matters are handled by the courts. The stigmatization, exclusion, marginalization, judgment, and rejection that we, as victims, have to live with day in and day out are completely unacceptable and unbearable.
In addition to surviving the most horrific atrocities, we have to deal with constant revictimization, which prevents us from creating a new identity and growing as individuals. By failing to enforce Bill C-452 to give us justice and by making us responsible for what we experienced, the government is giving power to our exploiters and clients and is violating our rights under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.
We have the right to be recognized for who we are—victims—and to be heard and believed. Our rights, including our right to redress from the courts, are violated because very few people are receptive to the horror that we experienced. They believe that we are responsible for our own dehumanization, which is a modern form of slavery. We also have the right to obtain justice and to be protected. Since that would involve imposing exemplary sentences on our exploiters and applying consecutive sentences, it is clear that, in your eyes and the eyes of society, we are worth less than those who exploit us.
Today, I hold a bachelor's degree from the Université de Montréal, and I am just about to finish a second bachelor's degree so that I can become a member of the Ordre professionnel des criminologues du Québec. I was awarded a medal of honour by the Senate for my involvement in Canadian society, for my contribution, and for my work with victims.
If the current act were amended and a place were made for victims, how many others could become contributing members of this great country of Canada.
Human trafficking does not just affect victims and their families. It also affects society as a whole. If we fail to provide adequate services for victims of sexual exploitation, we are responsible for higher hospital fees, suicides, children being placed, abandonment, abuse, and addiction. However, if victims were given what they need now, we could help them grow.
I would like to make a comparison with veterans. A total of 42% of members of the Canadian Armed Forces experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, whereas 94% of women who are raped experience such symptoms. Victims of sexual exploitation are raped every day. They are constantly being raped by one or more people. What percentage of them will experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder?
La Maison de Mélanie and I would like to respectfully make some recommendations.
First, sex education needs to begin in elementary school, particularly when it comes to the notion of consent.
Second, we need to ensure that professionals who may be called upon to help victims are given the proper training so that they can recognize victims and intervene appropriately. I am talking about people such as police officers, social workers, teachers, and others who work in schools, in sports, and in community organizations.
Third, judges need training so that they are aware of the impact human trafficking has on victims.
Fourth, there is a need for more services for victims of sexual exploitation, for example, housing services that meet their needs.
Fifth, we recommend the enforcement of former Bill C-452, which seeks to remove the burden of proof from victims of human trafficking and place it on exploiters, as well as to provide consecutive sentences for offences related to human trafficking.
Sixth, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights needs to be enforced, particularly the right to protection before, during, and after court proceedings.
Seventh, we recommend making legal help available to the victims of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation.