Thank you to the members of the standing committee for the opportunity to speak.
My name is Nancy Morrison. I've asked the clerk to put before you a statement that was made on July 10, 2014, by Brian McConaghy, a former RCMP forensic specialist. For the last 25 years he's been the head of an international charity that assists Cambodian youth to recover from sex trade abuses. I hope you will read his whole submission.
I'm quoting one portion only. McConaghy stated:
I judge human trafficking and prostitution as inseparable and simply different elements of the same criminal activity [that] exploits vulnerable women and youth. The separation of these elements I view [as] largely academic.
That is also my view. Human sex trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal activity in the world. In 2012, profits from human sex trafficking were estimated at $58 billion per year. Two years later, in 2014, according to a joint statement of the Inter-agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons, human trafficking is so lucrative that it was now estimated by the International Labour Office at $99 billion U.S. per year.
Following the 2013 Bedford decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, Parliament passed the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which received royal assent in November 2014. For the first time in Canadian history, prostitution involving consenting adults became illegal. The act has criminalized the purchase of sexual services, making it an offence for an individual to buy sex in Canada. It criminalizes the pimps and the purchasers, not the sellers. The act gives immunity to those who sell sex, offering instead to help them exit the sex trade.
This is modelled after the Nordic model, with one unfortunate exception. One section of the act makes it illegal to solicit to sell sex in a public place, or any places open to public view that are next to a school ground, playground, or day care centre. In my view, Parliament should remove that section so that no individual who sells sex will be criminalized.
Human sex trafficking has no borders. Girls are trafficked from Asia, Africa, Europe, and certainly within our own countries. What can we learn from other countries?
Sweden, in 1999, passed the Sex Purchase Act, which criminalizes pimps and the customers who buy sex. Prostitutes are subject to no criminalization and are given assistance to leave the sex trade. The law's aims are gender equality, the safety of women and youth from violence, curbing human trafficking as well as prostitution, and changing their culture so that prostitution is no longer accepted as appropriate. It is violence against women and children, and contrary to gender equality.
Prostitution still exists in Sweden, but the culture is changing. Organized crime involved in the trade has been disrupted, and sex trafficking from foreign jurisdictions has decreased, along with the incidence of prostitution.
A 2015 government report reveals street prostitution had been cut in half, and an estimate of the number of prostitutes indicates that their number has decreased from 3,000 to 600. Sweden helps people to exit the sex trade, providing safety and housing, education, counselling, treatment for addictions, and financial assistance.
The Netherlands decriminalized prostitution in 2000. The result was a huge increase in the number of prostitutes in the Netherlands. Drug use, prostitution, organized crime, and human sex trafficking continued to rise. Amsterdam has become a destination for sex tourism.
Denmark also decriminalized prostitution in 1999. Between 2002 and 2009, the number of prostitutes increased by 40% in Denmark. Many of the trafficked young women there are from Romania and Nigeria.
New Zealand is often pointed to as a place where legal prostitution works well. You be the judge. On May 1 of this year there was an article in The Guardian reporting that New Zealand's immigration service has added sex work to the list of employment skills for those wishing to migrate. On the immigration website in New Zealand, this appears as skilled employment, but not on the skills-shortage list. New Zealand decriminalized the sex trade in 2003, with the stated goal of reducing violence, regular inspection of brothels, and no increase in the sex trade. The Guardian reports that the opposite has occurred.
Germany also decriminalized prostitution in 1999. There the sex trade mushroomed. By 2013, sex trafficking had seen an explosive increase. Many of the trafficked victims are from Romania, Bulgaria, and other former satellite countries. In May 2013, one German ad promoting a brothel read, “Sex with all women as long as you want, as often as you want, and the way you want. Sex. Anal sex. Oral sex without a condom.” The police reported that the first weekend after the ad appeared, there were 1,700 customers at the brothel. Included on the menu of another German brothel was “sex with a pregnant woman”.
Brothels are illegal in Canada under the 2014 amendments. In the Bedford case, an affidavit from a senior Toronto police officer urged the court not to legalize brothels. Brothels are among the few places where police can investigate and find not only sex trafficking, but underage prostitutes, refugees and immigrants who have been preyed upon, and foster children. In Canada, the greatest gift we could give to sex traffickers, here and internationally, would be to legalize prostitution, offering up Canada's most vulnerable girls, including many from first nation communities.
Misha Glenny, an expert in worldwide organized crime, who wrote McMafia, writes that trafficked women are the ideal entry-level commodity for criminals. He compares two commodities: a young girl and a car. A stolen car might net a one-time payment of $10,000 or $20,000 to the criminal, whereas a trafficked young woman generates income night after night, week after week, year after year, making $5,000 to $10,000 per month, and often more. We have cases in Canada in which drug traffickers have switched to trafficking in sex workers. There's much less danger in transporting the goods or commodities, as Glenny refers to them. There's much less danger in being caught, a lot more money, and it's easier to obtain young girls. There's a low risk of detection, and a much, much lower penalty if caught.
Regina v. Moazami was a human trafficking case in 2014 in Vancouver. There the accused had switched from trafficking in drugs to running his own stable of young girls. Eleven of those young women testified against him in court. Ten of the 11 testified that they began in the sex trade at the ages of 12, 13, 14, 16, and 17. Three of them were foster children, one was an immigrant from Afghanistan, and one was taken to Calgary for the Stampede. All were induced and kept in the trade with drugs, violence, and threats.
The diamonds of the sex trade are the children. Almost without exception, every woman that I acted for as defence counsel in prostitution cases, and there were many, had begun at a very young age. Almost all came from grim backgrounds of sexual and/or physical abuse. Children are in great demand in this industry. Trafficking children for sex is an open secret. They are much more valuable than the adults, and men are willing to pay extra for them. These young teens are hidden away in Airbnbs and luxury apartments, groomed and sold for sex in secret. When women in the sex trade are interviewed, few are asked, “At what age did you begin as a prostitute?”
To view prostitution as two equal parties striking a mutually beneficial agreement is nonsense. In the sex trade, the buyer has the power, and the young woman—the merchandise—has none. Particularly if she entered the sex trade as a child or a young teen, the notion of her consenting is ludicrous.
If we don't enforce the existing prostitution law by charging the customers and by trying to bring down the incidence of sex trafficking and prostitution, it should be no surprise that there is little discovery and enforcement of human sex trafficking. Most of us don't want to talk about prostitution. We need that enforcement, and at the same time we need to amend the existing offending section in the current legislation. We also need to provide adequate funded services for women and youth who are currently in the sex trade, and all encouragement and financial assistance to those who want to exit the trade. I've listed the services on the last page of my brief.
Sweden has shown the way by rejecting the culture that women and children, girls and boys, are commodities to be bought and sold. They have chosen a culture of gender equality, a culture that is against violence against women and children.
So should we.