House of Commons Hansard #37 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebeckers.


Division No. 32Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Division No. 32Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

The Speaker

It being 6.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

moved that Bill C-206, an act to amend the Criminal Code (prostitution), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, my private member's bill is deceptively simple. It in itself is a minor technical point in the Criminal Code, but it is my belief that the clarity and improvement it makes can bring a significant positive result, for communities to take back their streets, for local merchants to have their sidewalks back again and for parents to renew their confidence in the safety of local school yards.

My bill amends section 213 of the Criminal Code to change the available upper penalty but more importantly the kind of process available against a person charged with talking in a public place about buying or selling sex. It changes the street prostitution section.

In Canada it is a Criminal Code offence, a crime to try and sell or buy sex, prostitution in a public place such as a street corner, a taxi cab, a bar, a pub, or the lobby of a hotel. That is the law. We have had the national conversation about whether that kind of activity should be controlled by criminal sanction, and it is a crime. It is also a crime to live off the avails of prostitution, to be a helper or employer to benefit from the trade, or to keep a place of prostitution. Of course involving juveniles is a very serious crime.

However the private act of prostitution itself is not a crime. I do not know why it is not a crime as the history of abuse, exploitation and degradation associated with those who tend to become sex trade workers appears to be condoned in a double standard. However that is a completely different debate and is beyond the scope of what I am trying to do today. I have observed that what is helpful procedure is to more directly respond to the street trade in prostitution.

We have a social problem in our society for if there were no buyers there would be no sellers. That is a societal problem. Nevertheless mitigating against exploitation is historically the Canadian way. We must provide the legal symbols which provide the appropriate social context for citizens to voluntarily do the right thing while we defend the helpless and minister to them rather than allow them to be exploited.

My proposed change is important for broad societal reasons. There is also a national problem of street prostitution across this country that did not exist in such a pervasive manner just a few years ago. However since the advent of the charter and also the repeal of vagrancy laws, the legal capacity has created its own demand. Whenever we create a loophole for the perverse, the legal vacuum will soon be filled.

Street prostitution goes far beyond just being a local nuisance. Wherever it takes a foothold, the surrounding communities soon learn that the drug crowd follows, as does breaking and entering, theft from cars and an attraction of those with criminal histories becomes entangled in the culture of the street. These trends develop wherever prostitution is openly traded.

Mothers do not appreciate walking their children to school over needles and condoms along the school yard fence. Merchants should not have to patrol their front sidewalk and doorways cleaning up from the night trade.

However the fundamental point I observed as a probation officer before I came to this Parliament attempting to bring social services to bear to individuals caught up in this sad cycle is that street prostitution itself is the wide open door for the young to become involved. Runaway children can so easily stand on a street corner and get involved in prostitution as a way to support themselves on the street. The wide open door and the legal and social tolerance of street prostitution is a major source of the national problem, how it is fed and kept going.

My experience in attempting to help young people in conflict with the law and those who are on the street made me acutely aware of how the summary conviction status of communication for prostitution was so much in conflict with all of our concern and expenditure to help street kids and preserve the peace and safety of our neighbourhoods.

Politicians of the Liberal government side have in the past been very sanctimonious about juveniles and prostitution. NDP members also talk about the awful violence against sex trade workers and claim to be concerned about children on the street. Yet historically they have resisted suggestions to mitigate against allowing kids to be on the street and supporting themselves through the sex trade.

This is not a new problem, yet today we in Parliament after years of talk are still dithering about this matter. The justice minister said to me just a few days ago that consultations are still continuing and that any legislation will be “done right”. That is the same put off and delaying answer I received from the previous justice minister back in 1994. And the Conservatives were no better in that there were reports and plenty of consultation but during their tenure the whole prostitution file was not effectively dealt with. Even worse, the NDP has appeared to support prostitution itself through its advocacy of what it affectionately calls street trade workers. I think the NDP would like to unionize them.

I come from a different perspective, one that is rather pragmatic. We may not like prostitution in society. We also may not like the overwhelming violation of rights it might take to eliminate most of it. Nevertheless, as parliamentarians we also do not need to pave a golden street for the sex trade to flourish. Therefore as an interim measure we need to pass my bill so we can get on with the more important comprehensive measures that the government claims it is considering and that the justice department has been studying for years.

Prostitution is exploitive and a lot of other crime and degradation seems to go with it, especially all of what is commonly known about the drug trade and drug abuse. All these tragedies are tied together, so there are practical reasons to have the public communications section of the code made as flexible as possible in its application.

The police are also using section 503 of the code to issue what is called no go orders to keep repetitious, obnoxious and aggressive prostitutes who are leading the trade and shepherding others into the trade to be subject to geographic prohibitions of not entering into common strolls. If the recognizance is breached, that becomes an offence and is easier to enforce that gathering new evidence under section 213 every time. However these restrictions are time limited and are tied to the process of other charges so they are of limited value.

Although section 213 is gender neutral, gathering evidence against buyers is difficult. Police are unlikely to assign much of their precious police time resources to suppress a problem if the offence is only a summary one and after the expenditure of thousands of dollars in enforcement routines only results in a few charges and nets the perpetrators a $100 fine which becomes just another nuisance cost of doing the job.

Flexibility rather than just a heavy-handed approach is what I am promoting. The change would allow, if needed, to fingerprint and photograph if some cases were proceeded with through the optional indictment process. It would be used as needed and would form part of a broader tool kit of resources that would support crime prevention objectives. It would greatly enhance breaking the cycle of lifestyle for some youths and more effectively get them into community remedial programs.

We must have the political courage to intervene so that the inherent discretion that lies throughout the system can flexibly respond to the individual need.

In the 1995 interim report of the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group on Prostitution, the results of national consultations indicated several recommendations to combat prostitution, one of them being to change section 213. The deputy minister of justice established the working group in 1992 from the federal, provincial and territorial governments. With regard to the recommendation, the most important factor for change was not to punish prostitutes but rather for identification purposes. In many cases, prostitutes use false identification.

The Identification of Criminals Act states that fingerprints and photographs cannot be taken when a person is charged summarily. With fingerprints and photographs, police would be able to track down runaways and to clear the backlog of outstanding arrest warrants of prostitutes who have used false identities. It would also solve some serious crimes. It would send a most necessary and needed message to the community, to both the customers and sellers, that such acts are not to be taken lightly and they are not in society's interest.

The response from the working group stated that identification of prostitutes along with the use of false identities was considered a serious problem by law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, one which might be solved with such amendments. The ability to fingerprint and photograph would make it easier to identify and prosecute repeat offenders.

Something most people are not aware of is the fact that many street prostitutes are runaways living under false names and identities. They become involved and perhaps trapped in a dangerous subculture. Parents of these children desperately want to find a way of tracing their child's whereabouts but because of false identities little can be done. They desperately want to find a way to bring their children home.

The research that has been done on street prostitution suggests that decisions to enter into the prostitution trade are decided in the time of youth. In fact in 1984 the Badgley Committee on Sexual Offences Against Children and Youth found that of all the prostitutes interviewed, 93% of females and 97% of males had run away from home. In another report in a 1990 journal of Canada's Mental Health , authors Earls and David found that the average age of female prostitutes leaving home was 13.7 years.

People who support the sex trade say that it is really not a big problem and that politicians are just blowing it out of proportion, but here are three comments from those affected by street prostitution. The first is from a Vancouver resident, the second by a Toronto resident and the third from the former mayor of Toronto and current minister of defence.

First: “When prostitutes operate openly in a neighbourhood, all women in the area become targets for cruising johns in cars or on foot. Soon every female from 8 to 60, from your daughter to your mother, will have been on the receiving end of some sort of disgusting advance from a stranger while walking to the store or playing in the park”.

The second quote: “My apartment has become a refuge from streets which become enemy territory every night, streets where I am approached by drug traffickers, accosted by cruising johns and insulted by hookers; streets where menacing groups of young people take over the corners to haggle over drug prices and yell out to people in passing cars”.

Appearing before a parliamentary committee in 1989, the current minister of defence stated: “I support these changes to Bill C-49 as well as other recommendations our police are putting forward to help us once again regain control of our streets, namely that this offence be changed from a summary offence to a hybrid offence requiring that those arrested be fingerprinted and photographed, which is important in dealing with runaways who can change their identities and their names, and others who are trying to avoid prosecution, and that it remains, in addition to that, within the absolute jurisdiction of a provincial court judge”.

The minister of defence clearly stated that such a small change to the Criminal Code could make a huge difference in the fight against street prostitution. I hope he will be a man of principle and lean on his cabinet colleagues to help me so that we can all do the right thing.

In 1995 the Minister of Justice introduced an omnibus bill that touched on the Criminal Code changes to prostitution. Unfortunately, section 213 was not changed but still today communication offences are mere fines and slaps on the wrist.

Street prostitutes are not afraid of getting caught, nor are they deterred in any way to give up this dark and sad way of living.

In summary, I advocate the passage of my bill for several broad reasons. There are symbolic sociological and national policy reasons why we should do this. Also on behalf of local communities most effected, they are aghast at the lack of action to preserve the safety of their neighbourhoods. We can do it for them.

Important, on behalf of victims, whether it is those who get trapped in the lifestyle or the community as victim, we need to act. Administratively we also need to provide more flexible tools for the police so they may exercise discretion in dealing with local variances and emerging problems.

Moreover, we need to narrow the door that permits kids from getting involved in prostitution in the first place and have another legal way to get them into social services.

In closing, I ask other members of this House to not obfuscate and confuse what I am talking about, get off track and start talking about the generalities of prostitution in society or violence against women or developing legalized brothels or any number of related topics not appropriate to wind into the narrow proposal I brought forward today.

My bill is a small technical amendment which could help victims and bring safety to our neighbourhoods. I hope it will receive non-partisan support in that light. It is time for action. Our communities which have sent us here expect no less.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Ahuntsic Québec


Eleni Bakopanos LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak on Bill C-206.

The purpose of this bill is to make hybrid offences the offences that are provided for in section 213 of the Criminal Code. These offences relate to prostitution, as the hon. member said.

At the moment, section 213 of the Criminal Code calls for an offence punishable on summary conviction. The sentence set out is either a maximum of $2,000 or maximum imprisonment of six months, or both.

The amendment proposed by the hon. member in Bill C-206 would have the effect of transforming this offence into a hybrid one.

When the legislation on section 213 was introduced in the House of Commons, the then minister of justice stated that the purpose behind the legislation was not an attempt to deal generally with all the legal issues connected with prostitution but a limited attempt to address the nuisance created by street soliciting.

The legislation sought to balance the concerns of law enforcement agencies, citizens groups, women's groups and civil libertarians. It made criminal the public activities most frequently engaged in for the purpose of offering or purchasing sexual services.

Since the street soliciting offence of section 213 is intended to assist in dealing with the social problems experienced by neighbourhoods affected by street prostitution, making this offence punishable by 10 years would seem disproportionate in light of the purpose of section 213, when similar offences such as causing disturbances in a public place are summary conviction offences.

Another possible purpose for making this offence a hybrid offence is to permit the fingerprinting and photographing of any person charged under section 213, this because the identification of criminal acts allows fingerprinting and photographing only in the case of offenders accused of committing an indictable offence pursuant to the federal Interpretation Act.

Some may feel fingerprinting and photographing may act as deterrents for prostitutes and their customers. However, experience has shown that this is not necessarily so.

There are already few repeat offenders among clients of prostitutes, even without fingerprinting and photos. For example, the statistics show that in Vancouver, for the period between 1986 and 1992, 2,045 men were charged with the offence covered by section 213 of the Criminal Code. Of that number, only 44, or 2%, were being charged with the same offence for a second time.

It seems that the mere fact of being arrested the first time is enough to discourage a repeat offence.

As for the prostitutes, most are photographed and fingerprinted, often early in their career, because they are often involved in more serious offences, such as drug-related crimes.

I am aware that a group of federal, provincial and territorial officials has been working since 1992, as the hon. member mentioned, to review legislation, policy and practices concerning prostitution related activities and to bring forward recommendations in relation to street prostitution and the involvement of youth in prostitution.

At the request of ministers responsible for justice issues, the working group consulted broadly with key stakeholders. Participants in the consultations included representatives of citizens groups, justice workers, current and former prostitutes, municipal and provincial officials, community service providers, educators, clergy, aboriginal groups, child welfare and health workers, and women advocacy groups. There was a very wide consultation.

An interim report of the consultation was issued by the working group in October 1995. The final report is scheduled for release sometime next month.

I will be interested, as I am sure all members of this House will be interested, in studying the report. I am sure the Minister of Justice and her provincial and territorial colleagues will also study the recommendations with great interest.

I would like to add that, unlike the Reform Party, we do not make changes to the Criminal Code based on the sensational news story of the day or the exceptions to the rule, but with a balanced, collaborative and consultative process. Then we act.

Let me assure the hon. member that we will be acting on the recommendations of the working group.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, while I do not agree with the hon. member's bill, I first want to congratulate him for trying to find a solution to a problem in his riding and in his province.

This being said, I do not think the amendment proposed in Bill C-206 will achieve its purpose. Prostitution is indeed a very serious problem, but amending the section to provide for a longer prison term will not achieve the goal sought by the hon. member.

It is true that prostitution brings along various negative things on a street, in a municipality and in a province. Associated with this type of illicit trade are all sorts of illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, various types of offences, theft, violence, etc.

I am convinced that providing for stiffer penalties will not solve the problem. This was tried before by our predecessors. The hon. member is right when he says he is proposing a technical amendment. He is not proposing anything innovative.

Section 213, which deals with prostitution reads as follows:

Every person who in a public place or in any place open to public view a ) stops or attempts to stop any motor vehicle, b ) impedes the free flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic or> ingress to or egress from premises adjacent to that place, or c ) stops or attempts to stop any person or in any manner communicates or attempts to communicate with any person for the purpose of engaging in prostitution or of obtaining the sexual services of a prostitute is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Section 213 has evolved over the years. At the very beginning, it primarily dealt with communicating. Following recent changes, it now also deals with soliciting.

I think the section was amended appropriately and that, in its present form, it addresses the problem. The member's amendment merely adds to what I read. He would add the words “an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or is guilty” to the first sentence.

As for the rest, I understand that the member is happy with the wording of the section. He finds the sentence inadequate and he would like to see it increased to ten years. But, as I was saying earlier, it must be understood that in Canada, and this may seem strange, prostitution itself is not illegal. It is brothels and the prostitution trade that are illegal. To go from there to wanting to criminalize these individuals at all costs and sentencing them to ten years in jail is quite a leap.

When I heard the parliamentary secretary say that it was a disproportionately harsh sentence, I am forced to agree with her. If the sentence for prostitution is ten years, what will it be for rape? What will it be for the violence we see on a regular basis? I think the sentence has to increase in proportion to the crime.

I know that prostitution is wrong and immoral. I know all that. We must, however, compare this offence with other offences in the Criminal Code. I sincerely believe that this is not the way to resolve the problem of prostitution and, as the member who introduced the bill said, clean up our streets. This is not the way to go about it. Nor will we clean up our streets by gathering up syringes and other assorted objects from the sidewalks the next morning. Increasing the sentence is not the answer.

There is a problem, however. There is obviously a problem because, although prostitution is said to be one of the oldest professions in the world and to have been around forever, we can see that it is not on the decrease. Should there be more policing? Maybe. Should preventive efforts be stepped up? Of course. Education also comes into it, as does the tolerance of certain communities for this sort of activity. I think there has to be a global approach, with adequate enforcement of the legislation, zero tolerance, and youth education and prevention activities.

The member said earlier that young women, and even young men, were leaving home, assuming a new identity, and so on, to go into prostitution. I think that if young people do, they do so because of a much more important underlying reason, which is not prostitution. Prostitution is the result, not the source of the problem, which we have to look for in our society. If any energy is to be invested in this issue, I think it should be concentrated mainly on the source. It should be concentrated on young people.

This same party has been arguing against the Young Offenders Act for the past few days. There are all kinds of things we can do to ensure that timely action is be taken to help young people, to educate, reform and rehabilitate them so that they do not end up on the street, using an assumed name to live off prostitution.

By now, you will have figured that I am opposed to this bill. I think that Reformers are trying to address problems that do not really come under section 213. This section deals with sexual solicitation or communication: stopping or attempting to stop any motor vehicle; impeding the free flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic; stopping or attempting to stop any person or in any manner communicating or attempting to communicate with any person.

In an instance the one mentioned earlier by the hon. member, where there is prostitution but drugs are also involved, as he seemed to indicate, I think that, then again, the Criminal Code contains provisions to deal with drug related offences, be it trafficking, use or what not. If violence was used, then again, I think that there are sections in the Criminal Code that deal with assault and violence. That too is provided for.

What I would like all parties to do more than anything else is for members each in their riding to bring pressure to bear so that the authorities, the community, the people in the area where there is a problem show zero tolerance and strongly support the police in properly enforcing the legislation.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill C-206, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to a situation in our society, prostitution. I believe my comments will generally reflect the sentiments of members of the New Democratic Party caucus.

The issue of prostitution is certainly one that many in this Chamber face on a day to day basis. My constituency of Winnipeg North Centre is very much an inner city, north end community in Winnipeg. This issue has been before us for years. There has been much community work, much active participation by citizens to address this issue. Community members have come together. Members of the aboriginal community, members of other ethnic groups, members involved in trying to seek some sense of quality of life in our community have come together to try to address a very serious issue.

In the context of this debate we all acknowledge this is a serious issue. But if I went back to those groups that have been working on this problem for so many years and presented this option, this solution from the Reform Party, I think I would be greeted with “oh no, not again, here we go, another attempt to try to solve this problem through legal provisions, another attempt to spend more money, more time, more effort on Criminal Code sanctions, another attempt to scratch the surface of this issue and never go beyond”.

I know members in my community want to see this Parliament for once take this issue seriously by getting at the root causes of the problem. Reform Party members can make all the disparaging comments they want about the New Democratic Party and our policies on this issue, but I suggest that if we do not start to address the root causes of prostitution then we will never get a handle on this issue.

We have been dealing with legal matters and Criminal Code sanctions in this Chamber for over two decades. It goes back to 1970. I have read through some of the efforts. There have been committees and studies on this matter. The list is endless. The time, the effort, the money that has gone into the study of legal provisions or Criminal Code sanctions to deal with prostitution is endless and there is hardly any time devoted to getting at the root causes of this issue.

If we had just spent a fraction of the time and money that has gone into this issue in terms of legal sanctions and put the effort into matters of poverty, despair, loneliness and deprivation that force people into prostitution, maybe today we would be able to say we made a difference and that we have begun to crack down on the problem. That is something we all want to see. But no, we have spent all this time looking for an easy fix.

Today's proposal from the Reform Party is just that, a simple solution, a quick answer to something that is far more complex than is acknowledged.

There have been a number of studies dating back to 1970, justice committee reports, independent commissions and legislative proposals, changes to the Criminal Code. I do not think that we can conclude from all of this that we have made much of a difference. I do not think we have really done anything to reduce the incidence of prostitution in our communities today.

Most of the studies suggest that the problem is actually getting worse. If we go through some of the literature, and I refer specifically to the good work done by our own parliamentary research branch, a February 1997 study of street prostitution by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics shows a sharp increase in the number of prostitution related incidents recorded by police since 1995.

I have not studied all the reasons for that sharp increase, but I dare say that it is not because of all the time we have spent studying the legal and Criminal Code provisions that surround the issue. It is because we as a society have not really addressed the cause at the root of it all. How are we going to stop people from being forced into prostitution or taking advantage of vulnerable people if we do not look at the situation?

It is interesting that Reform presents this quick fix, this simplistic solution. When we have tried to convince members of the Reform Party to get serious about the root causes of prostitution, they refuse to get involved. When we on this side of the House presented a motion for the government to set targets to reduce unemployment and poverty, where were Reform members on the issue? What did they do? They voted no. They would have nothing to do with that kind of proactive approach which does address the very root causes of prostitution.

Other studies show how serious the situation is and the problem is not going away. Much as the Reform Party would like to get it out of sight so it is out of mind, it is not going away because we have not dealt with it in a systematic way by looking at the systemic roots of the problem.

My colleague from Vancouver East has reported to me that very recently the Positive Women's Network in Vancouver reported a 160% increase in the last two years in its membership, most of whom are women living in poverty, many involved in the sex trade and many facing addiction.

Those kinds of statistics showing an increase in street solicitation, the sex trade, prostitution, are related directly to the economic situation, growing poverty, despair, loneliness, isolation and deprivation, a sense of no hope in terms of future economic opportunities. They are tied directly to the economic situation in this country. We have seen for the 85th month in a row unemployment above 9%.

With all those factors, growing unemployment, growing poverty and a growing gap between rich and poor, more and more people turning to undesirable ways to stay alive out of desperation, it does not take a lot to figure out that unless we deal with those root causes we are not going to make prostitution go away.

I know that the communities that I work with in Winnipeg North Centre would like us to look at the root causes, to address poverty, to address the hopelessness among children and young people who are lured by the unscrupulous behaviour of pimps in our society, taking advantage of everyone who is desperate to survive in this world.

I know the sense of desperation that single parent women feel just trying to make sure they can put food on the table.

I know how people are trying to stay alive in society today and what desperate means they will turn to.

I would suggest to the Reform Party and to all members of the House that if we could turn our attention to the very issues that give rise to prostitution in our society today, maybe we could make a difference. Maybe we could change things for the better so that people are not forced to resort to something as horrible as prostitution, selling their bodies to make money.

Who in our society today would do that willingly, unless out of desperation and absolute despair about how they will survive?

Let us put our energies into the roots of the problem and not deal with the superficial symptoms of something as serious as prostitution in our communities today.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-206, which requests that amendments be made to the Criminal Code of Canada.

I agree with much of the commentary I have heard from all hon. members of the House about the seriousness of this offence.

It saddens me to look around this Chamber and see the youth of some of the pages here, knowing that there are prostitutes out on the street younger than they who are engaging in this trade out of necessity. I agree with the comment of the hon. member from the New Democratic Party that it is poverty and unemployment which are, no doubt, at the very root of this problem in Canada.

However, I must disagree with her premise that this motion is a simple approach to the problem. Perhaps simple is a good word, but in a positive sense, in the amendment which has been put forward. The reason I say that is this. There is no question that an amendment to the Criminal Code can be cumbersome. However, I suggest that the reason it has been put forward is very positive. That is why I support it. The reasons I will put forward for supporting it are equally simple.

The hon. Reform member has suggested that this would broaden the ability of the police, and I would suggest the judges as well, in their approach to this most serious matter. It does so for a number of reasons.

By making this a hybrid offence which would include an indictable offence it does a number of things, to which my friend has referred.

First, it gives the police the ability, under the Identification of Criminals Act, to fingerprint and take photographs, which could be used for a broader purpose in terms of children who have been abducted or children who are runaways. It could also be used for the purpose of deterrence.

Deterrence is a whole philosophy and we could speak at length on the issue of deterrence, but let me say this. A person who is charged with an indictable offence must appear in court. I have seen it at the provincial court level. With prostitution being a summary offence, it becomes essentially the price of doing business. Young prostitutes, or prostitutes of any age, will come into court or have a lawyer appear on their behalf, pay the fine and waltz out the door. They can amass a lengthy criminal record which, in essence, will result in perhaps a higher fine the next time.

Making this an indictable offence would allow judges, in their discretion, to impose a more lengthy term of incarceration, if necessary, or at least to apply conditions in a probation order that would include treatment type programs. It would treat this matter in the serious fashion in which it should be treated.

That is the main reason for which I, on behalf of the Conservative Party, am in support of this motion.

Luckily I can say that prostitution is not a major problem in my constituency in Nova Scotia. However, there is always the difficulty and the problem that arises when youth, for whatever reason, take to the streets in the bigger metropolitan areas or, in more serious cases, when young people are abducted and forced into this particular trade.

Saying that it is the oldest profession in the world is not to trivialize the problem at all. I do not want to draw too fine a point on it but slavery was around for a long time too and it was the laws that essentially brought about the necessary change, along with the efforts and work of people against that particular problem.

Prostitution is not going to be solved by simple amendments to the Criminal Code. I think we can all say that quite simply. However there is no question that this is a step in the right direction. It saddens me to think that this can become a partisan issue. Like a lot of justice issues, this is something the House should be unanimous in its efforts to work toward solutions.

The hon. parliamentary secretary for the justice minister has stated that there is a report pending. I would hope and encourage her to keep this particular motion in mind and not to simply dismiss it. What if the report comes back and there are suggestions which move the Criminal Code in the very direction the hon. member from the Reform is suggesting? I reiterate it is very unfortunate that we see this forum being used again as a means to get up and simply dismiss the idea outright because it happens to come from one party or another.

I think it is a good suggestion. It is something that at least moves us in the direction of addressing the issue in a positive way. It improves discretion on the part of the police and judges to act in a definitive way by imposing more innovative sentences that might include treatment. It also allows the police to treat the matter in a more serious way.

Also, I would reiterate the comments made by the hon. member from the Reform. I would suggest that the perception of justice in Canada is extremely important as to how the community views how those actors who are imposing our criminal laws are viewing the problem. It gives the perception that we in this Chamber and in the justice departments around the country are looking at this problem and looking for solutions. Not simple solutions, but solutions that are aimed at moving in the right direction.

I am not suggesting that raising fines and putting people in jail in itself is going to solve this problem. But it certainly is a move in the right direction in increasing the ability of those people charged with the enforcement of the law and giving them a greater ability to do something about this crime. It is not going to, as my friends from the New Democratic Party and the Bloc suggested, get needles off the streets. It is not going to eradicate this problem in its entirety, not by a long shot, but it will increase the ability to act in a proactive way.

That is how I view this particular piece of legislation. It is proactive. It is preventive. It is doing something early in the process. This again is something which is tied in with the changes that need to come about under the Young Offenders Act.

It is doing something early at the front end. It is loading the resources at the beginning where the problem starts and doing something before we get further and further down the road where someone has been engaged in prostitution for whatever reason, poverty, drug addiction, all sorts of reasons, a forced situation where pimps are forcing young people into this area.

This is something that we should embrace within this House. It is something I am supporting and I would encourage all members to do so.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member from Calgary Centre.

To remind the hon. member for Calgary Centre, if as is the usual practice, the mover of the motion would like to sum up, it would mean the member for Calgary Centre would have seven minutes.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


Eric C. Lowther Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for that clarification. I very much appreciate that.

I also very much appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-206. I had prepared a few more comments than the time will allow, so I may have to pause at a few opportunities and correct accordingly.

I am particularly interested to speak to this bill. It is important. Sometimes in this House we get so distant from the people we represent that we need to bring forward some real live people who have to live in the environment which we are trying to change.

I am reminded of an elderly lady with whom I was recently in contact in my riding. This elderly lady lived in the inner city community that is plagued with prostitution. She has been there for over 10 years. She is now afraid to go out of her house at night because of the violence outside her door that is related to street prostitution. She pleaded with me to find a way to make a change that would allow the police, who have become complacent with the issue outside her door, to find a way whereby they would have new tools that would allow them to impact the street prostitution that she has to live with.

This lady has seen the violence outside her own door. She has watched the drug trade that has come with prostitution in her community. She is aware of the health risks that have escalated because of the increase in street prostitution.

I have also met with the community association of this community. Their number one issue is street prostitution trade in their community. They recognize that it is a multifaceted problem. There is not a single silver bullet that is going to solve this.

At the same time, they are calling for elected officials and people within the community to come up with a series of strategies that will help to resolve this problem for them.

One of the major concerns that my constituents have is the age at which some of the young girls are getting caught up in this industry or in prostitution. It is one of the reasons I will be proposing a private members' bill to address this issue in the days to come.

What is ironic here is that the majority of the effort that police apply to affect street prostitution is targeted toward this very activity that this bill is trying to address, the activity of communicating for the service of prostitution, to obtain the sexual service of a prostitute.

That is where the majority of their effort goes. Yet, the result is a summary offence, a fine and often police are frustrated because they continue to see a cycle of the repeat offenders.

Changes to the act to make the possibility of an indictable offence the result of prosecution will allow for, as has been stated, the identification of the people who are involved, a record to be established and potentially a jail term.

We focused on the 10-year maximum but that is obviously not going to be the norm. That is the maximum. That should be made clear here.

This is really not a terribly new precedent. In section 212 of the Criminal Code, there are already indictable offences that apply to prostitution.

Someone inciting someone else to get involved in prostitution or someone who is living off the avails of prostitution of someone else who is under the age of 18 are already indictable offences.

We are really not breaking tremendous new ground here. We are just applying a correction and providing the police with a new tool that they really could take advantage of.

Beyond these new tools to police, I am even more concerned about some of the other benefits that flow out of this proposed bill. The member from the Conservative Party made some reference to it. I certainly concur with his disappointment that we would make this a partisan issue and not have unanimous support around this kind of initiative.

Some of the other benefits I want to speak to, particularly in my riding, are some of the young girls who are caught up in this activity who are runaways from home. Many of us do not realize that prostitutes do not stay in their same community. They are moved around to many communities across Canada. Perhaps members do not have this problem in their own riding but some of the people from their riding may be caught up in it and moved to other centres.

The ability to identify these people is critical to the police in order to track these runaways and reunite them with their families.

I have in my possession a list of 14 young prostitutes who have been killed in the last 10 years. They were identified and I will get to the identification process in a minute. I wonder how many more have just disappeared.

The greatest difficulty the police have today in these kinds of crimes and violence against these women who are involved in prostitution is the difficulty of identification.

There are often time delays when a murder is committed before the body is found and identification is that much more complex. The johns of course keep a low profile. They deal with strangers normally and there is no identification. Often they use an alias and do not use the same name twice.

In my riding there is a charity that works with street teens and girls who are on the streets to try to get them off the streets. They get to know who the girls are on the streets. The police come to that charity in order to find out who the girls are. I think it is tragic that our police are forced to go to a charity to identify these girls who have been tragic victims.

In summary, I think the key point of this simple piece of legislation is that it provides better protection for our communities, like the elderly lady I made reference to, and allows for family reunification for those who have been caught up in it and have run away. It allows for the prosecution of potentially violent johns who could impact on the girls who are caught up in this trade. It allows for improved deterrents for those who may elect to get into it and generally safer neighbourhoods.

If we cannot support a bill that serves to provide safer neighbourhoods for the people we represent then I think we really have to examine our effectiveness here.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby will sum up.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 25th, 1997 / 7:25 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly would have liked to have heard more positive comments than what I got to hear. I think the parliamentary secretary for the government is sadly misled.

When I was talking about deterrents, it was not the main issue. Identification and prevention are. The resistance to what I am proposing flies in the face, I think, of what average Canadians want from Parliament. The Liberals are out of touch on this issue and of course the NDP are not even in the game.

The arguments advanced against this are completely fallacious. What we get with it is a condescending attitude that frustrates the public will. That is absolutely incredible.

The NDP then come along and talk about root causes and insult the poor and associate poverty with root causes of prostitution. We have to think about that combination of where it keeps coming from. Round and round we have heard the arguments now and enough of the basis of the general arguments of why we are in Canada today where we are. The representative arguments that we have heard in the last hour are reflective of years and years of hand-wringing and doing absolutely nothing. The public has heard enough. I do not think we need to hear any more that we cannot do anything.

I am going to summarize clearly that there are broad societal reasons why we should do this. We need to do it on behalf of local communities and on behalf of victims. Whether it is those who get trapped into the lifestyle or the community that is the victim, we need to act.

Administratively, we also need to provide more flexible tools for the police so that they may exercise discretion in dealing with local variances and emerging problems. Moreover, we need to narrow the door that permits kids from getting involved in prostitution in the first place and have another legal way to get them into social services.

My bill is a small technical amendment which could help victims and bring safety to our neighbourhoods and bring a change which has been both recommended by national consultation and by local police forces. I wanted to see more common sense and support for this idea. The people of the country are watching.

We went to a committee and this bill was deemed non-votable, which is really an offence. In any case, we have covered the arguments and the people listening will be able to hear. However, I want the members of this House to pay attention to what I am about to move and not make a mistake. It is important that this issue be debated fully. Therefore, I appeal to the members of this House for unanimous consent to move:

That Bill C-206 be withdrawn, the order for second reading discharged and the subject matter thereof referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Does the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby have the unanimous consent of the House?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

An hon. member


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Unfortunately the hon. member's motion has not received unanimous consent.

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

It being 7.30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7.30 p.m.)