House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-17.


11:05 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties, more particularly the House leaders, and it has been tentatively agreed that the take note debates previously scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday evening will be replaced by a take note debate to take place during government orders. It would be my intention, for the benefit of hon. members, to start that on Wednesday and probably continue on Thursday.

I will give the appropriate notice of motion to the table momentarily if the motion passes. In order to facilitate this, I would propose the following motion:

That the order of November 7, 2002, appointing the evenings of November 19 and 20, 2002 for consideration of a take note debate is revoked and government order, Government Business No. 7 is discharged.

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 81(14), to inform the House that the motion to be considered tomorrow during the consideration of the business of supply is as follows:

That this House call upon the government to develop a comprehensive program to level the playing field for Canadians with disabilities, by acting on the unanimous recommendations of the committee report “Getting It Right for Canadians: the Disability Tax Credit”; in particular the recommendations calling for changes to the eligibility requirements of the disability tax credit so that they will incorporate in a more humane and compassionate manner the real life circumstances of persons with disabilities, and withdraw the proposed changes to the disability tax credit released on August 30, 2002.

This motion standing in the name of the hon. member for Halifax is a votable motion. Copies of the motion are available at the Table.

It being 11:10 a.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Solicitation LawsPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC


That a special committee of the House be appointed to review the solicitation laws in order to improve the safety of sex-trade workers and communities overall, and to recommend changes that will reduce the exploitation and violence against sex-trade workers.

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member for Burnaby--Douglas, for seconding the motion today.

I am very pleased to rise in the House today to debate the motion and to hear the comments and views of members from other parties.

The motion is votable so it will have three hours of debate and this is the first hour. I will read the motion for the people who are watching the debate today.

That a special committee of the House be appointed to review the solicitation laws in order to improve the safety of sex-trade workers and communities overall, and to recommend changes that will reduce the exploitation and violence against sex-trade workers.

I want to give a little background on the motion. The reason I brought this forward and the reason it is an issue of great significance and concern not just to me and my community in East Vancouver but, I think, to a number of cities across Canada is that a lot of evidence and reports have shown that the federal soliciting laws are actually putting a lot of women who are on the street at risk.

I first became concerned about this issue as a result of the situation in Vancouver's downtown east side where, as I am sure members are aware, a terrible tragedy has been unfolding. As of now 63 women, all of whom were involved in the sex trade in terms of street soliciting, have gone missing and many of them, if not all of them, may have been murdered. We now have the largest serial murder case in Canada's history unfolding out of Port Coquitlam as a result of the 15 murder charges that have been laid.

While that investigation has been going on, I have been working in my community in the downtown east side with local organizations that provide services and interventions with regard to street prostitution. While there are many questions about this horrific situation of missing women in Vancouver, there are many serious questions about the police investigations and why it took so long for a special task force to be put together to investigate the disappearance of these women. I think many of us wonder, had these women not been sex trade workers or prostitutes, whether the investigation would have been treated differently, at a much earlier date and with much more urgent priority.

In speaking briefly about the investigation, the many serious questions that arise as a result of the murder investigation and the fact that there is a need to have a public inquiry, I also want to put forward that there are still women who are at risk on a daily basis, not only in that community but in many communities across Canada. They are at risk because of neglect, stigmatization and the failure of governments to act.

While media attention is focused on the murder investigation that is taking place, many organizations and individuals in the downtown east side are pointing to the urgency of the situation still facing women who are at risk on a daily and nightly basis in the community.

It was because of some of the underlying issues around the role the Criminal Code plays in the laws pertaining to solicitation, around policing issues and around the marginalization and criminalization of sex trade workers that I brought forward the motion. I believe we need a review of the federal laws pertaining to solicitation that put so many of these women on the street at risk. It is important that we not only try to improve their safety and reduce violence and exploitation but that we also try to improve safety overall in the community.

I think some members of the House who have been around for a long time will remember that in 1985 the Fraser commission did a very thorough review of Canada's laws pertaining to solicitation and the sex trade. Hearings were held across Canada

I was a member of the Vancouver city council at the time the commission did its study. I remember very well the debate and the controversy around the Fraser commission. There was a lot of focus on street soliciting and the fact that many neighbourhoods were complaining about soliciting and the impact of prostitution, safety issues, traffic issues, cars driving around, johns and pimps. In many Canadian cities, including Ottawa, it was an issue that sparked debate with many different points of view.

What came out of the Fraser commission was a subsequent change in the law that dealt with communicating for the purposes of soliciting. The review of that law has shown that over the years since 1985 there has been no substantial change from the point of view of either increasing safety or law and order in local communities. Also, there has been no improvement in the marginalization and stigmatization faced by women who are involved in the sex trade. This becomes another reason that we need to have a review of the federal laws as they are today. We have not really had that kind of discussion since 1985.

One of the real problems we are facing is that prostitution itself is not illegal. Communicating, keeping a common body house, pimping, all of those activities of soliciting is illegal but in many communities off street prostitution is well tolerated. If we were to look through the yellow pages in any telephone directory we would see page after page of advertisements for escort services.

We have a very contradictory view about prostitution. When it is off street, out of the public eye and invisible there is a high level of tolerance, through law enforcement, municipal licensing and society at large. However when it comes to street prostitution the main instrument still being used to deal with street prostitution is a law enforcement approach.

From all the reports I have read, both nationally and locally in Vancouver because of the violence we have seen and the safety issues, they have basically highlighted how law reform is something that needs to be looked at. We need to have a community discussion involving sex trade workers themselves. We need to know the daily risks they face and what needs to be done, either through law reform, law enforcement, social services support or intervention services counselling, to help women exit the sex trade.

Those are the things that are a daily reality in my community but which get very little attention. What I found in talking to organizations locally is that if anything there is a greater and greater concern that reliance on an enforcement approach to street prostitution without recognizing some of the underlying systemic issues that are forcing women on to the street is creating a situation that is more and more dangerous.

I want to specifically point to some of the work that is being done by John Lowman, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University, who has studied this issue and presented a major paper in 1998 in terms of prostitution and law reform in Canada. He makes the point that Canadian laws in the Criminal Code are very hypocritical and that they allow this tolerance for off street prostitution but that when it comes to street prostitution we are still involved in enforcement that criminalizes women and causes all kinds of difficulties.

The motion before us today is to set up a special committee to review the impact of these laws and what needs to be done. In putting that forward, I am not suggesting what the outcome or conclusion should be.

I do have some opinions about what we should be looking at, but I think it is something that members of the House should be participating in because I know there are various points of view. I do believe that through this debate we will probably see that all of the members from the different parties do have one thing in common and that is the huge concern about the safety issues and the violence issues that are involved. We do have a responsibility to review the Criminal Code and the specific sections of it that pertain to this, to look at how these sections of the Criminal Code are actually increasing the risks sex trade workers face. While there may be different points of view on what we need to do in terms of looking at decriminalization or different kinds of law reform, I think there probably would be a fairly strong consensus that the need to improve safety for individual sex trade workers, as well as the communities at large, is something that is very important.

I think that the way to do this is to have a committee that can examine this issue. In fact, I have been sitting on the Special Committee on Non-medical Use of Drugs and we have been doing exactly this. There are issues that often do not get the kind of attention they need, in a thoughtful way where members can actually examine historical situations and think about what we need to do in terms of law reform or policy development. I support the idea of having a special committee. All members of the House can contribute to the debate and we can go out to the community and speak to people. We can speak to experts like John Lowman and to other organizations. For example, one group in my community, PACE, Prostitution Alternatives Counselling Education, has done research that has involved taking surveys among sex trade workers to find out from those people themselves what their issues and concerns are. While this information is available in the local community and I have seen similar studies from Montreal and similar information from Edmonton, there has been no way to collect this information and actually bring it together in a way such that members of Parliament can have a debate.

Recently I met with the Minister of Justice about the missing women in the downtown east side and I found the minister to be very sympathetic. One of the things I put forward to the minister is that there has been a working group on prostitution at a federal-provincial-territorial level. It reported a couple of years ago, but again, while some of that work was interesting and useful and also focused on the issues of safety and violence, none of that has become public. Again, there has been no public forum through which these issues can be debated. I would very much like to see that happen.

I would certainly encourage members who are speaking to the motion or members who are interested or may even be facing issues in their own community to support the idea of bringing together a special committee. It could be a valuable tool for having that kind of investigative hearing. It is very important that we have community-based research across the country to do a proper evaluation of soliciting and of what we need to do and how as a society we can be more realistic and more understanding of what kinds of public policy decisions need to be made to improve the safety and end the stigmatization of sex trade workers.

One thing I have learned from speaking with many groups is that when people involved in the sex trade become the subject of law enforcement under the Criminal Code and are charged or convicted, they basically end up in a revolving door situation. Then it becomes very difficult to exit the sex trade, because they become very stigmatized and very marginalized. It becomes more and more difficult. I have looked at one of the studies, VIDUS, the Vancouver Injection Drug User Study, which specifically looked at the increase of HIV-AIDS in women. It found that about 75% of study respondents were women involved in the sex trade.

The whole environment that is created in terms of illicit drug use, of being involved in the sex trade and of having very little access to resources makes it very difficult. For example, in my community there is no 24 hour safe house. There is no 24 hour counselling available. Most of the groups dealing with this issue are completely stretched for resources. They are operating with volunteers. They are operating in places where they are not even sure if they have security. There are not even the services that should be there to help women exit the sex trade. The services are not even available if they want to make that decision.

To me, this debate is about looking for ways to reduce the harm of what is taking place in these communities. It is about understanding what the impact of the law has been. It is about recognizing that we do have contradictions in the way we view prostitution, whether it is on street or off street. It is about having an honest and frank debate about what we can do to look at law reform and to look what other countries have done. For example, one of the really dangerous situations that the Criminal Code contributes to is that because communicating for the purposes of soliciting is an offence, it means women are put at greater risk because they are getting into a car, the door gets locked, they are driven away and that is where the transaction takes place. So even the communicating law is a situation that is creating a great hazard for people involved in the sex trade. Again, there is some information about this, but it has never been evaluated in a way that allows for a debate and a policy change to be considered.

I very much look forward to the debate that will take place today and I hope that the government representative who will be speaking will recognize that there is a problem. I am sure everybody agrees, but I think we have to focus on what it is that we are going to do to resolve that problem. I really think we would do a disservice to this issue if we were to continue with task force reports that are behind closed doors and at a bureaucratic level. I really believe that this should be an issue that involves members of the House, through a committee. I very much hope that the government would concur with that position and at least allow that debate to happen without prejudging the outcome.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak at the opening of this debate and I look forward to comments from my colleagues.

Solicitation LawsPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Northumberland Ontario


Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to rise to speak on Motion No. 192. The motion proposes the creation of a special committee of the House “to review the solicitation laws”, that is, the criminal law regarding prostitution-related activities,“in order to improve the safety of sex-trade workers and communities overall, and to recommend changes that will reduce exploitation of and violence” done to sex trade workers.

First, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Vancouver East for having introduced the motion so that we can have this debate on what is clearly a very important issue. It is no secret that public concerns in the area of prostitution-related activities are growing with respect to the safety of the prostitutes and the harm caused to communities. It should also be noted that careful consideration of prostitution-related criminal law issues is important and is consistent with the government's commitment to vulnerable people, children included, and their protection.

I want to stress that the intent of the motion is admirable in that it tries to find a way to help a group of vulnerable persons and communities in our society that have consistently been marginalized, as the previous speaker indicated. However, I cannot emphasize enough that prostitution is a complex and multi-faceted problem. It must be addressed on many fronts, including legislative reform, community support, social interventions and other related issues.

In addition, the various impacts of prostitution on sex trade workers and on communities must be addressed in collaboration with a wide variety of partners, including other federal departments and agencies, provincial and territorial governments, particularly their departments responsible for dealing with justice-related issues and those responsible for social services and child welfare issues, and last but not least, municipal governments across the country.

Having said that, I wonder whether a special committee would be the best vehicle to elicit the collaboration of all these partners that must be involved in any attempt to address these issues. Clearly the cooperation of all these partners would be necessary to properly and usefully address all facets of prostitution-related issues.

I would like to take a few moments to give a somewhat brief and general outline of some of the government's past accomplishments and its ongoing work on this issue.

The Department of Justice has already undertaken various initiatives to address the issues linked to street prostitution, including the safety of sex trade workers and the reduction of harm to communities. For example, past legislative reform has included Bill C-27, in 1997, which amended the Criminal Code to create a new offence of aggravated procuring, to facilitate the use of police decoys for the apprehension of customers of prostitutes under the age of 18 and to make available special protections to young persons testifying against their exploiters, that is, such things as a screen, closed circuit television or videotaped evidence.

Another example of legislative reform is Bill C-51, in 1999, which amended the Criminal Code to extend the list of offences for which an authorization to intercept a private communication can be granted to include prostitution-related offences. This allows law enforcement to use electronic surveillance to investigate organized and telephone prostitution rings.

In relation to crime prevention and community-based projects, the Department of Justice has supported a number of initiatives, particularly throughout phase two of the national strategy on community safety and crime prevention, a $32 million per year program for safer communities. One initiative, for example, was the production of the “Stolen Lives” video, which documents the difficult lives of young sex trade workers in Vancouver and Calgary. Another example is the Department of Justice funding of some $489,000 to Victoria's Capital Region Action Team to address problems linked with youth prostitution in the Victoria area.

In the international arena, Canada has been involved in addressing the trafficking of women and children. For example, we have actively participated in the negotiation of the optional protocol to the convention on the rights of the child relating to the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in May 2000. Canada signed the optional protocol in November 2001.

As an example of working with our partners on this important issue, a federal-provincial-territorial working group on prostitution was established in 1992 by the federal-provincial-territorial deputy ministers of justice and reviewed legislation policy and practices concerning prostitution. It was co-chaired by the federal Department of Justice. Its final report was released in December 1998. It made recommendations on both legislation at the federal and provincial levels and on possible partnerships between government agencies. It underscored particularly the need for enhanced collaboration between justice and the child welfare systems.

As another concrete example of our partnerships in action, the federal Department of Justice co-hosted with the British Columbia child welfare services a national meeting of justice and child welfare officials in November 2000. Follow-up action to this national meeting has included the establishment of a network of justice and child welfare officials to allow for the prompt sharing of information on all issues related to children and youth involved in prostitution.

Additional follow-up action is overseen by the federal-provincial-territorial deputy ministers responsible for social services. Also, work is still being done, particularly to study issues and impacts relating to the possibility of decriminalizing street prostitution.

The Department of Justice will continue to build on past achievements and to work with its partners, including provincial, territorial and municipal governments and departments and agencies involved in justice related issues and in social services and child welfare issues.

Needless to say, this is a very complex matter and for all these reasons I support the intent of the motion in principle. However at this time I do not believe that a special committee of the House is the effective way for the development of recommendations and proposed changes to reduce the exploitation and violence done to sex trade workers.

Solicitation LawsPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I suspect if those government programs had had the impact of their intent we would not be here today and we would not see so many Canadian Alliance MPs supporting the NDP. Frankly, we probably would not have seen the election results that we saw in the City of Vancouver only a couple of days ago.

This is an issue that requires action. All the motion asks for is for the House to study possible action. We cannot get the government to even consider doing that.

It is a pleasure to rise and speak on Motion No. 192 put forward by my colleague for Vancouver East. Before I go to my prepared comments, I want to compliment the member.

As a member of parliament from an adjacent constituency who loves and grew up in Vancouver, it has been a tragedy to watch the steady erosion of the downtown east side of the city.

I remember shopping at the downtown Woodward's building with my mom while growing up, feeding pigeons in Pigeon Park and visiting shops in the area. It is stunning today to see how one area of Vancouver has suffered so much.

I greatly respect the genuine sense of compassion and the genuine search for answers to problems of the downtown east side by the member for Vancouver East. I congratulate her for her efforts to raise what is clearly among the most important issues, not only for her riding, but for many areas of Canada.

My riding of Port Moody--Coquitlam--Port Coquitlam is among the most beautiful in Canada and one of the best places on earth to live. The city of Port Coquitlam is home to over 52,000 people and is one of the youngest cities in British Columbia, which maybe explains why this city elected a 24-year old member of parliament to serve them in Ottawa, myself, and a 24-year old MLA named Karn Manhas to represent them in Victoria in the B.C. legislature.

Port Coquitlam is one of the great places to live. It came as a real shock to our community when a Port Coquitlam resident, Robert William Pickton, was arrested and charged with murder on February 22 in the deaths of Mona Wilson and Sereena Abotsway.

On April 2 he was charged with killing Jacqueline McDonell, Diane Rock and Heather Bottomley. These women disappeared between January 21, 1999 and October 19, 2001. On April 10 he was charged with the murder of Andrea Joesbury who disappeared last June.

To date, Pickton has been charged with killing 15 women who were on the list of 63 missing women from Vancouver's downtown east side. Police are still to this day searching his farm looking for more evidence of evil acts done against women.

I raise this point to show that the problems of Vancouver's downtown east side have not been created in isolation, nor are the impacts of the problems felt in isolation. Prostitution is dangerous, ugly and it is not victimless. It is not victimless to the unknowing wives and girlfriends of johns who come home to them after having been with prostitutes. It is not victimless to the women, and by women I am including girls who should be in girl guides or in middle school, who are abused by johns. It is not victimless to the families of prostitutes who worry endlessly about the health and welfare of their daughters. It is not victimless to my constituents in a quiet Port Coquitlam neighbourhood around the corner from the Pickton pig farm who have been traumatized and shocked that such evil may have occurred so close to home.

Overwhelmingly, prostitution is about the subjugation of women for profit. Overwhelmingly that subjugation is driven by financial need. Financial need is driven by substance abuse, homelessness, exploitation by pimps, forms of personal corruption and a lack of life alternatives due to all of the above.

The motion we are debating this morning, Motion No. 192, reads as follows:

That a special committee of the House be appointed to review the solicitation laws in order to improve the safety of sex-trade workers and communities overall, and to recommend changes that will reduce the exploitation of and violence against sex-trade workers.

On the motion the Canadian Alliance will, as usual, have a free vote. I will be voting in favour of the motion. In my view, any changes or alterations to Canada's laws with regard to solicitation and prostitution must have as their first goal the intent of getting women out of prostitution.

There are simply no young girls who want to be prostitutes when they grow up. There are no reasons to allow women to be beaten and brutalized through prostitution.

Overwhelmingly, prostitution is not the rosy fairy tale of high priced escorts or the experience of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman . It is ugly, cruel, vile and beneath the interests of our collective future.

Some argue that prostitution is the oldest profession and, as such, will always be with us and therefore should be tolerated. This argument is as dumb as it is simplistic. Perhaps the former explains the latter.

Murder has always been with us, but we do not tolerate it in law. Rape has always been with us, but we do not tolerate it in law.

The argument, by the way, that we should tolerate something because it has existed for a long time is also the same argument that was used by those who opposed ending slavery in the United States. It was argued that slavery has always existed, therefore it should exist forevermore. Thank God those who have a moral compass, a drive to raise the value of human life and a sense that we should sacrifice the economic knocks of losing cheap labour have stepped up and have said that there is a greater good and a greater responsibility to not allow the exploitation of people for profit; and so it is with prostitution.

In this the 21st century, surely by now we can agree that we should not buy, sell or trade human beings and we should protect those who have been victimized by this process.

Solicitation LawsPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to congratulate our colleague on this motion and to inform her that I intend to get busy within my caucus to gain support for it. I trust that, if ever this House did not give its consent for the striking of a special committee, this motion would at the very least be referred to another committee. I think there might be a number of concrete advantages to having a special committee.

In June 2000, I presented my leader and caucus colleagues with the report of a task force, which I headed along with the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert and the hon. member for Longueuil. By the way, the latter member gave birth to her second child last week, and his name is Louis-Félix.

Prostitution, street prostitution in particular, is a highly complex issue. It involves our values. Having to deal with it is often quite upsetting. It is understandable that no parent would want a son, daughter, brother or sister to become a prostitute. At the same time, prostitution is an activity that no doubt goes back almost as long as humans have been on this earth.

The task force I chaired gave me an opportunity to travel to several major centres in Quebec and to meet with sex workers, community groups and representatives of public services. I believe that we, as parliamentarians, would be wrong to think we can avoid a debate on this. Many of our fellow citizens have to deal with the social problem of prostitution. It can readily become a real battleground between groups in the major urban centres.

In my riding of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve there are about 150 girls in this trade. I say girls, because I believe we will agree with the Council on the Status of Women that 98% of sex workers are female. In addition to being female, they often share certain characteristics relating to troubled backgrounds and poverty. We must not look down our noses at this whole issue, because no one among us is immune from reversals of fortune, and no one can predict what tomorrow will bring.

In the report submitted by the working group that I chaired, we proposed some fifteen or so solutions. The first one was to remove prostitution from the Criminal Code. If two individuals agree to sexual relations, and do so in a place that does not cause a public nuisance, if they consent, and one has to pay, this does not fall under criminal law. As legislators, our job is, of course, to ensure that if prostitution is legalized, there is an appropriate framework.

Our report was based on a logical argument. We said that we have to remove prostitution from the Criminal Code, and that over the next five years, there must be no prosecutions for offences under sections 210, 211, 212 and 213 of the code. This affects provincial attorneys general, but also federal attorneys general, even though it is the provinces that are in charge of enforcing the law. This includes keeping a bawdy-house, procuring, and, of course, solicitation. As our colleague was saying, prostitution, as such, is not a crime in Canada. Public solicitation is.

In our report, we said that during this five-year period, some efforts must be made. The member for Laval East will be happy to hear this. The municipalities will have to be involved. Municipalities will have to set up some sort of a task force involving community representatives, which would include, in Quebec, representatives of the Régie régionale and law enforcement services. Most importantly, there must be representation for sex-trade workers and citizens. This committee, this community task force, will have three mandates, for example, establishing designated zones.

We agree that residential areas, and the vicinity of parks and churches are no place for this kind of activity. But surely there must be a way, in our communities, to establish designated areas. I think that prostitution in Montreal would not have been as volatile an issue if it had not been taking place, in the ridings of Laurier—Sainte-Marie and Hochelaga—Maisonneuve and downtown, in residential areas. Even the most tolerant among citizens cannot accept that. I have met people from CLSCs, people deeply involved in the life of their communities, and none of them would accept a sex-trade worker performing fellatio in front of their home. Our fellow citizens cannot be expected to put up with this, and it is normal that they should not accept this. Does this save us the trouble of designating areas where it could be done? No.

Our first mandate therefore is to find areas to be known as designated areas, which would be different from the red light districts; if such areas are to be established, it must be in conjunction with public services and the police. All sex-trade workers who operate in a given area must, of course, do so under the supervision and guidance of the responsible health organizations and the police.

We were also told that it would be unthinkable to decriminalize prostitution if there is no support program to deal with the problem of drug addiction. There are two types of prostitution: there are those who sell themselves on the street because they have a drug dependency, and there is end of the month prostitution. In Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, there are good women, single mothers who, unfortunately, because they cannot make ends meet at the end of the month and because they have responsibilities relating to their status as heads of families, sell themselves on the street.

So, there should be a drug dependency fund to help sex-trade workers who want to stop working the streets to actually do so.

We were also told, and this will be a component of the bill that I want to introduce, that sex-trade workers should qualify for training programs. These women should qualify for employment insurance and pay taxes.

Under the new social contract that we must have with sex-trade workers and citizens, these women must agree to work within a set environment, in set areas, and they must also accept to pay taxes. If they want to leave prostitution behind them, and many do, they must accept that training programs and action plans be made available for them.

This is the essence of the report that we tabled, and we must deal squarely and directly with prostitution. Right now, it is organized crime that controls prostitution. What happens when, in a community, prostitution is allowed to take over?

A few months ago, in south central Montreal, things almost got out of hand. Citizens are telling us that if the lawmakers do not deal with the problem, they will, and they will use force. Beating up prostitutes and resorting to violence will not solve the problem.

Citizens have rights, including the right to live in peace in their community, without being exposed to scenes that should not take place in public places. At the same time, prostitution exists and we must find new, innovative and responsible ways to deal with sex-trade workers, while also being respectful of their rights. This is why we should discuss the issue, listen to people and work seriously on this in a parliamentary committee.

Solicitation LawsPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to take part in this very important debate here in the House. I congratulate my colleague for having shared with us his point of view on this subject of concern to us all.

I wish to congratulate and pay tribute to my colleague from Vancouver East who has long championed this cause. This is an important motion. I would describe it as progressive, compassionate and in keeping with the effort that my colleague brings to this important subject matter. She has been genuine and emotional in bringing this important issue before the House. I wish to commend the perspective of those who have participated in the debate.

The motion calls for a comprehensive study of the issue. How could anyone reasonably be opposed to looking into this important issue, having a special committee of the House of Commons review the solicitation laws to improve qualities that affect us all, qualities that are aimed at improving communities? Human dignity is the basis of this motion.

I want to bring attention to compelling circumstances that are in existence right now. In the home province of the member for Vancouver East the circumstances surrounding accused serial killer Robert Pickton and the appointment of a committee to review the solicitation laws seem to be apropos to where we should be headed right now. Pickton has been charged with the murder of 15 women on a list of a potential 63 missing from Vancouver's east side. There is a chilling investigation into these serial murders. In keeping with issues arising from prostitution, this should lead us to action not just talk.

Prostitution, as was pointed out, is technically not illegal in Canada at this time. It is the solicitation and the act of profit from sexual acts that has to be studied and acted upon. In an essay investigating prostitution in Canada Martha Shaffer took a hard look at the circumstances surrounding the sex trade. Part of her thesis said that we must move prostitution out of the shadows and into the light before anything could be done to eliminate and improve working conditions for Canadians. Shaffer wrote that it was invisibility that exacerbated the negative aspects of prostitution, both for the community and for the prostitutes themselves. Invisibility means that we do not have to look closely at prostitution or our response to it because we have an allusion somehow that it is only a marginal part of society. This comes from Shaffer's book Prostitution in Canada: The Invisible Menace or the Menace of Invisibility? published in 1994.

From Halifax to Vancouver it is fair to say that prostitution is in fact a sad by-product of poverty, violence, education, power and addiction. This inability on the part of many Canadians to face up to this issue and the unwillingness to recognize that there has been a problem is detrimental to our ability to address it.

The Pickton case proves and provides a further example of how Canadians somehow are turned away and understandably do not want to address the issue head on. However we have women on the east side of Vancouver who went missing. It is known that most, if not all of these women were participating in the sex trade and over the course of time more and more had disappeared and yet they were living in the shadows. They were marginalized. They were not being addressed in terms of their many social problems.

Nothing of substance has been done to determine if the foul play that was involved had anything to do with an organized group that was profiting from prostitution, yet one might easily draw from this that there was a close association to the murders themselves and the trade.

I do not read into this motion an endorsement or even a call for the reduction in sentencing or legalization but rather a way to move this problem front and centre so that Canadians can look for and be engaged in the debate as to how to address the problem.

Striking a special committee with a mandate to investigate the issue is in line with the Progressive Conservative Party's position and it would lead to substantive changes in a way that we could deal with the problem. Getting together stakeholders, interested persons and those with specific insights, like the member from Vancouver, can only help us in dealing with this compelling and troubling issue. Nearly all the assaults and murders that occur while a prostitute is at work is a very troubling issue.

When considering how to deal with legislation regarding prostitution, particularly under section 213 of the Criminal Code, we must be cognizant that the potential for increased violence against prostitutes truly exists.

I was disappointed and taken aback at the position taken by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. The self-congratulatory tone in talking about what has already been done has not resulted in the desired effects that we are looking for and wrestling with. The issue is one of action. The government could and should do more on this file.

Those involved particularly in the sex trade today are often victimized disproportionately when compared with others in society. It is time to examine that issue closely.

Many of those who are victimized are mere children, innocence, those whom we have a higher commitment and responsibility, and I would say obligation, to protect. Many of them are also engaged in the issue of pornography where they are further victimized. Those who are victimized are crying out for help in many cases.

This is especially true in terms of youth involved in the practice of prostitution. They are more at risk of being robbed, beaten, sexually assaulted at the hands of pimps or customers. Violence, as the member for Vancouver East has pointed out, is prevalent and closely associated with this issue.

Generally, prostitution will always invoke strong emotions. It is a controversial subject, one that goes back to the beginnings of time. It is involved, complex and contradictory in many of its interests and values that stem from the issue. It has become an acute problem in large urban centres around the country.

From Vancouver to Halifax pimps and prostitutes have in many cases transformed certain areas of cities into unpleasant and intimidating congested streets. It is inevitably associated with other problems, such as drug addiction and violence.

In a 1999 study by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics it was reported that there was a sharp increase in the number of prostitution related incidents recorded by police. Since 1995 those numbers continue to rise. However the increase could reflect changes in enforcement rather than in the volume of criminal activity.

The street is a dangerous place for those working in the sex trade. There is a relationship between violence against prostitutes including assaults and homicides, and the venue of its occurrence.

The position of the Progressive Conservative Party is that we would support an effort to study this issue, an effort to bring people together to delve into it in greater detail. One area that should be concentrated on is the tougher sentencing of those who tend to live off the avails of prostitution or engage in the recruitment for prostitution.

Another issue that has been before the House recently deals with the age of consent. This should be brought into the study.

Currently under section 212 of the Criminal Code anyone who procures, attempts to procure or solicits a person to have illicit sexual intercourse with another individual is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years. Bringing that sentence higher so that the benchmark itself might be higher would lead to greater deterrence. This section deals specifically with those who wish to live off the avails of prostitution.

These are truly the bottom feeders in this whole equation. Rather than increasing the sentence from summary to indictable for those charged under section 213, we could potentially address the greater issue, that of persons who are profiting from prostitution more directly. An increase along those lines would allow for a greater message of deterrence to be sent. It might also include raising the age in this section to 18. This could serve as a potential model for other sections and it would have a beneficial effect when we need to address the heart of the issue.

We need to engage in these preventative measures: early intervention, educational awareness, strategies, development of educational tools and resources, and identifying those at risk early on.

I commend the member for Vancouver East and like-minded individuals of this House and around the country who are looking for solutions and actions on this long standing and troubling issue. Members of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada will support and participate in that effort.

Solicitation LawsPrivate Members' Business



Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to participate in this debate on the motion put forward by the member for Vancouver East. I also want to congratulate her for her work on the very serious issue of the sex trade.

This is a very constructive motion before the House. It is worded in a way that gives members of Parliament an opportunity to come together to develop strategies based on the evidence and research done to date. It provides an opportunity to bring guidance and direction back to the House in terms of legislative or programmatic changes.

I am surprised that there has not been a more clear indication of support from government members speaking today for the motion. It seems to me that when we acknowledge and recognize a serious social concern and problem in our society and when we have constructive recommendations for pursuing that problem, we should come together and supports actions based on that kind of understanding. It is surprising to me that there has not been an outpouring of support today from all sides for the motion so we can get down to work and do as other members have said, and that is to get involved in action. Study after study has been done. Research project after research project has been done. Now is the time for action.

The member for Vancouver East has been vigilant and persistent in raising issues around the invisibility of the sex trade worker, particularly from the point of view of the missing women in downtown Vancouver's east side. We need to draw on the experience of members like her to recognize the gaps in policy and the need for action.

Not only is this a serious problem and concern in the City of Vancouver. It has been clearly identified as a priority for the community of Winnipeg. I want to acknowledge the work of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg which recently conducted a series of consultations and information sessions to produce a report entitled, “Exploitation in the Sex Trade: What Can Communities and Agencies Do Together?”, released on March 8. It offers a number of recommendations that ought to be sent to a committee of the House for consideration and deliberation.

This study, like so many others, clearly has acknowledged that this is not just a simple problem for which there is a simple solution. We are talking about a very complicated and complex matter that has come about as a result of multiple causal factors, which have already been identified today in the House. The issues of drug abuse, gang involvement and difficult economic circumstances, particularly deeply entrenched poverty, are clearly factors as to why women are involved in the sex trade. This requires a concerted, comprehensive approach on the part of all of us.

The recommendations that flowed from the Winnipeg consultations are very significant and ought to be studied immediately by this place. Recommendations ought to be brought forward by way of changes to legislation and program initiatives. I want to reference a few of them for the House. These recommendations were made by talking as a community.

The first recommendation is that sexually exploited children and youth ought to be removed from the streets as quickly as possible and taken to a safe place, not from the point of view of emphasizing punishment, but to pursue treatment, to provide safety and alternative programming and to help at the earliest stages possible because nothing is more shocking for all of us than to see, hear and read about very young children aged 6, 7, 8, and 9 years old engaged in the sex trade.

The second recommendation out of the Winnipeg Social Planning Council, and this has been referenced by the Conservative member who just spoke, is that johns found guilty of procuring sexual favours from children and youth ought to be prosecuted for child sexual abuse.

The third recommendation is that we find ways as policy-makers and legislators to partner with Child Find so that we can share information pertaining to children and youth who are missing with children and youth who are clearly identified in terms of the sex trade and sexual exploitation.

Another point, and my colleague from Vancouver has said this time and time again, is that we need a concentrated program around providing community based safe houses because if we do not ensure that we as a federal government support provincial and municipal initiatives in this regard we will never have the kind of network of safe houses that are needed to really make a difference. When people talk about safe houses, they mean support for former prostitutes and including them as staff members. It means linking these safe houses with drug rehabilitation programs. It means access to cultural programs, staff to assist prostitutes transitioning into the mainstream, access to child care services, and so on.

Let me also say that the Winnipeg effort has recognized the need for training of the people involved in law enforcement in this regard so that we provide appropriate cultural awareness and training to police officers, RCMP, judges and crown attorneys so that all are prepared, ready and equipped to deal with this very serious social ill.

It has also been recognized that we absolutely have to place an emphasis on apprehending those responsible for fuelling the industry of prostitution, not blaming the victim and focusing on solicitation but understanding that the johns, pimps, drug dealers, business owners, those who knowingly prey on people who are vulnerable and use them to make money to improve their financial situation. That has to be the target of our efforts today.

Finally, the Social Planning Council and other activists in Winnipeg have recommended that we have an active outreach program so that we can reach sex trade workers on the streets, talk to those who are vulnerable and identify from them the solutions that will make a difference.

There is enough research and knowledge from the communities that we represent. It is time to take that knowledge and information, that research and analysis and get it into an active working committee of the House of Commons that can prioritize and sort through jurisdictional questions and come back to this place with recommendations for legislative changes, for changes to the Criminal Code and for programs that actually make a difference in helping women, youth and children get off the streets, out of the sex trade and into areas where they can serve our society with dignity and with pride.

Solicitation LawsPrivate Members' Business

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. The item is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

The House resumed from November 5, 2002 consideration of the motion that Bill C-17, An Act to amend certain Acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety be now read the second time and referred to a committee.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

November 18th, 2002 / 12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I wish to inform the hon. member for Matapédia—Matane that he had 14 minutes remaining when the debate on this bill was interrupted. After his speech, he will have 10 minutes for questions and comments.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:10 p.m.


Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for informing me, in your great wisdom, of the speaking time I have left. Naturally, I will endeavour to use this time appropriately. When I spoke on Bill C-17, I pointed out that this was an improved version of the bill put before us last spring, the public safety bill, Bill C-55.

At the time that bill was introduced, I rose to express great concern about, among other things, controlled access military zones, now referred to as military security zones, as defined in Bill C-42.

This was a very important point. I should remind hon. members that the concept of controlled access military zones, at the time, made it possible for the government to establish protected military zones, which could cover any area where there are military facilities. This could lead to abuse. At the time, I gave the very specific example of Quebec City as a potential controlled access military zone. It would have been very difficult to do anything in Quebec City if there had been problems of terrorism.

The other point I raised at the time concerned the interim orders. The new bill before us today also contains provisions on interim orders. We were primarily concerned about the deadlines for these orders and the way they could be made, the fact that the decision to make interim orders could be made by an individual, either the minister or an official.

A problem remains concerning interim orders, and I will come back to that. I am talking about the lack of preliminary compliance audits. I will address this issue later, to explain why we oppose the new version of the bill, Bill C-17, before us today and dealing with interim orders.

We also strongly emphasized another point: the exchange of information. In this respect, the amendments proposed to the previous bill fall far short of what is needed. A great deal of information can still be exchanged and, as far as I am concerned, too much control and power is given to the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. I will come back to that also. The privacy commissioner commented on this last spring. He is saying pretty much the same thing now, stating that the provisions do not represent the proper balance between safety and security, and privacy.

So, I said in the first part of my remarks, that we would vote against the bill in its present form. We will do so for reasons that are essentially the same as those mentioned last spring, because, in our opinion, the changes made to the bill are clearly insufficient.

More specifically, on the subject of military security zones, a recent news release issued by the Department of Transport indicated the following:

The government concluded that it needed to take a more measured approach and re-engineer these provisions in a way that achieves a better balance between the public interest and the ongoing legitimate security needs of Canadian Forces and visiting forces in Canada. The government recognizes the need to deal with these security concerns as a matter of some urgency. As a result, it has decided to establish, through Order-in-Council, controlled access zones in Halifax, Esquimalt and Nanoose Bay harbours.

The same news release, which was issued when the bill was introduced, also said:

These controlled access zones will be much narrower in scope than the earlier provisions and will apply only to the three naval ports in question, although other such zones could be considered on a case-by-case basis, should the security situation dictate.

This last comment is a source of concern for us.

Of course, we are pleased that, in the new bill, the government did not include the military security zones that were being considered at the time. However, the fact is that these zones can still be established through orders in council.

This measure seems much more reasonable to us than the prior one. However, it still leaves room for abuse and this is one of the reasons we are not supporting this bill.

We must be sure, obviously, that when military zones are established, particularly in Quebec, they be established with the agreement of the Government of Quebec, particularly if the zone in question includes Quebec City, or other military bases located in Quebec.

As for the interim orders, the bill still contains provisions that would allow various ministers, and in at least one case, bureaucrats, to make interim orders and we have concerns regarding this. When it comes to interim orders, they really must be tabled in Parliament so that Parliament is informed of the situation, and aware of what is really happening.

The time period has been shortened, from 45 to 14 days before cabinet approves it, which is still far too long as far as we are concerned. What is more, the major problem regarding interim orders is, as I said earlier, that there is no prior assessment to ensure that they respect the charter and enabling legislation.

As for the sharing of information, as I said, this is a very, very important element, especially for us, because we are used to certain freedoms and we try, as much as possible, to avoid giving the police too many powers. In fact, Bill C-17 allows two different individuals, in addition to the Minister of Transport, or an official designated by the minister, to have direct access to information on passengers from airlines and airline reservation systems operators. These two individuals are the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. This information may be requested in the case of an imminent threat to the safety of transportation. In the case of CSIS, this information may also be requested for investigations into threats to Canadian security. Bill C-55 also allowed for the disclosure of information about persons for whom a warrant has been issued.

Usually, the information collected by the RCMP and CSIS must be destroyed within seven days of being received or obtained, unless it is reasonably necessary for transportation safety, or to investigate a threat to Canada's security.

Once again, we are granting what I would call a discretionary power. We are giving the Royal Canadian Mounted Police the authority to retain this information and not destroy it if the commissioner determines that it could be useful.

Personally, I consider that to be a serious threat because we should require that this information, and all the other information, be destroyed within the prescribed time limits, unless, of course, special authorization is granted by the minister or the cabinet.

Last May, the Privacy Commissioner issued a letter in which he expressed his concerns about the provisions of Bill C-55 giving the RCMP and CSIS unrestricted access to personal information. He said he was troubled about the provisions, and I quote:

a) Empowering the RCMP to obtain and scan passenger lists in search of anyone subject to an outstanding warrant for any offence punishable by imprisonment of five years or more; and

b) Allowing CSIS and the RCMP to retain passenger information in search of suspicious travel patterns.

With respect to paragraph a), several provisions were problematic at the time and still are. Among others, there was the definition of the term warrant and those provisions allowing the RCMP to collect and communicate information about individuals subject to an outstanding warrant. The commissioner suggested that these provisions be withdrawn from the bill.

Basically, the RCMP would compile a file, share the information with other police services or other institutions in order to do checks. To what extent should these files be destroyed or eliminated? That question has been raised.

Currently, from the way we understand Bill C-17, the government has tried to tighten up these provisions, but in the end the door is still ajar and there is still a danger when it comes to files being compiled, information sharing and the disclosure of personal information regarding Canadians and Quebeckers who travel. I think that the door is open far too wide when it comes to the RCMP obtaining personal information.

Even though, under Bill C-17, the RCMP no longer has the power to collect information in order to find a person for whom a warrant has been issued, it still has the power to share information obtained under the provisions of Bill C-17 with a peace officer if it has reason to believe that it could be useful in executing a warrant. This is still what I would describe as a discretionary power, which in my opinion is a very problematic element when it comes to Bill C-17.

In fact, it is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police itself that decides when a situation is a threat to transportation security, which allows it to ask an airline for information concerning passengers. As soon as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has any doubt, it would be allowed, under Bill C-17, to ask the airline for information concerning passengers. This leaves room for abuse.

In the bill, there is no control mechanism concerning this provision. I believe that the government should have included restrictions throughout Bill C-17, that it should not have opened the door so wide with respect to this provision and allowed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to obtain information relating to all airline passengers.

This gives the Royal Canadian Mounted Police carte blanche as it were. Furthermore, once the information is obtained, nothing prevents the RCMP from keeping it, as long as the reasons for doing so are recorded. This means that a file would be created on people who travel within the country or elsewhere. A file would be created on all the people using air transportation and all the information concerning passengers could be obtained through the airlines, which appears extremely dangerous to us and also appears dangerous to the Privacy Commissioner, George Radwanski.

In concluding, I would like to reiterate that we will vote against Bill C-17, for the reasons that I just mentioned, among others.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to make a few comments on the amendments, known as Bill C-17, to the Explosives Act.

My remarks will be in two parts. The first part will deal primarily with the inexplosive ammunition component that is in Bill C-17. No matter how many times the government renumbers and reintroduces this bill, the proposed amendments to the Explosives Act do not change and consequently we continue to oppose them. Our rationale for opposing these amendments does not change either. I wish the government would listen but nothing has changed.

The federal government is using the September 11 terrorist attack as an excuse for continuing its anti-gun, anti-hunting, anti-farmer, anti-sports shooter, anti-firearms collector, anti-historical re-enactor, anti-licensed firearms and ammunitions dealer, anti-guides and outfitters, and anti-aboriginal hunting rights agenda. These are the honest, law-abiding, taxpaying Canadians that the Liberals have targeted with these 10 pages of proposed Explosives Act amendments.

These amendments were so urgent that the Liberals have waited five years to bring them before Parliament. it was on November 14, 1997, that former deputy prime minister, Herb Gray, signed the Organization of American States inter-American convention against the illicit manufacturing and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives and other related materials in Washington, D.C. If anyone needs any more proof of the government's anti-gun agenda, former deputy prime minister Herb Gray, when he signed the OAS convention in Washington in 1997, said:

This could be the start of a global movement that would spur the development of an instrument to ban firearms worldwide that would be similar to our land-mines initiative.

That comes from the Montreal Gazette of November 15, 1997, under the heading “Canada signs deal to curb illegal sales of guns”.

The government already has control over the explosive part of bullets and shells, namely gunpowder. What possible public safety, anti-terrorism objective can be achieved by controlling parts of ammunition that cannot go anywhere without the gunpowder? There is none. These proposed amendments to control inexplosive ammunition components are plain and simple government harassment of the tens of thousands of responsible firearms owners who happen to load their own bullets and shells for their own legal recreation and sport.

Terrorists and their deadly operations would remain unaffected and undeterred by these amendments. Explosives are easily obtained by terrorists through criminal means and just as easily manufactured with everyday materials that are available in most food and hardware stores.

The only part of the bill that is any good at all is the increased penalties for the criminal use of explosives. The trouble with these sections is that they are most likely going to hit the wrong target by potentially criminalizing tens of thousands of law-abiding citizens who load their own ammunition for their legal pastimes and sports. Instead of writing the law the way the government intended, the government assures all concerned:

The people responsible for applying the amended act do not think that the proposed measures will interfere with supplies for hunters and people who manufacture their own agenda.

If that is what the government means, then why does the government not say who these laws are intended for and exempt everyone else? It does not do that. The danger of these amendments was pointed out in a Library of Parliament research paper prepared on January 18, 2002. The lawyers reported:

Those who presently make their own ammunition are already regulated under the Explosives Act since an explosive (gunpowder) is a regulated product. Thus, licences are currently required, for example, to import explosives. Clause 36 would replace section 9 of the current Explosives Act by requiring a permit to import, to export and to transport in transit through Canada not only for explosives but also for inexplosive ammunition components.

That is what I so strongly object to.

Consequently, law-abiding citizens who manufacture their own ammunition could end up being charged with the new offences proposed in these amendments, offences that call for fines of up to $500,000, or half a million dollars, and imprisonment for up to five years in jail if someone has these inexplosive components. Offences that are targeting law-abiding Canadians in this act include: acquiring, possessing, selling, offering for sale, transporting or delivering any illicit inexplosive ammunition component and making or manufacturing any explosive from an illicitly trafficked inexplosive ammunition component.

The government has not told us how it thinks anyone can make an explosive from an inexplosive ammunition component. The definition in the act states:

“inexplosive ammunition component” means any cartridge case or bullet, or any projectile that is used in a firearm as defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code.

Even the government's own definition clearly demonstrates that no one could possibly make an explosive out of an “inexplosive ammunition component”.

Before we proceed any further with these amendments, Parliament needs to hear testimony in committee from firearms and explosives experts. Maybe if the government had consulted with the firearms community it might have avoided another showdown with law-abiding gun owners in this country. Obviously the government has not learned any lessons from the colossal failure of Bill C-68, the firearms registry bill.

I want to read into the record today the words of a well-known firearms expert. Dave Tomlinson has been acknowledged by dozens of courts in Canada as an expert witness on firearms and firearms law. Here is what Mr. Tomlinson said after reading the proposed “inexplosive ammunition component” amendments in Bill C-17:

It will be a criminal offence to take an empty cartridge case or a warped and twisted fired bullet picked up at a shooting range into or out of Canada. Inadvertent presence of one or more of those items--in quantities of one inert empty cartridge case or one inert and unusable bullet--in the trunk of your car or the back of your pickup truck will be grounds for criminal prosecution. It will probably also be grounds for confiscation of your vehicle, and giving you a criminal record. How does that enhance homeland security? Public safety? World peace? How does it create any problem for any criminal engaged in any criminal activity? Criminals are not handloaders. If they want ammunition, they buy it from smugglers--who import whole cartridges, because that is what their criminal customers want. This is a typical example of the muddleheadedness of the Liberals.

At the appropriate time during this debate I would like to move amendments to remove all of these references to the “inexplosive ammunition component” from the proposed amendments to the Explosives Act, and we will do that.

I would like to conclude this part of my speech by saying that the government has wasted a lot of money on the gun registry and now it is going to begin another huge paper-shuffling exercise. It is going to be another huge waste of money.

The last time, the government said that if we had a gun registry we would reduce the criminal use of guns and prevent smuggling. That is exactly the opposite of what is happening. The smuggling is increasing and the criminal use of firearms is increasing.

Would it not make a lot more sense to target the terrorists and to spend the money gathering intelligence about their activities rather than hassling law-abiding citizens? Terrorists do not use inexplosives, empty cartridges, in their activities. The people the government will spend time and resources on will be law-abiding people. This money could be spent much more profitably by improving public security rather than regulating inexplosive components.

I now would like to go on to the second part of my speech, which is on a completely different topic. I would like to read into the record a news release put out by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, George Radwanski. He released this statement a couple of weeks ago.

Before I begin reading it, I would remind everyone listening that this gentleman was appointed by the Liberal Prime Minister. He is a former editor-in-chief of The Toronto Star , so he is not exactly a card-carrying Alliance member. He said:

Since last May, I have expressed extremely grave concerns about one provision of what was then Bill C-55, the federal Government’s Public Safety Act. This same provision has now been reintroduced, with only minimal and unsatisfactory change, in the replacement legislation, Bill C-17.

The provision in question, section 4.82 of both bills, would give the RCMP and CSIS unrestricted access to the personal information held by airlines about all Canadian air travellers on domestic as well as international flights.

I have raised no objection to the primary purpose of this provision, which is to enable the RCMP and CSIS to use this passenger information for anti-terrorist “transportation security” and “national security” screening. But my concern is that the RCMP would also be expressly empowered to use this information to seek out persons wanted on warrants for Criminal Code offences that have nothing to do with terrorism, transportation security or national security.

The implications of this are extraordinarily far-reaching.

In Canada, it is well established that we are not required to identify ourselves to police unless we are being arrested or we are carrying out a licensed activity such as driving. The right to anonymity with regard to the state is a crucial privacy right. Since we are required to identify ourselves to airlines as a condition of air travel and since section 4.82 would give the RCMP unrestricted access to the passenger information obtained by airlines, this would set the extraordinarily privacy-invasive precedent of effectively requiring compulsory self-identification to the police.

I am prepared, with some reluctance, to accept this as an exceptional measure that can be justified, in the wake of September 11, for the limited and specific purposes of aviation security and national security against terrorism. But I can find no reason why the use of this de facto self-identification to the police should be extended to searching for individuals who are of interest to the state because they are the subject of warrants for Criminal Code offences unrelated to terrorism. That has the same effect as requiring us to notify the police every time we travel, so that they can check whether we are wanted for something.

If the police were able to carry out their regular Criminal Code law enforcement duties without this new power before September 11, they should likewise be able to do so now. The events of September 11 were a great tragedy and a great crime; they should not be manipulated into becoming an opportunity--an opportunity to expand privacy-invasive police powers for purposes that have nothing to do with anti-terrorism.

If we accept the principle that air travellers within Canada can in effect be forced by law to identify themselves to police for scrutiny against lists of wanted suspects, then there is nothing to prevent the same logic from being applied in future to other modes of transportation. Particularly since this provision might well discourage wanted individuals from travelling by air, why not extend the same scrutiny to train travellers, bus passengers or anyone renting a car? Indeed, the precedent set by this provision could ultimately open the door to practices similar to those that exist in societies where police routinely board trains, establish roadblocks or stop people on the street to check identification papers in search of anyone of interest to the state.

The place to draw the line in protecting the fundamental human right of privacy is at the very outset, at the first unjustifiable intrusion. In this instance, that means amending the bill to remove all reference to warrants and thus limit the police to matching passenger information against anti-terrorism and national security databases.

The concerns that I have raised in this matter since last spring have been publicly endorsed by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia and the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario; by members of every party in the House of Commons, notably including a member of the government's own Liberal caucus who is an internationally recognized expert on human rights, [the member for Mount Royal]; and by editorials and newspapers, including the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, the Vancouver Province, the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal.

These concerns are now being ignored by the government.

The changes that have been made in this provision in the new bill do nothing to address the fundamental issues of principle that are at stake.

The Government now proposes to have regulations limiting the Criminal Code offence warrants for which the RCMP will be searching. But this does nothing to address the fundamental point of principle that the police have no business using this extraordinary access to personal information to search for people wanted on warrants for any offences unrelated to terrorism.

As well, in the new bill the Government has removed the “identification of persons for whom a warrant has been issued” as a “purpose” for accessing passenger information under the legislation. But this is meaningless--indeed, disingenuous--since the RCMP would remain empowered to match this information against a database of persons wanted on warrants and to use such matches to bring about arrests. It insults the intelligence of Canadians to suggest, as the Government does in its press release accompanying the bill, that the RCMP may “incidentally” come upon individuals wanted on Criminal Code warrants--if the police are to match names of passengers against a database of individuals wanted on Criminal Code warrants, there can be nothing “incidental” about finding them.

Since the original Bill C-55 was introduced, I have used every means at my disposal to make the crucially important privacy issues that are at stake known and understood by all the Ministers and top Government officials who are involved in this matter. I regret that I have not, to date, been successful in obtaining an appropriate response from them, though I will certainly continue my efforts. It is now up to Parliament to explain to these people that privacy is a fundamental human right of Canadians that must be respected, rather than treated with the apparent indifference that the Government is showing.

That is the end of a very lengthy quotation. I would hope that the government would take to heart the comments of the privacy commissioner, who is here to serve all Canadians through Parliament.

I will conclude with one question. The government must answer this question before it proceeds. Why is it ignoring the privacy commissioner's comments? Why? I would like to have an answer from the government.

Also, on the first part of my speech, why is it not removing wholly the number of references to inexplosive components in the firearms act?

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord Québec


André Harvey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on his remarks regarding this extremely important bill. He just mentioned that, in drafting this bill, the government should have taken into account the comments made by the Privacy Commissioner.

In Bill C-17, the government took into account the comments made by numerous stakeholders, particularly our colleagues in the House of Commons, all civil associations and the Privacy Commissioner, especially regarding the elimination of controlled access military zones. These zones will only be maintained in three locations in the country, namely in important ports on the west coast and in Halifax. That debate was difficult. Some people wanted Canadians to believe that all of Canada would become a controlled access military zone even though, initially, the bill was strictly limited to anything that had to do with military equipment that belonged to Canadian Forces or to foreign forces.

Changes have also been made to the deadlines for interim orders. This is a significant change. On the issue that concerns my colleague with regard to the exchange of information, particularly in the case of passengers with outstanding warrants, I would like to ask him if he has had the opportunity to see whether the definition of warrants issued for very serious offences is satisfactory or not. It is a new notion that seems important to me. I would like to have the member's opinion on that, knowing that the committee will improve the bill if necessary.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, may I have a clarification, please? Were these changes made since November 1?

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12:45 p.m.


André Harvey Liberal Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, to my knowledge, the bill provides that the offences for which warrants must be executed are extremely serious ones, including murder.

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12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I would take that to mean no, that these changes have not been made since November 1. In other words, the comments of Mr. Radwanski, the Privacy Commissioner, who is the expert on this whole bill, stand firm. The government has not taken into account the concerns that were expressed by the Privacy Commissioner.

In other words, what I have read into the record is completely accurate. The government has not made the necessary amendments to provide for the protection of privacy of Canadians. The government needs to do that before it proceeds. The comments that are made are quite valid because no amendments have been made since November 1.

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12:45 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, first, I refer to the amendments that were in the press release. I have three other questions that I will ask later. This is to see if this is more palatable to the member.

Passenger information could be disclosed to a third party for very restricted use. The impression left by the speech is that it could be collected for any offence and used for minor offences.

These purposes would relate to the mandate of each department or agency. For example, Transport Canada could only disclose information to restricted parties for transportation security purposes, while CSIS and RCMP designated officers could disclose this information to limited parties for specific purposes, including transportation security imminent public safety threats, outstanding warrants, removal orders, compliance with subpoena or court order and counter-terrorism investigation.

The new Public Safety Act, 2002, has proposed the identification of persons for whom a warrant has been issued be removed as a purpose for which the RCMP could obtain air passenger information. With this change the RCMP could only access passenger information for the purpose of transportation security.

While screening passenger lists for transportation security, if the RCMP incidentally discovered a criminal warrant for a serious crime, and that is what the other member was asking, the force would still be able to disclose that information to a peace officer if there was reason to believe it would assist in the execution of a warrant.

Retaining this aspect of the scheme is necessary for public safety because the RCMP needs to take appropriate action if it happens to find a passenger wanted for an outstanding warrant for a serious offence such as murder or kidnapping. With this amendment a much more limited regime would be created for the RCMP which would permit only incidental use of passenger information for warranted purposes, while screening for transportation and security risks.

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12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I am trying to find out from the hon. member's comments what question was involved there. I did not pick up a question. I do not think it even related to what I spoke about in my speech and the quotation I read from the Privacy Commissioner.

I will pick up on something that I think he was trying to drive at, although that was not quite obvious, and that is that we are to trust the RCMP to only focus on one narrow aspect. The Privacy Commissioner has said that is really meaningless, to have us say in the House of Commons that the intent of the legislation is not this but is primarily that. That is completely meaningless the Privacy Commissioner says.

In fact, it is disingenuous to argue that, as the member has, since the RCMP would remain empowered to match this information against the database of persons wanted on arrest on warrants and to use such matches to bring about arrests.

That is the concern. That has not been addressed in the amendments that the government has not made at this point.

I have lived in societies where police have had unbelievable powers. The bill allows our police forces to move in that direction. I do not think we want this to happen. We had better re-examine the legislation so the proper amendments are made to provide for the privacy of our people in Canada.

The Privacy Commissioner is warning us that this legislation can be misused. It may not be misused by all police forces or all those who are on duty, but it can potentially be greatly abused. That is what I am raising as a concern and the Liberal government had better listen carefully. We do not want to move in that direction.

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12:50 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, that is the exact point I was getting at, that these amendments have been made and that the only screening now is for very serious transportation and security purposes. I am amazed at the member from the Alliance. If we found, somewhat incidentally, that a person was wanted for murder or kidnapping, would we not want to arrest that person?

Let me go on to my other questions. He can review the amendments that I read later to see if they limit the powers drastically to what is acceptable for his party.

One point he made was that we did not give any details on the hoaxes. I would just like to give some details once again that are in the package. The proposed maximum penalties for these offences would also be amended to provide increases proportionate to the harm caused. The maximum penalty for the base offence is five years imprisonment. However if the hoax caused actual bodily harm, the maximum penalty would be increased to 10 years imprisonment. If the hoax caused death, the maximum penalty would be increased to life imprisonment. What more details is the member looking for in that area?

My second question is related to explosives. The act would regulate the importation, manufacture, storage and sale of commercial explosives along with their transportation. I gather from the member's speech that he is not opposed to putting this into an act to regulate the use of hose explosives specifically. I am not worried about the other ammunition such as firearms but I am concerned about these in particular because I had a constituent within the last few weeks blown up in a terrorist explosion. I want to make sure he is not opposed to us trying to take every precaution possible related to explosives.

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12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, let me answer the second question first. I have no problem with the government regulating the importation and export of explosives. I want to make it clear that I think it is a complete waste of time and money to regulate the inexplosive component and that component is mentioned in the legislation over 20 times. There is no point in regulating this. I want to make it clear that that is to what I object.

The first part of the member's comments were about murder and kidnapping and did I object to the police catching these people. If one has read the expert testimony on this and some of the commentary that has appeared across the country, one realizes that this is not the concern people have. People have concerns that the government will use this to go into all kinds of other areas that we would regard as almost frivolous in their search to regulate Canadians and violate their privacy. That is the problem. It is not the murder and kidnapping, it is all the other stuff for which the government can use this bill.