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House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was human.

Topics

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

At the request of the government, the vote will be deferred until tomorrow at the conclusion of government orders.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 3:15 p.m.

Mount Royal Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in at report stage.

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3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

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3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

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3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

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3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Hon. Irwin Cotler (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.) moved thatC-65, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Mount Royal Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-64, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (vehicle identification number), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-64, an act to amend the Criminal Code in relation to vehicle identification numbers. The Bloc is in favour of this bill, which will provide the police with an additional tool in the fight against networks active in the theft, appearance alteration and resale of motor vehicles. Those networks, too often, enable criminal organizations to finance other criminal activities.

Obviously, changing the appearance of vehicles and reselling them is often made possible through the existence of a network that is involved in other criminal activities. So, this bill aims at giving the police more powers. The Bloc always strives to defend the interests of Quebeckers and of Canadians.

In fact, too often, criminal organizations operate in several areas, hence the name “networks”. In this way, through such methods as tampering with identification numbers, altering the appearance of cars and reselling them, they can sustain a network which later branches out into the sale of drugs, guns and other illicit products. So, all that is connected. This position by the Bloc certainly comes as no surprise. It has consistently opposed those activities and has always denounced the way in which the networks of those dealing in drugs as well as in other criminal products are allowed to sell their goods far too easily. Vehicles that are stolen, disguised, and so forth often represent a significant component in the network of organized criminals who are rampant in Quebec and elsewhere in the other Canadian provinces.

Bill C-64 amends the Criminal Code to make it an offence to alter, remove or obliterate a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle. In Canada, every vehicle has to have an identification number to clearly differentiate one vehicle from another. Anyone who has a car or any other mobile equipment understands that every vehicle is identified by a serial number. Those involved in auto theft rings obliterate and change serial numbers. They take legally tagged vehicles that have been in an accident, remove their identification numbers and put them on stolen vehicles. So far, this had escaped the Criminal Code, in the sense that obliterating, altering or removing an identification number on a motor vehicle was not an offence under the Criminal Code.

Bill C-64 will make it possible to charge anyone involved in this kind of trafficking, that is, individuals who know full well that there did not use to be a criminal offence associated with taking the serial number off one vehicle to put it on another vehicle. It is well known that what we are really talking about is organized auto theft rings. These are traffickers who often deal other things, such as drugs and weapons. These rings made windfall profits by taking the serial numbers off damaged vehicles and putting them on stolen ones, which were often in very good condition and were used to earn profits from illicit trafficking.

As far as the Bloc Québécois is concerned, this bill is telling anyone who is involved in this kind of trafficking and thought that, because it was not a criminal offence, it was okay to take the serial number off one vehicle and put it on another, that what they are doing is now a criminal act and that the police will be allowed to stop them and charge them with an offence under the Criminal Code.

At present, under the Criminal Code, there is no specific offence for those who alter a vehicle identification number to hide the identity of a stolen vehicle. As we speak, that is not a criminal act.

However, once Bill C-64 is passed, it will be a criminal offence to tamper with or to alter the identification number on a motor vehicle.

The Bloc Québécois feels that this is another way to target organized criminal networks that are active in a number of areas, including car theft and the trafficking of licence plates or serial numbers that often come from stolen vehicles. Later on, these numbers are often put on vehicles that were not stolen, but that have been involved in an accident.

Until now, we had to rely on section 354 of the Criminal Code, which Bill C-64 seeks to amend, to prosecute individuals found in possession of vehicles whose serial number had been altered or obliterated. The Criminal Code currently has no specific provision making it an offence to alter, obliterate or remove a vehicle identification number. Bill C-64 will fill that void.

The new offence will be added to section 377, which deals with the offence that consists in damaging documents through destruction, defacing, obliteration or injury. A person found guilty of the new offence will be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years. The Crown may also opt for an offence punishable on summary conviction, which carries a fine of a maximum of $2,000, a prison term of six months, or both.

For the benefit of Quebeckers who are listening to us, I will read the wording of the new offence that has been included:

(1) Every one commits an offence who, wholly or partially, alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), “vehicle identification number” means any number or other mark placed on a motor vehicle for the purpose of distinguishing the motor vehicle from other similar motor vehicles.

Of course, motor vehicles include snowmobiles, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. So, we are talking about all motor vehicles whose identification numbers are tampered with. Those individuals who will engage in this type of trafficking or tampering will now be found guilty of that offence under section 377.1 of the Criminal Code. The offence is defined as follows in paragraph (3):

Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1)

(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or

(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

For these, sentences go up to five years. The people who watch us, men and women, old and young, often think that we parliamentarians are here to make their lives miserable. Indeed, we are often told that there are too many laws and regulations. The Bloc Québécois wants to send a message to our youth, to the young men and women who are watching. In some circumstances, you might want to help someone buy a small motorcycle, a moped or some other vehicle like that. You must be careful because serial numbers can be changed on vehicles that have been in accidents. So, we may buy a motorcycle at a very low price, thinking that we have just found the deal of the century. When someone offers to sell something expensive at a very low price, there is something wrong. That is how stolen vehicles are sold.

And that is in a way the message we want to send: one must be careful not to be dragged into shady deals. When something is sold at a certain price, it is because it is worth that price. When someone says that he or she is doing you a favour, you think that you have found the perfect deal. However, oftentimes, when you find the perfect deal on a motor vehicle, it is because there is something wrong with that vehicle. Often, it is a practically new vehicle to which the number of a damaged vehicle has been attributed by tampering. People should avoid that kind of deal.

Bill C-64 tells the people, the young men and women from Quebec who listen to us, that we must really prevent criminal gangs from entering all sectors of our economy.

Automobile theft is one of the major activities of criminal gangs. One of their methods was to alter identification numbers. They would take the numbers of vehicles that had been in accidents and that they had often bought at very low prices. Then they put these numbers on stolen vehicles of the same make that were virtually new. This enabled the gangs to sell these vehicles at very attractive prices to citizens who thought they had just discovered the bargain of the century.

In the end, the gangs would be dismantled. And often, honest citizens who had purchased a vehicle thinking they had discovered the bargain of the century saw the police arrive a few months or years later and inform them that there had been trafficking in identification numbers. Most of the time, these people had bought their vehicles from individuals who told them that it was legal and that taking the registration from one vehicle and putting it on another was not a criminal offence.

Now Bill C-64 makes it clear that motor vehicle theft is a criminal offence. It is clear that both vehicle theft and taking the registration or serial number of one vehicle and putting it on a stolen vehicle are criminal offences. It is also clear now that the simple act of transferring the registration and serial number is a criminal offence. I would like to read this criminal offence for you and the citizens listening to us:

Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1)

(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or

(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

This really is a criminal act.

Once again, there are those who will say that vehicle theft is not as serious as all that and it is not necessarily criminal gangs who are involved. I would like to provide just one statistic. Motor vehicle theft is becoming increasingly widespread. In 2004, nearly 170,000 vehicle thefts were reported in Canada.

It is obvious that when 170,000 vehicles are stolen, the purpose is to re-sell them. When the number of vehicles is this high, it is because criminal gangs are behind it. They are very well organized. Often they take advantage of young people who need money and get them to commit criminal acts. They have them commit thefts first, and then have them take the legal identifications from vehicles involved in accidents and get them to put the identifications on stolen vehicles. Often the young people are told that this is not a criminal offence, there is no problem, because no crime was committed and they will not get a criminal record.

We want to send a message that such trafficking is illegal. This is part of an organized criminal network involved in other types of criminal activities, often drug or arms trafficking. These networks must be dismantled. One way to do that is to tell those who assume that there are no consequences for taking the licence plate from one vehicle to use on another that this is a crime that carries a prison sentence like other crimes do.

The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-64, which is before us today. The men and women in our political party strongly believe that this is a step in the right direction in the fight against organized crime.

Finally, it is all here. The aim of this bill is to discourage people who are sometimes short of funds and who are often honest, but who are asked to do something dishonest. They are being told that they can do it because such activities are not punishable under the Criminal Code.

All we are telling organized crime networks is that they should no longer use young people or others for this, because it is a crime. We are telling people that, from now on, we will no longer tolerate this.

All we want is for the bill to come into force as soon as possible and for the Criminal Code to be amended in consequence. Organized crime networks often have fingers in a number of different pies, including auto theft—170,000 vehicles were stolen in 2004 as I said. These networks take advantage of the high demand for stolen vehicles trafficked with licence plates from legal vehicles.

From now on, trafficking in such vehicles would also be a crime. Consequently, everyone involved in this activity would be considered a criminal, including the organizers of such activities within the network.

Thus, the government has understood that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-64. We are in favour of this legislative change. We want these offences to be included in the Criminal Code as quickly as possible.

I will conclude by reading once again this clause 377.1 that will be added to the Criminal Code through Bill C-64. It says:

377.1 (1) Every one commits an offence who, wholly or partially, alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), “vehicle identification number” means any number or other mark placed on a motor vehicle for the purpose of distinguishing the motor vehicle from other similar motor vehicles.

(3) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1)

(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or

(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

We are thus telling Quebeckers that, as soon as Bill C-64 is implemented and comes into force, a person who alters, removes or obliterates the serial number of a motor vehicle—and I repeat, a motor vehicle, that is a car, a truck, a motorcycle, a snowmobile, a boat, in short, everything that functions with a motor—will be committing a criminal act. Let us stop thinking that this only applies to cars. Indeed, all those who altered serial numbers would be committing a criminal act.

Once again, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-64 in order to counter organized crime, which, on top of all its other activities, was responsible for the theft of 170,000 cars in 2004. We clearly want to deal with organized crime, which, in addition to stealing cars, is often into the illegal sale of drugs and firearms.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place between all parties concerning the bills listed on today's Projected Order of Business.

Mr. Speaker, as you noticed, there was perhaps a bit of confusion on all sides of the House with respect to participating in different debates following routine proceedings a few moments ago, in particular the third reading of Bill C-49 and the second reading of Bill C-65.

Mr. Speaker, I believe you would find consent in the House to return to third reading of Bill C-49 in order for members to participate in said debate, and that at no later than 6:30 p.m. today, the motion for third reading of this bill would be deemed carried.

Should Bill C-49 conclude before 6:30 p.m. today, the House would immediately return to the second reading of Bill C-65 for the same reasons I noted above.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly concur with my hon. colleague across the way in the sense that there was some confusion immediately following routine proceedings today that allowed these two bills to slip by. I think there were members from all parties who wanted to speak to them. I certainly would concur with my colleague.

I would like further clarification. If Bill C-49 carries the day until 6:30 p.m., would it be the intention following debate that the question would be put and deemed carried and we would then return to second reading of Bill C-65 either tomorrow or at some future date?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opposition House leader's comments. The same confusion which reigned in the House perhaps reigned when I was trying to describe what we understood the consent to be.

The opposition House leader is exactly right. It would be our intention, if we could, to return to second reading of Bill C-65. If, however, we went until 6:30 p.m. with Bill C-49, we would return to Bill C-65 at a later date.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

On the same point of order, the debate on Bill C-64 had just started. Presumably Bill C-64 would be pushed back so that we could deal with Bills C-49 and C-65 first.

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3:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Yes.

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3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is there unanimous consent?

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3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Mount Royal Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-49, an act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons). Bill C-49 realizes a commitment made by the government in the Speech from the Throne. It reflects a continuing priority not only for the government but for me personally as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, namely the protection of the vulnerable.

It is a matter of protecting the most vulnerable among us.

No less important, this third reading debate on Bill C-49 is a reflection of all-party support for the bill, which I hope is a reflection of the broader support for the work of the government and indeed the international community in combating this scourge upon humanity, what I have referred to elsewhere as the new contemporary global slave trade.

I have always been concerned with promoting and protecting equality, and continue to do so as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. It has always been my belief that the true measure of a society's commitment to the principles of equality and human dignity is taken by the way it protects its most vulnerable members.

This is really what Bill C-49 is all about. It is about more clearly recognizing and denouncing human trafficking as the persistent and pervasive assault on human rights that it is. It is about providing increased protection for those who are most vulnerable to this criminal violation of human rights, namely women and children. It is about bringing the perpetrators to justice and ensuring that human traffickers are held to account fully for this criminal conduct.

Trafficking in humans is considered to be the most rapidly growing criminal industry in the world. It is estimated that it generates $10 billion in annual profits for organized crime, thus ranking second after drug and firearms trafficking.

Although the clandestine nature of human trafficking makes it impossible to know the real magnitude of the tragedy, the United Nations estimates that more than 700,000 persons are trafficked across international borders each year. Others put it higher. UNICEF for example estimates that 1.2 million children alone are trafficked globally each year.

In May of this year the International Labour Organization released a global report on forced labour. This report estimates that approximately 2.5 million persons are currently in situations of forced labour as a result of having been trafficked. Of these 2.5 million persons, approximately one-third are estimated to have been trafficked into situations of forced labour and just under one-half are estimated to have been trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation purposes. This is the important point. Almost all of these victims, 98% of them, are the most vulnerable, women and children. The remaining one-third are believed to have been trafficked for mixed or undetermined reasons.

If we take as our starting point that one person trafficked is one too many, that this is not just a matter of abstract statistics, but behind every statistic is a trafficked human being and a tragedy of that trafficking, these estimates surely must underscore the importance of measures such as Bill C-49. Indeed this should strengthen our resolve to do all that we can domestically and internationally to combat human trafficking.

Moreover, although anyone can be a victim of human trafficking, the numbers show that women and children are the primary victims of such trafficking, a reflection of their social, economic and legal inequality, indeed of their differential vulnerability. In fact, this is how many human traffickers achieve their aims, by exploiting the hopes and fears of their victims by offering them false hope and the promise of a better life.

Most of the time, women and children are trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour. They end up as servants, baby sitters or drug mules, for instance. Men, on the other hand, are generally trafficked for forced labour in illegal sweatshops, or to work on farms, in abattoirs or in the construction industry.

But no matter for what purpose they are trafficked, all trafficked persons: men, women and children suffer deprivation of liberty, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, including threats of violence and actual serious harm to themselves and/or to their family members.

This is why human trafficking is so often described as today's global slave trade because it is about the bonding and bartering of human beings, and battering as well, and indeed, the commodification of human beings which constitutes a pervasive and persistent assault on the most fundamental of human rights, the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

The daily reality of trafficked victims is difficult if not impossible to comprehend, but it is perhaps just as difficult to comprehend that trafficking in human beings is even an issue today in the 21st century, and in a country such as Canada, where the constitutional protection of fundamental rights and freedoms is at the very heart of how we seek to define ourselves as a people and a society.

Bill C-49 addresses the protection of vulnerable persons and the protection of fundamental human rights only.

Bill C-49 is organized around the three key objectives identified by the international community or what we call the three P s: prevention of human trafficking, protection of its victims, and prosecution of the traffickers themselves.

Currently, the Criminal Code addresses human trafficking through existing offences that apply to trafficking related conduct such as, kidnapping, forceable confinement, aggravated sexual assaults and uttering threats. Although these existing provisions have been successfully used in trafficking cases, Bill C-49 proposes the creation of three new specific indictable offences to more effectively and comprehensively address all forms of trafficking in persons, irrespective of whether it occurs wholly within Canada or involves cross-border movement.

The main offence of trafficking in persons would prohibit anyone from engaging in the acts therein specified, such as the recruitment, transportation, harbouring or control of the movements of another person for the purpose of exploiting that person or facilitating the exploiting of that person. This new offence would carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment where it involves kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault or causes the death of a victim. It would carry a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment in all other cases.

The second proposed offence would apply to persons who seek to profit from the trafficking in persons, even if they do not actually engage in the act specified in the main trafficking in persons offence. It proposes to prohibit any person from receiving a financial or other material benefit knowing that it results from the trafficking of another person. This offence would be punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The third new offence would prohibit the withholding or destruction of documents such as a victim's travel documents or documents that establish the victim's identity or immigration status for the purpose of committing or facilitating the trafficking of that person. This offence would carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Bill C-49's innovation applies not only in the proposal to create three new specific indictable offences to address all aspects of trafficking in persons, but also in the fact that these offences are built on the very essence of trafficking in persons. No matter what form the conduct may take, human trafficking is always engaged for the purposes of exploiting its victims, whether it is by forcing them to provide labour services, including sexual services, or services as a drug mule or human organ or tissue. Everything and all of it is for the purpose of exploiting that victim.

Accordingly, Bill C-49 includes a specific definition of exploitation that reflects this reality as well as the reality that victims may be forced to engage in such conduct, not only because they fear for their own safety but because they may fear for the safety of others such as members of their families.

However, we believe there is much to be gained by creating new Criminal Code offences that specifically target this conduct and that broaden the reach of our existing prohibition to comprehensively respond to all forms of human trafficking, whether they occur wholly within Canada or whether they involve some cross-border or international dimension.

Bill C-49 will more clearly and broadly define and address the type of conduct in question that we seek to prevent and we will more clearly and strongly denounce all forms of human trafficking. Bill C-49 will enable us to more clearly and directly name and respond to this heinous crime for what it really is, namely, human trafficking. Anyone who has ever heard victims of this tragedy speak of their experience will appreciate just how important this is to them, and so too it is an important and welcome innovation.

Bill C-49 will significantly enhance Canada's domestic laws against human trafficking. This will in turn support the broader international effort to combat trafficking. On that point, on the international scene, I am pleased to note that Canada, together with the international community, continues to support and enhance international collaboration in response to human trafficking.

Canada was among the first nations to ratify the UN convention against transnational organized crime and its supplemental protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children. These two instruments provide the widely accepted international framework for addressing the contemporary manifestation of human trafficking.

International protections against trafficking in persons offered by these instruments are themselves supplemented by numerous other international instruments, including the optional protocol to the UN convention on the rights of the child, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography that Canada ratified last month on September 14.

I note this instrument in particular because it is focused entirely on children, the most vulnerable of the vulnerable who are trafficked. While any form of human trafficking is incomprehensible and condemned, this is particularly true in the case of children. Behind each one of UNICEF's estimate of 1.2 million trafficked children is a child, a human face, an individual with a name and an identity, a vulnerable person who is completely dependent upon us, upon the global community, for protection of the most profound of rights, the right to life itself.

Bill C-49 is an important step forward in strengthening Canada's overall response to human trafficking. We recognize that more is required than just a strong legal framework and we are working to address the three P 's, to which I referred, across the whole of the federal government.

Over the past year, for example, a lot has been done to address the principle of prevention, including training for police, prosecutors, immigration, custom and consular officials on human trafficking. We held seminars in this regard in March 2004 and 2005, one of them being an international seminar itself, round tables involving government and non-governmental organizations to discuss prevention and best practices to address human trafficking, conferences in which I myself have participated, both nationally and internationally, and the development of public education materials including an anti-trafficking poster that is available in 17 languages and a pamphlet available in 14 languages. Both of these have been widely disseminated within Canada and through our embassies abroad through the internationalization prevention effort.

As well, we are continuing to work to provide better support and protection for the victims, including through Bill C-2, the protection of children and other vulnerable persons, which received royal assent on July 20, 2005. Bill C-2 enacted criminal law reforms that will facilitate the receipt of testimony by child victim witnesses and other vulnerable victim witnesses, including women. Once enforced, these reforms will significantly enhance the ability of the criminal justice system to respond to the unique needs of vulnerable victims, including trafficking victims.

Lastly, I would note that the federal interdepartmental working group on trafficking in persons, co-chaired by the Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs, continues to coordinate efforts to address human trafficking and is currently developing a comprehensive federal anti-trafficking strategy.

I believe that this interdepartmental working group, composed of representatives of 17 federal departments and agencies, is a clear illustration of how difficult it is to come up with a complete response to human trafficking, as well as a clear indication of how committed the federal government is to beefing up its overall response to this problem.

In conclusion, Bill C-49 will significantly improve our ability to address all forms of human trafficking, including trafficking that has international dimensions, as well as trafficking that occurs wholly within our country. It proposes, as I mentioned, the creation of specific offences prohibiting human trafficking, the imposition of severe penalties to better reflect the serious nature and impact of this form of criminal conduct on its victims and on Canadian society.

Together these new offences clearly and strongly denounce trafficking in persons and send a strong signal with regard to governmental, parliamentary, domestic and international condemnation of this global slave trade. Clearer and stronger prohibitions will mean greater protection for those who are the most vulnerable to being trafficked: women and children.

I appreciate and wish to emphasize the support that all members have expressed for Bill C-49 to date. I hope we can continue the spirit in common cause and commitment to expedite Bill C-49's passage because this is not a matter for a particular party or partisan cause. This is something in which we have united together on behalf of the trafficked victims and the most vulnerable, to provide for them the prevention and protection they deserve, and the accountability in terms of bringing the perpetrators to justice where warranted.

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3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think it is quite clear that I will be joining the majority of the House in supporting this piece of legislation.

The minister made a couple of comments that I found pretty intriguing, especially when he emphasized the importance of prevention. Prevention is a big thing in fighting crime. I do not think anybody will disagree with that. However, part of preventing crime is to make certain that the penalties for the crime committed are significant and will send a clear message to any perpetrator that it is not going to be accepted and the penalties will be rather severe.

I want to refer to the United States Congress passing the trafficking victims protection act, which created new laws criminalizing trafficking with respect to slavery, involuntary servitude and forced labour. It increased prison terms for all slavery violations from 10 years to 20 years and added life imprisonment where the violation involved the death, kidnapping or sexual abuse of the victim.

It is important to note that without serious penalties for these serious crimes, the exploitation and abuse may continue to happen. There would be no deterrent. In this legislation, I do not see any mandatory prison sentences which would send a clear message for human slavery, one of the worst crimes among all human rights that is occurring.

The minister says he truly believes prevention is a big thing with the government. I have a hard time believing that when the government would not support raising the age of consent. It makes absolutely no sense to me to say that we still allow grown men to have sex with 14-year-old children. That is not preventing problems; that is allowing problems to continue. Why are there no mandatory prison sentences and should there be, in his view? In my view, there definitely should be.