House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was energy.


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4:35 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, any time we get into this topic, as well as the similar topic of emergency services, we have an important debate on the balancing of concerns over the rights of human dignity, privacy and personal protection and the invasion of one's records. The main key is the educational aspect, the counselling and the training to explain when and why it is necessary, what the benefit of that would be and how it would prevent the crime.

I am sure that when people see what can happen in very serious circumstance, the types of people that have been targeted and the fact that this has already happened to 2.45 million people around the world, that these types of trade-offs would be necessary and people would choose it for their own protection.

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4:35 p.m.


Randy White Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be speaking to this in 40 minutes or so, but before I do that, I need to have a couple of questions answered. The penalties we see here in this bill are life, 10 years and 5 years, maximum. Members opposite know that in the courtrooms today these maximum penalties are being minimized, mainly because of the antics of the judges and lawyers in the courtroom.

I am very concerned. Just because government puts on maximum penalties does not mean that we are going to get tougher on these issues. It very likely means that life will go on in the courtroom the way we see it now. I am really reluctant to go with maximum penalties these days. I think we should be dealing with minimums. That goes for a lot of laws, such as drug laws and hit and run offences and so forth. I would like the hon. member to address that.

I also need some clarification about how most of the bill addresses the trafficking of people outside of Canada. I work with a lot of people who are being forced into working for drug gangs. They are being used as muscle, for driving cars, or for whatever the drug gang wants. The threats are that the gang will kill the person's brother, sister, mother, father or grandfather and so on. I just want to make sure for my own edification that this bill will surely cover those kinds of incidents as well as trafficking and prostitution outside the borders. We are into a new day and age when these drug gangs, which I will speak about in a few minutes, are coercing young people right out of school to work for them.

I would like those two questions answered before I get into this subject, because I really do not want to make any mistakes on where I am going with it.

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4:40 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the member asks two very good questions.

On the second question, definitely, the bill is designed for inside Canada and to stop trafficking of persons, whatever the reason for exploiting that person. If the particular type of activity the hon. member is talking about is not covered in this specific bill, then it is covered through other offences because obviously one of the things we are trying to stop is the exploitation of juveniles, whether it is for criminal activity such as drugs or sexual activity or any type of activity. It is definitely an objective to totally erase all those types of activities in Canada.

In relation to maximum and minimum sentences, I did address that a bit at the end of my speech. Perhaps I will repeat some of that. Setting a maximum sentence but not a minimum is not saying that the federal government is directing, which came up earlier in the day, or suggesting a particular level of severity for the courts and the judges. What it is saying is that there is a wide variety of options for the court because there is a wide variety of circumstances and a wide variety of punishments that would be fair. There is a wide variety of punishments that either would protect people from further harm or would lead to the rehabilitation of the offender. The government is not reducing or directing the courts. It is just saying that here is a wide horizon of options so the courts can treat every situation fairly.

As I said earlier, there have been examples where minimum sentencing has backfired. In a number of jurisdictions in the United States, minimum sentences ended up getting used as maximums. That meant a lot lighter sentence than the whole process was meant to provide. It ruled out a lot of other options for the courts in specific circumstances when a different option would have made more sense at the time.

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4:40 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me a chance to speak today on Bill C-49 so that the Bloc Québécois can state its position on this matter. This bill is of special interest to me in my capacity as status of women critic. This is a new job for me. The Bloc leader has asked me to be the status of women critic for the next session. I am also the social development critic. This is an important job as well because it is a matter of poverty, equity and quality of life.

Bill C-49 has to do with trafficking in persons. It is an alarming and revolting subject in some regards. It could also be said that the life story of abused people is deeply upsetting and morally unacceptable.

We know that some people profit from human misery—from the misery of certain people and cultures. Faced with these human tragedies, we as legislators must also do what we can and make our contribution toward a better understanding of how this Mafia-like crime works.

Today we offer our raised awareness and our understanding of this matter and the extent of the problem.

This is a complex subject with a number of aspects. Various people are involved. First there are those who are exploited: the women, children and men. Then there are the exploiters. Who are these people who profit from the situation? We know that there is a whole chain of activities from which a number of people benefit.

Today the Bloc Québécois considers Bill C-49 a step in the right direction, not just because it will provide a better framework for the drafters of the Criminal Code but also because it will make it possible to prosecute the people who benefit. There is a better definition of recruitment. It says, for example, how individuals are transported and how their housing makes it possible for the victims to be abused. This includes exploitation in the sex trade. That cannot be denied.

We were speaking earlier about trafficking in women. When a connection is drawn with prostitution, trafficking in women and children for the purposes of prostitution, we can see that we must be very vigilant about taking action with the Criminal Code. We must be better able to meet the needs of the people who are being exploited.

The purpose of this bill is to ban trafficking in persons. This means that those profiting from such trafficking will be doubly penalized. People have gone so far as to destroy or conceal I.D. in order to facilitate trafficking in persons.

All those who are involved in trafficking of persons will be prosecuted: those who are engaged in trafficking, those who receive financial gain from it, those who destroy or conceal identity documents in order to facilitate the offence of trafficking in persons. These are the ones who will be penalized the most heavily under the Criminal Code.

Under Bill C-49, anyone found guilty of trafficking in persons will receive a life sentence. There are also provisions for accomplices to a kidnapping, aggravated assault or sexual assault, or the death of a victim during the commission of the offence. They will be liable to a prison sentence of 10 years.

Any person who takes financial advantage of forced labour, which is another thing imposed on the victims of trafficking of persons, would be liable to a maximum 10 year sentence. Five years would also be a possibility for those taking possession of identity or travel documents belonging to a victim. Those destroying identity documents would also be liable to a prison sentence.

With this bill, a whole chain of individuals linked to the human trafficking trade will be far more heavily punished.

We know that the Minister of Justice tabled eight clauses on May 12, 2005. These very brief clauses will amend the law and create three new offences:

(a) create an offence of trafficking in persons that prohibits a person from engaging in specified acts for the purpose of exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of another person;

(b) create an offence that prohibits a person from receiving a financial or other material benefit that they know results from the commission of the offence of trafficking in persons;

(c) create an offence that prohibits concealing, removing, withholding or destroying travel documents—

The foregoing is part of the summary of the bill, which will amend the Criminal Code and create three new offences.

The bill also defines the concept of exploitation as it relates to human trafficking, for instance forcing a person to work or provide services, including services of a sexual nature, causing a victim to believe that their safety or that of a person close to them would be threatened if they failed to do what is required of them. The same goes for causing a person, by means of deception or the use or threat of force or of any other form of coercion, to have an organ or tissue removed.

These are the changes contained in the bill with respect to exploitation as it relates to trafficking in persons.

Human trafficking could be described as modern slavery. As we know, the first to be exploited are women and children, the most vulnerable in society. Also, on certain continents, the victims are individuals living in minimal conditions for survival.

Everyone involved in trafficking, be it to recruit, transport or house for the purpose of sexual or other exploitation, has to be punished. The victims are first deceived, and often coerced. This is taking place here, in Canada. It is reported that 800 persons are the victims of this kind of abuse in Canada every year. We thought this could not happen in our country, that it only happened in developing countries or in countries that turn a blind eye to trafficking in women, children and men. Such trafficking exists for all sorts of purposes; it may be for purposes of sexual exploitation or for labour purposes.

In 2000, the United Nations published a report on trafficking in women. Canada is said to be among the 30 top destinations. The countries involved are divided into countries of origin, transit and destination for this type of trafficking. We must therefore be extremely vigilant.

I am pleased to see the Criminal Code further strengthened today, so that something can be done about this. We are aiming for zero tolerance in terms of violence against women, but also with respect to human trafficking.

This also allows us to raise public awareness. This is modern-day slavery. Many might think that slavery existed in another century and that we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the end of racial exploitation. However, this type of slavery still exists today.

We know there were a number of events to celebrate the abolition of slavery, but this type of slavery still goes on today. In the context of globalization, the transfer of individuals takes place much more quickly and we know this type of trade is in demand.

Without a stringent Criminal Code, there is permissiveness. This allows traffickers or the mafia to set up in countries that are more lax.

In addition, the 2000 United Nations report on trafficking in women recommends that countries review their overly restrictive, even anti-immigration, approaches, as I was saying. Earlier someone asked what we could do to be more understanding with respect to this type of trafficking. Some people want to emigrate to other countries where living conditions seem better. We could stop granting so many temporary visas to tourists, instead of putting the brakes on real immigration possibilities for some.

This is a recommendation from the 2000 United Nations report on trafficking in women. It is a question of responsible immigration policies.

There is fertile ground for the growth and perpetuation of the exploitation of women. Victims should not be treated as illegal immigrants. This is an area that could be addressed much more proactively. It is a matter of having policies on illegal immigrants, not treating victims as illegal immigrants or criminals, but as women, children, even men who have been abused by people who are part of a mafia, who want to exploit them and who take all human dignity away from those who have suffered this abuse.

A 2005 report by the International Labour Organization estimated that at least 2.4 billion people in the world are victims of abuse, threatened physically or psychologically by their attackers. Their labour is also exploited.

Some of these people are threatened physically, are forced into prostitution or jobs in various sectors that are poorly paid, if at all. There is the construction sector, for instance, but also agriculture, in which some people from other countries work. Here too there are abuses in regard to working conditions and pay.

This entire work-related sector represents US$32 billion on a global scale. That is a lot of money. Who benefits? It is the companies that may pay a little less for clothing and all kinds of services and materials. At the same time, other people suffer the effects of reducing the cost of clothing or other things we use in our daily lives.

The report also emphasizes that forced labour can be abolished if governments and various national institutions take persistent, meaningful, political action. Bill C-49 can therefore be seen as part of a slightly more determined demonstration of their commitment to the abolition of certain conditions in which people live.

In addition, the legislation must be strengthened. The report states as well that governments should become involved in eradicating this kind of treatment of human beings. This concerns not just a country but the entire international community. According to the 2005 report of the International Labour Organization, we need to do more than simply encourage governments to change their laws and adopt policies to eradicate such treatment of human beings.

The report also calls for the creation of a global alliance. We cannot do this in isolation, each of us in our own corner. A global alliance is needed, involving all levels of government, employer and employee organizations, development agencies, financial institutions, civil society, research institutions and academics. It would be a grand coalition that could be much more vigilant on a number of social levels.

It is to be hoped that this scourge can be relegated to the past and ancient history. We hear that some countries have taken certain initiatives. For instance, the United States passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, which created new offences so that crimes in the criminal code could be punished more severely, as is now being done.

Moreover, the victims who cooperate with American authorities during the investigations are protected from deportation. The United Kingdom, France and Japan have also amended their legislation to include harsher provisions.

The fight against organized crime is also a step in the right direction. My colleague, the hon. member for Hochelaga, has worked very hard to get the government to come up with better targeted provisions against organized crime.

So, Bill C-49 is a good tool to prosecute those individuals involved in human trafficking. It is said that the fight against exploitation goes hand in hand with the fight against organized crime. Bill C-49 pursues that objective and it has the great virtue of broadening the scope of the tools available to prosecute individuals.

Criminal organizations engaged in human trafficking are first and foremost motivated by profit. The reversal of the burden of proof will facilitate the work of authorities and allow them to seize the property of individuals who are members of criminal organizations and who profit financially from the trafficking in persons.

The Bloc Quebecois has long been asking for the implementation of measures to fight organized crime more effectively. Last year, the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles introduced Bill C-242 to allow for the reversal of the burden of proof, which would compel an offender who is found guilty of an offence related to organized crime to demonstrate on the balance of probabilities that his assets were obtained in an honest and legitimate fashion.

That is one way to go a little further than the bill before us does. We must also target organized crime. Indeed, based on all the reading that I have done, organized crime is a pillar of this trafficking of children and women. There is money to be made in it.

On March 11, 2005, an opposition day, the Bloc Québécois went a step further by presenting a motion forcing the government to table a bill to amend the Criminal Code reversing the burden of proof as regards the proceeds of crime. In response to this motion, which the House passed unanimously, the federal government tabled Bill C-53. It is essential to waging real war on organized crime and money laundering and to righting the injustice that has too long allowed criminals to profit from trafficking in humans.

Therefore, the Bloc Québécois urges the government to keep its promises and allow Bill C-53 to quickly become a reality. This bill was introduced by my Bloc colleague, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.

As I said earlier, it is alarming and loathsome to see so many men, women and children being exploited. The theme of the 2000 World March of Women was poverty and violence, which are not too far removed from the consequences of human trafficking.

There was a committee on prostitution. Like the other parties, the Bloc will submit a report in committee about whether to decriminalize or legalize prostitution. I am not passing judgment on this important issue today. My colleague from Trois-Rivières has worked on this issue. She will tell the House about the various directions she would like to see taken with regard to this report. First, it will be subject to consideration in committee.

We must be careful when we talk about decriminalizing prostitution or drugs. It may encourage the prostitution of children, women and men. After the fall of the Soviet Union, for example, sex industry dealers engaged in the serious trafficking of women and girls from Russia and Poland to Germany and Western Europe.

Women, too often still minors, are terrorized, stripped of their papers and drugged. When they regain consciousness, they do not even know what city they are in. They are shipped from country to country like cattle. How can we ignore the many women and children all over the world who have disappeared? It is very troubling.

Today it is not only important to talk about the meaning of Bill C-49 but also to speak of all these victims and all these human dramas. I have seen a number of reports and programs on this. Very often families are affected. People go out in to the countryside telling young women they can get work in the textile industry or as hairdressers and promising them jobs. Not only are there no jobs, but they very often end up being sexually exploited.

Today there is a lot of misleading language being used. People often try to conceal the fact that this is slavery and not sexual freedom. There is a debate going on at present as to whether prostitution is a matter of free choice or nothing more than slavery. The committee that will study the report on the sexual exploitation of women will have to decide that.

There are 54 western countries, Canada among them, engaged in sex tourism and therefore controlling most of the “commodification” of women and children. So this is an issue of concern to all of us today.

I would have liked to have given more examples of these human dramas, but my time is up. I await my colleagues' comments and questions. I was very pleased to speak on this important matter.

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5:05 p.m.


Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Thank you, Madam Speaker, for allowing me to put a question to my colleague, the hon. member for Québec. I know that she is doing an outstanding job on status of women issues brought before this House. There are two bills in particular, namely Bill C-53, which is currently before the committee—I will have the opportunity to work on it in the coming months—and particularly Bill C-49, which I hope will be passed by this House and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness as soon as possible.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague the same question I asked of the previous speaker. I did not get a very clear answer from the department or from the member opposite. I know that my hon. colleague has done extensive work on this issue.

There is a clause in Bill C-49 that is of particular interest to us. I will quote it. It deals with causing:

—by means of deception or the use or threat of force or of any other form of coercion, to have an organ or tissue removed.

Under Bill C-49, this would be illegal and would be prosecuted under the Criminal Code as aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. I wonder if this will apply to the same extent to the whole issue of female circumcision.This is an issue that has been much publicized, without ever being settled. With this bill, could those who, directly or indirectly, commit this kind of aggravated assault on women be prosecuted? That was my question to the hon. member.

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5:05 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, we are talking about all those involved in the crime of trafficking in persons. Those who harbour them or participate in their trafficking will not be the only ones prosecuted under Bill C-49.

My colleague is giving me an opportunity to speak to the bill on female genital mutilation. This applies to everyone involved, not just the person performing this procedure, also called circumcision or infibulation, whether that person is the grandmother, uncle or cousin, everyone, especially the person who leaves Canada with the child and returns to the country of origin, is just as guilty and could be liable to imprisonment.

The bill before the House has the same scope as the one that was passed on female genital mutilation. I remember what a fight it was at first to have this practice included in the Criminal Code and to have it considered a criminal offence. It was not an offence in the past. Female genital mutilation was included in the Civil Code, but under assault. With this change to the Criminal Code I wanted to send a clear message. That is the important thing.

Quite often, in sentences handed down to those who commit such acts, the issue of respecting culture comes up. Culturally, this is accepted in some countries. I would argue that when someone comes here and wants to obtain Canadian citizenship, they need to respect certain values. We have to preserve the physical integrity of the body of the young girl on whom the excision would be performed, even though that young girl comes from another country, since she is now a Canadian citizen. Accordingly, this child was entitled to the same considerations as a Canadian-born girl.

I am very pleased with this bill. It addresses the whole system and all the ramifications of people who work in and profit from trafficking in persons.

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5:10 p.m.


Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-49, the act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to trafficking in persons.

These proposed reforms will strengthen Canada's response to this horrible crime, a crime that victimizes the most vulnerable. We know that children are disproportionately at risk of being trafficked. UNICEF has estimated that as many as 1.2 million children are trafficked globally each year. The International Labour Organization has estimated that of the 2.45 million people who are in situations of forced labour at any given time as a result of trafficking, 40% to 50% are children.

Children, along with women, are generally the primary victims of trafficking. In fact, they are almost exclusively the victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. The International Labour Organization estimates that 98% of those forced into commercial sexual exploitation are women and girls.

This estimate reflects just how susceptible the most vulnerable members of our society are to this crime. Although children are the most vulnerable to being trafficked for sexual exploitation, they are also forced into other kinds of work such as domestic labour, which often involves sexual abuse. In some parts of the world, children are also trafficked for their body organs, if we can believe it, or as child soldiers. These children are treated like objects to be owned, used, sold, mistreated and abused.

Children's evolving capacity and dependency make them the most vulnerable members of society. They are at a much higher risk of being exploited and abused, and those who suffer socio-economic and other disadvantages are at an even greater risk. No child should have to suffer like that.

I understand that Canada is actively engaged, both domestically and internationally, in the fight against trafficking. I am convinced that our efforts put us on the right track. We must continue to be at the forefront of this global effort.

Canada's ratification on September 14 of the optional protocol to the convention on the rights of the child, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, is one example of this government's commitment to protecting children from trafficking and other forms of abuse and exploitation. Bill C-2, which received royal assent this past July, is another example.

Bill C-49 contains criminal law reforms which, once enacted, would expand the availability of existing testimonial aids to children as well as to other vulnerable victims and witnesses to ensure that such victims can provide a full and candid account.

I am proud to rise today to support Bill C-49, which proposes three new offences that will specifically target trafficking in persons. It will strengthen our ability to hold perpetrators to account for treating others in a way that is unfathomable and abhorrent to Canadian society and the world. These reforms will offer law enforcement additional tools to combat trafficking-related conduct and will assist in protecting victims by denouncing and deterring this heinous practice.

The proposed new reforms would create a main offence of trafficking in persons, prohibiting anyone from engaging in specified acts such as recruiting, transporting, harbouring or controlling the movements of another person for the purpose of exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of that person. It would be punishable by a maximum penalty of life imprisonment where it involves the kidnapping, aggravated assault or aggravated sexual assault or death of the victim and to a maximum of 14 years' imprisonment in any other case.

I note with approval that exploitation would be a key element of the trafficking offence. Exploitation is really the aspect that makes this crime so reprehensible. I support this approach, as it would clarify that our criminal law sanctions severely those who would exploit others for their own gain.

Two additional offences would also be created, one prohibiting anyone from receiving a financial or other material benefit for the purpose of committing or facilitating the trafficking of a person, punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment, and the second prohibiting the withholding or destruction of documents, such as a victim's travel documents or documents establishing their identity, for the purpose of committing or facilitating the trafficking of that person, punishable in this case by a maximum penalty of five years.

I am convinced that this bill, once enacted, will assist law enforcement in holding to account those who would traffic children to exploit them for sexual or other purposes. It will help us deter this type of conduct and, in so doing, it will help us protect vulnerable children. I hope all hon. members will support Bill C-49.

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5:15 p.m.


Randy White Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to talk about the things that we support in Bill C-49. I am going to relay to members of the House and people listening across this country some situations that I have been involved with that involve exploitation. They are not situations involving the exploitation of somebody outside the country; it is the exploitation of somebody here in our country.

What I am about to describe happens all the time to young girls and boys in Canada. I am going to tell the House about a young man who was in grade 11 who was approached by a gang of bottom dwelling thugs who sell drugs. These thugs approached him with bats and golf clubs and said that they would not only beat him but they would thoroughly and resoundingly pound his younger brother and sister and grandmother if he did not join them. I am telling this story for the first time and everything is absolutely factual. This young man decided to go with this gang because he did not want his family harmed. He was taken away to a home in the city and tortured. He was deprived of sleep and food and was beaten quite resoundingly.

They said that he was now a member of their gang and that he would be the muscle, meaning he would collect drug bills. It is also the most dangerous job one could get in a gang that sells drugs. Normally the people who owe the gang are delinquent. When someone as the muscle goes to collect from them, that person may be harmed, shot or any other such thing.

This young fellow managed to get away from that group. He went into hiding. He thought he was safe. He went out a little while later and the gang got him again. They beat him resoundingly. I am talking about a 16 year old.

It is said that once people are in a gang in Canada they are in it forever.

The gang assigned to this young fellow a debt owed by another fellow who worked for the gang who had been picked up by the police and lost $3,000 worth of drugs. He was told he must pay this debt. He could not pay it of course. He was not paid for being muscle because he was in fact coerced into going with them.

The young fellow got away from them a second time, but the third time he was not so lucky. They tortured him. They burned his hand thoroughly with a knife blade right through his hand. He is currently in hiding.

Why do I relay this story? This is not about somebody we are shipping out of this country. This is something that is happening to children every day in Canada. This is not an isolated story. This is about what I call bottom dwelling thugs who think they can run our communities by stealing our kids off the street and threatening them and getting them into the drug trade. Once they are into the drug trade, they eventually are wanted by the police or other drug dealers. The police do not know any different. As far as they know the individual is in the drug trade.

This young man was forced into that. He has never done drugs. He has never gotten into trouble at school. He has passed every year. But now he cannot get into school because he poses a risk to the other students should he go back in and the gang tries to get him.

If we talk about exploitation of our children, we had better wake up to the fact that they are being exploited in our communities by people who think they should run our communities their way. This happens a lot in Vancouver. It happens in every city across the country. There are people who do not deserve to be outside; they deserve to be in jail, quite frankly. They are exploiting our children. When children go missing and we cannot understand it, we should not first think that they got into drugs and left home. There could very well be other reasons, such as they have been taken by a gang and coerced into doing what they are doing. In fact, they may even be protecting their families because as far as they know great damage would come to their families and their siblings should they not do what they are told to do. This is serious. This bill on exploitation of people had better cover this.

My question earlier to colleagues on the other side asked whether or not the maximum penalties would be a decent deterrent. My concern is that we will end up like we do on a lot of the drug issues, that these kinds of issues will end up in court and the judge will issue some minor penalty.

One might ask why this young fellow did not go to the police. Well, he did, of course. The comment from the police was that he should leave town and finish grade 12. Why was that comment made? Because if the gang members ended up going to court, they would likely get little or no penalty and would come looking for him. The police suggested that he leave town. That is just unacceptable. What that is saying is that we have lost confidence in the court system to issue adequate penalties to these bottom dwelling thugs who will only go back and make life miserable for this young man and his family. This is unacceptable.

We have lost confidence and the police have lost confidence in our judicial system to administer the justice system, to add deterrents for people like that. That is why I say there is a serious problem. The maximum penalties, if the judges issue minor penalties, we might as well kiss them goodbye when these young people come to us and say they need help. They will not come forward, as this young man does not want to, because they do not believe they can get help.

I am sincere when I say this to members on the other side. This is a good bill, but my concern is that if there are no minimum penalties for such disgusting behaviour by these bottom dwelling thugs, nothing is going to happen. They are going to continue to take kids off the street and abuse them.

This young fellow has been in hiding for five or six weeks now. He cannot stay there forever, but he is afraid to come outside. What do these thugs do? They do not wait for him to come and join them, they go get other children. They get another one, and if that does not work out, they will get another one. When does it become our children that they get? At what point do we say they cannot have any of them, that it is they who have to leave the community? This has got to stop.

I hope this bill is a good bill, I sincerely do, but we must give confidence to these young men and girls who are being exploited in their own communities to be muscle or to drive those drug cars. It happens all the time. What I related to members is not an isolated incident. I can tell members about the young girl who was in a crack house being exploited by 30 and 40 year old men. When her mother went to the police and said she had to get her daughter out of there, they said, “The age of sexual consent is 14. She can stay. She is 15 years old”. The mother could not go get her. They went to welfare, who said to send her over and they would give her a cheque. What kind of answer is that?

The problem lies in the confidence, or the lack thereof, in our justice system. I am not trying to make politics out of this. I have been in and out of these courtrooms for 13 years with victims of crime. I know what I am talking about. We do not have confidence in the judicial decisions any more. I have seen it in hundreds of cases related to the growing of marijuana. I have seen it in dozens of cases related to crystal meth. I have seen it with James Armbruster, who had 63 prior convictions before he raped yet another woman in my riding. One of those convictions was for raping his grandmother. Do we have confidence in those judges who should have put that person behind bars after 10, 15, 30, 40, 50 or 60 convictions?

Maximum penalties are not doing the trick. We in this House have an obligation to put an end to the tyranny of these drug gangs and these frequent and consistent repeat offenders.

I think I got my message across. I hope those who are watching outside of this House send e-mails to acknowledge their frustrations with the court system that is not addressing the problem. This young man needs help. So do the young men and women who are being coerced into these drug gangs every day. We have been looking at this wrong.

I spent a lot of time with people involved in drugs. Often people say, “Well, another kid gone bad. He must be doing drugs, breaking the law”. I did not realize the extent to which they are being forced to be involved in these drug gangs, until now. I have run across it a number of times. I know what we are addressing here but what is bothering me and what we must keep in mind is that trafficking of people is going on in our communities as I speak.

I can talk about high schools and their sex clubs. Does everybody know what a sex club is? A sex club is young girls doing tricks in high school. They do a trick and they get a cap or they get a joint laced with meth or whatever they are looking for. They do not see this as prostitution. It is seen as a one on one trade but it is exploitation as its worse. These young kids may think it is trade but they get the worst deal of all: a life of addiction. This kind of stuff is exploitation. It is not just grabbing a child or somebody off the street and sending them to China or some other country. Exploitation is going on in our schools every day.

We have a minority government situation. It really is incumbent upon all of us to quit with the partisan politics. We need to start listening and if this is the case and it is in our communities, and it is, then we need to do something about it. I sincerely hope this bill addresses it but I fear it will not. I am leaving the House of Commons but I hope those left after me will think of this and keep on top of it because this young man today needs our help. He has no confidence, nor do I or the police, that a judge is going to give it to him.

By the way, after the lawyer, who is paid by the known drug gang, gets through defending these thugs that is when the plea bargaining starts, the deals are made and the judge says that he knows the poor little boy kidnapped somebody and forced the person to deal drugs but he had a bad upbringing. We have to forget that kind of story. These people are hauling our kids out of school. One of the conditions these people have is that they cannot go to school.

Who are these people? Who in the name of blue blazes do these people think they are? Do we not run this country? Are we not in charge? Is someone not capable of hauling these people off the streets and doing something with them?

I support the bill but I sincerely hope the government moves away from this business of maximum penalties. I have seen too much for too long to have confidence that it will be applied appropriately. There are too many people counting on us to do better.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

September 26th, 2005 / 5:35 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick


Claudette Bradshaw LiberalMinister of State (Human Resources Development)

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Pursuant to Standing Order 73, I would like to inform the House that it is our intention to propose that Bill C-53, an act to amend the Criminal Code (proceeds of crime) and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make consequential amendments to another act, be referred to committee before second reading.

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5:35 p.m.


Randy White Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I believe the member opposite said Bill C-43. I am not sure there has been any consultation on this side so at the moment I am inclined to disagree with that.

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5:35 p.m.


Claudette Bradshaw Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

It goes to second reading automatically.

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5:35 p.m.


Randy White Conservative Abbotsford, BC

If it goes to second reading automatically maybe she does not need the point of order. However unless I hear differently from the other side I am going to oppose it.

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5:35 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I believe my hon. colleague said Bill C-53.

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5:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

My understanding is that the minister referred to Bill C-53. It is my understanding that it is the prerogative of the government to move this forward.

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5:35 p.m.


Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

With no unanimous consent required?

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5:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

No unanimous consent is required.

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

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5:35 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.


Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's comments. He has a great deal of experience in these areas.

We know that organized crime is parasitic on society. We also know that it is the trafficking of drugs, people, guns and alcohol which drives the economics of organized crime. One of the best ways to attack organized crime and reduce it is to attack its financial underpinning. The question then is how we do that.

We know that the United States has adopted RICO-like amendments, racketeering, influence, corruption organization amendments. We also know that the Government of Canada has adopted similar amendments.

With respect to the scourge of crystal meth that the hon. member and indeed all of us are consumed with, we have done something quite innovative. The Minister of Justice has decided to put the precursor chemicals that are used to make crystal meth on a schedule. These are things that are commonly found in cough medicines, such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. By putting those elements on the schedule it forces those who wish to import and export these substances to acquire import-export permits which will allow our police to address, attack, apprehend and convict those individuals.

On the issue of human trafficking, which has to do with prostitution, would the hon. member think that legalizing and regulating prostitution would be a way to actually address the issue of prostitution, particularly for those individuals who are under age and are caught up in the prostitution rings? These are people involved in prostitution because of substance abuse or psychiatric problems, bearing in mind that 50% of prostitutes in this country are actually aboriginal women, some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

If prostitution were legalized and regulated in Canada would my colleague think that would go a way to addressing the problem of the pimps and organized crime members and a way in which we could reduce and eliminate under age individuals becoming involved in the system? This would enable prostitution to hopefully be healthier so that the individuals engaging in this activity will have better health.

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5:40 p.m.


Randy White Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, my oh my, when is this going to stop?

We have a government with this mentality that legalizing drugs or legalizing prostitution will take care of the problem. Legalizing prostitution does not take care of the problem.

Prostitution is an offence against women. This is what it is. Ask any mother if she thinks the legalizing of prostitution is a good idea for her daughter. I cannot believe the mentality of somebody saying that legalizing prostitution will fix it. Has the member never been to Holland? Has he never watched that disgraceful sideshow of women standing in storefronts and people outside staring at them?

What is with this mentality that if drugs are legalized they will go away? Does the government think that if it legalizes marijuana the criminals will pack up their bags and go to some other country? These criminals are going to feed our kids meth, ecstasy and everything else.

I am disappointed in that question because I think the member already knew my answer to it. Prostitution is the abuse of women. It is not an issue to be legalized. Let us get it right.

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5:40 p.m.


Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for a very well put message with regard to the safety of our youth and as a matter of fact the safety of a lot of people.

I have many small towns in my riding with police detachments. I went to these detachments through the summer and I was shocked to find the number of confiscations of goods, drugs, guns, knives and paraphernalia for this and that taken out of the hands of small town residents in Alberta over this last little while.

Police have expressed to me their strong concern about the safety for all concerned, especially the youth but even about themselves. They feel that society as a whole seems to have turned its back on them as being a substance of protection. They are constantly being abused verbally by these organizations outfits. It is getting to be a very serious problem. It is not just in big city Canada. Crystal meth, this lacing of marijuana with this drug and the lacing of ecstasy is all across the country.

All of these things are getting out of control. I do not think the government understands that it is in our small communities.

I want to talk about a young fellow who is in trouble. I had a family from New Brunswick phone my riding telling me about a young fellow who came to my riding to work in the mountain parks region. They were quite concerned because they had not heard from him and had reported him missing. I went to visit the police and they began to look for this young fellow. The police found him but he was in hiding. He was hiding from people who were after him because of his involvement with drugs and underground goods. The police are keeping his whereabouts quiet for his own safety.

I wonder what the member thinks about all this. Do we want to live in a country where we need to hide our children or have them protected by the police so no one gets to them or do we put those who might get to our children behind bars where they darn well belong? We had better start acting like it.

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5:45 p.m.


Randy White Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, one of these gangs, another little gang, kidnapped a young man from his car and threw him into a van. They got into a high speed chase with the police, smacked into another van and killed an innocent lady at an intersection. The van contained guns and drugs. They all ran away from the scene of the accident and left her to die.

I was in the courtroom when these guys appeared before a judge and three of the four gang guys got off and the driver got dangerous driving. There was no charge for the gun and no charge for the drugs because they were smart enough to know that if they said it on the floor somewhere the lawyers would say that they did not know it was there.

That is why when there is a crack house the drugs and the guns are usually right across the street so that they keep an eye on them. If there is a drug bust the police do not associate one with the other and the lawyers get them off.

In court a lawyer asked the young man who was kidnapped what he did and he said that he delivered. He was then asked what he delivered and he said that he delivered drugs . He was then asked whether he liked it and he said that he did not and that his supervisor had put him on the evening shift. We could have sworn that he was talking about pizza deliveries. He was then asked how he felt about delivering drugs and he said that they needed it. He completed disassociated himself from this.

That is the attitude going on out there. Our lawyers have to stop defending bottom dwellers like this. They have to sit down with prosecutors and say that they have a common problem and try to resolve it, instead of trying to get anyone off who will pay them. There is a bad attitude in these courtrooms and it has to change.

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5:45 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank you for allowing me to participate in this important debate on Bill C-49, which is clearly on a timely topic, trafficking in persons.

A few years ago, we were concerned about cross-border crime. Moving forward, we have realized that there is now something that is just as great a concern, namely trafficking in persons. The United Nations has set up a special working group on trafficking in persons. It has determined that about 15 million people a year could be subject directly or indirectly, within various migratory flows, to trafficking or the sex trade or exploitation.

This is therefore a very important question. During my speech, I will have occasion to refer to a document on sex workers and prostitution that was provided to us in connection with our work on the Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws, created by the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. This document was produced by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and also the RCMP. It is a joint classified document which we obtained through our clerk. It is very interesting because it is a matter of costs and large international circuits with consequences on the human level and for national security. “National security” is used here in reference to illegal immigration into Canada.

I would like to start by thanking two fellow citizens who came to see me in September. I am speaking of Danielle Julien who works for Franciscans International, an NGO that has followed very closely the entire international migration question as well as trafficking in women and, more especially, their exploitation. Franciscans International has come up with a document that is very well done called Handbook on Human Trafficking. It explains in a very educational way the issues surrounding human trafficking. I was extremely surprised to learn that Canada had not ratified.

Today, we are talking about Bill C-49, an extremely important bill, which the Bloc Québécois supports. Our party's justice critic, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, said so this morning, and I believe the member for Québec, our status of women critic, reiterated our position. I was extremely surprised to learn that the government has not ratified the 1949 convention on the traffic of persons. It is cause for serious concern to now have a bill on such issues when Canada could have done so much more in international tribunals. A number of countries have ratified this convention, but not, unfortunately, Canada.

There are a number of tools. I want to list a number of conventions, including the one entitled “Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others”. This convention dates back to 1949, very early in the history of the United Nations, which was established in 1945. Nearly five years after the UN was created, in an already multilateral framework, member countries were taking an interest in the issue of human trafficking. Most people know, and we must admit it, that we are referring here to the trafficking of women.

It is quite incredible; I could not believe my ears. When the Franciscans came to my office in early September to talk to me about this issue, they told me that Canada had not ratified this convention. I hope that someone will explain why. I hope that the parliamentary secretary and other MPs on the government side will tell us why Canada has not ratified this convention.

I have a list here of the countries that did ratify that convention in 1949: they include Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Cyprus, Congo, Ivory Coast, Dominican Republic and Egypt. A number of countries have ratified it, but Canada still has not.

Fortunately, even if Canada has not ratified the 1949 convention, it has ratified another extremely important document, the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against transnational organized crime.

The document I referred to earlier, a joint effort by the RCMP and Citizenship and Immigration Canada, provides a sort of ranking as far as trafficking in persons is concerned. We know that there are four countries in the world that might be called high immigration volume countries, and one of these is of course Canada. We receive between 220,000 and 240,000 immigrants yearly. On October 1 each year, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has to disclose the planned quotas for immigrants.

I will point out in passing that Canada specializes more in economic immigration. The main interest is in independent workers, investors and family helpers. That is economic immigration and basically accounts for over 75% of those who immigrate to Canada.

So, we have four countries with a large volume of immigration: Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

Another aside: Canada and Quebec have not made the same choice as far as models for integration are concerned. Canada has opted for multiculturalism, which means that people who have chosen Canada, whether they come from Poland, Spain, Senegal, Côte-d'Ivoire or the Dominican Republic, can maintain their culture of origin but must participate in the great melting pot of the ideology that is multiculturalism.

In Quebec, because Quebec is a francophone society with a particular historical responsibility, we have not opted for multiculturalism. We have opted for a common public culture. Quebec selects approximately 40% of its immigrants. It selects mainly those who come here to work. We will select a few refugees in camps outside their own country, but essentially this is also economic immigration.

Of course, in a sovereign Quebec, we will be fully aware of the importance of selecting our immigrants. I will make another digression here. I do not want to get too far away from the issue, because this is not what my comments are about. However, one of the modern reasons why Quebec should achieve sovereignty is to able to select its immigrants. Quebec needs immigration. We have a tradition of opening our doors to immigrants and of being generous with them. It goes without saying that since Quebec does not have a fertility rate that allows for the natural reproduction or replacement of its population, it needs immigration. In a sovereign Quebec we will set up extremely generous policies to select, welcome and integrate immigrants, based however on a common public culture.

The former poet, the late Gérald Godin, who was the MNA for Mercier, and who was very appreciated in sovereignist circles, and whom the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst knew, used to say that there are one hundred ways to be a Quebecker, but that these one hundred ways all had a common denominator, namely the French language.

This is why we rejected the multiculturalism model. We are saying that one can choose Quebec, but to do so is to participate in the common public culture. That participation is achieved through a communication vector, namely the French language. That was my short digression, which of course is totally non partisan. We are all aware of the level at which our debates should take place.

So, I am now getting to the issue of human trafficking, which is an extremely important issue, at least as important as the trafficking of goods or the illegal transborder trade. The UN set up a task force in which Franciscans International, as an NGO, is recognized as a stakeholder. I looked for some figures for Canada.

I remember that when the committee was working on the issue of prostitution, we were looking for figures. It is not easy to get an assessment on such an issue.

I obtained a confidential and protected document prepared in 2002 by Immigration Canada and the RCMP. I am referring to the first paragraph, on page 6, which says: “Over a five year period, about 13% of improperly documented arrivals that came to Canada or that were intercepted en route to Canada were directly related to a trafficker or an escort”.

This means that 13% of the people who entered Canada in various ways, by air, sea or land, did not have a passport or official travel documents, and of course, did not have a visa permitting them to enter.

A little further along in the document, the RCMP and Immigration Canada make the following assessment: “If only the people arriving by airplane are considered, this proportion rises to 25.1%.”

A look at the literature on illegal immigration will show that, for Canada, it is about 10,000 people a year. This is not an insignificant number. As lawmakers, we have good reason to be concerned about this.

There is another more humanitarian consideration. We know that there are people all over the world going through upheavals in their countries: genocide, the overthrow of the political regime, famines. They are going through terrible times. Therefore they want to leave their countries. What would we do if we were in their shoes, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, or Niger, or certain countries in Africa where people cannot survive on $1 a day? We should ask ourselves the question. It is possible that we too, as human beings, would be tempted to want to improve our fate and leave our country of origin. It is not unpatriotic to want to improve one's fate.

It should be understood that in terrible situations like those I just described, people are vulnerable and put themselves in the hands of traffickers. This is why there is illegal international immigration. People take advantage of the misfortune and unhappiness of others. They demand money and hold out the possibility of coming to live in a third country. In my example, of course, we are speaking of Canada.

The document from the RCMP and Immigration Canada estimates the amount that is asked from these poor people living in anguish. I would like to quote from the document: “The fees paid by migrants to enter Canada are high. They are said to be rising. The cost depends on the means of transportation and the market. According to illegal migrants, the fees vary between US$20,000 and US$50,000.”

US$50,000 is easily C$70,000.

“Few clients are able to amass the necessary funds by liquidating their personal assets, and even fewer are prepared to risk such a large sum by paying the full price before reaching their destination. A portion of the cost of human smuggling, perhaps as little as 10% to 20%, is paid in advance. The rest is collected upon delivery to the final destination.”

Remember that we are not talking about goods here but rather about human beings.

“Partial payments of the price for smuggling may be demanded at various stages of the journey.”

That is why Bill C-49, which the Bloc Québécois supports, is so important. From now on, the Criminal Code will set out sanctions and offences. Smugglers found guilty of such a crime could face life in prison. Document forgers may easily face 10 years in prison.

When the UN Commission on Human Rights last met, for example, it mandated a special rapporteur to report before the next UN general assembly. So this is an extremely important issue that deserves the full attention of parliamentarians.

I was saying earlier that Canada has not ratified the 1949 convention. I hope that someone will tell me why. I do not understand how this bill can be adopted here, by parliamentarians, when, in a multilateral forum, a convention dating back to the early years of the UN has not been ratified.

This convention was important nonetheless, however, because it created a legal system to fight the traffic of persons and the exploitation of the prostitution of others, now called procuring, by individuals serving as intermediaries. Procuring feeds on prostitution. The convention made it a crime to arrange for or profit from the prostitution of others.

This system affects women, children and some men, but obviously this reality applies mainly to women.

Canada's ratification of the 1949 convention must be a source of concern. As Franciscans International pointed out to me, it is extremely embarrassing when NGOs are working with the UN Human Rights Commission, for example, and there is talk of a bill, like Bill C-49 or Bill C-2 in the past, yet the convention has not been ratified.

I will say something about the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. That protocol contains something of interest, something that is in fact basic: the whole issue of victim consent. This protocol is an important tool.

For the first time, this protocol gives a definition of the phenomenon which consists of abuse of authority, as well as one for victim consent. We know that traffickers often make use of threats, blackmail, constraints, kidnapping, fraud, trickery, false promises, swindles and abuse of authority. The trade exists because of these ingredients.

This protocol, which has been ratified by Canada, is one of the means that has been used where victim consent, whether freely given or invalid, cannot be used as a pretext to excuse some action by a smuggler.

In other words, the mere fact that these means have been used is sufficient in itself to bring the law into play, regardless of the victim's wish or acceptance of the exploitation.

In closing, let me say that this is a bill supported by the Bloc Québécois and dealing with an extremely significant phenomenon. The entire Bloc Québécois parliamentary team will work diligently to help it pass.

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6:10 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, it is interesting to hear the member's commentary on the immigration differences in Quebec versus the rest of Canada. I was a little concerned that there was maybe a little too much attention on trafficking. I still have some difficulty with the idea of trafficking in persons as opposed to exploitation of persons because we have international as well as domestic exploitation in so-called trafficking. The issue of concern to me is whether there are the means and the resources available to those who have to defend and enforce the laws that we pass. The member will well know that it is not always federal authorities. It is very much provincial authorities and these have been problems in the past.

Many members today have dwelt on sentencing issues. That is a whole other area and I do not want to go there. I am a little concerned about the resources and the means of the provincial policing authorities to defend and protect people and to prevent these crimes as well as to deal with those who are found to be guilty of some of these horrendous offences.

Would the member care to offer any comments about the supports and the interaction it would need at all levels of government and policing authorities to ensure a bill like this is effective?

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6:10 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, I think this is an important issue. I agree with my colleague. Trafficking in women is necessarily exploitation, but there are types of exploitation that are different than trafficking in women. This is without a doubt a nuance that I should have made in my speech. Clearly, the focus was on trafficking in women.

I would say to my colleague that there are some who think the entire family aid worker and domestic help program is a form of exploitation that should not be encouraged, but that is a whole other debate.

It is true that when 200,000 to 240,000 new immigrants arrive, there is a chance that a number of irregularities will work into the system. I believe Citizenship and Immigration Canada has conducted studies that found that, just like in all the major social programs, no more than 10% of people are guilty of fraud or have broken some provision or other of the legislation. I would not want anyone to think there is an automatic link between immigration and fraud. Let us be clear that most people who get a visa, a work permit or a study permit respect the terms of these various permits.

I also understand from the latest performance review of Citizenship and Immigration that law enforcement provisions have been enhanced. My colleague is absolutely right to try and ensure that deportation measures are applied whenever people are illegally detained in Canada.

I will conclude by saying that we need to think about the Immigration and Refugee Board, which has long epitomized patronage for the various governments that have been in place. The Immigration and Refugee Board has not always been diligent or efficient in determining refugee status. This certainly has something to do with the fact that some people who have been here in Canada for five, six, seven years have rebuilt their lives. When they are told that under the Geneva Convention they are not real claimants, it is difficult for them to leave. Something needs to change in the way refugee status is determined.

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6:15 p.m.


Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my learned colleague, the hon. member for Hochelaga, on his brilliant presentation. If I may, I would like to briefly go back to the fact that, in 1949, Canada did not ratify a UN convention.

I was wondering if, after almost 50 years, we would make up for this delay with Bill C-49, which the Bloc Québécois is asking the House to pass as quickly as possible.

I am putting the question to my colleague. In his opinion, why is it that Canada did not fulfill its obligations towards the UN in 1949 and that today, almost 60 years later, it is tabling a bill that is essential to protect the public? What the public wants is that such a bill be adopted at the earliest opportunity.

I wonder if my colleague could provide me with an answer, following the meetings that he had over the summer regarding this legislation.