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House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was land.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2005 / 3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-49, an act to amend the Criminal Code, trafficking in persons. The bill is unquestionably an important step toward protecting the vulnerable and is also a reflection of the government's commitment to ensuring Canadians clearly recognize and strongly denounce the practice of human trafficking.

Bill C-49 demonstrates the government's commitment to these priorities as it introduces indictable offences to address the horrible human rights violation that is human trafficking.

The main offence related to the trafficking in persons would essentially prohibit 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. Under Bill C-49, this offence becomes punishable up to life imprisonment depending on the severity and the harmfulness the trafficking caused the victims and Canadian society.

Bill C-49 would not only protect the vulnerable but it would also serve to deter those who seek to profit from the exploitation of others by making it an offence to receive a financial or material benefit knowing that it results from the trafficking of persons. An individual found guilty of this offence could face up to 10 years imprisonment for their involvement in trafficking.

Bill C-49 proposes to forbid the withholding or destroying of travel or identity documents in order to commit or facilitate the trafficking of persons. Involvement in this type of conduct would be punishable by a maximum of five years imprisonment.

Recently in a report released on May 11 by the international labour organization, it was estimated that 2.45 million people around the world are forced into labour conditions as a result of human trafficking. Who are the primary victims? They are women and children. UNICEF has estimated that 1.2 million children are being trafficked around the world each year.

Numbers like these demonstrate the magnitude as well as the urgency of strengthening both domestic and international measures to combat human trafficking. It is our duty to ensure that we have the best response possible to this horrible crime that violates the most basic human rights.

Bill C-49 would strengthen Canada's legal framework by building upon existing local and global responses to human trafficking. Currently, there are many international mechanisms that respond to human trafficking, including the most recent one which is the United Nations Conventions Against Transnational Organized Crime and its supplemental protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children. These offer a widely accepted international framework for addressing this issue. Bill C-49 more clearly reflects this framework.

Canada's approach, as it is stated in Bill C-49, focuses on the prevention of trafficking, the protection of its victims and the prosecution of the offenders. The reforms proposed by Bill C-49 send a direct message to those who seek to exploit the most vulnerable members of our society through this intolerable form of conduct.

Bill C-49 would strengthen Canada's current responses to trafficking by building upon existing provisions in the Criminal Code and would also complement the provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that look to prevent Canada's border from being breached by human trafficking smugglers.

The government is also working to address human trafficking in a non-legislative manner as well. In April 2004 the Department of Justice launched a website on trafficking persons. This website provides important information for the public describing the problems and providing related links.

Education and awareness are moving forward through the development within Canada and to Canadian embassies in the form of posters and information pamphlets which are both available in 14 different languages.

Training and education about human trafficking began with a training seminar in March 2004. This program was co-hosted by the Department of Justice Canada and the International Organization for Migration. A similar seminar was also hosted by the RCMP in May in Vancouver.

I support Bill C-49 because it demonstrates our commitment to bringing human trafficking to an end. The bill serves to protect millions of women and children and would hold traffickers accountable. I hope all members recognize the importance of the bill and vote in favour of this important legislation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I noted from the comments of my colleague from Davenport that Bill C-49 proposes stiff penalties for those who would exploit women and children and in the trafficking of women and children.

What would be the application of Bill C-49 in a situation where the Government of Canada put immigration workers over in Romania and Budapest to seduce young women to come to Canada under the exotic dancer's visa and then to have these women imported by immigration lawyers in Toronto who own the strip clubs and have these women by the hundreds fall into what can only be categorized as sex slavery and human bondage?

Could the hon. member, as a representative of the government side, tell me how Bill C-49 would apply to this wholesale human trafficking that was the exotic dancers program with his government pimping for the underworld to import strippers who then get lost into pornography and prostitution by the hundreds? How would it deal with the mess that his government has created with its own trafficking of sex trade workers?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must say that I do have great respect for the member and his question but I fail to see the link. Maybe he could explain in a supplementary question if he wants to ask one.

I and I think most Canadians do not believe that the government is in any way, shape or form engaging in human trafficking. The facts suggest that it is a little absurd.

We have been working very strongly with international organizations with the UN Convention on Human Trafficking. Canada is a signatory to that protocol. We also work very strongly with our municipal officials and our provincial governments to ensure that does not happen in Canada. Canada is a great model for the rest of the world. We should be proud of this country and what it does to protect children and women.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, the question the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre asked was absolutely relevant. I think that the member for Davenport misunderstood it. Let me ask it again.

Much to our amazement, we learned yesterday, as we began debating this bill, that human trafficking is currently not subject to any legislation in this country. Consequently, we are wondering if there could actually be policies unwittingly promoting human trafficking.

I think this was the gist of what the member for Winnipeg Centre said. His point was that, when offshore labour is imported in response to a shortage—that is what this is about—like in the case of bars looking for exotic dancers and importing them from Rumania or elsewhere, these individuals often get mixed up with organized crime. That is the risk.

In trying to strike a balance with our own Canadian policies, has this ramification not been considered? In fact, are we not fostering this to some extent through our policies? I am talking about the Canadian government, of course. Is it not contributing to getting individuals, in this case exotic dancers, mixed up with organized crime?

I think that is what my colleague asked, and I am asking the same question.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have great respect for the opposition member who asked this question.

I have already pointed out how important this legislation is to Canadians and to the future of our country. I fully support this bill, as does everyone I hope.

In a sense, this bill is a step toward respect for the rights of the men and women of this country, that is every citizen of this country.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a brief follow up. The member for Davenport specifically cited aspects of Bill C-49 that had strict penalties for things like seizing the travel documents of foreign workers so that they cannot leave and forcing them into labour conditions that more resemble slavery.

I ask my colleague to reconsider his remarks. Surely he followed the Toronto Star and the widespread journalism coverage of specific bars in Toronto that had visitor work visas for exotic dancers but the women were in fact treated like sex slaves. These women had their travel documents taken away from them and they were forced into activities that they did not wish to go into, pornography and prostitution, and their wages were withheld. It was human bondage.

Will my colleague at least concede that this has been an extended problem within his own jurisdiction in Toronto stemming from Canada immigration policies that have been at least enabling and facilitating the trafficking of human beings with the government's exotic dancer visa program?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe I already answered that question, although I am a little confused as to where the hon. member is going with that question.

I assume that he is in support of the bill that is before the House, as all members should be. It is an important bill that moves forward on certain United Nations conventions to which we have been a signator.

I do not see the relevance in the member's question. I hope the member is not suggesting in any way, shape or form that Canada is engaged in human trafficking in the sex trade. I would be quite appalled if the member were in fact suggesting that is the direction this country is moving toward.

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3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are the ones who are surprised that the member for Davenport does not truly understand the scope of this bill. Sometimes, although its purpose may be different, a federal policy results in the admission of individuals to Canada who are victims of human trafficking, as defined in the bill. There is a good and fairly recent example of this; I am talking about the issue of strippers. I think that his government was forced to deal with this issue often enough in recent months.

Without meaning to or having that as our goal, we may encourage strippers to come from abroad, for example, and they are then subjected to the market demand facing this “workforce”—if one can call it that—in an industry where organized crime is very present.

Everyone knows that organized crime is heavily involved in the bar scene, particularly bars that have women dancers and I am not talking about artistic dancing. I am talking about strippers.

Organized crime goes hand in hand with human trafficking, as defined in this bill. That is what we are talking about here.

If the member is not able to answer the question, he should say so. That is okay. However, we will put it again to his government colleagues, who will have to answer it.

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3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for having repeated his question. I already explained the situation, and the great importance of this bill. I hope that everyone will vote in favour of it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will take this opportunity to speak to Bill C-49 to perhaps develop the concerns that I raised.

Let me preface this by saying that I am proud that Canada is taking on the global issue of trafficking in human beings. I had some experience with this as the immigration critic for my party when not too long ago boatloads of Chinese immigrants were washing up on the shores of British Columbia. To some consternation, there seemed to be waves of humans being smuggled, some 600 in total.

As we investigated this rash of illegal migrants, it became clear that they were being smuggled in a very organized and structured way by groups of Asian organized crime known as snakeheads. This is a reprehensible practice. People's hopes and ambitions were being exploited by these snakeheads who I suppose offered opportunities or hopes of a better life.

However that is only one example and that perhaps is a more benign example of the type of human trafficking that is a growing problem around the world.

In that case, those people were cheated and undertook a very dangerous practice of being smuggled across the seas, often in shipping containers, or through other methods where they could risk their lives. That was bad enough but the type of human trafficking, the type of modern day slave trade trafficking that is being contemplated by Bill C-49, is of another scale and dimension altogether. It is almost too horrible to imagine.

We recently saw a documentary on one of the news magazine programs in Canada. Some very good investigative journalism has been done showing how vulnerable young people are being seduced off the streets in places such as eastern Europe and some of the Asian countries with offers of opportunities, sometimes being misled and offered legitimate jobs in their destination country, and sometimes being overtly kidnapped and forced into this.

This used to be the stuff of dime store novels where we would hear this kind of thing happening. It is to our shock, horror and dismay to have to admit that in the year 2005 it is commonplace and in fact it is growing in practice. In developed nations, modern, contemporary countries such as Canada, it is incumbent upon us to lead the way by passing legislation that condemns this practice universally.

However the contradiction that I was trying to raise with my colleague from Davenport is that Canada has been enabling this very practice for years. Through three successive ministers of immigration, all very strong women, this practice was allowed to continue. I know for a fact that some of them tried to intervene and put a stop to the exotic dancer visa program.

One of the owners of the hotels, a famous immigration lawyer in Toronto who owns one of the strip joints, one of the biggest beneficiaries of this program, was actually interviewed by Immigration Canada. When asked about the condition of the employment of these women who were being called in to dance, he said, “Don't worry about it. Tell the minister that they are treated like fine race horses”. That was the Toronto immigration lawyer's attitude when asked to explain the terms and conditions of employment. In other words, he is keeping a stable of exotic dancers, of strippers.

We know that as many 500 of these women have been lost. They have literally slipped through the cracks at Immigration Canada. They were corralled in Romania and Hungary, where Canadian immigration officers, to enable the demand for these exotic dancers by Toronto immigration lawyers, were sent to actually recruit dancers. Taxpayers' money was spent for immigration officers to actually station themselves in Romania and sign up as many as 200 of these exotic dancer visa applicants at a time.

Then, when the women do in fact come to Canada, they find that over time their papers are taken away from them. This is the accusation made. We heard testimony to this effect on that news show which was recently broadcast. This would be a violation of and a crime under Bill C-49. As for their working conditions, they are told that their travel is restricted and they have to stay in a certain hotel. Often they are locked in certain hotel rooms, and exotic dancing leads to lap dancing, which leads to pornography and has led to prostitution, and then the women disappear.

This is horrific, whole scale, widespread exploitation of women that not only involves human trafficking but is modern day slavery. As for the fact that my own government, the Government of Canada, was facilitating this, I find it hard to get my mind around that. The fact that it was allowed to continue by otherwise progressive and feminist ministers of immigration is mind-boggling to me.

I have to rise and ask my colleague from Davenport how he squares that in his own mind. The Liberals have a Minister of Justice doing and saying all the right things internationally about trying to be at the leading edge in putting a stop to the international trafficking of human beings, whereas our own recent experience right up until a few months ago was that we were actually engaged in what I call the human trafficking and exploitation and sex slavery of women from East European countries.

God knows what happened to the 500 women who have disappeared. Maybe they have been smuggled out of the country again. That is most serious form of trafficking. Even if it was not illegal trafficking to get the women here, it certainly became illegal trafficking when they were moved across another border into the United States or God knows where.

There is an underworld that exists for this international trafficking of human beings and clearly that underworld exists in this country. I accuse that Toronto immigration lawyer of being part of that underworld. These people know who they are. They are very well known. They are in the Yellow Pages. I could tell this House their names, but I will not bother in this place because it is not worth the hassle of agitating lawyers.

In actual fact, Canada has been complicit in this international trafficking of human beings in recent years. I do not know if we have the right to be pious about our introduction of Bill C-49. When I raise this issue, it is not to be critical of the intentions and the goals of Bill C-49. These are laudable concepts. I would expect nothing else from a country such as Canada but to put in place perhaps the toughest human trafficking legislation in the world. I would be very proud.

There is one thing about Canada and our adherence to and ratification of international conventions and treaties. I have always been very proud that we do not ratify international conventions and treaties unless we actually intend to comply with and abide by them.

It has actually held us back in some respects. I have always been a little bit embarrassed that Canada has never ratified the international convention against child labour. Canada has not done that for specific reasons. In some of our prairie provinces it is not unusual for kids to be taken out of school at harvest time and seeding time to help their families around the farm. Even though we do not consider that child labour, that would be in slight violation of the literal interpretation of ILO convention 183 against child labour. We have not ratified that convention.

I raise that only as an example. I have found it a source of pride that when Canada participates in an international convention or agreement we do it with our eyes open and with every intention of complying to the letter of the law.

How, then, do we work with our partners and colleagues internationally to stem this rising tide of the trafficking of human beings when we knowingly and willingly allow this horror to take place with our eyes open?

I say “allow it to take place” because it has been at least five years since I have been aware of this stripper program, this exotic dancer visa immigration special deal to supply the pornography and sex trade with fresh, young, vulnerable women from desperate circumstances. That has been Canadian policy. It has been a big chunk of the immigration department that has been allocated to this one program. I am not trying to say that it is a third of the department's budget or anything, but it is to the point where full time officers were sent to Romania and Hungary to meet with and interview women specifically for that program.

I would argue that more care and attention have been put into the stripper program, the exotic dancer visa program, than the live-in caregiver program that provides domestic help from places like the Philippines. These programs are on a comparable scale. The difference is that on the one side we are condemning someone to sexual slavery and exploitation and on the other side we are providing a legitimate, hourly paid job at above minimum wage with Saturdays and Sundays off. This is a glaring contrast.

How could anybody in all good conscience allow this number of years to go by and be complicit with and in direction and control of a program that is tantamount to modern day sexual slavery? It absolutely boggles my mind.

As we dwell today on Bill C-49, we are talking about introducing stiff penalties for things like seizing workers' travel documents and passports. Under Bill C-49, that would be a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. That is a heavy penalty. That is far more than one would get for stealing money in the sponsorship program, so obviously the Government of Canada frowns on the idea of seizing someone's personal passport and not allowing him or her to travel.

Yet it has overlooked this in the stripper programs for years, forcing these women into labour conditions that may resemble slavery more than anything. That would be a penalty punishable by Bill C-49. What I mean by this is modern day bondage, where persons have to pay back their bond before they are allowed to begin earning a normal income.

This is exactly the structure of the exotic dancer program, which was allowed to proliferate for so many years. The women are brought over here and are told they have to pay off their travel costs first. It is a classic organized crime structure. That travel costs figure seems to be never ending. It seems to compound. They have an impossible task. They can never seem to pay it off. Therefore, their servitude and their bondage extend and extend. It is in fact modern day slavery.

On exploitation in terms of pornography and the smuggling of children, I have a researcher in Ireland who follows the human sex trade trafficking issue. It is his full time occupation. He phoned our office saying that some of the women who were imported into the exotic dancer visa program and who came to Canada were in fact under age and using false documents. In fact, this Irish non-profit organization is accusing Canada not just of trafficking and smuggling human beings in order to pimp for the underworld, but of trafficking in children, in underage, young, vulnerable women. This is information we will have to collaborate on, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility that a young woman desperate enough to come to Canada to change her circumstances may in fact have been casual about the age she put on the application.

I condemn in the strongest possible terms the Toronto immigration lawyers who own the strip clubs and who convinced the Liberal government to allow them to import these many hundreds of women.

I condemn the government for allowing this program to exist. I cannot believe how callous and uncaring it must be.

I am sympathetic to the immigration workers, some of whom have complained to me how terrible they feel about the fact that part of their job was to enable and facilitate the importation of these women under this visa program.

I have never yet met anyone who was actually stationed in Romania and Hungary, but I have met co-workers who have told me about one particular woman who was stationed there and whose job essentially was to gather up fresh meat for the pornography and prostitution industry in Canada. They have told me how sick to her stomach she felt in exploiting other women in that way, all of it with the royal seal of approval of the Government of Canada.

I am not speaking today in an effort to make us feel bad about ourselves, but I am asking us to take a long, hard look at ourselves. We may feel good and puff our chests up with pride that today we are debating a bill that will in fact address trafficking of humans. We also may say all the right things at public forums and international conventions on this subject. We would be the first at the United Nations to condemn this in the strongest possible terms, I have no doubt, but let us take a hard look at what we have allowed to happen in recent years.

Let me go back again to the one human trafficking issue with which I have in fact been directly involved. That was the issue of what we called economic migrants, who were washing up on the shores of British Columbia, sometimes literally. Sometimes they jumped out of boats which were in fact tied up just a few hundred yards offshore. They were swimming ashore 600 at a time. Those people all claimed refugee status. It took a number of years to work through whether in fact they were legitimate refugees seeking sanctuary or whether they were economic migrants seeking economic opportunities.

As the interviews went forward and as we found out more about these groups, it turned out that they were in fact being trafficked. They were being transported across the world for a fee of as much as $30,000 to $40,000. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration took a group of us as a committee to the Chinese port in Fujian province that these people left from, which we had envisioned as a small village where people perhaps had rice paddies with water buffalo and wore those straw hats. In actual fact, it is a city of five million people and has skyscrapers that compete with downtown Toronto's.

The economic migrants being trafficked by illegal snakehead smugglers had the $30,000 or $40,000 to give the snakeheads, my point being that it is a very lucrative and profitable enterprise. In fact, there are not many other criminal activities one can undertake in developing nations and third world countries that would pay that kind of return. In a country where $350 is the average annual income, $30,000 rivals any trafficking of drugs.

Trafficking in humans, I argue, is more lucrative than the trafficking of any kind of contraband substance, with the possible exception of medicines. I understand that some medical products in fact exceed the profit margin one can make on human beings, but trafficking in human beings is an ancient and evil concept and is certainly one that I support abolishing.

The international community should unite in condemning and squashing the international trafficking and trade of humans, but let us as Canadians go into this with our eyes open and acknowledge and apologize to the international community for the role that we have played in supplying Toronto immigration lawyers with strippers that they could then sell into prostitution and pornography. God knows what has happened to them.

As I condemn those lawyers and I condemn this government, I apologize to the women who have been exploited by the Government of Canada through the exotic dancer program. I hope they are well and have survived their ordeal.

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3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to rise specifically to refute the linkages the member so loosely made with the Romanian strippers' visas and this bill and the trafficking of persons.

I know the member well knows that the bill on the issue of trafficking in persons refers to the recruitment, transportation and harbouring of a person for the purposes of a forced service. People who are coming here from Romania--

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3:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Exactly. Your government is guilty.

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3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pretty sure the member will get a chance to respond.

I do not think we should mix things up. We are talking about a visa issue. We are talking about the reality that there are strip clubs in Canada and the reality that more strippers are being brought over periodically to provide the services in these institutions. They are coming over under visas. They are providing these services and then they are going back. That is not forced services. He suggested that immigration authorities went over to Romania to somehow force these people to do something.

We should keep Bill C-49 in perspective. We are talking about a very serious issue and the member talked about it to some extent in his speech. We are talking about people who are vulnerable, who cannot protect themselves from these things, who need some way to survive and people take advantage of their vulnerability. That is not the same case. The member, in fairness, should differentiate between visas for people coming over here to work on a part time basis and those vulnerable people around the world and domestically who have been taken advantage of by those committing these abhorrent crimes.

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3:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I remind my colleague from Mississauga that I was trying to point out that the Government of Canada was using, and perhaps still is using, the exact same methodology and modus operandi employed by people in the underworld who do smuggle humans, in that job offers are in fact made. Most people probably came to Canada thinking they were coming to a legitimate exotic dancing job for above minimum wage and reasonable working conditions. He will be the first to acknowledge, I am sure, being well aware of the subject, that once they got here the situation was very different. Their documents were taken away from them.

The member need not take my word for it. My colleague would be interested in the documentary which recently aired on television and other well documented reports of women who, once they got here, were not paid a fair living wage for legitimate exotic dancing. In fact, their documents were taken away from them, they were locked into rooms, they were forced into aspects of the sex industry beyond what they bargained for. In other words, exotic dancing led to lap dancing, led to pornographic movies, led to prostitution, against their will. As many as 500 disappeared altogether and the Government of Canada has no idea where they are. This is wide scale exploitation of women that matches word for word in modus operandi the way people in the underworld work when they corral women into human trafficking situations.

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3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, every day we learn something else that stands our hair on end.

I would like to congratulate the member for Winnipeg Centre. I have been here since 2000, and every time I have been in a parliamentary committee or elsewhere with that hon. member, I have observed that no one could ever say he makes up stories. So we can assume that what he has revealed here is something that he has looked into and that it is real.

I am scandalized. Here we are, in a supposedly developed country, in the year 2005, a country that has long taken pride in calling itself the best in the world. Yet every year, every month, new scandals are being discovered. It is no longer the sponsorship scandal, it is something far more serious. It is the scandal of trafficking in human beings, including trafficking in women for the purposes of prostitution. The member has even said that there were lawyers working for Citizenship and Immigration who own places where these women can be exploited.

Have I understood properly? Does he believe these lawyers are still working for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration or can we assume that this is a past event and hope the matter is now settled? If he feels that it is not, do these lawyers still work for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration?

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3:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question and his legitimate concern for the Immigration Canada workers who were put in this terrible position of having to be instruments of collusion to have Canada facilitate the sex trade.

The answer to his question is that the immigration workers I spoke to told me about their colleagues who were stationed in Hungary and Romania to corral these women, give them visas and send them to Canada. They are stationed there to enable the exploitation of women on behalf of Toronto immigration lawyers who own the sex clubs and strip clubs.

I do not know if that particular individual still works for Immigration Canada. What was shared with me is how terrible the workers felt that they were asked to participate in this scandalous exploitation of women. I feel for them. I do not think we should ask any civil servant to knowingly take part in something that is so morally, ethically and fundamentally wrong on so many levels.

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4 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the debate all day yesterday and today. I do not want to address the former speaker's comments any further. I think he is just incorrect in his analysis.

I did have the opportunity yesterday to attend a meeting with the families of the four RCMP officers who were slain in Mayerthorpe on March 5. There are a couple of points I would like to make.

This is debate at second reading. The bill will go to committee after this. Debate at second reading is intended to give members the opportunity to put forward some points of view that they would like to have considered at committee. It is extremely important that members, as they hear the debate, participate and ask questions, if not make suggestions for changes as to how we can have an effective piece of legislation. This is a very important bill.

As background for those who may be following this debate, Bill C-49 proposes amendments to the Criminal Code specifically to prohibit trafficking in persons in Canada. This bill is part of our commitment as a government to the protection of vulnerable persons and the ongoing strategy to combat human trafficking which is not only an international activity but also is a domestic activity.

Currently the Criminal Code contains no provisions to specifically prohibit trafficking in persons, although there are a number of offences that are related, such as kidnapping, uttering threats, or extortion, which also play a role in this crime. There is some overlap, but the Criminal Code does not have a specific prohibition on this trafficking.

Yesterday a couple of points were raised that the description of trafficking in persons seems to suggest that these are people who are being bought and sold like slaves. It is more than that. In fact I have suggested that we need to continue to put in the word “exploitation”. This is about the exploitation of people. We are talking about the vulnerable, the poor, those who are unable to defend themselves, those who can be coerced. We talk about these issues all the time. We talk about vulnerable seniors, seniors who are abused, seniors who are defrauded of their money. We talk about children's issues and children who are used for pornographic purposes. These are the vulnerable in our society who deserve protection.

There are also people who are subject to these pressures by those who see the weakness, those who see the poverty, those who hold out some hope for someone, take advantage of them and put them in a situation which is certainly no better.

This bill goes beyond the focus of immigration which the prior speaker was talking about. It contains three notable provisions. There are three new indictable offences specifically to address human trafficking.

The main offence is called trafficking in persons. It would prohibit anyone from engaging in specific acts for the purpose of exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of a person. It would carry a maximum penalty, I stress a maximum penalty, of life imprisonment where it involves kidnapping, aggravated assault, sexual assault or death, and imprisonment for 14 years in all other cases.

The second offence would prohibit anyone from receiving financial or other material benefit resulting from the commission of a trafficking offence. It would be punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.

The third offence would prohibit the withholding or destroying of documents, such as identification or travel documents, for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of a trafficking offence. It would carry a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.

From the debates yesterday and today, it is clear that this bill has the support of all parties to pass second reading and to go to the committee for its exhaustive study and to hear witnesses to make absolutely sure that this bill is effective.

I am not going to repeat their information, but many members articulated how serious this problem is. In the magnitude of 700,000 people a year may be subject to these trafficking activities.

The United Nations has been a leader on this. Canada finally will play a role by having this legislation in place. One reason is only Canada, the U.S., New Zealand and Australia are taking new immigrants into their countries. There are about 30 other countries that are rampant with the activity of taking advantage of people. With the other three countries, we become the sites of many of these crimes that have been perpetrated. We cannot overstate the seriousness of the problem.

While the parties are very supportive of the bill, and it is important for us to be involved, the debate has included a substantive component of a matter which is beyond the scope of the bill. I am not sure whether it should be, but maybe the committee will be. This is one reason why I wanted to speak.

As I said at the beginning, I had an opportunity yesterday, with a number of our colleagues from the other place and here in the chamber, to meet with the families of the four RCMP officers who were slain on March 3 in Mayerthorpe, Alberta. I want to remind Canadians of their names: Constables Anthony Gordon, Leo Johnston, Brock Myrol and Peter Schiemann.

The families had some messages for the legislators. During the debate, the issues that came up were the frustrations about the criminal justice system. I raised this point in the debate yesterday. Do we have the resources and the means at provincial and federal levels to enforce, to protect and to defend in Bill C-49, should it become law?

I have a good relationship with my chief of police. I know we have a relatively affluent community. Yet our chief of police would say that they do not have enough police officers even to follow up on the reports of suspected grow house operations. Not only can they not investigate and prosecute, they cannot even check them out.

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4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Who funds the RCMP?

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

This is important. It is not just the RCMP. We are talking about the official provincial police and regional policing authorities that have to enforce the Criminal Code. This is at all levels of government. It is one reason why I wanted to raise and debate the whole question about the criminal justice system as it relates to sentencing, and I hope the committee will deal with it.

The linkage here is to the four slain RCMP officers. Reverend Schiemann spoke to the MPs yesterday about this in our brief meeting. He has said that the person who perpetrated these murders. Mr. Roszko, and I use the word “Mr.” very loosely, has a criminal record that would make any common sense person say that he is someone who has a deep problem. The recidivism rate already has been very high. He is a threat to society. Everybody in the community knew that the person was a problem. He had been charged, convicted, put away for a couple of days, then let go and he was back on the streets. It became a game.

How can Canadians have confidence in the laws of Canada if they know that the application and the defence of those laws only goes so far as the police will lay charges and the person will have a criminal record, but the individual will be back on the street again?

I understand very well why the families are saying that they need the federal government to help them make reasonable changes to the laws so that dangerous people are not out on the streets, that they are not there to perpetrate even further crimes to do the damage to these families, their friends and their communities such as happened with the senseless murder of four RCMP constables, human beings with families.

Members of the justice committee are here today. Notwithstanding that Bill C-49 prescribes that there are penalties to a maximum of, et cetera, it is about time we have some real discussions about mandatory sentencing.

There was an incident in Toronto not too long ago. It was just discharged by the courts. It involved a police officer who was charged with sucker-punching a refugee. Right out of the blue, he gave him a whack. The officer received a sentence of 30 days in jail. It should have been a lot more given the circumstances. He denied it, but someone came forward with a film of the incident. Now the police unions are going to appeal this because he is a good guy and his wife is going to have a baby. I understand there are always mitigating circumstances, but when a person in a position of trust violates the rights of a human being, we need to deal with that firmly. A 30 day sentence says to that person that he is going to jail for a sucker punch.

If we look at Mr. Roszko's rap sheet, we see how much time he has spent in jail. The system basically said that he had a problem, that he had done this or that and that his criminal record was very long. However, he was out on the streets before we could blink. He went back into the community and was a risk to people of his community. Everyone knew it would happen again, but no one knew it would be that bad on March 5 when four RCMP officers were slain needlessly because the criminal justice system and the courts let them down.

We are the legislators. We are the people who make laws that affect the Criminal Code. This is affecting the Criminal Code. The bill does not talk about sentencing. We do not have a lot to do other than prescribing maximums. More and more members in this place comment on grow ops. People who have grow ops with 3,000 plants get slapped with an $1,800 fine and a suspended sentence. We know very well that major grow operations are generating cash for organized crime, for serious criminal activity. When people have more than a plant or two, it clearly is not for their own use. I do not want to debate where to draw the line, but when there are hundreds and thousands of plants, I want to see people go to jail.

We seem to have an aversion to putting people away when they commit serious crimes. We do not talk about this enough. Would someone please make a case to the Speaker that we need an emergency debate, or at least a take note debate, on the sentencing in the criminal justice system. Let us talk about it and see what our parliamentarians have to say. This is a very important issue because families are hurting each and every day.

I do not want to start picking holes. We all understand that we collectively are the lawmakers of Canada. I believe it is a priority. We should talk about this and put it on the table. When the judges and people in positions of trust and authority hear what Parliament has to say about the sentencing track record for serious and violent crime and how we feel about this, even without passing a law, they will look twice and think twice.

We need to take some leadership, too, if things are not happening in the courts and through our judges. I believe very firmly that we can make a difference, and I wanted to raise it in this debate. It is not really a major part of Bill C-49. It is not.

If somebody gets up on a point of order to say that this is not relevant, it was very relevant to the families yesterday. I went there to support them personally. I listened to them. I do not support Bill C-17, which includes the decriminalization of marijuana. I voted against it the last time and I will vote against it again. That is only part of it because that gives the wrong signal.

I think we also give the wrong signal through our legislation. Even though the amendments to the Criminal Code must prescribe penalties, we need to have some real direction to the courts through the criminal justice system. I do not know from where it is being driven. I am not a lawyer. I am not a member of the justice committee. I listened to the people yesterday and I listen to my constituents. I know there is a legitimate concern that should be dealt with in Parliament, and I want that.

I am sorry that what I said has not been relevant to the bill, but I wanted to raise the issue because it is important to Canadians.

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4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I heard the latter part of the member's comments in reference to the trafficking in persons issue in the bill. I know he digressed, which is fine. It is appropriate for him to digress as we are talking about Criminal Code matters.

This party, starting from the Reform Party to the Alliance Party and now the Conservative Party, has always brought put this issue in the House. We are very concerned about the safety and security of members of our country. It was an issue back in 1993, it was an issue in 2000 and it is an issue now. In fact, it is even more grave now because numerous legislation that has come through the House.

In 1993 we went directly to the justice minister of the day, Mr. Allan Rock. We asked him what his priorities were and we showed him a list of our priorities. One of them dealt with the Young Offenders Act. That was the huge issue of the day.

His issues were completely unrelated to anything that was of concern to the average person in Canada. First and foremost, he would ensure that the issue on homosexuality would be brought forward. The second was to take power away from police officers in situations of high speed chases. Those two big things he saw as important, and it has digressed from there when it comes to issues of security.

Yes, there is a legislative answer to the issue of security, and I will ask the member a question about it. If he is so concerned about issues of security, not just the shooting of the RCMP officers, which was captured in the news over the last three weeks or a month, why is he not twisting the arms of the members of his cabinet who are roadblocks to putting sound legislation forward in the House?

The people of the nation want some assurances from their government that it is looking after this. Why is the member not spending his time beating up on them instead of the people over here?

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4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think I understand where the member is coming from. I am not sure that the member is aware of what I have been doing on this but I can assure him that I have had these conversations with the justice minister and the Deputy Prime Minister in her role in terms of security issues.

I raised this issue because it came up in debate. Even the justice critic from the Conservative Party raised the matters of the sentence and stuff. I do not accept the rationalization that mandatory minimum sentencing does not work and is not a deterrent. I am not as concerned about deterrence as I am about someone who commits a serious violent crime. They need to be in jail to have the cold shower that being incarcerated brings. They need to know that as a society we believe that what they did was abhorrent and that this is part of the penalty. We know that a guy like Roszko, should not have been on the streets. The system let the families down because it did not deal with Roszko, the way he should have been dealt with.

I raised this issue and I am asking other members to join with me to ensure they do what they can in whatever venues they can to influence the discussions, even at the justice committee when this legislation comes before it, so that the issues that are ancillary or related to Bill C-49 may bring some movement in terms of effective legislation and amendments to the Criminal Code.

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4:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a specific question about Bill C-49 and I preface it only by saying that my colleague from Mississauga is aware of how rare it is for white collar crime to earn jail time. Much of his speech was about sentencing and jail time and a lot of us were shocked at the relatively light sentence that Mr. Paul Coffin received. Maybe all those jail cells are needed for some Indian guy who steals a loaf of bread. Maybe there is no room in the prisons for a white collar criminal who steals $1.5 million.

I will ask my colleague to contemplate Bill C-49 specifically. I would like to read one clause and then I will ask him about it. Clause 279.01(1) reads:

Every person who recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds, conceals or harbours a person...for the purpose of exploiting them...is guilty of an indictable offence and liable

(a) to life imprisonment....

How often do we see that as a penalty in our Criminal Code?

Does my colleague believe that clause in Bill C-49 should apply for instance to those involved in the exploitation of women and the Canadian strippergate visa scandal if proven guilty?

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member should read the clause fully and correctly when talking about sentencing. It says:

...if they kidnap, commit an aggravated assault or aggravated sexual assault against, or cause death to, the victim during the commission of the offence;

The member does this a lot. He is very selective in his facts so I will not comment any further. The member should ask another question and be a little bit more accurate in posing it.

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the Mississauga community crime awareness campaign in which the same kind of issues came up in the communities. It was sponsored, incidentally, by Mr. Victor Oh, president of the Mississauga Chinese Business Association. The police, the crime prevention association and city officials were there. It was interesting to note that one of the things they found was a strong co-relationship between a vibrant crime prevention and awareness program within communities and the level of crime. That is one of the reasons that the city of Mississauga has the lowest crime rate of any community in the country, even though it is next door to Toronto which has one of the highest.

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4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am looking for a point of clarification in one of the member's earlier comments. He said that he was less concerned with deterrence than he was with incarceration.

While I totally agree with the member that appropriate sentences should be levied against violent criminals or criminals of any sort, does he not believe that perhaps deterrence would be as important, if not more important, than actual sentences? I would love to see nothing more than less crime committed, whether it be violent crimes, drug related crimes or whatever. I believe that if there were severe deterrence this might actually affect that cause and there may be less crime.

I would be very interested in a clarification by the member as to his views on deterrence as opposed to incarceration and sentencing.

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I said it I knew it did not come out quite right.

The Minister of Justice has often said that mandatory minimum sentencing is not an effective deterrent. What I think I should have said, and the member is quite right, is that I was not focusing in on the issue of deterrence. I was trying to say that I still want someone to go to jail when they commit a serious crime.

Deterrence, obviously, is extremely important. I thank the member for the opportunity to clarify that. However I believe that mandatory minimum sentences in certain cases, and certainly in the case of a guy like Roszko, should have been there. He should have been there long enough to find out whether or not this was a case where this person could in fact under certain circumstances be held in custody for an extended period until there was satisfaction that he could be released safely back into the community.