Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that I can get on the speaking list in reference to this issue of trafficking in persons, Bill C-49.
It is interesting that right now in the subcommittee there is a major discussion going on concerning this whole issue of prostitution. It started out just relating to solicitation as it happens on the streets of our cities and elsewhere in the country and its impact on the safety of women, and men I guess to some degree but mostly women in this nation, as it applies to whether the laws are placing them in harm's way.
The debate widened very quickly and included the whole issue of trafficking. The reason that it took that route is because it became clear in the nations that decriminalized or legalized prostitution that the efforts to control that activity on the streets opened another door, that door being another brand of illegal prostitution springing up for those who did not fit into the pattern or the mould as set by the state. Therefore the issue of illegal prostitution expanding became the focus.
Who is involved in the expansion of that prostitution, that other aspect of illegal prostitution? There are several jurisdictions in the world that tried to decriminalize or legalize prostitution and authorities found that women were being hustled into the illegal side of prostitution and many of them from out of the country. In other words, there was a trafficking process that was set up from various parts of the world bringing women and children for that matter into those jurisdictions that had decriminalized or legalized the activity.
What is wrong with the picture? On one side, the government is moving toward the legalization of prostitution or decriminalization, whichever way it wants to call it. It is part and parcel of the debate that we are having in the committee. Once that is done, the illegal trade and the trafficking of women and children will increase in a very dramatic fashion.
Australia and New Zealand went through it. The Netherlands went through it and it is a prime example of what not to do. The only nation that did not and in fact started cracking down on those who were engaged in the activity of prostitution and trafficking, which is the organized criminal side of it, was Sweden. It not only cracked down on the pimps but it also cracked down on the johns, those who exploited women. Lo and behold, many of Sweden's problems disappeared. The numbers of women involved in that whole area of prostitution diminished dramatically because the jurisdiction took care of it. It took the money out of it and away from organized criminals.
We have Bill C-49 that proposes to step down on those involved in trafficking. At the same time this other debate is going on. For the most part I can see the real advantage of having some tough law, if we want to call this tough law. There are no minimum sentences in the law but at least it would address some of these concerns. It proposes up to life sentences for those who recruit, transport, transfer, receive, conceal harbour or exercise some control or influence over them.
On the surface it looks good, but we have the same problem here as we do with other pieces of legislation from the government. There are no minimum sentences to guarantee that the courts will deal aggressively with individuals who involve themselves this way. There is nothing to guarantee that and the argument of course on the other side is that the court must have all the discretion it needs to deal with whatever case may come up, and it is up to the judge to exercise that discretion.
We have heard that story far too many times. It washes kind of thin when we start looking at the results of legislation that does not aggressively deal with a growing problem within the international community.
Trafficking in people, just like drugs, is considered one of the largest sources of profits for organized crime. In our committee when we started talking about this whole matter of organized crime, nobody wanted to address it. In fact, it was almost a taboo subject because the issue of prostitution was considered by some, unfortunately, as a legitimate occupation to pursue and should be protected like any other legitimate occupation. It was the flawed thinking of some members within that committee. Most of them just so happened to be Liberals or NDP members who thought that prostitution was a legitimate form of work to be protected by the state.
To look at it from that point of view we would have move into the direction of legalization or decriminalization of prostitution. It would be a very dangerous route to go, I might point out, looking at the jurisdictions that have already experienced such a downtrend to this whole issue. Organized criminals step into the breach and they will reap the profits in tens of billions of dollars that it will bring, all at the expense of women and those who abuse women.
My concern of course is that this not get a foothold in this country. The bill certainly addresses a point or two when it comes to trafficking in people, but it does not deal with the issue once those individuals are here clearly in real terms engaged in an illegal activity in the nation.
Yes, we can support the bill. There are some provisions in it that deal with the reality of trafficking, the forced coercion or deception and the issue of forced labour or forced prostitution, but it does not connect when it comes to the other debate that is going on in the justice subcommittee dealing with the prostitution issue.
I have a couple of questions for the members on the other side and I want to put them on the record. If this country were to decide to decriminalize prostitution, how many members on that side would agree that it would lead to increased trafficking in persons, especially women and children?
Members on that side will probably not be able to answer that question or maybe will not want to answer that question, but it is the only question that bears the need for an answer.
Let us talk about sentencing. It was not long ago when an issue of drugs entered the debate in the House and in fact it even hit the media in this fashion. Some suggested that the serious drug dealer, the one who makes sure that crystal meth and others are distributed to our youngsters, receive a life sentence. There was outrage from members on that side and they said, “A life sentence. How absolutely archaic”. That mantra was kind of picked up by the media. Fingers were pointed to members on this side, accusing them of being somewhat extreme, or dinosaurs or whatever.
I see drugs destroying the lives of many of our young people in this nation. In fact, that has happened and continues to happen. There is no serious legislative effort to shut it down. I am talking about the bills and the suggestions about decriminalizing marijuana for one and really seriously dealing with the grow op situation in the nation. We have no national drug strategy. In fact, we do not even have, and again this relates directly to this bill, any organized crime strategy. How are we going to deal with the organized crime issues?
I find it appalling that there is so much organized criminal activity. I have seen it creep into my own city over the last five years in very real terms and how insidious it is, how devastating it is to a community, and how many police resources are involved in trying to combat this kind of not only violent but insidious type of crime that works on prostitution, drug distribution and the like. There is no clear national strategy on drugs.
Now we have an issue dealing with people and again, it is organized crime that is at the foot of it, the foundation. I have a concern because the Liberal cabinet and the majority of members over there cannot put this into perspective. I would like to know why?
However, getting back to sentencing, it states that for the purposes of anyone who recruits, transports, transfers, conceals or harbours a person or who exercises control or influence over the movement of that person for the purposes of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation commits an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for up 14 years or life imprisonment if the accused kidnaps, commits an aggravated assault or sexual assault, or causes death to the victim.
I do not feel exactly confident that this matter is being dealt with in real terms again. A life sentence was pooh-poohed because a life sentence was suggested for drug traffickers and now all of a sudden, it appears here in another form. But again, it is at the discretion of a judge, and who knows where it will end up. Even if all of these heinous acts are committed against an individual or a group of individuals, there nothing to suggest that individual would receive a life sentence.
Then it comes to the section on money, the issue that makes this organized criminal activity go round and round in circles. It is involved in the drug business. It is involved in the prostitution business and of course the issue of trafficking in people.
We know that even cross-border trafficking is taking place. It was pointed out to the Liberal government that this had been going on and even where it had been going on, and still it was never addressed over all the years. It continues on to this day. There is a fee. There is a charge for moving a person across the border.
Even though that is the illegal side of it, there is a legal side too that is also playing hand in glove with those who want to traffic in people, and that is our immigration department. What is the immigration department going to do? If it is willing to open the doors to strippers and prostitutes of various kinds and claim what they do to be a legitimate form of work, then it is a party to what happens afterwards. I find that appalling, given the fact that it is a government department. I might also point out that ministers of the past here, ministers of the Crown, have even gone to bat for this so-called legitimate occupation. That is where the thinking is.
I urge my colleagues on the other side to deal with this in a much more effective manner. There seems to be a cross purpose of one side wanting to legalize prostitution, knowing that it will increase trafficking in women and children, and the other side wanting to crack down on some of the traffickers, if that in fact can even happen. I would like to see how the final playout of this legislation really does come about when it hits the law books and the enforcement agencies in our nation.