House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was immigrants.


Opposition Motion—Citizenship and ImmigrationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta


Jason Kenney ConservativeSecretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity)

Mr. Speaker, I begin by thanking the official opposition for an opportunity to debate immigration, which is a matter of central importance to both the history and the future of Canada. I commend all members for the generally non-partisan fashion with which this debate has been conducted so far today. I think we all realize that there are systemic challenges in the immigration system, which have little or nothing to do with the political challenges of particular governments.

We, as the country with the highest relative intake of immigrants in the world, have enormous challenges in simply processing the administrative burden and challenges with respect to economic integration and ensuring that the 200,000 to 250,000 newcomers to our country every year can move up the economic ladder quickly, that they can have their foreign education recognized here appropriately.

However, our government coming in to office inherited some particular problems. We inherited a waiting list for immigrant applications of over 800,000. We received a waiting list of nearly 100,000 in the single category of parental reunification. We inherited a system of immigrant funding for settlement services that was arguably underfunded.

We have responded quickly. We responded by increasing immigrant settlement funding last spring in the budget by over $300 million a year. We responded by keeping our election commitment to cut in half the right of landing fee from $975 to $400 and some dollars, and we will keep our commitment to move that down to $100 to give new Canadians a head start economically.

When a family of four arrives here from abroad, a $4,000 collective family head tax is a significant economic burden for a family that has to put a deposit down on their first apartment or make their down payment on a mortgage. That is something the previous Liberal government brought into place. It is something that we are in the process of radically reducing.

We in the Conservative Party inherit also from our predecessors in the Conservative tradition a history of being a party of welcome and openness to the energy and talents brought from across the globe by those who seek to come to our country and enter its circle of prosperity.

I remind the House that it was the Conservative government of John Diefenbaker that brought in the Bill of Rights and the first Refugee Act, that began the first process of family reunification. It was the Conservative Party that saw the first black Canadian member of Parliament and member of cabinet, Lincoln Alexander; the first Chinese Canadian member of Parliament, Douglas Jung elected 50 years ago this summer; the first Canadian of Japanese origin MP and minister, the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women; the first Canadian of Chinese origin as the first minister belongs to this Conservative caucus; the first Canadian of the Muslim faith is the chairman of our national caucus; and one of the first two Indo-Canadian women elected to this place, is a member of this government's caucus.

This is the Conservative tradition that introduced the Multiculturalism Act in 1985. It is a tradition that recognized some of the deficiencies in our history through the redress of the Japanese wartime internment and more recently the redress and apology for the era of legislated discrimination through the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act.

This is a party and a tradition that is dedicated to ensuring that Canada is a warm and hospitable nation for people from throughout the globe, victims of persecution and oppression through our refugee system and those who seek a brighter future for their children and grandchildren as economic immigrants.

We need to acknowledge that there are flaws and structural problems within our immigration system that we are dedicated to resolving. It will not be easy, and we cannot overnight resolve the backlog of 800,000 names, which we inherited from our predecessors.

We are committed to increasing resources. I anticipate that in the upcoming budget there will be resources to do just that, to assist our security forces in expediting the security clearance of immigrant applicants and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.

One issue that I hear on a daily basis, as I meet with new Canadians and members of cultural communities from coast to coast, is the importance of recognizing foreign credentials and overseas education. In our point system, we essentially entice people to Canada. We bring them here on the basis of their higher education in their country of origin. Too many of those people arrive here and find that they cannot actually use that education. There is a disconnect between our immigration policies and our labour market policies, a disconnect which the previous government over 13 years did not adequately address.

We are committed to working with the provinces and, through them, with the over 440 professional agencies to accelerate the recognition of foreign diplomas and credentials. We set aside $17 million in funding for the creation of an agency for foreign credential referral and recognition. I know the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is focused on this like a laser beam. She will be coming out with what I think will be an exciting announcement in this regard in the weeks ahead.

If there were some way that we in the federal government could by fiat, just waving a kind of magic wand of federal authority, correct and resolve the foreign credential recognition problem overnight, we would do it but we cannot. This is principally an area that resides in the constitutional jurisdiction of the provinces. It is further complicated by the lack of cooperation by many professional agencies, which seem more focused on protecting their own labour market as opposed to welcoming newcomers from abroad.

This is a very difficult problem, but the federal government understands the challenge. We will do everything we can to use our moral persuasion, our fiscal resources and our leadership with the provinces and the professional agencies, so when people come here, we no longer have the aberration of medical doctors driving taxis or engineers working at corner stores. These people have something meaningful to contribute to our economy and they should be permitted to do so.

While I am pleased with much of the tone of the debate today, which has been conducted in a largely non-partisan fashion, I find a certain degree of hypocrisy, in particular coming from the sponsor of the motion, the member for Mississauga—Erindale. He ran for a party that allowed the backlog of 800,000 names to develop, that allowed a waiting time of four to seven years in processing to develop, that did not resolve the issue of the so-called lost Canadians and that saw the problems in terms of foreign credential recognition deepen and worsen rather than improve or accelerate.

We are left holding the bag as a new government. We are doing our best to resolve these issues. We are working in a number of other areas in ways that I think are sensitive to the concerns and priorities of cultural communities, cultural minorities and new Canadians, such as the Prime Minister's historic apology and redress for the injustice of the Chinese head tax and related discriminatory measures and the appointment of the judicial inquiry into the Air-India terrorist attack in 1985, which was the central topic in this place today in question period.

The government of the day back in 1985 made an insensitive mistake when, following the Air-India attack, it issued condolences to the government of India. The vast majority of victims of the worst crime in Canadian history were Canadian citizens. The families of those citizens deserve to know what happened. They deserve as much as possible to see justice done.

That is a significant priority within the Indo-Canadian community, a community of over a million Canadians who have come from the tremendous cultural diversity of south Asia. They expect to see justice done. They hope that the two provisions sunsetted in the Anti-terrorism Act will be renewed by Parliament in the days ahead.

I encourage my friends in the opposition. If they really want to show their sensitivity to the serious concerns of new Canadians, particularly in the Indo-Canadian community, having failed to do it with the Chinese head tax for the Chinese community, perhaps they could show that sensitivity to the priority of Indo-Canadians right now and vote to renew those sunsetted provisions of the ATA.

I again thank the House for the tone of this debate. I look forward to continuing to work in my capacity with cultural communities to ensure their successful integration, their entry into the circle of prosperity in this the best country in the world.

Opposition Motion—Citizenship and ImmigrationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

It being 5:15 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, February 27, at 5:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion—Citizenship and ImmigrationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would be very surprised if you were to seek it, that you would be unsuccessful in finding that we see the clock as 5:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion—Citizenship and ImmigrationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Is there unanimous consent to see the clock as 5:30 p.m., which would permit us to begin private members' business?

Opposition Motion—Citizenship and ImmigrationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Opposition Motion—Citizenship and ImmigrationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from December 8 consideration of the motion.

Human TraffickingPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I believe the member for Abbotsford had the floor and had seven minutes remaining when the House last considered this matter.

The hon. member for Abbotsford.

Human TraffickingPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to speak again on an issue that most Canadians know little, if anything, about, and that is the crime of human trafficking. Human trafficking is just another name for slavery and it is taking place right here in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, you and I recently saw a sneak preview of a powerful new film called Amazing Grace. The movie tells the story of Lord Wilberforce, an 18th century member of Parliament, who spent almost his entire life fighting the scourge of slavery in England. It was only on his deathbed that he finally realized his dream of seeing slavery abolished in his country.

Sadly, today the scourge of human trafficking has again raised its ugly head, this time in Canada. The typical victim of human trafficking is a teenage girl or young woman from an Eastern bloc or Asian country. She is either without a family or so poor that she sees this as her only way out.

Human traffickers prey upon these vulnerable individuals. They offer them passage to Canada with a promise of a legitimate job and brighter future, but the reality is quite different. Immediately upon their arrival in Canada, the girls are stripped of their travel documents and forced into exotic dancing, prostitution and other degrading acts.

Time and time again, they are sexually and physically assaulted. Language barriers, threats of police arrest, and physical abuse allow traffickers to exert a profound degree of control over their victims.

Even young Canadians have been lured into the sex trade by human traffickers. It is not uncommon for young aspiring models to fall into the clutches of traffickers. Pretending to be legitimate modelling agents, the traffickers promise their victims a lucrative future in the modelling industry. The unsuspecting young victim is shipped off to a foreign destination like Milan, but upon arrival, her passport is confiscated and she is encouraged to accompany or entertain men in order to earn enough money to pay her way back home.

Whether foreign or Canadian, victims of human trafficking are treated as nothing more than commodities to be bought, sold and bartered. If they refuse to cooperate, they are beaten or even raped into submission.

Shockingly, the United Nations has estimated that over one million human beings are trafficked around the world every year. In Canada, police and border agencies have had historically few, if any, resources to identify, expose and prosecute traffickers. As a result it is difficult to determine the full extent of this problem in Canada.

Recently, an RCMP assessment found that Canada represents an attractive destination for human traffickers due to our strong economy and generous social programs. With the 2010 winter Olympics approaching, Canada becomes an even more inviting target for traffickers, as thousands of visitors from around the world will descend upon Vancouver and Whistler. There is no doubt that human traffickers will try to take advantage of our generosity and prosperity to callously exploit and destroy young lives.

There is, however, some good news. Under our new Conservative government, police departments are starting to take action. Just before Christmas this past year, police and integrated law enforcement teams in the greater Vancouver area arrested a total of 100 people after raiding 18 different massage parlours. Indeed, 78 of those arrested were women that police believe could be victims of human trafficking. In fact, a police spokesman stated that the victims were exploited through fear and debt. He also explained that these young women from Asian countries were brought to Canada under false pretenses and then forced into prostitution.

The recent arrests in Vancouver are only a beginning. Much more needs to be done and we have to move quickly. We know that the perpetrators of this crime are affiliated with organized crime. We know their destructive goals. We understand their diabolical strategy. We as a country must work together to expose them.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit on a parliamentary committee considering human trafficking. The testimony from the witnesses deeply disturbed me, to think that such degrading abuse of human beings could take place right under our very noses. It also compelled me to speak to this motion today, calling on this Parliament to quickly act, be decisive and fight the scourge of trafficking within and throughout Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not mention the tremendous contribution of my colleague, the Conservative MP for Kildonan—St. Paul from Winnipeg. Her determination and dedication to fighting human trafficking is remarkable. Like her, I am supporting this motion because human trafficking is an affront to our Canadian standards of decency and basic human rights.

Sadly, the Canadian public is unaware of what is happening to hundreds if not thousands of young women and children within our own borders. The motion before us is an appeal to governments across our nation to provide our police with the legal and financial resources necessary to stem the tide of this insidious crime.

Indeed, we need tougher prison sentences. We need stricter enforcement, and better investigation and monitoring. Criminals need to know that if they traffic in human beings, punishment will be swift and certain.

However, we also need to support facilities such as safe houses and counselling services for the victims of this traumatic crime. Victims need to know that they will not be treated as criminals, but with the dignity and care they deserve.

Like Lord Wilberforce before us, we have been issued a challenge to fight and defeat the scourge of slavery once again. Human trafficking must be stopped, and today, I add my voice to support the motion. Decency demands no less.

Human TraffickingPrivate Members' Business

5:20 p.m.


Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to congratulate the member for Kildonan—St. Paul for her motion, her efforts and her vision.

Human trafficking is defined by the United Nations as the recruitment of persons by means of deception or use of force for the purpose of sexual or other exploitation.

It is estimated that 80% of victims are women and children and that there are between 700,000 and two million victims every year throughout the world.

An organization known as Anti-Slavery International estimates that at least 27 million individuals are slaves at the present time. An exhaustive UNICEF field study estimates that 1.2 million children are victims of trafficking every year. This is a serious problem. The majority of the victims of this type of economic exploitation, about 46%, are found in the prostitution sector and in domestic servitude, farming, manufacturing and hospitality, that is restaurants or tourism.

According to Irene Sushko, of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress , human trafficking “constitutes horrific acts of slavery, the shameful assault on the dignity of children, the exploitation of the vulnerable for profit”.

It is also obvious that human trafficking has grown at an alarming rate in the past ten years. In 2004, Irwin Cotler, the former Minister of Justice, estimated—

Human TraffickingPrivate Members' Business

5:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I wish to remind the hon. member not to refer to current members of the House by their personal names.

Human TraffickingPrivate Members' Business

5:20 p.m.


Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

I apologize, Mr. Speaker.

In 2004, the former Liberal justice minister estimated the annual revenues from human trafficking to be $10 billion worldwide.

Furthermore, Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland and current United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said, “little has changed for those caught up in this sordid trade. More people are being trafficked than ever before".

A number of governments around the world are currently planning to implement modest initiatives to curb the wave of human trafficking. This is not enough. Governments and community associations have found that it is difficult to deal with this problem in part because this is a specific practice that has to be differentiated from illegal aliens who are seeking a safer life.

Another obstacle to raising public awareness about human trafficking is that the traffickers are rarely caught. Furthermore, when they are arrested, they are usually charged with offences such as “living off the avails of prostitution” rather than being charged with human trafficking.

I join with the voices in this House in supporting Motion No. 153, which calls upon the government to immediately adopt comprehensive strategies to combat the trafficking of women and children across international borders.

The previous speaker hit the nail on the head when he said that very few Canadians are aware of how this problem is a worldwide problem which has a Canadian dimension.

Allow me to congratulate the member of Parliament for Kildonan—St. Paul for this motion and for getting government support on it.

That member of Parliament and others in this House have pointed out that human trafficking is a foul crime perpetuated against the world's most vulnerable people for the purposes of sexual and economic exploitation.

Sadly, this abomination is growing. It is the dark underbelly of increasing levels of global trade in goods and services. Along with it, we see a rise in this global trade, if we can call it that. Many governments around the world are trying to act and many of their modest initiatives are simply not enough. For Canadians, in particular, this foul crime cuts at the very heart of our most cherished notions of justice and morality.

Now, a few words about Canada's international pride and its international history in being a leader in human rights. Canada has consistently been a strong voice for the protection of human rights and the advancement of democratic values around the world.

This nation took a central role in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1947. Today, Canada is party to all six major international human rights conventions, as well as many others. Human rights is a central theme of our foreign policy; it always has been and we hope it always will be.

The basic truth is that Canadians expect their government to be a leader in the field of human rights by reflecting and promoting Canadian values, including respect for diversity on the international stage.

Canadians have good sense. They recognize that their interests are best served by a stable, rules-based international system. Countries that respect the rule of law respect the rights of their citizens and are more likely to benefit from development. They are much less likely to experience crises which require interventions, such as peacekeeping, emergency assistance or refugee resettlement missions.

The UN charter and customary international law impose upon all countries the responsibility to promote and protect human rights. This is not just a question of values, then, but a mutual obligation of all members of the international community, as well as an obligation of a state toward its citizens.

For these reasons, and all of the others, Canada must stand up and be counted as a world leader, committed to fighting the atrocity of human trafficking. Members of this House must stand together to fight for an issue that is beyond the partisan accomplishments of a day, a week or a month. This is a lifelong issue. This is a national issue. This is an international issue. This is a moral issue.

Motion No. 153 is an important tangible step in the right direction. I call on my colleagues to support the motion and to work to put an end to the illegal, immoral trade that robs human beings of their dignity, liberty and humanity.

Think of it. Many of us have young children or grandchildren, as the case may be. I see the member for Fredericton in particular is a proud father of a young child.

What if it were to happen to one of us, one of our children or one of our grandchildren? What about the story that has just been recounted about the young Canadian tourist, or the young Canadian model who is in effect stranded in a foreign country, and turns to a practice toward self-sufficiency that lures her into slavery? What if that happened? Would that not be a tragedy? Is this not the tragedy that plays out in the world?

We may have victims in the thousands and that is a shocking reality. That is horrible. Think of the number cited by the various agencies of 27 million people on this planet who are in the bondage of slavery, who are working to subsist within the chains, the domain, and the rule of someone else, some other masters, whose exploits are only for their own monetary benefit and the tools of exploitation are primarily sexual and predatory.

Let us visit upon the world our nation's values toward human rights and our vision of Canada, that of a safe, community-driven society that protects those who would be exploited: children and women. Let us export that value to the world.

Let us join with the government motion and do all we can to protect the international society and to stand up for human rights, along with the 1947 universal declaration of human rights, which was our last great international exportation on the subject.

Human TraffickingPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to debate this motion today. I should say I am pleased to support this motion, because even though I do not always agree with the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, I have no hesitation about this particular issue.

Human trafficking is a scourge. Human trafficking for the purposes of prostitution and sexual exploitation is an even worse scourge. It is truly terrible.

This morning, we had a breakfast where we met with witnesses who told us something about their experiences in the field. I found it very enlightening.

We always think that human trafficking is happening outside Canada. We always think that it is not going on here. Recently, I was telling my colleague that last year, I myself witnessed a situation where someone had been taken out of her country and brought here to my city, Laval, where she was enslaved by a family. Everything, including her papers, had been taken away from her.

I played James Bond, and she was found and removed from the hell she was living in. She was a young Ethiopian woman. I was shocked that this was going on in the city where I live. Even though this was not human trafficking for sexual exploitation, it was still human trafficking. This person had no rights. Her papers had been taken away. She was living in constant fear. She had no network and no one to talk to. Even though she was not being sexually abused, we can imagine her mental, physical and spiritual suffering.

What is more, with respect to human trafficking for sexual exploitation, I fully support this motion.

It is true that Canada and the United Nations have been talking about human trafficking for sexual purposes for some time now. Canada has made commitments and signed various protocols and agreements. It has ratified some, but not all of those protocols. I hope it will ratify the rest soon.

Even though this motion does not break new ground on this issue, we feel it is crucial that members reaffirm their determination to fight, denounce and eradicate this type of slavery. That is why we support the motion unconditionally.

However, we have a few questions about the second part of the motion where it talks about adopting a comprehensive strategy to combat the trafficking of persons worldwide.

It seems rather difficult to us for a country, no matter how powerful, to adopt a comprehensive strategy for the entire world. However, Canada should and must work actively on an international level to combat trafficking and we feel it is currently doing a very good job.

We know that Canada is playing a major role internationally in negotiating the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. There are two related protocols, namely the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children—which is the protocol against the trafficking of persons—and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, or the protocol against the trafficking of migrants.

There are so many victims of human trafficking because criminal organizations are very well organized. They truly know how to look for victims, how to target them and how to take them out of a country and everything else.

We saw this situation during the war in Kosovo. Immediately after the war in Kosovo, there were a lot of problems because of the immense poverty. This was extremely fertile ground for these criminal organizations.

It was said that the traffickers used all sorts of strategies to get people, women and children, young women in particular, that they could use as currency. They were even buying women from their families. The traffickers use all sorts of recruitment methods and do not hesitate to simply kidnap their victims or buy them from their families.

In most cases, the victims are women who are looking for a way to go abroad and who are attracted by the words of an acquaintance or by a misleading advertisement.

Some of these women are led to believe that they are being recruited for legitimate employment, such as the case of the dancers in Ontario that we saw last year. These women came here, thinking that they would be able to find legitimate employment, only to find themselves working in strip clubs in abysmal conditions. We could probably qualify this as human trafficking, because I am certain that, when these women left their countries, they did not imagine themselves in such a setting once they arrived here.

Some women are also told that a husband is waiting for them in another country. Others know that they are going to have prostitute themselves or that they will be forced to work to pay back the exorbitant fees charged for their transportation and employment, but they are misled about the working conditions. They become trapped in a complex web of dependence.

Traffickers usually try to get control of the victim's legal identity by confiscating her passport or papers. Her entry into or stay in the destination country is usually illegal, which places her in a situation of even greater dependence on the traffickers. A system of indentured labour is widely used, which allows traffickers to control the victims and indefinitely make a profit from the victims' work. The use of physical violence, abuse and intimidation is frequently reported.

Traffickers are seldom caught and rarely prosecuted. Sanctions against these individuals for such crimes are relatively light compared to those for drug or arms trafficking. This is due to, among other things, the small number of cases brought before the authorities, a situation which is easy to understand. Victims are often treated as criminals by the authorities in the host country, and they are arrested, prosecuted and deported.

I am pleased to say that we now at least have provisions enabling women who are victims of trafficking to have up to 120 days to obtain medical services, both physical and psychological. However, that is not enough and I hope that we will soon have better measures to help these women, these victims of human trafficking.

The information about Kosovo that I just provided comes from various magazines as well as various documents from Durban, South Africa, where a great deal of interest is also being taken in human trafficking.

In Quebec, we started taking care of this issue a few years ago. Three congregations took the lead in developing human trafficking awareness sessions. They were the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, the Congregation of Our Lady, and the Sisters of St. Anne. These congregations even put together a play called Lost in Traffic with the Parminou theatre company, and they formed a committee to lobby elected representatives. I think that is extraordinary. It is important because when groups engage in lobbying, their arguments have to be relevant, convincing and forceful and they must ensure that the elected representatives they talk to can support their cause and get results.

The committee decided to approach the government on the basis of the international agreements it has signed and ratified over the past few years, including the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which came into effect in Canada in September 2003, and its supplemental protocols, the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which came into effect in December 2003, and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, which came into effect in January 2004. Collectively, these are known as the Palermo protocols.

I do not have time to go into details.

Since signing the convention and its two protocols, the Government of Canada's legislative action has been directed primarily against traffickers and organized crime. Very little progress has been made in protecting the victims, women and children. To this day, Canada still has not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which it signed in November 2001. But at least the government is working on it.

I hope that, together, all parliamentarians will agree to give hope to these women, to these people who are victims of trafficking, so that they can have their lives back and see better days.

Human TraffickingPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are many different figures given in regard to the number of people believed to be victims of human trafficking. The United Nations estimates that the number of humans trafficked is about 700,000. UNICEF estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked annually.

The International Labour Organization estimates that the figure may actually be as much as 2.45 million. This organization also estimates that 92% of the victims of trafficking are used for prostitution and that 98% of them are young women and girls. The remaining 2% are boys and transvestites.

It is important to note here that trafficking can occur in many sectors that depend on migrant labour, such as agriculture, the garment sector and domestic work.

According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, approximately 800 people, primarily women and children, fall victim every year to trafficking for purposes of prostitution in Canada. However, non-government organizations estimate the number to be closer to 15,000.

In 1998, a report submitted to the Solicitor General of Canada stated that between 8,000 and 16,000 persons were estimated to be entering Canada every year with the help of smugglers. These vastly different numbers tell us two things: first, that human trafficking is a serious global problem; second, that it is an incredibly difficult thing to count, never mind combat.

I would like to point out that in the last session of the House Bill C-49 was passed with all party support. This bill addressed the issues of human trafficking and assessed our international commitments to combating this very serious crime. The previous government and now the current government have failed to act on Bill C-49. The bill called for an increase in resources for police forces to actually deal with human trafficking. The motion before the House today highlights this lack of action.

There are things we can do to combat this crime in Canada.

First, we need to improve victim support services. They are currently insufficient in Canada, particularly when it comes to victims of human trafficking. Regular victim services are not adequate. People need services geared to people who are victims of organized crime, people who have been terrorized and brutalized. Organizations need the resources and training to deal with these vulnerable victims. These organizations must also be able to work with law enforcement officials, both to protect the victims and to apprehend the criminals trafficking their fellow human beings.

Second, we need to ensure that officials and legal experts are trained and briefed on the issues surrounding human trafficking. We need to better inform the public about the issue. In other words, we need a systemic approach to implement the provisions of Bill C-49.

Third, we need to develop local strategies, because this problem will be most effectively addressed by various agencies at the local level. We need to give local organizations the resources they need to really combat this problem. We also need a coordinated effort among federal, provincial and local governments to combat human trafficking. All levels of government are affected and need to work together to produce real results. Of course this is an international problem and thus we need to cooperate with international bodies and foreign governments to strategically deal with this very serious issue.

Next, we need to collect data and information about human trafficking in Canada. Right now we know very little about it. We need data from police and other organizations that deal first-hand with human trafficking victims to learn how best we can help those already in the system and how to stop others from being sucked in.

Finally, the protection of victims must be paramount and must be placed at the centre of the preoccupations of all of those responding to the problem.

We need to do these things because human trafficking is a very serious issue across the world, but we need to be intelligent about it. I would like to note that past anti-trafficking measures often ended up restricting female migration rather than protecting women's rights.

People move around in the hope of improving their lives. That is a reality. Sadly, some people try to take advantage of others' innocence, trust and vulnerability. As more women migrate to find better paid work, it appears that more will fall victim to trafficking or an exploitative work situation they cannot easily escape.

I would like to also acknowledge that identifying human trafficking victims is a challenge. I sit on the Standing Committee for the Status of Women, where we studied this issue at length. One witness outlined the difficulties quite clearly.

The witness said victims of crime did not necessarily come forward. They did not necessarily know until it was too late that they were victims. How would they know that they should report it? Once they knew they were being victimized, there were all kinds of reasons why they could not report. They were intimidated. They were victims of violence. They were afraid. They did not trust police officers. Sometimes they would come from other countries where police officers were not to be trusted. There were all kinds of reasons why women fail to report.

One witness to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women told us that we had to work together and give ourselves good mechanisms, good means to encourage victims to come forward and let them know that it was safe for them to do so.

Another witness, Mr. Richard Poulin, a professor at the department of sociology and anthropology at the University of Ottawa, described to the committee the recruitment methods used to lure women into trafficking. He said:

Recruitment methods vary, but traffickers almost always resort to deception and violence. The most common method involves putting ads in the papers proposing jobs in another country as a hairdresser, caregiver, domestic worker, waitress, au pair, model or dancer.

Another method involves recruiting them through placement agencies, travel agencies or dating and matrimonial agencies, which are often nothing more than a front for procurers.

Victims of trafficking have also been sold by their family, their boyfriends or institutions such as orphanages.

Once someone has been recruited, that person is kept in a situation of dependency throughout the period that she is trafficked. She is passed from one person to the other until her arrival in her country of destination....

Rape and other forms of servitude are often used....As soon as they arrive in their country of destination, their documentation is confiscated by the traffickers and they are immediately placed on the sex markets. In Canada, that means prostitution, nude dancing, and so on.

In the country of destination, the trafficking victims, whether or not they were already prostitutes in their own country, will see their passport and other papers confiscated by the people organizing the prostitution. They will have to repay their travel debt. To that are added fees for room and board, clothing, make-up, condoms, and other items that are all deducted from their income. Once all the costs have been paid, there is practically nothing left for them.

A recent investigation by the International Labour Organization determined that prostitutes who are victims of trafficking end up keeping only about 20 per cent of generated income, with the rest going to the procurer.

If the prostitute does not bring in enough money, she will be threatened with sale to another procuring ring, to whom she will again have to repay her debt. She will frequently be moved from one place to another, be threatened with reprisals against her family back home, be subject to psychological, physical and sexual violence, and if she manages to escape her procurer, she runs the risk of being deported as an illegal immigrant. She is completely vulnerable, and rare are the countries that provide services to such persons and protect them from the procurers.

No human being deserves such a life or to be treated like that. We in Canada have an obligation at home and internationally to address this issue. I hope the House and the government finally will.

Human TraffickingPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand in the House today to speak in support of Motion No. 153, sponsored by my friend and colleague, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul. Indeed, it was a privilege to be in the House this afternoon to hear the interventions by the other members, the member for Abbotsford, the member for Laval, the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe and the member for London—Fanshawe. It appears the motion will receive a great amount of support from all members.

It comes as no surprise that the hon. member brings this motion before the House. Members may know that she is a committed advocate for measures to combat this heinous, degrading and, unfortunately, growing phenomenon across the world.

As a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, I have joined the member for Kildonan—St. Paul and all committee members in hearing the very compelling and often heart-rending testimony brought before the committee this past fall.

The motion is very timely. In the not too distant future, we expect that the committee's comprehensive report on human trafficking will be presented to the House for its consideration. It is my hope that the report will provide the House with the kind of evidence and recommendations that it needs to support the very essence of this motion before us today, which is to condemn the human trafficking of women and children across international borders for sexual exploitation and to adopt a strategy to combat the trafficking of persons worldwide.

Over the course of the testimony the committee heard this fall, it became very clear that human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation had become a scourge on modern humanity, a form of slavery that numbers many more human beings today than at any time during the 19th century.

It is estimated that there are between 700,000 and up to 4 million victims of human trafficking each year. Why the wide difference? Trafficking is an illegal underground activity conducted largely by elements of organized crime and international networks which profit from these activities. Reliable measurement is difficult and in some cases impossible due to the clandestine nature of this crime.

Some accounts suggest that profits from trafficking and the closely related forced prostitution that flows from it are rivaling that of the drug trade. Victims originate from areas of the world that suffer from poverty and lack of economic opportunity. Trafficked victims are often tricked by their sponsors and left to believe that they will be pursuing a new life in a prosperous country where they will be able to make some money and support themselves and their families.

It is only when they arrive at their destinations that they discover the brutal truth. They end up in brothels and body houses in cities of developed countries, including Canada. They are expected to turn up to 20 tricks a day for months on end to allegedly pay of their debt. They acquire diseases like HIV-AIDS and become subjected to an underworld of drug and alcohol abuse. When they are no longer marketable by their pimps, they are discarded to live with their addictions, their lives shattered and ruined.

The example I have just described is tragic enough to imagine for an adult woman, but when we consider that the large majority of these victims are young women and children, the magnitude of this problem is hard to stomach, the urgency for action even greater.

This was a small glimpse of a cycle that began with the most genuine of human expressions, which is to improve one's lot in life and to one's family, yet it ends in such a despicable way, an inhuman way, so criminals can profit.

How do we deal with trafficking in persons? The Palermo protocol, established by the United Nations, defines this phenomenon. This protocol was signed by Canada and ratified in May of 2002.

There are some important attributes to this definition of which we need to be mindful. It speaks to the very means that traffickers use to lure their victims. It establishes that the victims of these crimes are in fact victims even though consent may be given. It establishes that trafficked persons should no longer be considered criminals, that they need to be afforded protection from their sponsors. Last, it establishes a link between sex trafficking and prostitution, where the incidence of trafficking in persons abounds in jurisdictions where prostitution is less criminalized.

We heard in the standing committee this fall that up to 90% of trafficking in persons was for sexual exploitation, so I am glad to see this motion puts its focus there. One of our witnesses, Victor Malarek, a Canadian investigative journalist, described how “foreign women from destitute lands make up the vast majority of women in the sex trade”.

In places like Germany and the Netherlands, where prostitution is legalized, it is not the Dutch and German women, he said, who are lining up to enter the trade. No, nearly 80% of the sex workers in those countries come from destitute countries. There is no doubt that the incidence of laissez-faire prostitution laws allows this kind of criminality to flourish.

When we consider the issue of trafficking in persons, we will come to consider three important pillars: the protection of victims, the prevention of trafficking, and the prosecution of criminals. Each is important in the fight against this crime.

Let us consider for a moment our laws on citizenship and immigration and how we identify potential victims at our borders, or actual victims in our communities, and how we support them after the fact. Let us consider the role of law enforcement agencies. We know it becomes critical to this work in detecting and protecting victims and prosecuting criminals.

On that note, there are historical perceptions, regrettably, that exist within the law enforcement community. I do not mean this as a criticism, but these perceptions exist and must be overcome. These perceptions suggest that prostitutes, because of the category they are in, are in fact involved in criminality.

We know different.

To this end, Canada's law enforcement community is ready to meet the challenge, but they may need additional resources and training. On that note, just a month ago the member for Kildonan—St. Paul and I had the opportunity to meet with the Deputy Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police and discuss those matters in my very riding. He reiterated this point.

Other organizations, the social service agencies that work with these vulnerable people, are often the first legitimate contact that victims have with the destination countries. As was mentioned by the member for London—Fanshawe, the victims are mostly fearful of authority and perhaps have come from a country where that is part of their culture. They have come from a position where law and authority are considered to be threatening. In fact, the traffickers, the pimps and so on, have frightened and threatened them with all kinds of measures if they speak with law enforcement.

Therefore, these initial contacts are not easy. When these community agencies are lucky enough to make that contact, the process to get help for the victim and investigate the crime must be handled discreetly, with the victim's safety and protection paramount.

The nature of these circumstances is daunting. Conducting successful prosecutions and protecting victims will undoubtedly be expensive. We saw that in the first charge laid under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in the case of Michael Ng. It took the Vancouver vice department, a full department, six months, at a cost of a quarter of a million dollars, and that is just one case.

It is for these reasons that when we look at this phenomenon we have to consider that preventing these crimes will probably be more effective in the long run, with better resources expended than the kinds of resources that would be needed to deal with their aftermath.

Canada is a signatory to the UN protocol. We, like other nations that put human rights and civility in the forefront of our public policy, are duty bound to take up this cause and strive to address it here and abroad to the extent that we can.

It will take some study because of the clandestine nature of this activity, so we should act without delay and prevent the suffering of more women and children whose lives become consumed only for the sexual pleasure and profit of others.

I ask and in fact implore all members of the House to support Motion No. 153 to build on the good work of others such as the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, community support groups, law enforcement agencies, and public policy makers here and around the world, to stop this callous and dehumanizing crime, the trafficking persons for sexual exploitation.

Human TraffickingPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Glen Pearson Liberal London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is my first speech in the House as a new member of Parliament and I cannot think of one that would perhaps motive me more.

I have listened to the various colleagues and I want to thank the member opposite for moving this initiative forward, but I would like to speak personally if I may about some of the things that I have experienced on this file.

The reality is that there are 27 million people in slavery today. That is twice the number of people that were brought across the Atlantic during the slave trade that went on in the United States during the civil war. Most are women and children. They work in agriculture, mining, prostitution and, according to some estimates, hundreds, if not thousands, have come across the borders into Canada through human trafficking.

I could ask hon. members for just one minute to consider the plight of what some of these people go through, but I think I would like to speak personally for a minute, if they do not mind.

My wife and I have a daughter from Africa who was actually in slavery. She is now six years old. We got her when she was a year old. She had been through a terrible situation. Her mother had been killed. It was presumed her twin sister and brother had also been killed. She was taken around from pillar to post, to various parts of that country and basically had very little care.

Although the international community was interested in trying to help individuals that were in similar situations, it was not able to really find the means possible to help.

At that time I had come to this House in Ottawa to lobby for efforts and speak on behalf of children like this one. We were slowly getting our heads around the problem and what it was we had to do.

That little child has now been with us for five years. Just a year ago January, when we were in Sudan, we found her twin sister and brother in Darfur. They had somehow survived that attack and no one had known.

I say this only because whole lives, whole families, have been disrupted, ruined and spoiled. We do not even have an idea where most of these people are. We have a responsibility, it seems to me as Canadians, to find that out. Where are they? What is required that needs to be done?

I say that with a sense of personal and moral outrage, but even for myself I should have done more in my younger years to search this out, so I really appreciate what the member opposite has done in putting this forward. It is time that we begin to move on it.

I realize that rapid population growth, transportation and the way people move around the world has made it far easier to move these types of people around, even into our own country. I would remind the House that in other places and continents like Africa, millions of people are being moved around and caught in all of that: refugee status; IDP, internally displaced people; slavery; sexual servitude; chattel slavery; and human trafficking.

There is also government corruption. We have seen this when working with various NGOs, especially ones in Washington where we have done a lot of work. We have seen that a lot of the stuff that is going on is because of corrupt governments in the countries in which it is taking place.

We have a responsibility. We cannot just talk about a responsibility for attack and speak about places like Afghanistan and other places. We have a responsibility to protect these kinds of people in their own countries, people like my daughter and people like her family.

It is not enough for us to know that they now exist. We are now getting that and the messages are coming across. It is now time for us to act. We must act. As my hon. colleague from London—Fanshawe has said, we must act with law and with jurisprudence. We must act with alacrity toward many of the things that we are seeing, but above all, we must act in the spirit of cooperation with other countries.

We do not have to win the moral argument on this. It is over. We have won it. We do not need to win the economic argument. There is no real advantage that comes to anybody in a country, in a nation state, from having slavery. We do not have to have a basic legal argument. It is there. It is there at the UN. It is there at the European Union and it is even in our own laws.

I would like to suggest to everyone here that along with what has been said tonight, there are some practical things that we could also do that would help.

First, we should be out there as a government, all of us together, supporting these courageous people in NGOs who are risking their own lives in many cases to bring these stories back to us and asking us as Parliamentarians to do something about it. If somebody had done that to me earlier, perhaps I would have acted earlier than I did.

The point is that it is now here and we now need to back these NGOs. We need to fund them and we need to bring them here to Ottawa to hear their stories.

Second, we must urge Canadians to do all in their power to not purchase those products that have been made by the slave trade. That is important. It is very important that we become aware of what is going on and, as more and more of this information comes out, we can do something about it. We can attack slavery where it occurs. We can support those governments that are having a problem getting a handle on it.

My wife and I were glad to be part of a ceremony a couple of years ago in which it was announced that, in a certain part of Africa, slavery had been eradicated. After 20 years, it had been eradicated, not because governments had acted but because individual citizens from around the world had used the Internet, took media to these countries and were able to make a difference there.

However, we were all here, governments around the world, speaking in Geneva, in London, England, in Washington and here in Ottawa, trying to get governments to react but they delayed. They took their time trying to figure it out. We do not have any more time for that. Twenty-seven million people is just too big a number.

We can expand Canada's commitment to economic development in those countries in which slave trade or domestic servitude or even things like human trafficking can be eradicated with help by governments that feel a certain inclination to take these things out of their own country.

It is also our duty to work with the experts in the NGO community and to bring them here to our committees to help us. We saw some of that happen this morning at a breakfast in the parliamentary restaurant. We have a responsibility to get them here to educate us. We do not know everything and we need the experience that these people have had.

We need to ask the Canadian government and Canadian businesses not to promote trade with other countries that are clearly dealing in this kind of issue. We need to put some substance to our human rights. I talked about this before but we need to really do it.

This is a personal issue for me and for the member opposite but it is time we did something because it is the people we are talking about.

I have been in this House five or six weeks and I have heard the partisanship. I heard it in the debate tonight. However, there is no time for that. In these other countries, such as in Washington and other places, we have tried to forge coalitions between Democrats and Republicans and even independents to say that this is above all of this stuff, that this is just junk that gets in the way.

It is time for us realize that this motion that has been put forward deserves our best support, not just for people like my daughter but for the 27 million other people out there who are waiting for us to take what we are saying in this House tonight and actually put it into deeds, into justice and into funding to stop these things.

I speak wholeheartedly in support of the member's motion and I encourage all the members of the House to pass it.

Human TraffickingPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I would just like to take a moment to congratulate the hon. member for London North Centre on his first speech in the House of Commons.

I now recognize the hon. member for Kildonan--St. Paul who has five minutes to wrap up the debate on this particular motion.

Human TraffickingPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I must commend my colleague from London North Centre. I cannot think of a better speech to give as a first speech in this House of Parliament. My congratulations to him.

Today, we as parliamentarians are speaking as one voice across our nation. There are many people and NGOs across this country, such as the International Justice Mission under Jamie MacIntosh, the Salvation Army under Major Kester Trim, Irena Soltys from Help us Help the Children, Irene Sushko from Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and many others who have put a lot of time and heart into stopping human trafficking.

Trafficking of women and children is the most heinous of crimes. It is all about the drug trade. It is all about making money off the backs of innocent victims.

The status of women committee has been studying the human trafficking issue. All members on the committee have benefited greatly. Early next week we will be tabling a very important and comprehensive report in the House of Commons. We in the House of Commons, as Canadians, as parliamentarians, are shouting out that human trafficking around the globe must be stopped.

I want to speak for a moment about our Canadians, our children, our Canada.

Human trafficking here in Canada unfortunately is alive and well. The RCMP knows this, NGOs know this, and Canadian citizens know this.The average Canadian citizen is just beginning to learn about it because it has been lurking under the public radar screen. It has been under the public radar screen because of the lack of resources and the lack of support for NGOs and for our police forces to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Today I am calling on all parliamentarians to support Motion No. 153. I am calling on all parliamentarians to look into their hearts and to continue on with this issue throughout the year so we in this House of Parliament can say that in the year 2007 we stopped human trafficking, that we worked as one voice across Canada.

There is no place for partisanship on this issue. We need to listen to the cries of the children, to the cries of the women. We need to speak for those innocent victims who are unable to speak for themselves. We are here to give hope to the lost, hope to the people who have suffered from the heinous crimes of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

This is a very moving day for me. In Winnipeg last week hundreds of children were talked about in a public provincial inquiry, about how they too were lost on the streets and how they too were subjected to terrible sexual exploitation.

It all has to do with the protection of innocent victims. These people are victims. They are not criminals. They need to be protected. They need to be sheltered. They need to be fed. They need to be shown that we as Canadians stand for the true north strong and free. We stand for having a country where people can come and build a new life and be safe on our streets.

Today, I must thank the House for the opportunity to present this very important motion. I call on all members to support this motion wholeheartedly and to move forward to protect these innocent victims.

Human TraffickingPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

It being 6:15 p.m. the time provided for debate has expired.

Accordingly, the question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Human TraffickingPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Human TraffickingPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

Human TraffickingPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

It being 6:15 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:15 p.m.)