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House of Commons Hansard #164 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trafficking.

Topics

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is what I was saying just now to my colleague when she asked if we wanted to deal with the issue. Difficulties with the domestic help program were raised at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. I also participated in an Amnesty International campaign to point out the problems with this program.

The government has all the information required to deal with the problem of women who are subjected to degrading treatment here in Canada. We are waiting for policies on the matter. One does not preclude the other. People are familiar with the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. We work very hard and we even hold additional special hearings that are currently planned for other matters. The subject is very broad, but this bill requires special attention. I do not believe that the committee will block such an important issue. However, we are limited by the sections of the Act that are amended by the bill. We will have to do some gymnastics to make the bill effective. Nevertheless, I do not necessarily expect that we will have any difficulty identifying individuals who could appear before the committee and we should proceed quickly with Bill C-57.

At this stage, we wish to do everything in our power to make this an effective piece of legislation. For this reason, we support sending it to committee. I agree with the member that the government has everything it needs to tackle the problem of domestic help and temporary workers.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Vaudreuil-Soulanges for her excellent speech. In the Bloc Québécois, our colleague is an inexhaustible source of information.

I would like to ask her a question about the purpose of the bill, which is to protect people coming from outside Canada who are at risk of being subjected to humiliating or degrading treatment, but without any specific definition of those terms being given.

I am thinking of the people who might be covered by those descriptions. We might consider exotic dance bars and escort agencies. I was reading more recently that with the Grand Prix of Canada coming to Montreal on the weekend, the escort agencies cannot keep up with demand. The rate charged is very high because of that demand. So we can see that there is a market. We all know people who are living in these situations; they do not have to be people coming from outside the country. Personally, I know several people who have been caught up in these rings and in this kind of activity because of financial or family or other kinds of problems.

The Immigration Act is really being used to deal with people who come from outside the country to remedy a situation that actually seems to be tolerated in this country, since it already exists. Does the member believe that this is really an effective way of regulating the problem when the issue is human dignity and degrading treatment?

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. As I was saying in my speech, I do not believe that by addressing the port of entry the bill settles the matter in its entirety. This may not be the most effective way to protect women who are already here and who are already victims of degrading treatment.

There are programs. Year after year, the government evaluates those programs. There are groups and people who work in immigration, with refugees and with women who are victims of violence or degrading treatment. I think that the government should rather take on the task of establishing programs or improving and reviewing the existing programs. That would be a good step in the right direction.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2007 / 12:35 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the first debate on Bill C-57. I have been sitting here listening to the debate and, frankly, I was quite appalled to hear the Conservative member within an hour accuse the opposition of stalling tactics when we are debating the bill. I get the feeling that the member would be quite happy if the opposition completely disappeared off the face of the earth and then the government could run on its high-minded agenda with no one in the House to debate legislation on what it is doing. It is an outrage that within 50 minutes of the bill being debated, the member had the gall to stand and say to the Bloc member, and the Liberal member who just spoke and who legitimately raised concerns about the bill, that they were using a stalling tactic.

I would say shame on the Conservative members for being so arrogant in their attitude that they will not even tolerate debate in the House on a bill that we are sent here to deal with representing our constituents and public interests. However, we have come to expect these kinds of tactics from the government. Any time debate takes place in this House the government makes accusations and allegations that the opposition is doing a political job.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that we are here to debate this legislation and we will do exactly that. The sad part of this is that this bill, which does raise a lot of serious questions about the Conservative agenda, will probably be over in a few hours and it will be sent off to the committee. I do not know what will happen after that but that is the sad commentary on what is taking place.

I felt like I had to begin with those comments because I was sitting here feeling a sense of outrage about the political spin and the messaging that the Conservatives were engaging in when we had barely begun debate on the bill. I say shame on them for doing that. It is quite offensive the way democracy seems to take a back seat in this place.

I will now make a number of comments on the bill because I think it has some fundamental problems. At this point we in the NDP feel that we cannot support the bill.

First, the bill itself purports to propose amendments that would give authority to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to instruct immigration officers to deny work permits to foreign strippers. I noticed the government seems intent on using the pejorative term “strippers” as opposed to exotic dancers, which is what they are actually called. Again, that gives us a little understanding of the government's agenda. This authority would give enormous powers to the minister, on what basis it is hard to know. Giving the minister the power to cast a yea or a nay on a permit that comes on her desk raises the question as to whether or not this is really a ban.

The minister has been reported in the media as saying that she would like those permits to go down to zero. Even the government's own press release points out that over the last year it has significantly cut back on the number of people coming to Canada as exotic dancers so we know it has been doing this. This raises the question as to whether we are actually dealing with a ban, in which case the government should be up front and say that this is something it will not allow as opposed to saying that it is a discretionary thing because it has already cut permits back. I think only 17 permits were approved in the last year. This is something that is a serious concern to us in terms of the bill's real intent.

Second, as was pointed out by the NDP women's critic, the member for London—Fanshawe, when the bill was first introduced a few weeks ago, she said that if the issue is exploitation and harm, then instead of banning workers and the program, we should be focusing on workplace safety and on the rights of workers, whether they be exotic dancers, other foreign workers or domestic workers. Surely that is the issue.

When I read in one of the news reports that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration was introducing this bill as a humanitarian response, I just about fell off my chair laughing. I spent three years on a subcommittee of the justice committee studying the sex trade in Canada. We held extensive hearings across the country and heard from sex workers, in camera and in public, and we heard from police and advocates. When we finally issued our report, although I must say that it was a disappointing report, the government's response was quite pathetic. It completely ignored the danger, the exploitation and the incredible risks that sex workers already face in this country because of our laws.

I find it incredible that the minister would pop up and say that she was introducing this bill, in which she uses the term “strippers”, based on humanitarian reasons. This is nothing more than part of the Conservatives' moralistic agenda. They see enforcement, the Criminal Code and sanctions against people as the answer to everything, instead of focusing on what the complex issues are.

I must point out that even the government, in its response to the subcommittee's report on prostitution, the Minister of Justice told the committee:

...the Interdepartmental Working Group on Trafficking in Persons...coordinates all federal anti-trafficking efforts. The IWGTIP is composed of 16 participating federal departments and agencies and works in collaboration with its provincial and territorial partners, as well as civil society and its international partners, to prevent trafficking, protect its victims and hold perpetrators accountable.

The government goes on to point out that Bill C-49, which dealt with new trafficking specific offences, was passed in 2005 under the previous government. I remember debating that bill in the House of Commons. In 2006, Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced a further series of measures to deal with the vulnerable situation of trafficking victims.

Therefore, by the government's own admission, a bill had already passed through the House and further measures were taken to deal with the serious question of trafficking, which must be dealt with, and we supported those measures. I know that the Status of Women committee has looked at that and studied it.

We now have this weird little bill before the House and we are being told that it is a most important bill. I would agree with the Liberal member for Mississauga—Erindale who pointed out all the other issues that the Conservative government has failed to address on immigration and citizenship, and the list can become very long.

With all the problems that do exist within the system, whether it is foreign credentials, family reunification or the massive backlog, none of them are being dealt with. However, all of a sudden we have this bill before us even though the government, in its response, said that it had taken significant measures in previous legislation that was enacted to deal with trafficking. One has to question what is behind this bill.

We cannot support the bill because it is does not actually deal with the problem that exists. If we want to deal with exploitation, abuse and people's rights, then we should deal with that, but to simply give the minister power, with no accountability, to accept or deny permits when she feels like it, is a completely irrational legislative response. I do not see how we in this Parliament can support that kind of legislation. I would much rather see us focusing this debate on the real exploitation that is taking place and on what the government is prepared to do about it.

Again, I will come back to the subcommittee of the justice committee that dealt with our laws on prostitution, where there are very serious issues, where we have seen a high rate of violence because of law enforcement and because of the way laws operate. Women have disappeared. Aboriginal women have disappeared at an alarming rate, a rate higher than that of any other sector of our society.

I represent the riding of Vancouver East, the downtown east side, where we have had 63 women who were missing and murdered. The evidence is piling up that the prostitution law itself, because prostitution is not illegal but all the activities around it are, is one of the main contributors to the harm these women are suffering. In fact, just yesterday in Vancouver a new report was unveiled as a result of a two year community process called “Living in Community”, which tried to grapple with this issue in a very holistic, comprehensive and sensitive way in terms of dealing with safety in the community and the safety of people involved in the sex trade.

This bill has nothing to do with that. This bill will not address any of those issues. All it will do is allow the Conservatives to say they were responding to the issues of women's equality and violence against women, to say that this is what this bill is about, but the bill does not even come close. In fact, it is offensive in terms of the way it lays out its purported response.

I want to say in today's debate that we in the NDP believe this bill is very short-sighted. There were already mechanisms in place that allowed the government to take action in terms of dealing with visas. We know that because the Conservatives themselves admitted that they were cutting down on the permits for exotic dancers. It seems to me that rather than focusing a ban on those individuals and what may be legitimate situations, what they have chosen to do is basically bring in a ban on the whole program. That is what really underlies this, because that is what the minister has told us in the media. That is what the real intent is.

Instead of focusing on the issue of the workplace and abusive employers, no matter what workplace it is, whether it is for exotic dancers or in other areas that employ foreign workers or Canadian workers, what the government does is separate out the problems into little boutique bills. It creates a sort of moral high ground around them and then claims that this is how the government is moving forward when really it has not done anything. What it may do, by an unfortunate consequence, is actually drive the sex trade further underground.

Instead of focusing on the workplace and violations that may take place, instead of focusing on the rights and the safety of sex workers or exotic dancers, because those are real situations that could be dealt with, this bill has moved in a completely different direction.

In our caucus, we have had a lot of debate about this bill. We believe it is important to deal with exploitation and abuse. We believe it is important to focus attention on women's equality in this country. We believe it is critical to ensure that foreign workers are not exploited.

In fact, I find it ironic that the government is actually accelerating the foreign worker program. Pilot studies have taken place in Alberta. We have seen a huge acceleration of the program in British Columbia, because there now is a demand from employers who want foreign workers for the Olympics, for construction and the service and hospitality industries. We actually have seen an acceleration of the foreign worker program.

In fact, it is the NDP that has been calling for a review of this program because we are concerned with the exploitation and abuse of foreign workers that is taking place as a result of this program. However, to bring in this bill and say that it is going to resolve these problems flies in the face of reality.

We in the NDP will not be supporting this bill. I think the other two opposition parties have laid out some very good issues and arguments as to their concerns as well. We of course will be participating in the discussion at committee, where I am sure there will be witnesses, and there may be amendments.

We find that the bill as it is now is not supportable. We are not prepared to support a bill that gives such open-ended powers to a minister. We are not prepared to support a bill that in effect bans these particular workers, the exotic dancers.

The NDP is not prepared to support a bill that really is based on the Conservative government's political ideology. The NDP would much prefer to deal with this issue in a real fashion. We would much prefer to deal with exploitation and to deal with, for example, the prostitution laws that have been ignored by the government. That is where the debate needs to be focused.

I would urge the minister and the parliamentary secretary and others in the government who are supporting the bill to read the report that came out of Vancouver just yesterday. It is called the “Living in Community Action Plan”. I would urge them to take a look at what a genuine community debate is all about in terms of the sex trade and what needs to be done. Government members could see how different stakeholders came together, whether it was police, government representatives, city representatives, community advocates, or sex workers themselves, and produced not only a process but a report with recommendations and conclusions that actually make some sense. That was genuine. It has a lot of merit and a lot of legitimacy because of what the individuals went through.

Something like this bill, which almost seems to have been pulled out of a hat because it serves a political purpose, needs to be called what it is, and that is what we are doing here today. The NDP will not be supporting this bill. There are a lot of problems in the citizenship and immigration department. A lot of things need to be fixed. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, this bill ignores all of those issues.

We certainly will debate this bill on its merits. We will deal with it in committee. We will debate it when it comes back. However, we believe that we have a responsibility to tell the Canadian public that this bill is a sham and that it is not going to deal with those harmful situations. All the bill is going to do is ban those workers instead of focusing on safety and rights in the workplace, which is really how this intervention should be made.

NDP members are not in a position to support this bill. I have given the reasons why. I certainly am now expecting a barrage of indignation from the Conservatives as they once again get on their little pedestals, but that is okay. We understand what that political spin is about.

I am just glad that there are members in the opposition who understand that debate is not about stalling. Debate is debate. Dialogue and different points of view are legitimate. That is why we are here. Part of our job is to hold the government to account and to look at legislation with a lens as to whether or not it has merit. We take that very seriously.

I look forward to questions and comments. I will respond to them as best I can.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, NDP members love to get on their soapboxes and rant about Conservative motives. Rarely do they miss an opportunity to claim themselves the champions of minority rights and women's rights. They claim to be the moral compass for society, especially to the disenfranchised.

Here we have a bill that would make a real difference in the sex trade industry, the most vulnerable of groups, and yet we hear that the NDP is not going to support it. I find that incredible. I find that repugnant. I find that offensive.

The RCMP tells us that 800 to 1,200 sex workers are coming through. NGOs are telling us that it is as many as 15,000.

If NDP members are really the champions of the oppressed, and if they are really the voice of repressed women, why would they not work with the government and work with this legislation to stop the sexual exploitation that exists in our present immigration act? I welcome the member's response.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would love to get a copy of those speaking notes. Obviously they have been lined up for each party. It would be fascinating to have them and see the arguments that are presented: this is what we say to the NDP, this is what we say to the Bloc, and this is what we say to the Liberals.

That aside, I believe that in my comments I made it very clear that Bill C-49, passed in 2005, which was a bill that amended the Criminal Code dealing with trafficking, was a very significant bill. It was passed in the House. It had significant hearings. It was based on the concerns about exploitation and trafficking. Does that bill need to be amended?

In the subcommittee that I mentioned, of which I was a member, in our study of Canada's criminal prostitution laws we had a recommendation on trafficking that stated:

The Subcommittee recommends that the Government of Canada ensure that the problem of trafficking in persons remains a priority so that victims are provided with adequate assistance and services, while traffickers are brought to justice.

It was a unanimous recommendation from all parties.

As I also pointed out to the member, the response we got from the government, his government, was as I actually read it into the record. It talked about the interdepartmental working group and it referred to the legislation in 2005, and apparently things were in order.

What I am saying to the member and to the minister is that if there are continuing problems in terms of dealing with trafficking and abuse, then the government should bring forward that amendment to the Criminal Code. Certainly the status of women committee has been looking at it. The subcommittee that I was on was looking at it. We said to keep it as a high priority.

However, the bill that we are debating today, Bill C-57, does not deal with that. The bill is about the Conservatives' moral agenda to basically ban exotic dancers, that is what it is, or to give the minister incredibly broad powers to do I do not know what. It does not really spell it out. That is not good legislation.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her statements. I find it passing strange that the Conservatives are busy masquerading as those who are concerned about the inequality and vulnerability of women at the same time as they have changed Status of Women Canada so that research, lobbying and advocacy are no longer permitted. That clearly is undermining women and women's equality.

However, my question arises from the report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, entitled “Turning Outrage into Action to Address Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation in Canada”. I want to ask the member for her sense of a couple of recommendations, the first, of course, being that the committee recommended that “the federal government develop a national framework to address poverty in Canada”. Certainly we have not seen that.

More importantly, the committee recommended that “Citizenship and Immigration Canada increase access to and information on migration channels in order to increase women's ability to migrate independently and safely”. In other words, the recommendation was to bring down those barriers that prohibit women from coming into this country to seek the kind of employment that is safe and provides them with a quality of life.

I would be most interested in the member's response.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for London—Fanshawe has really focused the attention on what the debate needs to be about. There is no question about the irony here. This is the government that has done more than any other to turn the clock back on women's equality. The cuts we have seen to programs and the elimination of advocacy from the mandate have been quite stunning.

I am familiar with the report of which the member speaks. It seems to me that to focus on immigration and settlement and to allow women to come to Canada independently is again where we get into the debate of how the immigration system needs to be reviewed and changed. Right now that is not happening. If we did have a system that was more open and allowed immigration to happen, because we do have worker shortages in the country, then maybe programs like this would not exist at all. I do not know.

However, the priorities the member for London—Fanshawe has identified are the real ones we should be debating in terms of legislation and changes, rather than Bill C-57.

On the question about poverty, this is a fundamental truth in realizing that the more women fall into poverty, the more we see inequality grow, then the more abuse and exploitation we see takes place in our society. If we were addressing the underlying issue of poverty and promoting women's economic and social independence, whether they are in Canada or through the immigration system, then we would really be addressing the priorities in the country.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member for Vancouver East when she said that this was not the sole solution to the problem. However, I can assure her that this is a step forward in the right direction.

I attended the Asia-Pacific forum, at which 27 countries were represented. The issue of human trafficking came up. It was not only first and foremost, but it was a major concern for every country there. It is literally pandemic throughout the entire region right now. The countries attending the forum suggested that the legislation we were proposing was what they have asked for. They said that we had a problem as did they. They said that while this is not the total solution, it was a step forward to address the problem.

Are the government and the other 27 countries all wrong and is she right?

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if the member has read the report from our Standing Committee on the Status of Women, an all party committee of Parliament. A couple of the recommendations were just referenced by the member for London—Fanshawe. In that report, as well as in the subcommittee report dealing with prostitution, these issues had been canvassed, had been seriously debated and recommendations were made to the government. I was incredibly disappointed with the government's response to our subcommittee report. I do not know what the government's response was to the Status of Women's report, but I think it was probably pretty minimal.

What we are saying is, yes, a lot needs to be done, but those recommendations have already been made to the government and we have not seen the government respond to the work coming out of committees, which is kind of the backbone of Parliament.

I agree that this is one element, but it is getting a lot of attention from the Conservatives. They are holding this up and saying that this is what they are doing, that this is how they are solving this problem. I do not think so. They should pay attention to the legitimate work that has already been done and respond to it. If they did, maybe we would get somewhere then.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I join the debate on Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act are much needed measures. Bill C-57 addresses an important gap that currently exists in Canada's immigration law. In fact, Christine MacMillan, territorial commander for the Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda has this to say about Bill C-57:

This announcement is an excellent advancement towards the protection of women from sexual exploitation....It is another positive step in the fight against human trafficking, and we are encouraged by the leadership shown by the Federal Government.

With respect to current provision in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the existing legislation provides the government with the authority to allow an individual to enter Canada even if they do not meet all of the requirements and are inadmissible. Unfortunately, the act does not provide a similar authority to deny a temporary work permit to an applicant who meets entry requirements, but whose presence in Canada may put them in harm's way.

The proposed Bill C-57 will give the minister the authority to instruct immigration officers to deny work permits to individuals who might face humiliating and degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation. Without this authority, immigration officers cannot deny a work permit to someone who meets all the requirements to enter Canada, even if they believe there is a strong possibility of exploitation or abuse.

The proposed Bill C-57 will help us to prevent individuals from entering into situations where they may be abused or exploited, or where in fact they could become victims of human trafficking. Furthermore, it will help ensure our immigration system is not used by criminals to victimize people.

The Government of Canada should have the authority to institute measures to deny permits if there is evidence that individuals, including exotic dancers or anybody else, would be subject to humiliating and degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation.

It is time for us to step up and be accountable. This legislation is all about that. Some may ask the question, why should we be concerned? Why do we need this legislation? The answer can be found in one word: accountability.

As elected representatives of an open and democratic institution, we must demonstrate our collective and unified resolve to ensure as much as possible the safety of anyone entering our country. We must be vigilant in protecting vulnerable individuals against potential exploitation, even though these individuals may not be Canadian citizens, but are considering temporary employment in Canada. We must take every measure possible to ensure that unsuspecting foreign workers are not subject to abuse or exploitation. The Government of Canada cannot be complicit in this kind of activity.

I find it most unfortunate that the Liberal immigration critic, the member for Mississauga—Erindale, criticized Bill C-57 by saying that he thought that we already had enough protection for vulnerable foreign workers who could be subject to sexual exploitation. To quote the Liberal immigration critic, he said, “I think we have the safeguards in place. It is a cheap attempt to change the channel and pretend to do something while they are really doing nothing”.

Before rushing to judgment, I wonder if the Liberal immigration critic bothered consulting with key stakeholders who welcomed our government's initiatives, stakeholders such as Sabrina Sullivan of The Future Group, who said:

[The] Immigration Minister...has taken an important step to protect women from sexual exploitation and end a program that made Canada complicit in human trafficking...It is clear that...[this] government is serious about combating human trafficking.

For those members of the opposition who think Bill C-57 is not needed, I urge them to consult stakeholders such as The Future Group, Stop the Trafficking Coalition and the Salvation Army. Perhaps then they will realize how important the legislation is and how critical it is for them to support it.

Let us be mindful of what we are debating today. We are in part debating the granting of a discretionary authority to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to deny the application of a foreign national for a temporary work permit in Canada. Like any authority granted or legislated to a minister, such a proposed or new authority must be reviewed, debated and enacted in the most open and accountable manner. That is what this government is committed to doing.

In fact, to demonstrate our openness to accountability on this matter, Richard Kurland, as I talked about before, an experienced and well-known immigration lawyer said, and I want to quote this again because this is very important:

What is [absolutely] striking about the new government's approach, unlike the former government, the new government is going through the front door. I have never seen this in 15 years of immigration policy...Normally, in years past, it was done behind the bureaucratic doors or through a [fait accompli] regulation with no debate. That's what remarkable today [for immigration policy].

That is quite a statement.

We are committed to not only an open debate, but also a full explanation of the reasons for the proposed changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Allow me to review the government's commitment to accountability on this matter. First, I will reiterate and support the minister's assurance that a high level of accountability is attached to any exercise of authority proposed in the legislation. As the parliamentary secretary stated earlier, any ministerial instruction would be based on public policy objectives and evidence that clearly outlined an identified risk of abuse or exploitation.

Any decision by an immigration officer to refuse a work permit in Canada would require the concurrence of a second officer. Ministerial instructions to deny any such permit would be published in the Canada Gazette and would be reported in the annual report to Parliament on immigration.

I ask all hon. members to understand the basic principles behind the legislation. These principles are openness and accountability. I further ask this essential question of all members. Would any member support or approve the granting of a work permit to a foreign national knowing that he or she might become vulnerable to any form of exploitation or degradation? The answer, of course, is no.

As previously said, the authority would help target the networks that would profit from human trafficking. It would also stop the flow of individuals who were their prey and ultimate victims.

I submit, as a responsible government, that we should be able to say no to those applying for temporary employment who may not realize that they are being duped and misled. I believe it is only right that we should be able to prevent a human being from entering into a situation that would result in harm.

It is the Canadian way to warn an individual that he or she is about to make a mistake, which could have irreversible negative effects on their future. Above all, it is a Canadian tradition to stand up and be accountable among our friends and help them in a fight against exploitation.

Hon. colleagues will agree that making Canada a safer place for everyone is our objective. The instructions have the flexibility to allow for future unanticipated situations. Human trafficking is but one example of the kind of abuse and exploitation we are all trying to prevent.

Canada does not want to remain a destination country for human traffickers. Ministerial instructions issued under this new authority would give us one more tool to help stop trafficking at our borders and prevent foreign nationals from becoming victims. They build on Canada's existing efforts to protect victims of trafficking by giving them access to a temporary resident permit, health care benefits and trauma counselling.

Canada's immigration legislation includes stiff penalties of up to life imprisonment and fines of up to $1 million for traffickers.

In conclusion, I would like to cite John Muise, Director of Public Safety for the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness, who said that Bill C-57 “is part of the response that needs to occur in terms of protecting women and children in this country”.

I urge all members to put aside their partisan views and do the right thing and support this very important Bill C-57.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the speech by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul and I understand her concern about jobs which subject people to humiliating or degrading treatment. However, in order to better understand the objective or merits of the bill, I have some questions to ask for information purposes.

I would like to know what percentage of immigrants is already included in the system for this degrading work. Also, what are we doing for those people already included in the current system and already admitted into Canada? In this case, what do we do if we find that it is a degrading job? If the bill were applied and would prevent any foreign resident from taking this job, does she think that they would be replaced by local workers or existing Canadians? If so, what would the government or the bill change, at the end of the day, if all workers were not prevented from doing this job?

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. This is not just about exotic dancers. The bill is about all foreign temporary workers who cross our borders.

Right now 800 to 1,200 victims of human trafficking are here in Canada, according to RCMP statistics. Non-governmental organizations say that 15,000 people were probably trafficked across Canada this year. The NGOs know about these things. They have sheltered these people.

I worked in this area for close to 10 years. In this country, when vulnerable people have been exploited, our government has put in 120 days for them to be sheltered, fed, counselled, have medical care and be protected. We are taking real action to make that happen.

The need is there. It took me two elections to finally get this particular issue on the status of women agenda.

I would invite the member opposite to read the blues of those witnesses who came from all across Canada to talk about their experiences and to talk about this growing crime in Canada. I would urge the member to listen to the police officers, to the international model who gave the testimony. It is very educational.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, on her work in the status of women committee and in particular on the issue of the trafficking of humans. Her work is very commendable. She has done a lot of hard work over the years.

We debate bills from time to time in the House and we try to get it right. I think we have got this one right for the most part. There may be something we could say about any bill that has ever been debated here.

I want to ask my colleague if she agrees with me that we have had inaction on this issue for years, just nothing. There was strippergate a few years ago. Young women, particularly from Romania, came over here looking for a better life and it was not a better life in a lot of cases.

We have to move ahead. Will the bill eliminate the situation where women who came from Romania and other countries were exploited? What will it do further to that to help protect against human trafficking? I ask the member for her comments.

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question is very timely and full of insight.

There are many things that are happening right now that we need to address. The crime of human trafficking is alive and well in Canada and it is growing.

Bill C-57 is one piece that will help address the problem. Our government is doing other things to help out on that. I applaud members on all sides of the House who supported my Motion No. 153 to stop human trafficking. All members of the House supported the motion so today I am quite dismayed. We need to send this bill to committee to examine it. I would urge members not to stall it. I would urge members not to hold it up. People's lives are at stake. I would urge members to get on board, to support the bill and help our most vulnerable citizens.

I do not want it to get off track. It is not just about exotic dancers. It is not just about the sex trade. Young girls and young boys are coming into the country unaware of what is going on. There are criminals who are helping them get through the border and helping them answer questions correctly. When they get here they are taken into confinement and are forced into the sex trade. This is what we are talking about today.

Bill C-57 addresses that. The 120 days is a piece of it, as are other issues that we are working on in Parliament to enable vulnerable victims to be saved. The reason we are so tentative about things being held up is that a record number of bills have been held up in Parliament throughout the year. In fact, we have had the first anniversary of one bill that has been held up for the better part of a year.

Now we are talking about Bill C-57. People's lives depend on it. It is very important that we take leadership roles as members of Parliament and pass this bill.

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1:20 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear that the member wants to stop human trafficking. That is very honourable and something which we would all like to see in the world.

I sat in on the status of women standing committee one time when someone talked about the film, The Natashas, and spoke about the trafficking of women. Women were coming from Romania and they had no idea that they were coming to be sex trade workers, exotic dancers or other things. They thought they were coming to be nannies and child care workers. We know this goes on in the world and it is something that needs to be stopped. I commend her on this bill.

The status of women committee made a full report in February. It had many recommendations in it. I would like to ask the hon. member if her party will be following up on the recommendations, recommendations such as giving border guards adequate training so that they can ask the right questions and recognize women who are being taken across the border, possibly against their will, into professions in which they do not want to work. Will the government be implementing those recommendations?

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, this government is very aware of the report and is working with it every day. It is not just one minister. All the ministers are working on this very important issue.

I have to say that we have done more than the previous government did in 13 years. We have done it in just over a year. We are taking action. We are working fast.

All these recommendations are being looked at. They are very important recommendations. We can see that with the 120 days that has been put in place since we got into government. We can see that with Bill C-57. Those are the things that we are pushing through right now, along with the stiff criminal laws for people who perpetrate those crimes.

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to make some comments on Bill C-57. Certainly it is an issue which I know a fair amount about and I am glad to have the opportunity to comment on it.

Bill C-57 is about a page and a half long. It makes an amendment to our immigration laws. Certainly on the face of it, it should not take very long for any of us to deal with it, whether we are debating it at length or not. Part of our role in Parliament is not just to take something at face value and say that it looks good, it is an area that many of us care about and that we would like to see some improvements to strengthen it. Parliament is about debate and discussion to make things better.

For a bill to pass without our having a full opportunity to debate and discuss it, frankly, would be viewed upon as our not carrying out our responsibilities to ensure that legislation brought forward accomplishes what the intent of it clearly is, and if possible, to go further than that. That means we should look for areas to add further strength in the bill and make sure it is going to achieve the same goals that all of us in the House want to achieve.

I am pleased to take a few minutes to comment on this important issue today in an attempt to move the bill forward to committee so we can ensure that it accomplishes what we all want it to accomplish. The bill is an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which recognizes quite clearly, “Whereas Parliament recognizes the importance of protecting vulnerable foreign nationals who come to work in Canada from exploitation and abuse”. That is very clearly written into the Immigration Act and I know all of us want to ensure that happens.

This bill proposes to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to allow immigration officers the ability to refuse or authorize foreign nationals to work in Canada based on if they are considered to be vulnerable persons and/or at risk of exploitation or abuse. That very much is left up to the person who is doing the interviewing.

Currently, the visa officer can explain to individuals that they have certain rights when they go to Canada. The visa officer can hand them pamphlets outlining that they may be asked to do certain things and that they do not have to because they have certain rights under their visa applications. That does not always sink in with the person on the other side of the desk who is fleeing poverty or for whatever reason desperately wants to come to Canada and is willing to take a chance. This bill would end that opportunity. It would give the visa officer the opportunity to decide that the person would be exploited. It gives the officer a huge power. It is something that needs to be seriously looked at.

The bill would also allow immigration officers to determine if granting authorization would be contrary to public policy considerations that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has specifically outlined or based on evidence that people are at risk of exploitation. Often it is a feeling that someone gets. When we ask why a visa was refused, the visa officer will say that it was instinct, just a feeling that a certain person would find himself or herself in a vulnerable position. It puts a lot of emphasis and trust on the minister giving visas on judgment.

I do not see where there is harm in doing that as long as we make sure the checks and balances are in place. In reading at least the beginning of this bill, I see it is going to require a second person to comment and that is helpful.

Under the proposed amendments to the IRPA, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration could issue written instructions to immigration officers giving them the authority to deny work permits to applicants who appear very vulnerable to them. The instructions would be based on clear public policy objectives and evidence that outlines the risk of exploitation that the applicants face.

Written instructions could help identify, for example, individuals who would be vulnerable to humiliating and degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation. All of us as parliamentarians have been around for a few years and we have certainly had an opportunity to hear firsthand about the exploitation of many people who come here on a variety of different permits. They are very vulnerable and do not have a lot of support or resources, or even know where to turn to get help. They often end up in our offices, sometimes even our campaign offices.

These could include low skilled labourers as well as potential victims of human trafficking. Immigration officers would make their decision on a case by case basis. Each application for a permit is always assessed on its own merits.

Without this authority, immigration officers cannot deny a work permit to someone who meets all the requirements to enter Canada, even if they believe there is a strong possibility of exploitation or abuse.

Clearly, if we have licensed establishments that have a labour shortage, and through our process through HRDC, they can apply to have someone come over to fill that shortage. That is a problem for those of us who are trying to find ways of tightening up the system.

Either we start to ban some of these businesses and decide we are not going to have them. But if we have them, we have to recognize that they have the rights under the law to apply for workers to come to their legitimate businesses.

Strengthening these rules will hopefully provide a tool to respond to situations where a permit applicant could be at risk. Again, it puts a lot of effort and a lot of trust into the visa officer who is making that decision.

Here in the House I am sure that all parliamentarians support the protection of human rights and the prevention of exploitation of foreign nationals, and in particular, women who are at risk.

I must point out that we talk a lot about the exploitation of women, but it certainly goes on with the exploitation of many men who are in positions who do not know any other way out. They are fleeing again from poverty, looking for money to send home to their families, and often find themselves doing work that would be quite unacceptable to Canadians who are born here.

I would like to assure Canadians who are watching at home that the Liberal Party is committed to working closely with the international community to prevent human trafficking. Bill C-49 was an excellent piece of legislation that was just enacted at the beginning of 2006 specifically on the issues of human trafficking. We all recognize that it is a very important area that we need to do all we can to prevent that.

Previously, we had made substantial changes to restrict visa applications to temporary foreign workers who we believe to be at risk.

We also endorse the recent Standing Committee on the Status of Women report, “Turning Outrage into Action to Address Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation in Canada”. It calls on the government to do more to address existing systemic problems involving the most vulnerable members of our society. Clearly, on this side of the House we are waiting to see what kind of action the government takes to address those very issues.

As the former chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and throughout my political career at the municipal and the federal levels, I heard heart-wrenching stories from marginalized women who fell victim and also heard many constructive suggestions for solutions to this grave problem.

I believe that we need strong laws to protect the most vulnerable, so I will be supporting sending the bill to committee for further review and study. We need further consultation and possible amendments that I am sure will come from some of the members of the House to strengthen the bill.

Although the intent of the legislation is critical, it no doubt needs to be improved and we will do that at committee, which I hope will be done quickly and hastily.

There are considerations that first must be made to ensure the legislation truly achieves the goal of protecting all foreign workers. This is why I believe it should go to committee and I am confident that the work will get done there.

A serious shortcoming of the bill is that all classifications under the foreign worker program could potentially be adversely affected, including agriculture workers and live-in caregivers. If the bill were enacted as it is written today, these workers would have to be denied entry to Canada, exasperating temporary foreign worker shortages in certain sectors of the labour economy.

Therefore, the committee needs to find that balance to ensure protection and avoid exploitation, but still allow people to come into the country to carry out the needs that we have as far as labour shortages. It must ensure that these people know what their rights are and that they have an avenue to complain, to make changes, and to change an employer if the employer is abusive.

Refusing foreign workers entry to Canada based on the potential risk for abuse does not decrease the demand for these workers. This has the potential to create underground economies which render temporary workers even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse which is exactly what we are trying to avoid with the intent of this legislation.

We need to ensure that blame is placed on the abusers, not on the victims. This is so important because victims of human trafficking, which my colleague continues to refer to, are often so frightened to come forward and admit what has actually happened to them.

I look forward to the bill being sent to committee, for improvements to be made, and for it to be referred back as soon as possible. I hope that we will be able to work together in a non-partisan way to prevent temporary foreign workers from being subjected to exploitation or abuse in Canada and for people to clearly know that they are welcome.

We need them to come to Canada. We want them to come and do well, and to move forward.

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1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I certainly applaud my colleague from York West. I know my colleague was the chair on the status of women committee when our witnesses came forward to talk about the human trafficking issue across this country.

I am gratified to hear about her support to get the bill to committee as quickly as possible and to have the debate. As she said earlier, we all know that the parliamentary process definitely is to make sure that we do have the debate to examine every bill in committee very thoroughly. That is what we do here on Parliament Hill.

The reality in Parliament this year which concerns me as a member of Parliament is how many bills have been dragged out for the better part of a year with stalling tactics and so on. Having said that, with Bill C-57 it is very gratifying to hear how concerned the member opposite is about ensuring that this does get to committee, so the debate can carry on and also her concern about making sure that the debate continues on very quickly and thoroughly, but to get it back here.

I was really quite taken aback at what the critic for immigration said about the bill. This is why perhaps the issue has come up today about how quickly the bill would go through. Could the member comment whether there is a division among the Liberal caucus in terms of what we should do with the bill and could she explain some of that to ensure we get the bill debated as soon as possible?

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly these are issues that matter to a lot of us. Bill C-49 covered off an amazing amount of the issues when it comes to human trafficking that many of us care about. The whole issue of exploitation of temporary foreign workers is something that is very important to everyone in my party on this side of the House. I assure the member that there is no division.

We all want to make sure that legislation is strong, effective, and accomplishes what I believe both the hon. member and myself and others want to see happen. My concern, and I would expect that of my colleagues, is that it accomplish what the intent is and does not simply turn around be a band-aid solution on something that we all consider to be an important issue.

Let us not forget that the reason many of the people that are applying for temporary work permits in a variety of categories are coming from poverty-ridden countries and are looking for an opportunity to make some money to feed their families. Hence, that is the reason we do not want to penalize the very people who need the help.

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member if she would agree that this bill, while it has the intention of dealing with a problem that has been cited in the House and by committees of the House, actually does not do anything to protect foreign workers at all because all it does is prevent people from becoming foreign workers?

Would the member agree that the challenge of dealing with exploitation, sexual or otherwise, of people in Canada is a job that goes way beyond the immigration department and involves society generally, and our police forces and communities?

Would she also agree that the name of the game with the Immigration Act is to enhance the movement of people in and out of Canada with appropriate protections, of course, but that the bill must do everything it can to facilitate the movement of labour into Canada because it is that labour that is needed and it is that labour that the general sections of the Immigration Act were originally enacted to facilitate?

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, once temporary foreign workers arrive in Canada, they are subject to the same kind of protection that other workers are subject to. When individuals are applying with a visa officer to get a temporary work permit, it is important that they be given both verbally and in a pamphlet form or booklet form information outlining their rights in Canada.

They must be informed that they have the right to say no to things that are over and above what they clearly understood their job to be. They must be informed that they have the right to go to HRDC and seek out an alternative employer. That is very important once they arrive in Canada.

Far too often people are unaware of their responsibilities and their rights. Employers must understand that they cannot ask an employee who is here under a temporary work permit to carry out various things. They have the right to say no.

People are desperate to come to Canada. They get here and then are asked to do things they did not intend to do. Language is a problem. Fear is a problem. It is important for us on this side of the border to do more for those workers who wish to come to Canada.

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1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, this bill effectively deals with a problem facing not only our country, as I mentioned at the Asia-Pacific forum where 27 countries were represented, but is a universal problem and it is a problem that demands action.

One of the biggest challenges with respect to this problem, which members on both sides of the House have come to terms with, is the balancing act. It is about balancing on one side the elimination of the abuse that is going on and balancing on the other side the opportunity for people to come to this country and take advantage of the magnificent opportunities that we have here.

It has basically been stated that the pendulum is out of balance right now. We just have to swing it back a little bit. That is why legislation is needed throughout the world in order to bring some more serious attention to the fact that this abuse has to be handled. We need regulations. We need laws. We need restrictions to such an extent that humanity can act in a bit more favourable manner.

In this particular case, I not only commend the member for Kildonan—St. Paul but I commend the member for York West for working to find a solution, to find acceptable amendments that will move this legislation forward. I would caution my colleagues as well to recognize that this is a serious problem that demands serious action now. This is why I think we should move as expeditiously as possible to try to find amendments that will protect citizens both internationally and in Canada.

I worked in the crime and punishment field for years, and I can assure the member that this problem has to be addressed.

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, all of us who have been doing work in our ridings or elsewhere know this is a problem. It seems that the more laws we bring into play, the more people there are who find ways to get around them.

It is important that we move forward as legislators to ensure that our judicial system has the kind of laws required and that the laws have teeth. People who get involved in the exploitation of our temporary workers in whatever category need to know that there are severe penalties and that they will have to pay for doing that.

More important, we have to make sure that people have all the information they need prior to coming here, know what their rights and their opportunities are, and know what to do if they face a clearly exploitive opportunity by someone else.

We need to continue to work together all around the world on these things. We need to help countries like Romania and elsewhere, where there are a lot of issues, to make sure that their economies are strong so their own residents are happy to stay there because they know they can raise a family and earn a good living. It is up to us to take care of our own issues here and find our own labour workforce opportunities for people.

We must remember that these are legal businesses that are asking for workers to come to Canada. As long as they are legal companies and licensed establishments, they have the right to apply.

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1:45 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Helena Guergis ConservativeSecretary of State (Foreign Affairs and International Trade) (Sport)

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to have this opportunity to join the debate on Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Canada's immigration and refugee system is an important part of our identity, economy and society. For those people who are applying to enter our country, Canada represents hope, safety and a new start.

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has the authority under the act to grant entry to individuals who would otherwise not be permitted to enter Canada. This authority is an important tool, as it ensures that we are able to take into account the unique situation of each applicant. It helps us to remain fair, balanced and humane.

As hon. colleagues know, this authority is designed to be exercised in a transparent and accountable manner and the use of instructions is reported annually to Parliament. However, what the government cannot do under the current legislation is deny a work permit to someone who meets all the entry requirements; that is to say, under the current legislation, we cannot deny a permit even if we are convinced there is a strong possibility that a person may be exploited or abused in Canada.

Under the previous Liberal government, some applicants for work permits found themselves in situations leading to humiliating and degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation. As I raised in this House repeatedly during the infamous strippergate scandal of the previous Liberal government, women were degraded by being forced to provide nude photos of themselves. The hypocrisy of the previous Liberal government on this matter was stunning. While the Liberals stood in the House and for years acted out a routine of defending women, they did nothing to help, while some of their staff literally enjoyed the show.

Going back about 13 years, I had the privilege of volunteering at a sexual assault centre for just shy of seven years. Through that opportunity, I learned that one out of three women will be assaulted at some point in her lifetime. I think it is important to point out that now, 13 years later, that statistic has not changed. In fact, there is concern that it has increased and that one out of two will experience this.

At the height of the Liberal strippergate scandal, the price for one applicant was to work as a volunteer on a former Liberal cabinet minister's campaign. At one point the former Liberal minister of immigration said that admitting strippers under the temporary foreign work program was necessary to protect women. Then she flip-flopped and said it was exploiting women.

Essentially, the previous Liberal government gave blanket exemptions to foreign strippers to work in Canada despite warnings that women were vulnerable to being forced into prostitution and other forms of exploitation. It was shameful that the previous government helped facilitate what was in essence human trafficking by permitting foreign strippers into the country regardless of whether they could be potential victims of abuse or exploitation. This was all in spite of warnings that these women were vulnerable to being forced into prostitution and other forms of exploitation.

Of particular concern to me is the fact that the Liberals, despite being booted out of office, still do not seem to get it. The Liberal immigration critic, the member for Mississauga—Erindale, was dismissive of Bill C-57 when on May 17 he said:

I think we have the safeguards in place. This is just an attempt to change the channel to grab some headlines.

He also said:

It's a cheap attempt to change the channel and pretend to do something while they're really doing nothing.

On May 29, the Liberal immigration critic, the member for Mississauga—Erindale, dismissed Bill C-57 and said that it was frivolous legislation about so-called exotic dancers' working conditions.

Instead of dismissing Bill C-57 as frivolous, the Liberal immigration critic should have sought the opinions of highly respected organizations, but of course what would the Stop the Trafficking Coalition or the Future Group and/or the Salvation Army know?

What those groups do know is that this legislation is long overdue. All of those organizations have offered their support for this legislation.

I echo the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who expressed her dismay with the Liberal immigration critic who so flippantly dismisses Bill C-57, especially in light of the trouble the Liberals found themselves in during strippergate.

I am surprised that the Liberals would attack legislation that protects vulnerable foreign workers. I suspect the Liberals do not want a new law that protects workers coming to Canada from being exploited or subject to human trafficking, as a means to deflect from their own embarrassment and record of inaction. The Liberal Party, in my opinion, is out of touch.

Our government is very proud of having brought this legislation forward. We are proud of putting forward protections that will help prevent these situations for temporary workers in Canada, including strippers, who may be abused, exploited or possibly become victims of human trafficking.

Fortunately, this government is doing things differently and is getting things done for Canadians. Under our legislation, ministerial instructions would provide the government a mechanism to protect applicants from abuse and exploitation that they might otherwise experience. I should point out that this legislation only creates the legal authority to issue instructions and does not create actual instructions or target specific occupations. Instead, it sets out areas of concern and offers a set of possible risk factors for officers to consider.

The amendments we propose would include strong measures to ensure that the government is accountable and transparent as it uses this new authority. Each time the minister issues instructions under the authority, there will be transparency, as they must be published in the Canada Gazette. Furthermore, they must be published in the department's annual report to Parliament. This will finally cast light on the shadowy approach of the previous Liberal government.

Additionally, any decision by an immigration officer to refuse a permit would require approval by a second and more senior immigration officer. Canadians do not want an immigration system that can be used to victimize or exploit people. The new authority would also help stop human trafficking by ensuring traffickers cannot exploit the hopes and dreams of those who are seeking a better life in Canada.

This legislation is the latest of our ongoing efforts to strengthen Canada's immigration system. As I have said, this government is committed to transparency by ensuring that any instructions used under this authority are included in the annual report to Parliament. We are committed to ensuring that Canada's immigration and refugee system continues to have a positive impact on our economy and our society. Everyone who enters Canada should have a fair chance to find what they are looking for: hope, safety and a new start.

I think it is important to note what the NDP has said respecting the issue of the previous Liberal government facilitating the sexual exploitation of temporary workers. Here is what the NDP member for Winnipeg Centre had to say about the previous government's record:

The door is still wide open for the type of wholesale exploitation that existed with the eastern European dancers, and, in reality, the minister of immigration is still pimping for the underworld...by providing an endless stream of fodder for the underworld of pornography and prostitution under the guise of legitimate dancing.

Regarding the Liberals' allowance of a visa for exotic dancers, the member for Winnipeg Centre also said:

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

The leader of the NDP, commenting on the so-called exotic dancer program, said:

Now the government might not any longer be pimping for the sex industry and that is a good thing and it never should have been doing that in the first place.

Given the strong statements by the NDP, I would hope that the leader of the NDP and his caucus will vote in favour of Bill C-57. Surely the NDP recognizes that our government is taking necessary action to deal with this issue, which once again is something the previous Liberal government failed to do.

As for the Bloc Québécois, its former status of women critic said:

When a nation...gives out temporary visas for so-called artists who are generally headed for the male entertainment industry, do you think we are opening the door to trafficking?...I feel that this is a sort of somewhat disguised legal trafficking.

Also, the Bloc member for Chambly—Borduas said:

--we are wondering if there could actually be policies unwittingly promoting human trafficking.

--the gist of what the member for Winnipeg Centre said...was that when offshore labour is imported in response to a shortage...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.

--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?

Members of the NDP, the Bloc and the Conservatives all previously raised concerns about the previous Liberal government's lack of action on affording protection to foreign workers subject to abuse and exploitation. I hope their previous comments are followed up with action by voting in favour Bill C-57.

Canadians do not want an immigration system that can be used to exploit people. They expect the government to take all necessary steps to deal with the problems associated with the exploitation of vulnerable foreign workers and the crime of human trafficking.

Bill C-57 is an important step toward that goal. I urge all members of this place to do the right thing and support this very important legislation.