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House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was human.

Topics

Conflict of Interest and Ethics CommissionerRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Pursuant to section 15(3) of the Conflict of Interest Code for members of the House of Commons, it is my duty to lay upon the table the list of all sponsored travel by members for the year 2007 as provided by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

Canadian Wheat Board ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-498, An Act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act (members of the board).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House this morning to introduce my private member's bill to further democratize the Canadian Wheat Board. All Canadians have seen how this new government has tried everything to bypass the proper legislative process in order to kill the Wheat Board, one of the most successful institutions in Canadian history.

This bill will strengthen the position of the board of directors, composed of a majority of elected western producers, and will ensure that this government and future governments will have a duty to consult with the board prior to making substantive changes. These types of safeguards should not be required, but this anti-democratic government has shown that even a Federal Court decision will not deter its infatuation to kill the Wheat Board.

This bill will also ensure that western producers are treated fairly and that any plebiscite question on the Wheat Board's future will be clear and concise.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

moved that Bill S-215, An Act to protect heritage lighthouses, be read the first time.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to table Bill S-215, An Act to protect heritage lighthouses. Despite broad support for this bill from all parties, similar legislation has failed in the past.

All but two provinces in Canada have heritage designated lighthouses, therefore making this a national issue. Without proper designation and protection, these important structures can be arbitrarily altered or disposed of without public consultation. Lighthouses hold significant historic importance and Bill S-215 will ensure that they are properly cared for.

I sincerely hope that members of the House can come together to pass this heritage lighthouse protection act.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Standing Committee on Status of Women presented on Thursday, November 29, 2007, be concurred in.

As we all know, having heard consistently from NGOs and witnesses to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, human trafficking in Canada and in the Vancouver area in particular is a problem that governmental and non-governmental authorities are only beginning to confront. Profound concerns have been raised that the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver will present an opportunity for the trafficking of human beings, for the enslavement of young women and children, and I know the government is very concerned and is interested in hearing this important debate today.

On May 29, 2007, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women recommended:

That the government, in collaboration with provincial and municipal counterparts as well as experts from the police, international organizations and NGOs, develop and implement a plan prior to the opening of the 2010 Olympics to curtail the trafficking of women and girls for sexual purposes during the games and after.

As we know, big sporting events such as the Olympics or the World Cup of soccer are known to generate an increase in prostitution, which in turn leads to a rise in human trafficking.

A recent report by the Future Group, an anti-human-trafficking NGO, said that during the 2006 World Cup in Germany authorities implemented a wide range of actions to combat human trafficking during the event, with some success. The result was that, while there was an increase in prostitution, authorities did not detect a rise in human trafficking.

However, when Greece hosted the Olympics in 2004, the measures adopted were not as extensive as those in Germany and a 95% increase in human trafficking was recorded for that year. That is cause for profound concern among Canadians, particularly those in the Vancouver area.

Human trafficking is the biggest money-spinner for organized crime, after drugs and firearms, and it has been steadily increasing. We know what the effects of illicit activity are in terms of the impact on our communities, our way of life and our sense of safety, so human trafficking is right up there with drugs and firearms. It is clearly cause for concern.

It is estimated that the number of people being trafficked to or through Canada each year could be as high as 16,000. We are not sure because the traffickers are very careful and clever in the ways they keep these numbers secret and of course one of those ways is through violence, through abuse and coercion of victims.

Traffickers tell victims that the police will never believe them or that they cannot get away. They threaten them with personal violence and violence against their families, with death and the death of family members. Therefore, many women are compelled to remain silent. However, at this point, we know that at least 16,000 people are trafficked. That is an exorbitant and incredible number.

In the international human trafficking trade, Canada serves as both a destination country and a transit country. It is a source country as well, with young aboriginal women, mainly from the Winnipeg area, being the most likely victims. We know about the stolen sisters, the 500 missing women, the 500 daughters and young mothers. We do not know where they are. Their families do not know where they are. This has caused incredible pain and disruption in a community that is already suffering as a result of racism and poverty.

Let us imagine losing a child or a sister and not knowing what happened to her, never hearing from her again and never knowing the outcome of that disappearance. Women from reserves are being taken away and trafficked, either within the country or across the borders. Again, they are our sisters, our daughters and our children, never to be seen again.

Globally and nationally, the majority of trafficked persons are women and children. That includes boys. Many are forced into the sex trade. It is estimated that up to 4 million are sold worldwide into prostitution, slavery or forced marriages.

These are the people suffering the effects of poverty, military disruption or civil war. They are lured by promises of safety, of a job, of a better life and the ability to transfer their families to a country where they can be safe. Unfortunately, these lures and promises are a trap and a deception. These young victims end up in slavery and despair.

Vancouver was singled out in the U.S. state department's “2007 Trafficking in Persons Report” as a destination city for trafficked persons from Asia. The report also stated that a “significant number” of victims, particularly South Korean females, transit Canada before being trafficked into the United States.

Clearly Vancouver is already a point of concern. The Olympics of 2010 will exacerbate that. According to the Future Group, undercover police investigations have revealed the use of student or visitor visas to spirit young women from Asia into the sex trade in Vancouver and then on to other cities, including Calgary.

In 2005 the federal government made human trafficking a criminal offence. Legislation was introduced to prevent work visas from being used to traffic women and measures were recommended by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women to provide victims with temporary residence, medical care and support. I hope we are serious about making sure that the recommendations of the committee are firmly in place. They would go a long way in terms of addressing this problem, which is of profound concern.

As I said earlier, we have learned some lessons with regard to international sporting events. What we have learned is that there are two main ways that international sporting events may affect human trafficking in the host country. The first is by contributing to a short term increase in demand for prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation in and around the locale of the event. The second is by facilitating entry of trafficked persons as visitors before they are transited to other countries and cities and exploited in those locations.

There is relatively little research on the impact of international sporting events on human trafficking, but what is clear is that the countries that have hosted recent international sporting events have had to take the threat seriously, as will those countries that will be hosting upcoming international sporting events. We simply must take this threat seriously.

For example, London metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair has appointed a new assistant commissioner specifically to act as head of security for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England, with a mandate to deal with terrorism threats, human trafficking, illegal construction workers and counterfeit operations.

The 2006 German FIFA World Cup provides lessons on the importance of preventative efforts to reduce the attractiveness of such events to traffickers. There is evidence that human trafficking increased during the year of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, where preventative measures were not as extensive as those taken in 2006 in Germany.

In 2006 in Germany about 3.36 million people attended that sporting event. After widespread international concern about the threat of an upsurge in human trafficking in connection with FIFA, German authorities, together with local and international non-governmental organizations, pursued a wide range of activities aimed at preventing the possible exploitation of this major international event by human traffickers.

When we invite the world to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, we are going to want the world to see what a progressive, safe, remarkable country we have here. We would never want that impression to be blemished by the activities of human traffickers.

Therefore, the Germans adopted a range of measures and these have been relatively successful, or at least were relatively successful. Germany coordinated state and federal police forces before and during the World Cup through the FIFA 2006 World Cup national security strategy and the framework strategy by the federal and state police forces for the World Cup.

These frameworks provided for uniform standards on the investigation and prevention of human trafficking, among other matters. They were intended to build and improve upon existing efforts to combat forced prostitution and human trafficking.

Federal and state police in Germany also worked with special counselling services, NGOs, host cities, churches, sporting associations, and others to identify stakeholders that could assist with public education campaigns, prevention activities, identifying potential victims and providing services to rescued victims.

It is absolutely key to provide services and ensuring that these young women are rescued and have a safe haven where the effects and the realities of human trafficking can be addressed.

Non-governmental organizations and special counselling organizations conducted a range of activities aimed at preventing forced prostitution and human trafficking both during and after the World Cup in Germany. These activities included public events, discussions, press conferences, interviews, information desks, posters and leaflets to let people know and understand the extent and the severity of the problem. They conducted mailing campaigns, education and information forms via radio and television.

Telephone hotlines were set up. These are very important because the one thing that has become very clear in our research is that these young women and girls are completely cut off. They are isolated. They are robbed of their travel documents, their money, and their ability to communicate what is happening to them. These telephone hotlines were very important.

There were websites so that people could access information, and of course information about the assistance available at shelters. I would hope that Vancouver is going to be diligent about making sure that these kinds of measures are in place and that the shelters and the NGOs have the ability to provide aid.

One of the leading campaigns supported by the German federal government was designed by the National Council of German Women's Organizations and called “Final Whistle--Stop Forced Prostitution”. Another preventative campaign involved the International Organization for Migration and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

These organizations joined forces in a prevention campaign to raise awareness among fans that women would likely be trafficked into Germany in response to an expected increase in demand for prostitution. It included a provocative television ad, a website, and information about a hotline to anonymously report information of suspected human trafficking or forced prostitution to the German authorities.

This makes absolute sense. Most of the people attending that sporting event were there to see the best and the finest in athletic participation. To have that event sullied by human trafficking, by sexual slavery, I am sure was abhorrent to most people.

However, we know that because of the incredible amounts of money that can be coerced and appropriated by forced prostitution and trafficking, there will always be that temptation. Having the fans on the alert was a very important step.

Federal and state police focused their investigative activities related to forced prostitution and human trafficking in and around the host cities because it is not just in one place. It is in the region.

These measures included: a greater police presence, both uniformed and plainclothes, at high risk venues; raids conducted in known areas involving the sex trade; temporary reinstatement of border controls at federal borders; formation of new and strengthening existing specialist police task forces; contact with police informers in relevant high risk areas; increasing awareness among hotel and accommodation staff; coordinating with authorities and event sites; and liaising with the social service agencies and special counselling services.

What is clear, as a result of the evidence taken at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, is that an expectation of increased demand for prostitution did in fact take place. However, as a result of the extensive immigration law enforcement measures and the plan that I have just outlined taken by the German government, the majority of the prostitutes were not likely international victims of human trafficking, but from the existing domestic supply of prostitutes from elsewhere in Germany where prostitution is legalized. Accordingly, while prostitution increased as a result of the 2006 World Cup, the number of reported human trafficking cases likely did not increase substantively.

Conversely, or by way of comparison, in Athens in 2004 there was a huge number of people present, over 10,000 athletes, 45,000 volunteers, 21,000 media representatives and over one million tourists at the gates. Efforts taken to address the possibility of human trafficking were not as extensive. The end result was that there was far more trafficking into the 2004 Olympic Games than in the 2006 World Cup.

These, of course, were victims from Eastern Europe and we know who they are. They are young women who live in poverty. They are young women perhaps with small children who do not know how they are going to provide for them. They are young women looking for something more than that very impoverished lifestyle that they lead and are therefore easily seduced by those who would do them harm and do harm them.

I have some recommendations here that I think are very important. I would like to read them into the record because they provide that possibility and hopefully the framework that we could adopt to make sure that the travesty experienced at some sporting events is not repeated here.

Effective action to combat human trafficking involves a three-pronged approach: first, prevention of human trafficking by working with source countries to address root causes, including deterring the demand side of the industry; second, protection of trafficking victims includes rescue, rehabilitation and, when appropriate, repatriation and reintegration back into the home country; and third, prosecution of traffickers and commercial sex users in criminal proceedings.

Countries that have been most effective in combating human trafficking have a adopted a clear legal framework to protect victims and prosecute offenders. They have devoted sufficient financial resources to enforce their laws and support victim recovery. They have demonstrated a high degree of cooperation between law enforcement, government agencies and non-government sectors, and coordinated their international development efforts to deal with root causes of poverty and corruption in source countries. I would say that we would do well to address the root causes of poverty in our own country.

These countries show their success with a steadily increasing number of trafficking victims protected and traffickers prosecuted. The government of Canada has begun to take several steps toward combating human trafficking such as making human trafficking a Criminal Code offence, adopting measures to provide victims with temporary residence and medical care, and introducing legislation to prevent work visas from being used to traffic women.

The B.C. government has recently created the B.C. Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons. All of these measures are laudable, but they are only the first step. The key is proper implementation and funding, and it is less clear that is taking place. That is my concern and the impetus of this debate.

To date not a single person has been successfully prosecuted for the offence of trafficking in persons under the Criminal Code and only a handful of victims are known to have received protection until the recent 2006 citizenship and immigration guidelines on human trafficking. We must be more aggressive. We must do what we can. We must pursue the kind of remedies that were pursued in Germany for the sake of all women, here and abroad.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member from London, who gave a very important address to the chamber regarding a serious issue pertaining to sex trafficking as it relates to the 2010 Olympics. She gave us a very detailed description of the problem, cited some of the recommendations, and commented on the work of the parliamentary status of women committee.

In particular, she referenced the motion of her committee dated November 26, and it is a very clear motion calling on the government for an action plan.

My question is whether or not she is aware of any response from the government to the recommendations of the committee. I note that there are numerous suggestions and recommendations from various quarters and other countries.

In particular, I note that the British government has already issued an action plan in anticipation of the Olympics in 2012. It has announced the U.K. action plan on tackling human trafficking. This was done last March. That plan aims to protect victims through improved support services, victim detection, increased awareness campaigns and enforcement activity.

I know that there have been various efforts made and initiatives started in terms of leading up to the 2010 Olympics, but can my colleague tell me if there are any plans coming out of the government, anything that is equivalent to the U.K. action plan?

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue that my colleague raises is the very reason for this debate and that is our concern that there has not been a great deal of activity to date in regard to addressing problems around 2010.

I know that last year the government introduced a bill to limit the entrance of exotic dancers into Canada, but I have not heard a great deal more in regard to anything more concrete than that. I do know that as late as November 2007, when the head of security, the person appointed to address security for the 2010 Olympics, was asked about the issue of human trafficking, he indicated that it had not really hit his desk yet, that it had not been taken into consideration.

Of course, time is passing and there is a great deal to do. Clearly, if the British are already planning for 2012, we may have to do some catch up. For one thing, we have to get the word out to Canadians. We have to have an extensive information campaign in Vancouver. We have to let residents know about the dangers. We have to advise those providing accommodation, hotels and people who will be providing places for tourists. We have to make sure that the coordination is placed between local police, the RCMP, regional police forces and the NGOs who are going to, hopefully, provide services to support any women who are trafficked.

My fear is that time is getting away from us and not enough has been done. I would encourage the government to look carefully at the recommendations from the committee on the status of women and look carefully at the work done by some of our laudable members on the government side who have taken this issue very seriously to the credit of Parliament. This issue has been taken very seriously, but we need to act. We cannot just wring our hands and wish that the problem was going to be addressed. We have to do something substantive.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a very important issue and one on which I know members of our caucus have worked long and hard. They will be speaking to this issue later this morning.

Could the member tell us what concrete steps the government should take for the trafficking of Canadian women and girls within Canada?

I know she is focused on the issues surrounding the Olympics in 2010 and, while that is of concern and should be anticipated, the government needs to take action in anticipation of that.

I was wondering if she would comment on the issue that exists as we speak today of Canadian women and girls who are being trafficked and what we need to do to combat that.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, we do have an issue in our own backyard.

One of the first and most important recommendations of the Committee on the Status of Women in regard to addressing the trafficking of women within our country was the issue of poverty. Poverty and lack of opportunity is at the centre of the kind of despair and vulnerability that makes young women susceptible to the lures of those who promise them jobs and who say that they love them. They use all kinds of seductions. Affection, love and the promise of a better life are part and parcel of that.

For young women who grow up in the inner city, young women in rural areas or young women on reserves where there are very few resources, they are very susceptible to that kind of seduction.

We need to address poverty in this country and we know that it exists. We know one in six children are living in poverty and do not have the kind of opportunities that will help them to grow into productive and secure citizens who would not be so lured.

We need to have cooperation among police forces and we know there has not always been the lines of communication. Local police, regional police and national police need the expertise to identify victims of trafficking.

In my city of London, we received a phone call from a family that was concerned about a young woman who had come as a domestic worker into the home of a neighbour. There was a very strange reality about the relationships in that household. They called the office and we suspected that there could well be a case of human trafficking in London, Ontario, a place that regards itself as safe and where these things simply do not happen. I think there is a lot of communities like that. They believe that this simply does not happen in their town or city. That coordination needs to be in place.

We need to support our NGOs, those non-governmental organizations that provide information, support and understand the problem. We need to ensure they have the resources they need.

We also need to ensure that women's shelters are properly funded. We know that we do not have enough in this country. In the city of London, for every one woman who is able to find security in a shelter, another woman is turned away. We also need an understanding of what women are experiencing.

We need to ensure that all the support systems are in place: medical care, the ability to stay in this country, the ability to seek counselling and the ability to be protected by the law so that these women can, in safety and security, confront the perpetrators, those who have tormented and tortured them. I would suggest that work be done.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from London—Fanshawe for once again bringing this motion on the issue of human trafficking to the House.

Human trafficking has become a big issue in Canada. After two attempts to get this issue to the status of women committee, I finally got it there. I must commend my colleague for being a part of that committee and getting on the human trafficking issue.

The Government of Canada takes this issue seriously and is taking real action to address this horrendous crime. Several initiatives have already taken place. It is hard to get a hold on the crime of human trafficking. Things need to be put in place quickly to help the victims and our government has done just that. We have taken quick action to implement laws and programs that are helpful to the victims.

In 2007, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration announced changes to the guidelines for immigration officers to help victims escape the influence of traffickers. The new guidelines extend the length of the temporary resident permit, or TRP, for which victims are eligible from 120 days to 180 days. In individual cases it can be extended beyond that.

With respect to our actions on improving the guidelines to help victims of human trafficking, the president of the Canadian Council for Refugees said:

These measures mean that the government will begin to treat trafficked persons, often women and children, as victims of a crime, rather than as people who should be detained and deported. Like many other organizations, the CCR has been calling for this policy change for several years – we are very pleased....

I must commend members on all sides of this House who have worked hard with our government to ensure that action was taken very quickly.

We have also introduced legislation to help prevent the potential exploitation and abuse of foreign nationals seeking to work in Canada. Bill C-17, which is in committee right now, would help prevent the sexual exploitation and abuse of foreign nationals seeking to work in Canada. It would also address an important gap that currently exists in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The proposed amendments in Bill C-17 would give the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the authority to instruct immigration officers to deny work permits to individuals who might be at risk of exploitation or abuse should they enter Canada.

Why is that so important? It is important because our law enforcement and NGOs are beginning to understand how easily it is for innocent victims to be trafficked into Canada. As the member for London—Fanshawe said, traffickers become friendly with girls travelling alone. They will convince her that she can have a new life in Canada. They show her how she can get through customs and often the perpetrator is going through customs at the very same time.

The training video for RCMP officers on the human trafficking issue shows how this happens. I was at an event last night where the RCMP video was shown. People need to understand the nature of human trafficking and what happens to these women. Border guards need to be trained and alert. They need to wonder why a girl is travelling alone. They need to ask her questions and listen very carefully to her answers.

Bill C-17 would provide a window for protecting the most vulnerable young men and women. People think it is only women but it is not. Without the authority in Bill C-17, our immigration officers are not able to deny a work permit to someone meeting all the requirements to enter the country, even if they believe there is a strong possibility of exploitation and abuse.

The fact is that a gap exists where people can supposedly meet all the requirements but red flags should go up all over the place when a girl is alone. One must wonder why she cannot answer the questions in quite the way she should.

With respect to Bill C-17, we have strong support from various stakeholders because they have experience working with trafficked people and they know the gap was there, which was frustrating.

Sabrina Sullivan of The Future Group 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 [the] Prime Minister’s... government is serious about combating human trafficking.

I would dare say that members on both sides of the House are very concerned about this issue and are very aware that it is a growing issue. They have made a number of recommendations as outlined in the report from the Status of Women to ensure that this human trafficking issue is stopped.

The Salvation Army has worked very extensively with trafficked women and children. Christine MacMillan, the territorial commander for the Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda, said:

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.

As was John Muise, director of public safety for the Canadian Centre of Abuse Awareness, said, “Bill C-17 is part of the response that needs to occur in protecting women and children in the country”.

It goes on and on.

The member for London—Fanshawe mentioned another important point. She talked about the 2010 Olympics. As is well-known, sporting arenas or any big events that occur in any country are often magnets for human traffickers to set up shop and to make as much money as they can off the backs of innocent victims.

I know ministers throughout our government have met, continue to meet and are taking specific action across all ministries to ensure the educational component is in so the public is aware of human trafficking. They are also in the process of implementing initiatives. As the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, I have been very concerned about the 2010 Olympics. It is something that we on the committee for the Status of Women talked about. I dare say that it is something our government is extremely concerned about and is taking concrete action to ensure vulnerable citizens and people from inside and outside of our country are protected.

Also, Bill C-2, which is sitting in the Senate right now, addresses a myriad of crime issues. It would help to put laws in place in Canada to suppress criminals who exploit children, the age of consent being one of those laws. This side of the House has been trying for a long time to raise the age of consent and the bill is still sitting in the Senate. I hear, to my dismay, that about 59 witnesses have been lined up. I am really suspect of the number of witnesses required to get this very important bill through. The age of consent has been in the House for such a long time and was finally put into Bill C-2 and now it is being held up in the Senate.

When we talk in the House about stopping the crimes against vulnerable victims, this is the concrete kind of action that needs to be taken. We need to pass Bill C-2 to ensure the laws of the land are in place to protect our most vulnerable citizens. We need to ensure that Bill C-17 is passed and in place, so border guards and patrols, NGOs and people who work at the borders can spot these vulnerable citizens who come through. We need a tool to use to ensure we can do something in a concrete way and protect these people.

We know human trafficking occurs in Canada. We have studied it and we know about the severity of the situation.

I commend the ministers in our government who have taken this issue extremely seriously. I also commend the members in the House who take this issue very seriously as well.

I caution that we should work together and support this. We can stand in the House and say that we need tougher laws, but when Bill C-2 is stopped in the Senate, we cannot get age of consent on the books as a law of Canada. It means that what is said in the House is not carried through.

We need to ensure that everything is done. Bill C-2 needs to be passed. The age of consent has to be raised. It helps innocent victims, not only the ones who are being trafficked but the young girls who are being sexually exploited. They go to court and because they are a certain age, they are up against older adults who can intimidate them. There is no law in Canada that raises the age of consent. If they are 14 right now and if a lawyer is skilful enough, he can prove it is was consensual sex.

We can do some very concrete things right now. Every one in the House of Commons can support the kinds of things that need to be done by allowing the things to go through in a timely manner and to ensure we also work together for additional support for our most vulnerable citizens, our youth.

The educational component of human trafficking is of paramount importance. If we can as Parliament stand up for the right laws, work together and ensure that Bills C-2 and C-17 are passed, that is a good start.

The educational component for the Olympics is already being talked about as well as other things.

I call on all members in the House to work together. I think we are all on the right page in many respects. We have to put our partisan differences aside and we have to work together.

I commend the member for London—Fanshawe for her interest, her support and for what she has brought forward this morning. However, I caution that the partisan issues need to be set aside. We need to get Bills C-2 and C-17 passed as laws in Canada. Then we have to continue to work, as we all are right now, on the human trafficking issue. It is very serious.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member for her interest in this critical human rights issue, not only within Canada but around the world.

A number of these young people, particularly women, come from countries in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. One challenge is the ability to negotiate and engage with some of these governments, within which, quite frankly, the judicial systems are corrupt.

I want to know from the member the initiatives she proposes the government will engage in other countries to strengthen their own judicial systems so when people are caught within those countries, they will receive the heavy penalties they should receive for the criminal acts in which they are engaged.

I also like to challenge the member to suggest to the Minister of Justice that the government propose a plan to deal with organized crime. When we were in government, we put forth a number of initiatives to deal with organized crime gangs in Canada. Gangs are quite clever. They are business people in suits that go beyond the law for their nefarious activities.

Will she approach the Minister of Justice to suggest the government should deal with some of the issues that were not there when we were in government, which would allow our police officers and correctional systems to go after organized crime gang members, who commit the very criminal acts she has talked about, the human slave trade? Will she propose solutions that would allow our police to go after the organized crime gangs, who are the real parasites in our society?

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, our government has been very tough on crime. I am a mother of a police officer and I can assure the House that police officers across the country have been very pleased with the tough legislation we have put forward to combat crime.

I share with my colleague that there is a need for tougher legislation against organized crime. Indeed, the justice minister continues to work hard on this very issue. Members opposite could certainly help us out by supporting Bill C-2. It is sitting alone in the Senate and is being held up. If we could get those types of bills into the House and pass them, it would be very helpful.

Internationally, in Vienna, on February 12, there will be a meeting with the UN. Many countries are getting together to talk about human trafficking. Our government has been dealing with people from across the globe in terms of this issue.

In 2008 there will be a lot of good partnerships throughout the globe to combat human trafficking. Networking, collegiality, assessing the problem and establishing concrete steps to stop it globally will impact on every country, including Canada.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to ask a question in this important debate about coming up with a plan to curtail trafficking of women and children at major events like the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

We have heard that time is of the essence in regard to planning this kind of campaign, this kind of program, this kind of coordinated approach to dealing with trafficking at the 2010 games. When people are in downtown Vancouver outside the art gallery, they see the big clock, which constantly ticks down to the start of the Olympics, two years from this month. Everyday that comes closer, but the plan does not seem to be in place yet.

We know trafficking is a $32 billion global industry. We know traffickers have incredible resources available to do this terrible work. We also know there is an incredible amount of money and these big international events are a prime site for trafficking and related activities like the sex trade and drug trafficking that go on around them. We have seen differences between approaches that the World Cup in Munich and the Olympic Games in Athens took and the very different results. There was a much more positive result in Munich than there was in Athens.

When we plan these big international events like the Olympics, we always seem slow to put the social problems related with those games at a high priority. We hear constantly that the facilities are coming along well. In Vancouver a lot of the facilities are completed and are being tested and used already, yet some of the social issues related to the games are still not being addressed, issues like housing and the displacement of people caused by the games. That plan is in trouble. We also hear now that there is not a clear plan in place yet for dealing with the trafficking issues around that.

It is very frustrating to see that we can deal with issues of facilities and training our athletes, but the other social problems related to big events like the 2010 Olympic Games seem to be further down the list. When the member for London Fanshawe said that the official in charge of security for the 2010 games really had not even considered the issue of trafficking, I get very worried.

We have also heard from Dr. Benjamin Perrin from the UBC Faculty of Law. He wrote a report on this issue in November. He said:

Canada's already attractive, but primarily it is a transit country to the U.S. The Olympics give traffickers an easy cover story, and the border guards aren't sufficiently trained to identify these people.

Does the member know what measures are being put in place to ensure border guards and other Canadian border officials are getting the training we need immediately to put this in place?

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, the immigration border guards are being trained so they can recognize trafficked persons and look at the characteristics. On the ground training in this area is taking place as we speak. We addressed this issue in the Status of Women. We have talked about it within our government, and it is a very important one. Often trafficked women and children present as ordinary citizens as they come through, so that training is very important.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand one of the issues from the committee's discussions was the traffic in aboriginal persons, particularly being the Vancouver area. I am not sure whether the member commented on this, but it would appear relevant that specifically the aboriginal leadership within the aboriginal communities should also be a partner in this process.

Has the committee considered how it might engage the aboriginal community itself?

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, many contacts and meetings in the aboriginal community have taken place. I have been on the ground on many reserves. I have worked with the Salvation Army on actual victims who were trafficked from different locations. This is a very important component. All Canadians, whether we are Greek, Scottish, Aboriginal, want to stop this horrendous crime. We have to look to where the pockets of our most vulnerable citizens are, and we are doing that.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased this morning to rise to speak to this motion. I presented the first report on behalf of the committee on November 26, 2007. I presented it based on a motion that I and my colleagues put forward in committee, so I am happy to have the opportunity to discuss the issue of human trafficking as it relates to the 2010 Olympics.

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Mount Royal.

I had the opportunity recently to visit Vancouver and meet with a number of groups there concerning this very important issue. We have heard from members opposite that trafficking is indeed a modern day form of slavery. It involves the recruitment, transportation and harbouring of victims for the purpose of sexual exploitation and often for other purposes. What we have not focused on as much is the importance of addressing the trafficking of women within our own country, and I will speak to that a little further on.

Typically we know that the victims are deceived or coerced into the sex industry, often for reasons of their existing lifestyle and poverty, and the opportunity, as they see it, for a way out.

The UN estimates that over 700,000 people, mostly women and children, are trafficked annually. The estimates vary but we are told that it is a value of somewhere between $10 billion to $12 billion U.S. annually. It is a very substantial business for some very ruthless individuals.

Before I speak to the existing issues, I want to put on the record the amendments that were made by the previous government to the Criminal Code, which provided the underpinning for some of the issues and initiatives that are going on today.

There were a number of Criminal Code amendments where we identified trafficking in persons which would prohibit anyone from engaging in specified acts for the purpose of exploitation or facilitation, and would carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment when they involved kidnapping, aggravated assault or sexual assault.

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

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

It was an important step by the previous attorney general, my colleague from Mount Royal, in laying the underpinning in addressing the issue of trafficking. To combat trafficking requires an ongoing government commitment. I want to put on the record a number of the initiatives that were taken by the previous government and which have subsequently been built upon by the current government.

We developed a website on the trafficking of persons. We developed an anti-trafficking pamphlet which was available in at least 14 languages and a poster in over 17 languages. Round tables were held in British Columbia and elsewhere to address the issue. Training seminars were held for police, prosecutors, immigration and customs officials and consular officials. The Department of Justice was a co-host. A community forum on trafficking in persons was held by the Canadian Ethnocultural Council in conjunction with the Department of Justice and Status of Women Canada.

There are four major components in terms of dealing with the issue of trafficking of individuals, particularly as we look at the 2010 Olympics. There is the whole issue of awareness, prevention, sensitization and commitment, and protection. As we heard earlier, a comprehensive legislative strategy is required.

I sat on the status of women committee when we looked at the trafficking of women. I was shocked, perhaps naively, when I heard the Vancouver police department indicate that Vancouver was known across the country as a sex destination city. Coupled with that, the lead-up to the 2010 Olympics makes the issue even more pressing.

I want to take a moment to note the work of some of the people in my own community. At my last International Women's Day breakfast, I was fortunate to have a speaker, a lovely articulate woman who has been involved in the modelling industry, Liz Crawford. She talked about the hazards of models who model internationally. That was an important session in terms of increasing the awareness of those who were in attendance.

The Sisters of the Holy Names in Winnipeg have taken on this issue with great energy and commitment to advance their concerns and to get government officials to speak out on it. I particularly want to note the young women of St. Mary's Academy who have taken on this matter. They developed a very moving play, which I had the privilege of watching not too many months ago. They have taken this issue on in terms of awareness and sensitization of the community. It is an important issue.

We have heard other members speak about the importance of protection, the role of the police officers, the sensitization of police officers, the role of immigration and border security officials and I will not repeat those remarks. A comprehensive legislative strategy certainly is required. We on this side will work with all parties to ensure that such a strategy is put in place.

While there is much emphasis on the international trafficking of women and children, we often turn a blind eye to the trafficking of women and children that goes on in our country. I can assure the House that unless there is an aggressive attempt to deal with that, the 2010 Olympics will become a focal point, a hub of activity for many of the young women who are in a kind of enslavement, certainly in my city and other cities across the country, to those who use the bodies of young women for their own purposes.

Frequently we see that young aboriginal women are the victims of real poverty in their own communities. They come to the cities and see this as a last resort and an opportunity for what might be, in their minds, a better life. When the government looks at developing strategies to address the whole matter of the trafficking of women leading up to the 2010 Olympics, it is important to address the issue of the internal trafficking of women with a particular focus on the internal trafficking of young aboriginal women largely from western Canada.

Members have heard me speak many times on the systemic issues facing young aboriginal people in their communities. That must be addressed with a long term solution by the federal government and other governments in this country. There have to be very definitive strategies developed in the short term to ensure that the trafficking of young women inside this country is curtailed substantially.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I propose to organize my remarks around two themes: first, an appreciation of the nature, scope and pernicious effects of the evil of trafficking that we are seeking to combat; and second, as my colleague referred to it, to affirm and reaffirm a proposal for a comprehensive strategy to combat trafficking, one that is anchored in the proposal I first offered the House when I was the justice minister.

May I begin with an understanding and awareness of the scope and pernicious consequences of this evil which we need to combat, this scourge of human trafficking, this pernicious, pervasive and persistent assault on human rights, what can be referred to as a commodification in human beings, where human beings are treated as cattle to be bonded and bartered.

What we are dealing with in effect is the enslavement of human beings, what I first called in the House when I presented legislation in this regard, as a global slave trade, treating human beings as goods to be bought and sold and forced to work, usually in the sex trade, but also in agricultural labour or in sweat shops for little or no money.

Through the dedicated efforts of people like Professor Harold Koh, the dean of Yale Law School, and Radhika Coomaraswamy, the former UNHCR rapporteur with respect to violence against women, we now have a comprehensive understanding of the scope of this global sex trade.

We know that this grotesque trade in human beings now generates upward of more than $12 billion a year. In other words, human trafficking is so profitable that it is now the world's fastest growing international crime. We know that the majority of victims who are trafficked are women and children, girls under the age of 25, and that many trafficking victims also include children.

We know that the victims of trafficking are desperate to secure the necessities of life. As a result of that, their lives are mired in exploitation, rooted in the greed of those who prey upon them. In fact, exploitation is at the core of the crime and evil of trafficking.

UNICEF has estimated that 1.2 million children are trafficked globally each year. The International Labour Organization estimates that 2.5 million children are currently in situations of forced labour as a result of being trafficked. As I have said before in the House, and as my daughter has always counselled me, she said, “Dad, if you want to know what the real test of human rights is, then always ask yourself at any time, in any situation, in any part of the world, is what is happening good for children?” That is the real test of human rights, and what is happening with respect to trafficking is an assault, the most fundamental of assaults on the most vulnerable of all, namely, children.

We know that no matter for what purpose they are trafficked, all trafficked persons suffer deprivation of liberty, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, including threats of violence and actual harm to themselves and their family members.

If we are to develop a comprehensive strategy, as my colleague spoke of, in order to combat trafficking, we need to stop thinking in terms of abstract silos, of thinking of human trafficking as an abstract or faceless problem, of thinking of it as a criminal law problem, or a law enforcement problem, or an immigration problem, or a public health problem or an economic problem. It is each and all of these, and more.

Simply put, transborder trafficking is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that challenges law enforcement people, that flouts our immigration laws, that threatens to spread global disease, and constitutes an assault on each of our fundamental rights.

Most important, behind each and all of these problems is a human face, a human being who is being trafficked, and that trafficking constitutes an assault on our common humanity. Accordingly, it must be seen first and foremost as a generic human rights assault with a human face as its victim and as being the very antithesis of the rights in the universal declaration of human rights.

The question is, what then can be done?

I am going to briefly outline a comprehensive strategy, speaking telegraphically, of which the first component must be a strategy of prevention: to prevent the trafficking to begin with; to raise awareness of this new global slave trade and of the urgency to take immediate action against it; to appreciate that by raising our voices in domestic and international fora, by making it clear that this is a priority for all of us, then this trafficking can be prevented if we mobilize this constituency of conscience, both domestically and internationally.

This motion today can serve as a call to action to ensure that Canadians across the country realize that this modern global slave trade is not something out there that does not touch us. It is not something out there that has no relevance for us, but it is something that touches all of us and that is present here in Canada as well. It is something that exists here and is part of an international connecting link, an assault for which we will need this comprehensive strategy of cross-commitment.

This leads me to the second element in that strategy, which is the protection strategy, respecting the victims of trafficking. This involves a number of elements, including the residency protection, protecting against ill-considered detention and deportation such that the victims of trafficking are re-victimized a second time. At the same time they are re-traumatized a second time, where they are sometimes detained as illegal immigrants facing criminal charges rather than trafficking victims who are deserving of protection.

There is also the need for support services. We find the need for shelter, health, counselling and the like, that must be provided to the victims of trafficking. These are services that are very often within provincial jurisdiction and so we need a coordinated effort, a coordinated federal-provincial-territorial effort, with respect to the delivery of services in the context of the protection of victims because the services very often end up having to be delivered by NGOs who themselves become burdened in the process when it is a service that is in effect an obligation of our governments to deliver and provide protection for the victims.

These victims also need protective support in the form of witness protection with respect to those who may wish to testify against those who have in effect assaulted them.

This brings me to the third component, the comprehensive legislative component. We have an Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. We previously enacted criminal law legislation in this regard. We have an international law framework that we have domesticated. What we need to do is to invoke, apply and enforce this comprehensive legislative framework.

Fourth, we need a focal point for our work. We need a focal point in terms of an interdepartmental working group that would be co-chaired by justice, foreign affairs and the like because one can only address this in terms of a comprehensive coordinated governmental strategy.

Fifth, we need to intensify the work of the RCMP, both domestically and internationally.

Sixth, we need to engage our federal, provincial and territorial counterparts. This must be a partnership of all governments in that regard.

Seventh, we need to work with our international counterparts to enhance existing legislative tools and combat trafficking across national borders.

Finally, I will conclude by saying that addressing and redressing this most profound of human rights assaults, this profound assault on human dignity, requires this comprehensive strategy of cross-commitment that is organized fundamentally around the four Ps: to prevent the trafficking to begin with, to protect the victims, to prosecute and pursue the perpetrators of the trafficking, and to engage in partnerships in that regard, both domestically and internationally.

We have a common cause and by working together we can create the critical mass of advocacy on behalf of this common cause and protect the most vulnerable of the vulnerable from this most evil of the evils.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think it is very appropriate that this matter is before the House, and the party that introduced it should be commended.

I listened to the speech from my colleague, who has an action plan and has considerable experience in this area, as we know. The Olympics are supposed to be a display of human achievement. I am reminded of the saying, “a healthy mind in a healthy body”. It would look very bad if we did not do everything we could to avoid the kind of trafficking that we suspect, and that will happen if we do not take the necessary steps.

Obviously, it does not all come down to a single event. But focusing on this event will help get a real, concerted effort underway. Our society has taken serious action about this in the past. Now, we must put in an extra effort and we must take the offensive.

Does my colleague think that the Conservative government is properly addressing the issue at this time, and that it will be able to implement an action plan similar to the one proposed by the member?

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I hope that the government is committed to fighting this and that it is working in partnership.

As I said, if we want the strategy to be successful, the federal government must partner with the provincial and territorial governments. There must be a comprehensive strategy not only among the different levels of government, but also at the national and international levels.

The government must work very hard to develop an international partnership. At the same time, it must work with all the departments, not just the departments of Justice, Citizenship and Immigration or Foreign Affairs. We need a comprehensive strategy, coordinated with all the departments and all levels of government within Canada and throughout the world.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for his very passionate speech this morning. I truly support his words, which I believe are from his heart.

I also want to commend my colleague from Kildonan—St. Paul, who has been very dedicated to this whole issue of human trafficking.

The Minister of Public Safety has visited my riding, as well as other organizations. They have been working on this initiative since the government was elected, over the last couple of years. Prior to that I was on city council in Kelowna for nine years.

I echo and support the member's daughter's comments. It is a very wise daughter he has. If something is not right for children, then it obviously has to be changed.

I sat here listening with great perplexity. The member opposite was in cabinet with the previous government for years and I am wondering why there was no legislation proposed when he was in government.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have to correct my colleague. Not only did the Liberals propose legislation but they in fact enacted legislation to prevent trafficking, as well as to prosecute the perpetrators. Where I felt Liberals had begun but had not gone far enough had to do with respect to protection.

I said then and say now that the issue of protection of victims of trafficking is that which has yet to be sufficiently addressed. That will require a coordinated involvement between all governments. Otherwise, if we do not protect victims, even if we have criminal law and immigration legislation on the books, we will not sufficiently protect them unless we provide those supports.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, it does not give me much pleasure to speak to this issue because such issues are never fun to talk about. Nor am I very enthusiastic about it, despite the enthusiasm I typically exhibit, as our Conservative opponents have often pointed out. However, we do have to talk about this issue, and time is of the essence.

The Olympic Games to be held in Vancouver in 2010 will offer many people an opportunity to visit a very beautiful part of Canada for the first time. British Columbia is certainly a beautiful place. However, we know there have been a number of cases of human trafficking all over Canada and Quebec. Human trafficking, which also victimizes children, happens on every continent, whether it is in Thailand, the Dominican Republic or even Tanga, a small kingdom that I had the opportunity to visit recently.

Elected officials in various countries are worried about this issue because the number of human trafficking cases is growing. Children and women are being treated like livestock and stripped of their rights. They are often taken under vile conditions to countries they do not know and from which they will probably never return.

It is easy to see how this can lead to a sense of paranoia. As parents, as fathers and mothers, we all worry about our children. I am sure that this goes for parents in the countries that victims of human trafficking come from too. All parents want their children to take advantage of the freedom and rights they enjoy so that they can explore their childhood and develop their personalities with no fear for their safety.

Unfortunately, that is not what is happening. When a child is taken from its parents or a woman from her family under false pretenses, and that person is then taken to another country to be subjected to the base instincts of another, that is a very serious crime. We have to put a stop to this criminal activity. We have to put an end to the sad fate of the more than 2.5 million victims who are taken from one country to another every year to be used for sexual purposes and menial work—in short, for slavery. We have to put an end to this.

The staging of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver provides an excellent opportunity to establish measures to eradicate this scourge. I would remind the House that the World Cup in Germany was the setting of a number of incidents involving human trafficking. We do not want the same thing to happen in Vancouver, British Columbia, just as we would not want it to happen in Quebec.

We have already heard reports of certain municipal bodies in British Columbia that would like to develop areas where people who practice non traditional professions, such as prostitution, can ply their trade in relative security. We can already detect an undercurrent of sexuality associated with the games. This undercurrent must be inhibited in order to prevent any undue influence on the practice of human trafficking any more than in other situations.

Any time a large number of people travel to a specific location, naturally, the temptation for human traffickers is even greater.

Certainly, people who engage in human trafficking, those who benefit and make money from it, are more tempted to go to places like Vancouver during the Olympic Games because they know there is a great deal of money to be made there. There can be no victims without a victimizer. Unfortunately, that is another problem that needs to be addressed.

As my colleague was saying earlier, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration already implemented some measures in 2006, when we joined the Palermo protocol. The Government of Canada, through the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, promised that victims of human trafficking would benefit from the protocol and that they would be taken care of. That constitutes the most important aspect of our action. In fact, if we really want to be able to eliminate human trafficking, we must ensure that the women and children who are victims, the ones who are found and who denounce their aggressor and the people who exploited them for trafficking purposes, are adequately protected.

I know that at present, these victims are allowed to stay here for 120 days to decide what they are going to do with their lives. I know that they can have their case reviewed to determine whether they qualify for political asylum. I know that all that is done and that the victims receive medical care as well.

But we must not forget that women and children who are used for months or even years are in a very fragile mental state. I hope that the medical care they receive includes psychological and psychiatric treatment.

I also hope that when these people have to face Canadian citizenship and immigration officials, they can take advantage of the refugee appeal division. But this poses a problem, however: the refugee appeal division is not yet in place in Canada. It is all well and good to say that people can claim refugee status, but that does not mean much if there is no one to rule on refugee claims.

I am also aware that the problem of human trafficking has existed for a number of years. In Quebec, however, we were not as aware of this problem, even though there were cases of child abduction and rape, because we knew that there were people who willingly worked as exotic or erotic entertainers, for example, without being forced. It is not the same situation when children are abducted.

We did not really know that human trafficking was so widespread. The advent of the Internet has opened our eyes to the fact that now, crime and organized crime have no borders or boundaries. This means that from now on, we must be increasingly aware of these situations and concern ourselves with the fate of women and children in other countries.

In recent months, two Canadians have been arrested in Thailand for purchasing the sexual services of children. We cannot escape this reality. We can never escape this reality. Sexual abuse and human trafficking have no borders and so we have to educate anyone who may come into contact with the victims. This must be carried out not only at the local, municipal and provincial level, but also at the national and international level.

It is important to remember that awareness and information are the most important tools we have to put an end to this trafficking. If we do not take action now, if we do not immediately take steps to ensure that, in 2010, Vancouver will be a good place to be, a place that people will choose to go to and where they will have the necessary security to enjoy the Olympic Games, we will find ourselves in a situation where there will be many victims. It is best to take action now. It is best to ensure right now that we have taken all the necessary measures and that we have all the tools at our disposal to eradicate human trafficking.

I will have to stop, as I can no longer speak. I regret that very much.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a very important debate about the report the member is speaking to with regard to the Olympics, a report urging all levels of government to cooperate collaboratively in some sort of plan to mitigate what inevitably is going to occur, just as it occurs at virtually every major international event.

With regard specifically to the 2010 Olympics, the Olympics occur as a regular event every four years. There must be lessons to be learned from those cities that have hosted summer and winter Olympics. This issue continues to be a significant problem with regard to major international events. As well, everybody knows that the housing situation is a real problem, because people attend from around the world to find a place to enjoy the games. Obviously lessons have been learned.

As for the thrust of my question, and not to diminish the fact that trafficking in human beings globally is an extremely important problem, I wonder if the member could advise the House on whether or not the committee took the opportunity to consult the reports or consult with spokespersons of other Olympic events or other major international events on the kinds of approaches they have used when trafficking and the sex trade have been issues.

The member specifically mentioned urgency, saying that we need to do something now. We cannot look for a national strategy to address trafficking in people generally in regard to this report. We need some quick, deliverable solutions, including public education, and certainly we need collaboration among all levels of jurisdictions, but under one authority. I am not sure whether that authority would be a government. It would seem to me that it must be under the umbrella of the Olympic committee itself and specifically its security branch.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

We did consult various spokespersons, as well as a UN report, about human trafficking, the trafficking of women.

The report seemed to say that the measures put in place in May 2006 by Immigration Canada were good measures, but should be improved. These measures were not enough to ensure that victims would report the situation.

If they return home after 120 days because they have no choice but to go back where they came from, they find themselves in the same situation.

We must not forget that human trafficking is worth $7 billion to $10 billion annually. As a result, traffickers are not necessarily going to stop because we decide to send these people home after protecting them for 120 days. The situation in their home country has not changed; we have not eradicated the problem at its source.

We have to give these people assurances that we will protect them and keep them safe, that they will be entitled and able to live here if they choose, that they will have the ability to make choices about their lives and that they will not be pressured to make up their minds within 120 days. For a woman or a child, 120 days is not much time to recover after being beaten, tortured and subjected to all sorts of sexual abuse.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her intervention in this very important debate despite her cold. I also want to thank the Standing Committee on the Status of Women for putting this issue forward, because this very important piece of the planning for the 2010 Olympic Games has been neglected.

For the standing committee to say that the government must develop and implement a plan in collaboration with provincial and municipal governments as well as experts from the police, international organizations and NGOs prior to the opening of the 2010 Olympics, and to put that on the agenda of the House of Commons, means that little work has been done on it. We have seen that in terms of the Future Group's report, which talks about how little planning has gone into this important social consequence of this kind of major international gathering.

For instance, we know that London, in the U.K., which has the summer Olympic Games in 2012, already has announced an action plan on tackling human trafficking. Officials there announced that almost a year ago in March. It has been a significant piece of the planning they are doing for the 2012 Olympic Games. We have the 2010 winter Olympics here in Canada in British Columbia, in Vancouver and Whistler, yet this piece of it has been ignored.

Could the member comment on why she thinks that here in Canada we have given so little importance to this? Why it is taking this debate and the actions of the standing committee to really give impetus to putting this on the agenda as part of the planning for the 2010 Olympic Games?