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.