Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this fundamentally important issue, which is the concurrence report from the Standing Committee on the Status of Women calling for the government to put in place a plan prior to the opening of the 2010 Olympics to curtail the trafficking of women and children for sexual purposes during and after the duration of the games.
This is a fundamental issue. There is absolutely no doubt about it, because this is, I would suggest, one of the great scourges of our time. This is an epidemic that has occurred over the last few decades, developing around the world. It has a lot to do with economic conditions deteriorating for most people on our planet, but I will come back to that in a moment.
Fundamentally, we are talking about a crime that creates, estimates show, about two and a half million victims each and every year. We are talking about women and children who are coerced or threatened and forced into prostitution. Through coercion, through violence, these victims, half of them children, half of them women, are put in the most abominable circumstances imaginable. We are talking about literally an epidemic that has not been dealt with effectively around the world and that we need to deal with effectively.
The report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women calls very clearly for governmental measures. I will come back to that in a moment. That results from the work of a number of organizations and a report that I will cite a little bit later on, but we need to start from the first primary point, which is that poverty and the worldwide economic degradation of most humans on this planet is the fundamental cause of human trafficking.
The U.S. state department estimates that between 600,000 and 800,000 humans are trafficked each year across international boundaries. As I mentioned earlier, we are talking about 2.5 million victims of forced prostitution.
The criminal gangs that are embarking on this trafficking are taking advantage of people who are fundamentally vulnerable because of poverty and a variety of circumstances. However, it is economic inequality that creates the conditions by which human trafficking, human slavery, let us call it what it is, the slavery of two and a half million human beings each and every year, takes place. Economic conditions cause this reality.
We have seen figures about how wealth on our planet is increasingly concentrated. Even in our own country, wealth is increasingly concentrated. It is estimated that the 400 wealthiest billionaires on this planet have more wealth than two billion of the planet's inhabitants.
We have billions of people on this planet who are living on $1 to $2 a day. Thirty thousand children will die in this 24-hour period, this very day, Thursday, January 31, from midnight to midnight, of starvation and preventable diseases on this planet. This is not unique to this particular day. Tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday, another 30,000 children will die, not because we do not have the resources on this planet to provide them with health care, housing, food and clean water, but because the resources go to a very few people on this planet. That is a unique social democratic perspective that the NDP brings to the House.
Recent opinion polls said that there was virtually no difference between Conservatives and Liberals, and I am sure you would share that observation, Mr. Speaker, essentially that the Conservatives and Liberals take the same economic approach, laissez-faire, that things are just fine the way they are. However, they are certainly not when 30,000 children die each and every day on our planet. That is a fundamental crisis that we as human beings who are part of this global sphere that we inhabit, need to deal with as parliamentarians.
The economic inequality around the world is, as well, very present in North America. In the United States, it has been estimated that economic inequality now has reached the same level as it was in 1928, prior to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt new deal, prior to the rate of social legislation that built up the United States of America. Now we have turned the clock back, through laissez-faire economics, to 1928, prior to all of the social legislation that was put in place, creating, as I mentioned, the same conditions in the United States that we have seen globally, where the living standards and quality of life of most people are deteriorating.
In Canada we have seen the very same thing. Since 1989, we have seen the real income of most Canadian families go down, not up. We have now seen that half of the nation's income goes to the wealthiest 20%. The elites in Canada are doing better than ever but most Canadian families have actually seen a deterioration of their incomes. At the same time, it explains why debt levels have doubled. Most Canadian families are finding it hard to make ends meet.
When we talk about these global issues, we can translate them right back to our communities. This degradation in living standards that we are seeing around the globe, we also see in Canada and the United States. This global degradation of economic conditions, except for the very narrow economic elite, the jet-setters who are doing better than ever, is something that translates directly into these fundamental problems, such as that of human trafficking.
We cannot isolate the human trafficking issue, the fact that women, children and their families are put in desperate situations that allow them to be exploited by criminal gangs, those who have no conscience, no humanity and no ability to see that the abuse of a fellow human being is entirely unacceptable.
I now come back to the report that was issued which addresses the fundamental issue of why it is so important that the government take action prior to the Olympics, not during the Olympics nor to simply put together a press conference, but to take the kinds of actions that are necessary to prevent human trafficking coming to our shores.
The apprehensions that were raised by the member for London—Fanshawe this morning when she moved the motion for concurrence of the report by the House of Commons are quite legitimate. Her concerns are based on the fact that the Athens Olympics contributed to nearly a 100% increase in human trafficking victims. We saw that during the Olympics held in Greece in 2004. In Germany there was a substantial increase in human trafficking victims during the World Cup in 2006.
We see a pattern that has developed due to the economic degradation of most inhabitants of this planet, leading directly to when the resources of the planet are allocated to these Olympics. We do not seem to be able to find the resources to provide health care, homes, food and clean drinking water for the world's inhabitants, even though, compared to the world's military budgets, it is a microscopic budget.
Essentially, we have the resources now to eliminate those economic conditions that cause human trafficking and allow people to be exploited. We certainly have a lot of money for military acquisition budgets around the world, including the American military and other military forces from both democratic and undemocratic countries. We certainly seem to have resources for sporting events, such as the World Cup and the Olympics. As a result of that, because of the cash that is around at those events, that then attracts criminal gangs to apply human trafficking, to abuse victims and to profit from the money being available for the Olympic Games or the World Cup.
The report issued, which is extremely important, is called “Faster, Higher, Stronger: Preventing Human Trafficking at the 2010 Olympics”.
The Saint John Telegraph-Journal had an excellent article on the report. I will quote a few of sentences from the article before I go on to the recommendations contained within it. The headline reads “Warnings issued for 2010 Olympics; Report says event could be used by human trafficking and sex trades”. The Future Group, which published the report, states:
“There is a real risk that traffickers will seek to profit from the 2010 Olympics”, said Sabrina Sullivan, managing director of the non-partisan, non-governmental organization. She goes on to say:
This event could create an increased demand for prostitution, and also give an easy cover story for victims to be presented as 'visitors' by traffickers.
It goes on to interview RCMP assistant commissioner, Bud Mercer, who is responsible for security. It states:
—the head of security for the 2010 Olympics said earlier this week that the issue of human trafficking during the Games hasn't hit his radar.
“For me, not, not yet,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Bud Mercer said in an interview Monday with The Canadian Press.
“I've never seen anything that's come across my desk, but keep in mind it's Day 2”.
The report in the Telegram then goes on to cite the Athens Olympics and the increase there, a 95% increase in human trafficking, and the significant increase that took place in Germany as well. It states:
While numerous factors come into play, a certain correlation between the Olympics and an increase in human trafficking cannot be discounted, the report stated.
“Canada is playing catch-up since authorities have yet to convict a single person for the offence of human trafficking,” said Benjamin Perrin, the lead author of the report and an assistant professor in the faculty of law at the University of British Columbia.
The article in the Telegram is an effective resume of the comments of the Future Group's report on the importance of ensuring that human trafficking is not part and parcel of the 2010 Olympics, not part and parcel of the social fall-out that could well occur if we do not pay particular attention to the social aspect of the Olympic Games.
As my colleague from Burnaby—Douglas mentioned earlier, the facilities seem to be coming along well, but at the same time there is real concern that we are not addressing environmental factors around the Olympics, and we are certainly not addressing social factors.
This is a primary concern of those of us from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. We have concerns about the displacement of those who are marginally housed in the downtown east side for example, possible gentrification or those individuals who are extremely vulnerable being displaced. We saw similar concerns raised with Expo 86. We certainly have not seen, from VANOC or from governmental authorities, measures being put into place to address legitimate concerns around exploitation in the Olympics and the use of human trafficking.
What recommendations does the report, “Faster, Higher, Stronger: Preventing Human Trafficking at the 2010 Olympics”, bring forth? They are recommendations that are extremely important for the House of Commons to take into account. It mentions three very clear elements.
The first element is the prevention of human trafficking. It uses the word “prevention”. It uses the word “protection” of trafficking victims. It also uses the word “prostitution” of traffickers and commercial sex users in criminal proceedings.
A number of other organizations are concerned about human trafficking. One notable reference is humantrafficking.org, which I suggest to members of the House. It says very clearly that another element is reintegration of the human trafficking victims once they are uncovered and liberated from the gangs that have preyed on them. Reintegration is a fundamental approach that has to be taken into consideration as well. Those organizations that are fighting against this worldwide calamity, which is human trafficking and human slavery, are suggesting very clearly that it has to be taken into consideration.
Let us get back to the three elements that are contained within the report specific to the 2010 Olympics. It talks about the prevention of human trafficking by working with source countries to address root causes.
I mentioned earlier about the whole fundamental issue of the economic degradation of most of the planet. While elites are doing better than ever, most people on this planet are striving to survive for the day. Billions of people are living literally hand to mouth in the midst of so much opulence, wealth and luxury that is available to so few inhabitants of the planet.
I mentioned earlier that we see economic degradation in the United States. Those in charge of economic levers have turned the clock back to 1928 in the United States and similar levels of inequality here in Canada. The poorest of Canadians have lost about a month and a half of income on average for each and every year since the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was implemented in 1989. That economic degradation since 1989 has been constant and appalling.
That economic degradation since 1989 has been constant and appalling. Imagine, back in 1989, those who worked 12 months a year were paid for 12 months. Now they are working 12 months a year and only getting paid for ten and a half months of real income, which explains the massive increase in debt load for average Canadians. Therefore, prevention of human trafficking to address root causes is a fundamental approach that has to be taken into consideration.
The second element is the protection of trafficking victims, which includes rescue, rehabilitation and, as I mentioned earlier, reintegration and repatriation, then prosecution of traffickers and commercial sex users in criminal proceedings.
What is suggested in the report is that we deter traffickers and these potential sex tourists through effective public awareness campaigns before, during and after the 2010 Olympics. We have to start well before to make it very clear that the Lower Mainland of B.C., Vancouver and Whistler, is a human trafficking free zone. The Canadian public and those visiting Canada need to be advised of laws against sexual exploitation and human trafficking. This is important given the fact that no one in Canada has been prosecuted for human trafficking. We have to ensure that the public education campaign is wide, vast and deep in nature.
We have to disrupt the trafficking networks and prosecute traffickers through a coordinated and proactive law enforcement response at the local, provincial and federal levels, ensuring that we are identifying and disrupting both domestic and international trafficking networks.
There is no doubt that it will take more resources. What we have seen from the government is an obsession with corporate tax cuts, with $14 billion handed out last fall. However, these are the kinds of resources that Canadians are calling upon the government to allocate. We have been talking about the meltdown in the manufacturing and forestry sectors and the government is delaying implementation of what is, compared to the $14 billion given away to the most profitable corporations in the country, a very modest aid program. It has said that it cannot implement it for weeks or perhaps months. At the same time, we need resources here.
The $14 billion corporate tax giveaway makes no sense, given resources that need to be allocated to our police officers at the municipal, provincial and federal levels to combat human trafficking.
The third element is preventing human trafficking and enhancing border integrity. This means border controls that are much more effective.
The final element is protecting trafficked persons by ensuring that arrangements are made to provide them with safe and appropriate housing, counselling, legal aid, temporary residence status, translation and medical assistance while they recover from their ordeal.
These are all the elements that need to be put into place. The government needs to start acting now. This is why I find it so important that the member for London—Fanshawe has brought forward the motion of concurrence. We need the House of Commons to tell the government, today, that it needs to apply the resources and put in place a plan so we can ensure the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics in 2010 are completely a human trafficking free zone.