House of Commons Hansard #20 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, as the hon. member well knows, those are all elements of confidence. We have made the decision to support the government, on a review basis. As the President of the Treasury Board said today in question period, the government is on probation. The Conservatives know it and we know it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I want to commend this member for his efforts in making sure that the stimulus package came through the finance committee very quickly. I have worked with him and I know we do not agree on everything, but we do agree on a lot of things.

He talked about the judgment that the official opposition has to use. I wonder if he thinks that judgment will help ridings in Quebec and obviously ones represented by the NDP members because they do not seem to care much about them.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is correct that we do not agree on everything, and there are days when I wonder whether we agree on anything. Having said that, I do not think it is within the purview of analysis whether we do or do not support the budget based upon on whether it is good for a Bloc riding, good for a Conservative riding, good for an NDP riding, or otherwise. We are doing what we think is in the best interests of--

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-10 on the Bloc Québécois' behalf.

I feel that I have to briefly review the situation. Last fall, we were given a throne speech and economic statement that were ideological, empty, antisocial, anti-union, anti-women and anti-youth. The Conservatives often question the opposition's usefulness. At the time, had we not created a coalition, we would not have had a budget, and the Prime Minister would be doing whatever he pleased today and would have used the money however he liked.

So we formed a coalition. The Bloc Québécois was one of the only ones to recommend a stimulus package addressing several demands from Quebec to the government. I have to emphasize that because Quebec is important to the Bloc Québécois. There was a lot of pressure. The Conservatives were afraid of losing their limousines and their privileges, so the Prime Minister rushed over to Michaëlle Jean's place to ask for prorogation. That slowed things down considerably, and now they are trying to say that the NDP and the Bloc Québécois are preventing this budget from passing, even though the Conservatives themselves are the ones who engineered this situation in the first place.

I want to emphasize, once again, that Quebeckers gave all of the Bloc Québécois members sizeable majorities in their ridings so that we could work for Quebec.

From Quebec's perspective, this budget will take away a billion dollars this year, and a billion dollars next year because of equalization. That is $2 billion. That is a lot of money to Quebec. That money would have been spent on health and education, and we all know how important having an educated and healthy population is to a province, to a nation. A healthy, educated population is an important factor in economic development.

When investors are figuring out where to invest, they look for places with educated people and good health systems. To them, those are indicators that they should invest in Quebec. The Canadian divisions of GM, Ford and Chrysler have always said that health and education systems are among their primary criteria when investing.

I have no doubt that the Bloc will continue to fight hard for justice in terms of the fiscal imbalance. For years, we have been asking for the money Quebec is entitled to, and we will continue to do so. Unfortunately, this year's budget includes some serious cuts.

Giving $170 million to Canada's manufacturing and forestry industries is a joke. That barely represents 22% for Quebec. It is nothing in terms of a major economic investment. These industries are in crisis and need financial assistance more than ever. Unfortunately, the Conservative government is refusing to give them the help they need in order to develop.

We are seeing layoffs in Quebec at Pratt & Whitney, Bombardier, Kenworth and Prévost Car. We are also seeing the attitude of this Conservative government and the Liberals who are supporting this budget. Who got the contracts for the latest military trucks? An American company. Six to eight hundred jobs could have been saved in Quebec and Canada at other truck manufacturing plants, yet they refused to award the contracts to Canadian workers. Military buses could have been built by Prévost Car, Nova Bus or New Flyer, in Winnipeg. These companies could have made the buses, but the contract was awarded to a German company. The contracts for new rescue planes will be awarded to American companies, but that significant economic boost should have been given to Quebec. As usual, we got nothing but crumbs.

The Bloc is always accused of asking questions. They are good questions. It is an intelligent way of demanding things for Quebec instead of being content to blather on about newspapers or laughing from the other side of the House about the work the Bloc has been doing for many years. That is why we are re-elected in election after election.

The same is true in the parts sector. Every riding in Quebec has seen major layoffs, including the ridings in which Conservative members were elected. They are not concerned about it, though, because they only care about their own interests. But there have been major layoffs in that sector. The Bloc Québécois has been making serious demands from this side of the House, and clearly, we will continue to do so.

The aerospace industry is one of the motors of Quebec's industrial sector in terms of economic development. It is being gradually shut down by the lack of proper support. Immediate investments must be made in this sector in order to ensure the industry's future in Quebec over the next 15 years. The current government is doing nothing to help it.

As for employment insurance, tens of thousands of workers have been laid off and they need to receive money right away, without the two week waiting period. Over 40% of these workers have access to employment insurance. The Conservative government and the Liberals prefer to add five weeks to the end of the benefits period, although we know that this will affect very few people.

The Bloc Québécois introduced a bill recently, Bill C-308, to improve the employment insurance system. In a crisis situation, the employment insurance fund becomes an important economic tool. We must allow workers to benefit from it, whether through an assistance program for older workers or through work sharing. We would like to extend the latter by more than a year, in order to keep the expertise in the factories and allow employers to have it when work resumes. Unfortunately, it was decided to extend it for only a short time.

A number of factories in Quebec and the Quebec City region have major problems, and they do not have access to work sharing. In the short term, the most recent improvement does nothing to help the workers in that sector.

The new coalition of the Liberals and the Conservatives continues to make its mark by attacking workers. Consider the federal government's position with regard to its own employees. The Conservatives and the Liberals decided to legislate to take away their right to strike and to bargain. More than 100,000 public service workers have already approved a collective agreement in good faith. Others had negotiated a collective agreement with a 2.5% salary increase. The government decided to take money out of their pockets retroactively to stimulate the economy. This government is creating a climate of insecurity in the federal bureaucracy, and workers are neither happy nor satisfied. A private sector employer or multinational would never dare do such a thing, because it would lose important expertise.

I could talk about pay equity, but my colleague spoke at length about it. It is completely unacceptable to attack women in this way. This is being felt in Quebec and all across Canada.

Having made cuts in this area, the government is handing out tax breaks. Many economists are saying that it is a huge mistake to make tax reductions that will do nothing. People are saving much more than they are spending at present. Workers who have lost their jobs need money. The billions of dollars in tax reductions should be invested to save jobs and build an economy.

In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois will keep on fighting for Quebec as it has always done. It is the only party that fights for Quebec in this House. The other members from Quebec, who sit opposite, do not do anything. They support a budget like this one, which hurts Quebec. We will keep on building Quebec.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, the budget provides a total of $60 million over three years, a total of $50 million per year for older workers, something this member has been advocating for for a long time. It includes five extra weeks of EI benefits that this member has been advocating for and an extension of work-sharing. There is $500 million for long-tenured workers that will give up to 10,000 long-tenured workers additional time and financial support. We will provide training for those who need it in the amount of $500 million, and those who are not on EI, there will be extended training and skills upgrading for $1 billion.

How can this member say that he will not support this budget? How can this member face people from his own region, from his own province, and say he voted against these billions of dollars of assistance that are in this budget implementation bill that should be passed?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his question and comments.

As you know, in Quebec we are different and our claims are different. Perhaps you have not often visited Quebec. You have not spoken to people in Quebec and you unfortunately have few MPs—

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would ask the member to address the chair rather than talking directly to the member.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

February 27th, 2009 / 1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, as I was saying, POWA is a program that was cut by the Liberals; the Conservatives have restored very little of it. In the current crisis, many older workers are being hit hard because of huge layoffs. These workers cannot yet apply for their pensions. This type of program would allow them to retain their dignity until they begin receiving the pension normally provided by their company.

Unfortunately, POWA, as it stands, gives absolutely nothing to older workers. With regard to employment insurance, workers not only in Quebec but also in Canada have been asking for some time for 360 hour eligibility rules, easier access, increased benefits—

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would like to give other members the opportunity to ask questions.

I will now give the floor to the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I have a brief question for my colleague about employment insurance.

The government has said it is improving the program but it is ignoring the facts. The fact is, the majority of workers do not have access to the program. In our region, northwest British Columbia, 60% of workers do not qualify.

How can the government even talk about a benefit?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. It is clear when we look at what the Conservatives and Liberals have been proposing with this budget for the past number a weeks, there is nothing there to help workers. Absolutely nothing.

The waiting period plays an important role and, as he mentioned, accessibility is a significant issue. Currently, only approximately 40% of workers can access employment insurance. Unfortunately, the members from the opposite side of the House are telling us that by impoverishing workers we are helping both the workers and the economy. In my opinion, we will not manage to do anything by impoverishing the unemployed. We will do something when we help them.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Mississauga South has one minute to ask a brief question.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, my question has to do with the arts community. The member mentioned it briefly. I think this really goes to the heart of integrity and trust. The Prime Minister referred to those in the arts community as being subsidized whiners. I wonder if the member would care to comment on whether or not this is a way in which he has demonstrated to Quebeckers and the rest of Canadians that he really cares about them.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles has 30 seconds to respond.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I believe that culture played an important role in the last election campaign. Unfortunately, the Conservatives denied, and continue to deny, how important culture is.

Economically, it represents 300,000 jobs in Quebec, which is a significant number. Unfortunately, the Conservative government at the time, just like the Liberals today, are brushing artists aside with the budget for various reasons—

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

moved that Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, today I am pleased to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years).

I ask members to take a moment to imagine a beautiful Ontario spring day in June 2008. Imagine a courtroom here in the province of Ontario where a young girl, no older than 15 years when her exploitation began, head bowed, eyes down, quietly relates a story so shocking that we as parents relive the images in our minds over and over again and pray it never happens to our daughters.

I am speaking of a young Canadian girl who lives not far from the nation's capital, telling of the horror she endured from the man who trafficked and sold her for sex for two and a half years, a man who made in excess of $360,000 off this innocent young victim by threatening her, beating her, and forcing her to have sex with strangers.

As a result, this man was able to buy himself a BMW and an expensive house in Niagara Falls. Even though he was eventually caught and convicted, he spent less time in jail than he did exploiting this young girl and destroying her life. Often he would tell her that if she got out of line, he would beat her. He would threaten to kidnap her brother or do harm to her parents.

This man, Imani Nakpangi, was caught and convicted as the first child trafficker in Canada. To get a glimpse of the ongoing trauma this young girl endured from her trafficker, I would like us to imagine our own daughters, granddaughters, or sons, telling this story in this Ontario courtroom last June.

I will quote from this young girl's impact statement so we as parliamentarians can catch a glimpse of what this little girl went through. She said, “I am constantly looking over my shoulder, afraid that either Imani or his friends are going to come after me for putting him in jail. I don't feel safe at home. He knows where I live, and what my family looks like, and where they live. I have nightmares about him. I have low self esteem. Feel like I am only good for one thing...sex. I don't see why someone, a man would be interested in me, and try to get to know me, because I feel unworthy, dirty, tainted, nothing."

In Canada today child sex slavery is alive and well. Traffickers make a great deal of money off innocent child victims. They prefer young children because young children are impressionable, easy to control and easy to intimidate. The criminal intelligence service of Canada's strategic intelligence brief entitled “Organized Crime and Domestic Trafficking in Persons in Canada” has reported that organized crime networks right here in Canada are actively trafficking Canadian born women and underage girls interprovincially and in some instances to the U.S. These women and girls are destined for the sex trade.

I would like to speak about the legal necessity of Bill C-268. Canada's first human trafficking offences were added to the Criminal Code at the end of 2005 through the work of the hon. member for Mount Royal, the justice minister at that time. Section 279.01 of the Criminal Code carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 14 years and up to life imprisonment if the victim is kidnapped, subject to aggravated assault or aggravated sexual assault, or killed during the commission of the offence.

Now there are some who will argue this amendment is unnecessary. They will suggest that individuals convicted of trafficking in Canada already face up to 14 years, even life in certain circumstances, and therefore, there is no need for mandatory minimums.

Let me be clear. This view is naive and ignorant of the reality of human trafficking convictions in Canada. Over the past year Peel Regional Police and Montreal Police Service have rescued the first child victims of sex trafficking in Canada and secured convictions against their traffickers. Imani Nakpangi, who I mentioned earlier, was convicted last June of trafficking a 15-year-old girl. He sexually exploited her daily over two years. For the offence of human trafficking, he received only three years and was credited 13 months for the pre-trial time he served.

This past November in Montreal, Michael Lennox Mark was convicted of human trafficking. He was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for trafficking a 17-year-old girl and selling her for sex. He served only a single week in prison after being convicted because he was given a two-for-one credit for his one year of pretrial custody.

In light of the incredulous sentences these men received, I cannot imagine what one would have to do to receive a full 14 years. These are our Canadian children.

I want to take this opportunity to commend the wonderful police officers in the Peel and Montreal police forces for their dedication to combatting this horrific crime. I can tell members they are shocked at the exceedingly inadequate sentences that have been handed down by sentencing judges in Canada's first set of convictions for human trafficking involving children.

I would like my hon. colleagues to know that Bill C-268 arose directly from consultations with these officers and victims organizations across Canada who are concerned about the safety of our children. These convictions set an alarming precedent for all future cases involving trafficking of children. With almost a dozen similar cases before Canadian courts today involving the trafficking of minors, it is imperative that Parliament send a clear message that the trafficking of minors will not be tolerated.

It is important to note that the Criminal Code already recognizes that certain serious crimes involving child victims require more stringent penalties. Section 212(2.1) of the Criminal Code imposes a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for the aggravated offence of living on the avails of prostitution of a person under the age of 18 years. Pimps can theoretically be put behind bars for doing this. However, Canada's Criminal Code has no serious penalties for victims of trafficking who are children.

With regard to constitutional concerns, lawyer and criminal law professor Benjamin Perrin has reviewed Bill C-268 and found that it is fully compliant with relevant constitutional standards. Professor Perrin points out that the Supreme Court of Canada has recently affirmed the test for when a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment will constitute cruel and unusual punishment under section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In the unanimous reasons for judgment in R. v. Ferguson, Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin stated:

The test for whether a particular sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment is whether the sentence is grossly disproportionate.... As this Court has repeatedly held, to be considered grossly disproportionate, the sentence must be more than merely excessive.

The only thing that is grossly disproportionate in these cases I have referred to is the inadequate sentences handed out. Let me be clear. There is no reasonable hypothetical scenario that would result in a mandatory minimum term of five years for child trafficking being grossly disproportionate.

As I mentioned earlier, section 212(2.1) imposes a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for the aggravated offence of living on the avails of prostitution of a person under the age of 18 years. This provision has routinely been applied by the courts and was endorsed by the federal, provincial and territorial working group on prostitution in its report and recommendations in respect of legislation, policy and practices concerning prostitution-related activities. The report states:

--it is difficult to imagine a case in which the minimum sentence would not be suitable.... [I]t definitely signals the community's abhorrence of such a crime by imposing a sentence commensurate with the gravity of the offence. Both public protection and the expression of public revulsion for such conduct require that the minimum time served in a correctional system be the subject of legislative rather than judicial or administrative control.

These arguments apply with equal, or even greater, force to Bill C-268 in respect of a mandatory minimum sentence for a child trafficker.

Bill C-268 would also bring much needed parity between the trafficking in persons sentencing structure and section 212(2.1) with respect to child victims.

Canada has ratified the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. As a result, Canada has significant international obligations to ensure the safety and protection of our children. Article 3.3 states:

Each State Party shall make such offences punishable by appropriate penalties that take into account their grave nature.

Our current Criminal Code does not meet this international obligation when it comes to the trafficking of children.

Bill C-268 would ensure that Canadian courts handed out sentences that reflect the gravity of child trafficking and sexual exploitation and also reflect the sentences handed out to child traffickers in other countries.

I would also note that in October 2008, the report of the Canada-U.S. Consultation in Preparation for the World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents recommended that Canada enact a mandatory minimum penalty for child trafficking. This report was prepared by Canadian and American NGOs and federal government representatives, including Steve Sullivan, Canada's Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.

Other countries have taken significant steps to denounce the trafficking of children. The United States and Australia have separate offences for the trafficking of a child. Trafficking a child under age 14 in the United States will result in a minimum penalty of 15 years and a minimum of 10 for children between the ages of 14 and 16.

The plague of human trafficking that threatens our youth has galvanized Canadians across our country. In the past few weeks I have received countless letters, emails and petitions supporting my bill. I trust many hon. members in the House have experienced a similar outcry. Most notably, support for the bill has come from major stakeholders in the fight against child trafficking. Law enforcement, victims services, first nations, and non-governmental organizations have all expressed the need for mandatory minimum sentences for child trafficking.

Canadian Police Association President Charles Momy has said:

The United Nations has identified human trafficking as a serious concern and Canada is not an exception. This is very real crime in this country. We applaud [the member for Kildonan--St. Paul] for raising this issue in the House of Commons--

--I am sure he applauds everyone for it--

--and welcome this bill as a means for Parliament to address this problem in Canada.

Grand Chief Ron Evans of the Manitoba Assembly of Chiefs has said:

On behalf of First Nations people, I am pleased to support...Bill C-268. Both US and Canadian government reports have shown that Aboriginal women and children are at greater risk of becoming victims of human trafficking than any other group in Canada.... Bill C-268 is one step forward for the First Nations women and children of Canada.

Rosalind Prober, executive director of Beyond Borders, has said:

In terms of sentencing in Canada for crimes against children in general, they are very, very, very lenient....Traffickers of human beings, especially children, are not individuals that should get a slap on the wrist. A message should be sent from the courtroom -- and that's what [the member for Kildonan--St. Paul] is trying to do.

I know all members in the House are trying to do the same thing.

There are many more. What is clear is that Canadians are calling for Parliament to act. After all, we have been elected to ensure the safety of our communities.

The trafficking of children is not a Conservative, Liberal, Bloc or NDP issue. It is not a partisan issue. I have worked diligently to gain support from all parties for this bill.

In the past our parties worked together to pass legislation put forward by the hon. member for Mount Royal to bring in Canada's first human trafficking offences.

Our current government has taken important steps to provide much needed assistance and residence to international victims of human trafficking.

Our government has also introduced an annual $6 million in funding to combat trafficking of persons and child exploitation.

In 2007, members from all parties on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, including the hon. member for Laval and the hon. member for Beaches—East York, who are here in the House today, worked hard to produce a comprehensive report on human trafficking. They both remember the heart-wrenching stories of victims whose lives have been destroyed by this vicious crime.

I am grateful for the overwhelming support I have received from all parties for Bill C-268. It is vital that all Canadians and the international community witness all members of Canada's Parliament standing unified against this horrific abuse of human rights.

We must act to end the trafficking of children here in Canada and abroad. We can and we will.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate the member on introducing Bill C-268.

I will be speaking next so I do not want to get into details, but just for the information of the House, the new clause that is proposed to be added to the Criminal Code has some very sweeping language in it. Could the member indicate who developed the language? Is it modelled on some other jurisdictional language? Is there some assurance that we have it right?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, it has been a two year process on this bill. I have been waiting for the opportunity to present this bill here in Parliament.

There are precedents with the same wording in the United States and Australia that are very tight. Those two countries have mandatory minimum sentences for child trafficking. They have been used as a model. In addition, Professor Perrin, who is very well versed in human trafficking, is one of the lawyers who have been a part of that.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, I share the hon. member's feelings on the issue of human trafficking. Human trafficking is unacceptable. I have a question for her.

In May 2006, the justice and public safety ministers were forced to admit that there were no Canadian studies showing that the new minimum sentencing measures are of any help in the fight against crime.

I would like her to tell us what the basis is for questioning or not trusting judges because, in our opinion, they are in the best position to determine what sentence is the most appropriate in light of all the facts of the case.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, I outlined in my speech the reason that I do not have confidence. A 15-year-old girl was exploited for two and a half years and the person who did that received a very light sentence. The precedents set in Australia and the U.S. set forth the mandatory minimum sentencing as a prototype in front of us. The October 28 report recommended that Canada should set in the mandatory minimum sentencing. It is very important. That is the criteria.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeMinister of State (Democratic Reform)

Madam Speaker, I just want to commend the member for Kildonan—St. Paul for bringing forward this bill. It is something she has been very passionate about since before she was elected.

I also know the member is the mother of a large number of children and has a unique perspective, because one of her children is in the police service.

Could the member explain the impact the bill would have not only on the victims, but also on their families? Perhaps she could explain the punishment factor as well, because that is very important when it comes to justice.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, I am the mother of six wonderful children, and yes, my eldest son is a member of the RCMP. He is my role model. He was in the ICE unit and I saw his hair turn grey in less than two years because he was rescuing child victims.

Mandatory minimums will give hope to the families who have had children who were taken. For example, the daughter of the mother of a police officer in Edmonton was taken, and the daughter of a teacher was taken. Those families have in their hearts the fact that we, as parliamentarians, need to say very strongly that we will not stand for child trafficking on Canadian soil.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on what I consider to be a very important bill brought forward by the hon. member, Bill C-268, an act to amend the Criminal Code to include a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of five years for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of 18 years.

One of the reasons that I believe this bill is very important is because it mirrors something that I was involved in early in my career as a parliamentarian. Prior to becoming a politician, I had been on the board of directors of Interim Place, the shelter for battered women and children. I was a director and treasurer for five years and got to know the issue in a way that most men do not because very few men actually get into shelters to see and to meet some of the women and children involved.

Abuse tears at the heartstrings of those who wish they could help. One of the first things I had some success in as a parliamentarian, almost 15 years ago, was to amend the Criminal Code to provide stiffer sentences to those convicted of spousal or child abuse, and it is in the Criminal Code today.

If nothing else happens in my career, that gives me shivers when I think that I was able to draw on my experience, from my family and from my personal life before becoming an MP, to be able to actually leave a fingerprint somewhere in the system, in the laws of Canada, to show that there is a common bond of association with the people from the legislators that these things are important.

I feel very close to the member in terms of how she feels about championing this issue. She knows that there will be some detractors from it, but I sense from her speaking that she is ready to defend the bill that she has presented to us through all stages of its legislative process.

Some people may not be aware of what specifically would be involved, so I want to take the time actually to read the clause that she wants to put into the Criminal Code. It is a brand new clause. Subclause (1) states:

Every person who recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds, conceals or harbours a person under the age of eighteen years, or exercises control, direction or influence over the movements of a person under the age of eighteen years, for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation is guilty of an indictable offence and liable

(a) to imprisonment for life if they kidnap, commit an aggravated assault or aggravated sexual assault against, or cause death to, the victim during the commission of the offence; or

(b) to imprisonment for not more than fourteen years and not less than five years in any other case.

Subclause (2) states:

No consent to the activity that forms the subject-matter of a charge under subsection (1) is valid.

That is the language that ultimately, we hope, will appear in the Criminal Code.

Private members' bills sometimes are successful when they are targeted and focused, and I think this one is. I have seen some bills that try and do a little too much, provide a little too many tentacles out there where somebody could find one reason why they might not support it. I think this one is clean.

The member did herself a great service by including the letter from Professor Benjamin Perrin from the University of British Columbia who laid out some of the elements that really helped to communicate. I think all hon. members have received this and I hope they take a chance to read it. When we get that third party validation, when they look at things, such as the need for the bill that he covers here and his comments on the consistency with international obligations, which is extremely important, as well as the constitutionality of it.

Those are very important things for members to do. This is a great model for all other hon. members who are championing private members' business to use for their private members' bills or motions because it covers the fundamentals.

We cannot be experts in all these things but we should get that third party validation, with good sound arguments and good examples. As a member of Parliament from the region of Peel, I do know how the Peel Regional Police worked with the Montreal police services on the case that was referred to.

I mentioned at the beginning that there will probably be some detractors to this and probably will talk about mandatory sentencing. It is a debate that has been going on. However, the Supreme Court has been pretty clear that there are cases. I must admit that I myself have spoken against mandatory minimums in certain cases but they had to do with fetal alcohol syndrome. I was on the argument about people who do not know the difference between right and wrong. It appeared that the courts were not giving enough identification to the fact that there are some people in our society who do not know the difference between right and wrong and that the incarceration of someone who has a mental disability would not be a good thing to do because rehabilitation is not possible. We need institutionalization to deal with the lifelong disability. That is going to be one area.

The other area I recall with regard to challenging matters such as this has to do with alleviating the judge with the discretion and the latitude because cases are complex. Sometimes there are exacerbating or mitigating circumstances. When we look at the clause that is being proposed here, there are so many different elements that might be reflective of this offence but they are subject to interpretation. That is one of the reasons I asked the member where the language came from and whether it had tested. We do not need a false start. However, I am sure we will get a chance at committee to vent these kinds of questions and I know the member will be well prepared to deal with them.

I know a lot of other members would like to speak to this. I simply wanted I thank the member for the bill. I will be supporting Bill C-268 and I will be recommending that my colleagues support it.