Madam Speaker, I am indeed pleased that the issue of human trafficking has come back to the House. I am concerned, however, that my colleague from across the floor has introduced a bill that deals only superficially with the issues of human trafficking. It, unfortunately, neither addresses the causes of human trafficking nor looks at ways to prevent it. Bill C-268 is ineffectual and needs desperately to be amended.
We studied this issue of trafficking human beings at great length in the status of women committee. The member opposite was, at that time, a vice-chair, so she should be well-versed in the multiple issues that sadly have been omitted from her bill.
The committee found, in its 2007 report, that the issue of human trafficking is complex and many steps need to be taken to address this horrendous crime against vulnerable people.
I want to touch on a few of the key recommendations left out of this bill. However, first, I would like to point out that this bill is very restrictive because it only covers minors. I am not sure why the member added in that restriction because many adults are also victims and need to be protected. It is not just children under the age of 18 who fall victim.
The key to addressing human trafficking in Canada is prevention. As we heard from a number of witnesses, addressing poverty is the first and best prevention. In Canada, those most vulnerable to human trafficking are first nations people. We have national trafficking of Canadian women, especially in the aboriginal communities. In the prairie provinces, there is a lot of activity going on. Girls are being recruited on reserve and brought into the big urban centres, like Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton and Calgary, to work in prostitution. Erin Wolski of the Native Women's Association of Canada told the status of women committee that aboriginal females were extremely vulnerable. I am very disappointed that this bill does nothing to address this.
As the committee heard, we need funding for education, decent housing, safe water and anti-violence programs to address poverty in our first nations communities. We need to work with organizations, such as the AFN and the Native Women's Association of Canada, to develop programs to help women who are vulnerable to trafficking and create awareness about the dangers.
Additionally, we need sensitivity training for police on the issue as many first nations women do not feel comfortable, nor safe, in approaching police for assistance. The bill before us does not address the need for prevention and awareness or support programs.
The committee also recommended that an awareness program was necessary for minors about the risks of prostitution and trafficking. The modelling industry was singled out as particularly dangerous because it remains unregulated and promises of a glamorous job can be used to lure a young girl or a young woman.
The bill also fails to address the issues surrounding women who are trafficked into Canada from other countries. It can be more difficult for women to immigrate to Canada because there are so many more barriers for them, such as the need for money and education, and many of the women who wish to immigrate have no access to these.
Immigration laws need to be changed to allow more women to immigrate on their own and not through the very means that leaves them vulnerable to human trafficking. The temporary resident permit process needs to be reviewed and victims who have been trafficked should be sheltered for 180 days and allowed to work. The government should ensure their basic needs are met during this period.
The immigration and refugee protection regulations need to be reviewed and amended. In particular, section 245(f), a particularly odious section, states that a victim, having been under control or influence of traffickers, is more likely to require detention. This section needs to be eliminated entirely.
Many trafficked victims are threatened with criminal or immigration exposure by their traffickers; thus, preventing them from seeking help. Section 245(f) assumes that these people are criminals and forgets that they are victims. This simply reinforces the power that traffickers have over these vulnerable women.
Steps need to be taken to help victims of trafficking instead of treating them like criminals. Initiatives, such as a 1-800 number, access to the witness protection program, safe interim housing, counseling and legal advice would all benefit trafficking victims and help reintegrate them back into society.
It should also be noted that traffic victims are often sent home to their country of origin to face the same criminals who trafficked them in the first place. Imagine being so vulnerable and being deported back to the place where the predators are waiting.
The bill before us only addresses the need to target people who purchase sexual services. This requires an increase in funding for provinces and territories for training and education for officers, judges and lawyers. Those funds are missing from the legislation.
We also need a national data collection and tracking system that will protect the integrity of police information and the integrity of the victim.
The committee on the status of women also recommended more training for law enforcement officers to identify someone who has been trafficked. There needs to be dedicated, multi-jurisdictional units to investigate trafficking in Canada.
Women become trapped in the sex trade after being lured to cities with false promises. We can imagine individuals being beaten, forced into sex work, and told they will be killed if they try to escape. The constant threat of violence means they are too scared to go to the authorities, but even if they did, there is little chance of retribution for their attacker.
This might sound like something that would happen in a third world country or an era of bygone history, but it is not. It is happening right now in Canada and is a reality for the many victims of human trafficking.
Experts agree that the problem is escalating. With the Olympics in 2010, that could just be the catalyst for a massive boom in the trafficking of women into the city sex trade from outside and within Canada. Despite numerous convictions of people involved in running human trafficking rings in other countries, including the U.S. and the U.K., Canada has yet to prosecute a single person for this crime. The bill will do very little to change that.
Although Canada's very first human trafficking charges were laid against a Vancouver man in 2004, Michael Ng, who ran an east Vancouver massage parlour, they were dismissed by B.C. Provincial Court Judge Malcolm MacLean in 2007, after a year of testimony from two women who claimed Ng had lured them to Canada from China with the promise of jobs as waitresses. Judge MacLean said the offence of human trafficking had not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, although there must be real action and real laws to deal with trafficking.
Vancouver activist, Benjamin Perrin, has complained about this. He said:
I can't understand why Canada hasn't successfully prosecuted a single person for human trafficking when you look at other countries like the U.S., Australia, and the U.K. We've made the same commitments and been to the same conferences, but Canada has been all talk and no action. We're just beginning to turn the corner; we're where other countries...were 10 years ago. We've had a decade of inaction on this--
It is time that changed. It is time that traffickers were stopped and this very risky business was put to an end.
There are victims that I would like to name before I conclude: a young woman by the name of Marta. Her dream was to be a Hollywood actress and to live in a mansion, so she saved up the money and went to an overseas modelling job. When she arrived, her visa and passport were taken away. She was locked in a hotel, and was beaten and burned with cigarettes until she submitted to her attacker.
This is a complex issue, as we can see. It needs a multi-faceted approach to even begin to address the problem. The bill falls far short of addressing the real issues behind human trafficking in Canada and abroad. If the government were serious about human trafficking, we would have a comprehensive government bill.