House of Commons Hansard #81 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was countries.


Motion in Amendment
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

There may have been some confusion. There are no questions and comments in this. The hon. member has a little less than eight minutes remaining in her ten minute speech.

Motion in Amendment
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

That is good, Mr. Speaker. I have spent two minutes asking a question of members across and I think it was a good question. Now I will continue to speak at report stage to my private member's bill, Bill C-268.

First I would like to take a moment to thank the member for Abbotsford who kindly agreed to exchange spots in the order of precedence. The member has been a strong advocate of protecting our most vulnerable citizens.

I would like to make it clear that the bill was not introduced to address or solve the complex and clandestine nature of human trafficking. I want to assure members that I certainly believe that Canada can and must do more to combat the trafficking of humans within our borders and abroad.

Since being elected, I have championed a national strategy to combat trafficking in persons. I thoroughly agree that there are many root causes of human trafficking that must be addressed and resolved.

I believe that a legal system that routinely criminalizes victims of trafficking must be changed to restore dignity to the victims. The same legal system that ignores the men and women who provide the demand must also be addressed.

I can go on with many more initiatives, but that is a debate for another day.

This evening we are debating a motion by the Bloc Québécois to gut the heart of Bill C-268, to remove the mandatory minimums that form the intent and scope of the bill.

Bill C-268 was drafted with one clear intention: to create a separate offence for the traffickers of children in Canada and to ensure that the penalties reflect the gravity of the crime. This followed considerable consultation with victims, NGOs, and law enforcement representatives.

The bill would also bring parity between Canada's legislation and that of many other countries.

Dr. Mohamed Mattar, executive director of the protection project at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, points out that many states have specific provisions in their anti-trafficking legislation or criminal codes guaranteeing enhanced penalties in cases of trafficking in persons, including a crime committed against a child victim.

The United States, for example, has a minimum sentence of 15 years for trafficking cases where the victim is under 14 years of age, and a minimum sentence of 10 years where the victim is between 14 and 18 years of age.

The current legislation in the Canadian Criminal Code does not distinguish between age and offers a penalty between 0 and 14 years in most cases, and up to life in other cases. The suggestion that those who traffic minors could face no time in jail is not speculative.

The limited convictions in Canada for the trafficking of minors have more often than not resulted in sentences that are grossly disproportioned to the offence.

Last year, Montreal resident Michael Lennox Mark received a two-year sentence, but with double credit for the year served before his trial, the man who horrifically victimized a 17-year-old Montreal girl over two years walked out of jail a few days after being convicted.

I have spoken previously of Imani Nakpangi, who received a sentence of three years for the offence of trafficking a 15-year-old Ontario girl. After selling her body over and over each day for two years, raking in profits of at least $360,000, Imani Nakpangi was credited 13 months for time served.

There are few other injustices that can compare in severity to the utter devastation caused by the enslavement and auctioning of a human being, especially when this is a child. I am certain that no honourable members would dare contest this statement, yet there are members in the House from the Bloc Québécois who proudly oppose the bill, claiming it is a bad law.

Let us be clear about one thing: the opposition of the Bloc Québécois to mandatory minimums for the trafficking of minors is not only reprehensible, it is unacceptable in our country. To openly oppose serious penalties for those who sell and abuse the bodies of minors does not just suggest approval for this horrific abuse of human rights, it virtually endorses this grave form of exploitation.

Over the summer, the Bloc Québécois member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin first suggested that Bill C-268 is a bad law because it has no minimum sentence for aggravated factors. This concern was addressed at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and a minimum sentence was added for aggravated factors.

Then the Bloc Québécois member went on to argue that it was a bad law because it contained mandatory minimums.

In fact, during the second hour of debate on Bill C-268 on April 1, 2009, the Bloc member for Hochelaga stated that parliamentarians will acknowledge that the Bloc Québécois' positions are consistent, that they have never been comfortable with mandatory minimum sentences. Yet, in 2005, Bloc MPs supported and even moved amendments containing mandatory minimums for the sexual exploitation of children. So what has happened since 2005? I implore Bloc members to be consistent today and support mandatory minimums for the trafficking of minors.

Finally, the Bloc Québécois argued that the bill is a bad law because it would result in scenarios where employers would receive a minimum sentence of five years for not providing proper wages to teenagers. This is an absurd suggestion. No prosecutor would bring human trafficking charges against an individual who commits labour infractions by underpaying a teenager.

The bill has nothing to do with labour laws. The Bloc is attempting to take the focus off the abuse and sexual exploitation of women and children by attempting to make the bill something it is not. For an elected representative of Canadians, this is completely irresponsible.

Maybe the Bloc does not believe this type of exploitation occurs in Quebec. The Bloc Québécois seems to think the worst form of exploitation occurring in Quebec is paying young people wages that are below the legal minimum. I have news for them. Canadian girls and boys from across our country are being sold for sexual exploitation and forced labour. This harsh reality exists even in Quebec, regardless of whether the Bloc acknowledges it or not.

With one exception, that is the hon. member for Ahuntsic, who courageously stood alone in support of this bill, the Bloc Québécois is the sole entity in Canada that has voiced opposition to mandatory minimums for child traffickers. The Bloc Québécois has chosen to stand against legislation that upholds Canada's commitments to the UN optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography.

Our children are not for sale. The price of inaction will cause us to have a lost generation. With this amendment, the Bloc Québécois has forfeited an opportunity to stand up for the victims of this modern-day slavery. Instead of fighting for the rights of children, it fights for the rights of the traffickers.

Years ago, a member of the British Parliament, William Wilberforce, a great abolitionist and personal hero of mine, was known for his eloquent speeches in the British House of Commons. In one of his speeches on the abolition of slavery he captured the essence of what motivates me to combat this modern-day slavery. He said:

Never, never will we desist till we have...extinguished every trace of this bloody traffic, of which our posterity, looking back to the history of these enlightened times, will scarce believe that it has been suffered to exist so long a disgrace and dishonour to this country.

History will remember those who fought against this evil trade and it will certainly not forget those who are complacent when faced with it.

Mr. Speaker, I apologize. After the last speech I thought we were going into questions and answers, because I had just finished the last debate. I was so taken by the absurd comments made across the way that I did ask that question.

I can assure members opposite that the top lawyers in this country worked on that bill. As one can see from my website at, there is support from hundreds of law enforcement agencies, a letter from the chief of police of the Toronto region of Peel, and a lot of support from people all across this country.

I believe the Bloc Québécois is ignoring what Canadians want. They want to obliterate traffickers from Canadian soil.

Motion in Amendment
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to take part in this debate on Bill C-268. I am a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and I attended the meetings concerning this bill.

First of all, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul for the efforts she has dedicated to this bill. I know she cares deeply about this issue and I would like to congratulate her.

It is my great pleasure to speak to Bill C-268 and to perhaps, at the risk of lowering the temperature just a bit as fall approaches, outline what the bill does. Under a Liberal government in 2005, my colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River was part of a team that brought in the first law with respect to trafficking.

That is found in section 279.01 of the Criminal Code. It makes it an offence for a person to recruit, transport, transfer, receive, hold, conceal, harbour a person or exercise control, direction or influence over the movement of people for exploitation purposes, which is defined further in the code.

Exploitation, which the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin properly sets out in this debate, is at the heart of what this law is all about. I think we all think we know what exploitation means, but in the end, exploitation is forcing people to do something they do not want to do that is usually for money or of some benefit to the person exploiting the victims and is done, and this is the key part as defined in section 279.04, in circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause the victims to believe their safety or the safety of a person known to them would be threatened if they failed to do what was asked of them.

That is what exploitation is as defined in the Criminal Code and that is what carries over with this new offence. In other words, the new offence is like a branch placed on the tree of the good Liberal law with respect to trafficking, which specifically says that the same offence, when it is carried out against a person under 18 years of age, is meriting stronger sentencing. That is all this law does. The law says that trafficking is bad, that exploitation, which is the basis of how trafficking occurs, shall be punished. This is already in the code.

However, when it is with a child, our most sacred assets in this community, as every member of Parliament would agree, the sentences will be stronger. As the bill says, the sentences will be a minimum of six years in the presence of evidence of aggravated assault, kidnapping, sexual assault and attempts to cause death during the offence. That means the convicted person will get six years minimum. In any other case, there will be a five-year minimum.

I have the utmost respect for the member of the Bloc and his legal prescience to any debate carried on in the House. He is a former solicitor general of his province and he is the spokesperson in this debate. However, what I really think he is saying is that the Bloc is generally against mandatory minimum sentences and that it does not like this law.

I respect that if that is what Bloc members believe. However, they are coming out at report stage with a motion that says that nowhere in this law as presented is a mention of young people. We have just gone through the fact that people are very much identified by age in the laws proposed. It is there twice. I do not know what is not so obvious about it.

The second thing is to say that exploitation is so nebulous, that it is so difficult to determine what exploitation means and that therefore the harsh sentences of five and six years are out of proportion. I know what he is leading to, that the Supreme Court of Canada or a court in our country may someday read these debates and ask if we turned our minds to the issue of proportionality. The sentence is severe, so is the crime well defined? That is really what the debate on this law is about.

I and the other members on the Liberal side think the crime and section are well defined. We know what it means when a person traffics in children by exploitation. When that occurs, we know that five and six years respectively are adequate and proportionate sentences. As parliamentarians and members of the committee, we have turned our minds to that eventuality. For the member from the Bloc to say that exploitation cannot be properly defined in this instance belies the fact that there have been convictions already under the underlying section passed in 2005.

If he had evidence that the courts brought up the issue of the weakness of the definition of exploitation in section 279.04, he should have brought it forward, because I have seen nothing where judges have complained about the definition of exploitation.

The Liberal Party has always been against human trafficking, especially when it involves children. My colleague Raymond Simard from Saint Boniface gave me a letter from the Missionary Oblate Sisters of St. Boniface. I would like to read the letter, which expresses support for this bill:

We, the Missionary Oblate Sisters of St. Boniface, are committed to fighting the terrible scourge of trafficking in women and children. We wish to condemn anything having to do with human trafficking throughout the world, especially in Canada and right here in Manitoba.

That letter was signed by Sister Cécile Fortier.

Again, there is a letter in support from the Catholic Women's League. The Canadian Religious Conference president, Father Yvon Pomerleau, in February of this year said:

In the global context where systems of oppression threaten the sacredness of all forms of life on our planet, the CRC believes it is imperative that we call on the Canadian government to adopt Bill C-268 in order to actively fight against human trafficking in Canada.

We support that. We want to do what is right. But what is really our job here is to make sure that the law as passed stands up to debate, scrutiny and criticism and is a law that will be used by our courts.

With that in mind, I, too, read the words of Professor Benjamin Perrin of the University of British Columbia law school. He certainly made the case on mandatory minimums. We on the Liberal side have nothing to be ashamed of with respect to mandatory minimums. I was not here, but they were brought in by Liberal governments. Mandatory minimums have been appropriate in certain circumstances. There has been great debate as to the implication, the ongoing onslaught of mandatory minimums everywhere, in the ceiling, in the hall, in the closets of the Conservative legislative agenda, but in this case, it is appropriate. In other cases it has been appropriate.

The lack of convictions thus far with respect to the trafficking offences promulgated in 2005, five convictions under section 279.01 and trafficking convictions up to the spring of 2009, being eight in number, suggest to me that this might have been an area of law that merits a mandatory minimum and a road map to prosecutors and judges to be harsh in these instances of crime.

Certainly my friend from Kildonan—St. Paul has made it very clear the egregious case of Imani Nakpangi making over $360,000 in a two and a half year period by selling the girl notionally called Eve and selling her services is absolutely horrible.

It is appalling.

In closing, we here on this side of the House support Bill C-268.

I think in our remarks and the hard work done by members of the justice committee on this side and the critic, the member for Beauséjour, we have done the due diligence to make sure that the law stands up.

It is one thing to propose a law and it is one thing to get a lot of press for a law, but it is a much better thing as parliamentarians to work together to make sure it stands up, is legal and will stand the test of judicial scrutiny.

Motion in Amendment
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will start off by saying that a great deal of what we just heard from the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe is the same position I will be taking. I endorse a good deal of his comments.

I want to raise some cautions. I want to take this opportunity to attack the government. I know that comes as a real surprise, if not a shock, to my colleagues on the other side of the House. Before I attack the government, I want to praise the work that the member for Kildonan—St. Paul has done on this subject, oftentimes with a great deal of frustration with her own government. She does not express that but I certainly have a sentiment that she feels it quite substantially from time to time.

It is important to know that the motion brought by the Bloc is really an attempt to gut this bill. I do not think there is any other way of addressing it. It does not go to the essence of what the debate is about, but it is the Bloc's attempt to gut the bill.

The attack on the government really takes two parts. One is it has clearly abandoned its responsibility of dealing with the problem of human trafficking. We heard evidence in committee that even though the law was passed in 2005 specifically dealing with human trafficking by the previous Liberal government, since that time we have had, and this is an approximation, only about a dozen charges under the law.

Motion in Amendment
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC


Motion in Amendment
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, my friend from Abitibi—Témiscamingue points out that it is less than that. I would tend to agree with him, although there have been a couple more that he may not have seen during the summer. I think we are up to about a dozen now. That is how many charges there have been, not convictions, just how many charges there have been. I think there have been less than half a dozen convictions.

The estimates that we have been able to get are wide ranging, from a minimum of 1,000 cases a year of human trafficking in Canada, both domestic and international that come through Canada, to perhaps as many as 10,000. That is how many cases there have been, something in that range. That is a huge variance, but even if we take the lowest figure of 1,000 that I think just about everybody agrees to, having only 12 prosecutions, approximately, over that period of time is absolutely shameful.

What it reflects, again being critical of the government, is a lack of resources and, quite frankly, a lack of training for police officers and prosecutors. We are beginning to see that change. The first charges only came down in the last 12 months, so they are beginning to get on to it. They have taken some training and they are beginning to prosecute, but the resources do not exist.

That is something for which the government clearly has to take some responsibility, including the present government. It has been in power long enough that this issue should have been addressed so that more adequate resources are given to our prosecutors and police forces.

The second criticism is that both at the time we passed the original amendments incorporating the concept of human trafficking into the code as an offence with imposed penalties at that time and now being increased in this bill, what should have happened, and I say this from having spoken to a number of agencies that deal with victims of human trafficking, is we should have been looking at changes in policy and legislation under our immigration legislation.

All too often what happens when a case is identified and a charge is laid, the victim of the crime, oftentimes a young person, as the member for Kildonan—St. Paul set out so eloquently, and in most cases is a woman, is kept in the country long enough for the prosecution to go ahead and then is immediately deported, oftentimes back to the same country from where the young woman came. Oftentimes she is subjected once again to human trafficking crimes, maybe to another country, occasionally back to Canada.

About a year ago there was a documentary on trafficking in England. It identified one victim who had been trafficked into England six times from central eastern Europe.

The way around that is to look at our immigration laws to see if we can keep the person here at least for an extended period of time so the person no longer will be victimized. That is another area the current government has not looked at, nor did the previous government when we passed the law in 2005.

We need corresponding changes to policy and perhaps amendments to the immigration act so that if we do identify victims of human trafficking, they are given some special categorization under that legislation and those laws in order to be able to remain in the country at least long enough so that they are safe from further persecution and abuse.

Those two things have to be done. We need more resources in this area.

Sister Helen Petrimoulx is the head of our refugee agency in the city of Windsor and is a strong proponent of further action by government in enforcing the laws and prosecuting these charges. She spoke about the need for this but very eloquently spoke also of the need for looking at the victim not just as someone who is a witness in a criminal trial, but somebody who needs the assistance of our state in order to be taken care of. She told me of some of the really tragic stories that have occurred in the Windsor area, because that area is one of the conduit areas from Canada into the United States and vice versa.

The final point I want to make is with regard to the legislation we passed in 2005. I do not think it needs to be addressed in this bill. It should have been addressed in 2005 and it certainly should be addressed now. It has to do with greater penalties for those in the organized crime element who to a great degree are the masterminds behind these offences.

One of the concerns I have in that regard is that in February of this year the United Nations came out with a very extensive report on human trafficking. One of the shocking patterns that it demonstrated in the statistics it had gathered was that in more than 50% of the cases around the globe, it is women who are charged with human trafficking. Having been almost invariably themselves victims of it, they are then pressed into the same trade by almost exclusively men who are involved in organized crime gangs. The people that we are catching and prosecuting in the majority around the globe are women who themselves were victims at one time. One cannot help but think if we had got to them earlier they would not have been prosecuted because we would have got them out of the system.

What we need to do with regard to this is look at severe penalties, specifically against the organized crime syndicates, both nationally and internationally. We know the Hells Angels and the biker gangs are trafficking. We know they are using the street gangs to help them. We know they have connections with international crime syndicates. We have to go after them.

This is not meant to be in any way disrespectful to my colleague, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, but this legislation is only going to scratch the surface. It is going to affect those people under 18, and that is a good measure, but there is much more work that needs to be done, both practically on the street with our police and in the courts with our prosecutors and judges, and with our immigration law.

Motion in Amendment
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Bob Dechert Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to review the Bloc Québécois' proposed amendment to Bill C-268 put forth by the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin yesterday which would delete clause 2 of the bill.

I welcome this opportunity to share my views with hon. members and trust that they will all see as clearly as I do why we must vote against this proposed amendment.

I am both distressed and puzzled by this proposal. I believe that anyone who reads the bill would readily agree that clause 2 is the heart of Bill C-268. It is the very clause that achieves this laudable objective. Without clause 2, there would be no stricter penalties for those who would target children to subject them to some of the worse forms of exploitation.

In short, if we were to support this proposed amendment there would be no mandatory minimum penalties for the offence of trafficking in children, which is the express purpose of the bill.

We have heard about this terrible crime and its effect on victims, how victims who are forced to provide labour or services out of fear for their own safety or the safety of someone known to them. We have heard that trafficking in persons disproportionately affects children. We know that UNICEF's estimates indicate that as many as 1.2 million children are trafficked globally each year.

In the face of these horrible facts, why would we not want to strengthen our criminal laws to ensure that those who would abuse children in this way are brought to justice?

As the House knows, my riding in Mississauga in the region of Peel is very close to the Toronto airport. The Toronto airport, being located in the Peel region, experiences every year many children who arrive at the Toronto airport unescorted by adults. The Canadian Border Security Agency often intercepts these children and they are turned over to the Peel children's aid.

I have spoken to Peel children's aid officials and they tell me that many of the children who are sent into their custody may in fact be involved in trafficking. We must do something about this. This is happening on our doorstep, in my home region of Peel.

As we know, clause 2 of Bill C-268 seeks to add a new offence of trafficking in children which would mirror the main trafficking in persons offence in section 279.01 of the Criminal Code. This new offence would carry mandatory minimum penalties of six years for the aggravated offence where the maximum penalty is life imprisonment and five years in all other cases where the maximum penalty is fourteen years imprisonment.

The justice committee has already amended clause 2 of the bill to include the six year mandatory minimum penalty for the aggravated offence. The justice committee amendment to clause 2 would ensure that Bill C-268 fulfills its objective of imposing mandatory minimum penalties on anyone who trafficks in children, whether they are convicted of the aggravated offence or the lesser offence. Therefore, to delete the bill completely defeats the objective of the bill.

The committee has considered the five convictions that have been secured under the main trafficking offence, section 279.01, since its enactment in November 2005. Some of these cases involve child victims but sentences range from a mere two to seven years. We need to ensure that traffickers who target children, society's most vulnerable, are held to account and that they pay for their unspeakable crimes. The current law does not adequately do so.

Clause 2 of Bill C-268 would ensure that these traffickers remain behind bars for a longer period of time. This matters. It matters to the victims. They would be assured that their traffickers would no longer be able to abuse them or other children. It matters to all Canadians. They would be assured that other children would not be targeted and that other traffickers would think twice about harming children in Canada.

It makes no sense to support the Bloc Québécois proposed amendment, and not just for the compelling reasons that I have just given, but also because deleting clause 2 would render the remaining clauses in the bill entirely meaningless and even incoherent.

Clauses 1 and 3 to 8 of Bill C-268 propose consequential amendments which refer to the new offence of child trafficking that would be created by clause 2 of the bill. They would ensure that along with the main trafficking in persons offence, section 279.01, the proposed new offence of child trafficking is referenced in the provisions that deal with the interception of communications, exclusion of the public from court, publication bans, DNA sex offender registry and dangerous offenders.

If we were to support this proposed amendment to delete clause 2, we would effectively be voting down the bill in its entirety. It defies all logic to support consequential amendments without supporting the main amendment itself.

The Criminal Code's provisions addressing interception of communications, exclusion of the public from court, publication bans, DNA evidence, sex offender registry and dangerous offenders cannot refer to an offence that does not exist. That would be the incoherent result of supporting the Bloc's proposed amendment. Effectively, what the Bloc is asking us to do is vote down the bill, despite the fact that the bill has already received overwhelming support in the House. We cannot allow this to happen.

As we have heard so many times before from parliamentarians, stakeholders and Canadians themselves, trafficking in persons is a serious issue. We must have a strong criminal justice response. I am very pleased that we do have comprehensive criminal laws attacking trafficking in persons. Three Criminal Code offences were enacted in 2005, as was previously mentioned. The main offence, section 279.01, criminalizes anyone who would traffic in persons and imposes a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for the aggravated offence where it involves kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault or death to the victim, and 14 years in all other cases.

Section 279.02 criminalizes anyone who would materially benefit from the trafficking of persons and imposes a maximum penalty of 10 years.

Section 279.03 criminalizes anyone who would destroy or withhold identity documents to facilitate the trafficking of persons and imposes a maximum penalty of five years.

In addition to those important offences, section 118 of the Immigration Refugee Protection Act also criminalizes cases of trafficking in persons across Canada's borders, and many Criminal Code offences continue to apply to trafficking in persons cases, such as forcible confinement, kidnapping, assault, sexual assault and prostitution provisions.

It is, without a doubt, that law enforcement officers now have a wide variety of tools at their disposal that they can use to fight trafficking of persons in Canada. However, how do we ensure that traffickers get sentences that properly reflect the severity of their crime? I have already pointed to several cases involving convictions under the main trafficking in persons offence, section 279.01, that show that sentences imposed have not always reflected the serious nature of the crime committed.

To achieve this pressing objective, we must vote against the Bloc's proposed amendment to delete clause 2. We must support BillC-268 as amended by the justice committee. We must ensure that those who traffic children feel the full force of the law. We must ensure that mandatory minimum penalties are imposed on those who traffic in children.

For all those reasons, I ask all hon. members to join me in voting down the amendment put forth by the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin and, most important, I ask all hon. members to join me in supporting Bill C-268 as amended by the justice committee.

Motion in Amendment
Private Members' Business

September 15th, 2009 / 6:25 p.m.


Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate our colleague for her work on this private member's bill. I know she has worked very hard. However, I would like to caution her and all of us with regard to certain reactions that could unfortunately be likened to demagoguery.

I was an MP in 2005 and at that time the Bloc Québécois supported a bill introduced by the now defunct Liberal government, which had established a new provision in the Criminal Code, namely the offence of human trafficking. At the time, we unanimously supported the Criminal code amendment proposed by Bill C-49.

Bill C-49 created clause 279.01(1) which stated that “...Every person who recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds, conceals or harbours a person, or exercises control, direction or influence over the movements of a person, for the purpose of exploiting them...” must be considered to be trafficking in persons.

I would like to remind my Liberal colleague that, at the time, his government did not see fit to make a distinction between persons under the age of 18 and over the age of 18. The government at the time did not see fit to impose mandatory minimum sentences. In 2005, I believe that this House unanimously adopted these provisions which, to date, have not surfaced much in the judicial system given that we have only had about ten convictions. I will come back to that.

It would be quite inflammatory to suggest that any member of this House is not vigilant, pro-active or dedicated when it comes to dealing with the trafficking of children or sexual exploitation.

The question we must ask ourselves is what are the objectives of the bill introduced by the member? Does the bill contain the right tools to achieve these objectives? The member leads us to believe that the courts have not been tough enough or that there have not been charges in cases of exploitation or trafficking involving young children.

From spring 2008 to spring 2009, five charges were laid under section 279, four of them involving persons under 18 years of age. So it is not true that the courts have not dealt with charges involving persons under 18. The proposed sentences contain at least three: a five-year sentence, a seven-year sentence and a ten-year sentence. Clearly, under section 279.01, as it stands, prosecutors can charge persons under the age of 18.

Does anyone in this House believe that, in a properly constituted case by a crown prosecutor involving a child victim of human trafficking, any judge worth his or her salt would fail to take that fact into account?

That is where the Bloc Québécois and the government disagree. The Bloc Québécois trusts judges and believes in their wisdom. If the sentence is not harsh enough, prosecutors must appeal. Our colleague did not say anything to suggest that these provisions conflicted with charges for trafficking in victims under the age of 18.

I can see that my time is up. I would like to congratulate the member on her bill, and I hope she understands that we are just as dedicated as she is to fighting human trafficking, but that we would rather find other ways to do it. That was the argument we heard from the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

Motion in Amendment
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:30 p.m.


Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House to ask a question about the government's lack of support for our national broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

At Battle of Britain commemorations on the weekend, I was thinking of how important BBC was to that nation in times of its peril, and I personally believe how important CBC has been to the fabric of Canadian culture. As a young Canadian growing up, when there were only two or three stations on the television and far less radio, CBC unified the country. It made me feel that I was part of a country that included people in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Newfoundland, even Toronto, where CBC Radio came from. I remember Elwood Glover, from the Four Seasons Hotel, was an elegant program when I grew up.

What has happened to Canadian government today? What has happened that it does not believe in CBC?

The same is true for Société Radio-Canada. Ten positions were cut in Moncton, the regional head office of the Société Radio-Canada. The radio programs 360 and Tam-Tam were cancelled. Radio and television services have been cut there, even though that regional station serves four provinces.

Radio Canada in Moncton serves four Atlantic provinces. It is the only office to have that regional mandate. CBC in Moncton as well as Saint John have had job cuts, and they have had cuts to our unifying noon program, Maritime Noon.

Given the government's preference for private broadcasters and its complete indifference to the importance of having a national broadcaster, will it not admit that these cuts of $200 million and the failure to bring bridge financing to allow CBC executives, whom I have met with, the opportunity to have a plan, to recoup monies from the private sector through advertising means it does not believe in CBC? Will it not come clean?

Will the next Conservative poster say, “Get rid of the CBC” and tell the truth, as opposed to these cuts by attrition, death by many slow cuts.

The point is that the $200 million is going to completely devastate the corporation. The corporation itself has said that previous cuts were absorbed in a timely fashion, and they were done in a way to cut administrative and overhead costs, etc., but these cuts will completely obliterate the CBC we know.

The options are that the parliamentary secretary can get up and bluster that this is all the Liberal's fault. He can get up and bluster that it is CBC's decision or that CBC will be fine. Or he can say what I think is on his mind and in his heart, that he does not like CBC and government should get rid of it. I am just waiting for the answer.

6:35 p.m.



Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I love the CBC. On Sunday night I watched the Canadian Country Music Awards and thought it was fantastic. I am looking forward to Hockey Night in Canada. I think it is starting in September this year and I cannot wait. I cannot wait to see all my favourites on CBC appearing on Saturday night. That is a great tradition in my house and probably has been since I was too young to be able to answer this question.

I have been gifted in some regard with a memory that goes back more than just the past few weeks or months. I can remember back to 1993 and 1997. I can remember how the Liberal Party treated the CBC.

I can look at how this government every year since coming to power in 2006 has increased the funding to CBC. Since coming to power, this government has increased the funding to CBC. It is more money than the Liberal Party provided in any of its three 2005 budgets.

Let us be clear. What we did not do was what the Liberals did in 1993, which was promise to increase funding and then cut the funding. In 1997 they once again promised to increase funding and then cut the funding.

How much did the Liberals cut? That is a great question. It pains me to answer it. They cut $400 million from the CBC, a lot of money. What was the outcome? Four thousand people lost their jobs. So much money was cut that the president of the CBC quit his job.

That Liberal member may call that orderly. It was just done in a fashion that allowed the Liberals to cut here and there. Whatever.

That is simply not the case. What we are looking at right now is a situation in which all broadcasters, private and public, have seen their revenues decline because we are in an extraordinary economic time. There is no question about that. Their advertising revenues have fallen off. Key industries that spend money on advertising in large quantities, such as the auto industry, have had difficulties, and we know about them. It is not spending money.

The CBC has a plan. This government has provided record funding to the CBC in excess of $1.1 billion and it is moving forward. This type of misinformation that the Liberal Party member is spreading is simply not true.

The executive board of the CBC has indicated that even if loans had been granted, these difficult decisions in difficult times would have to have been made. Difficult decisions are being made by Canadians in this country from coast to coast. It is not something that we enjoy. These decisions are necessary.

This government stands by the CBC with a firm commitment to make sure the broadcaster has a bright future.

6:35 p.m.


Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the member is saying that he stands by the CBC. The image is that the government stands beside the CBC digging the grave of the CBC.

The CBC itself has said that while previous rounds of budget cuts in recent years have led to modest programming service reductions, it has focused on reducing administration and support services. There is effectively no more room to continue that type of belt tightening.

Future cuts of the magnitude proposed, $200 million, would have to come almost entirely out of programming. Programming is exactly what the hon. member talks about when he says he has a great love of Hockey Night in Canada, the Canadian Country Music Awards, et cetera.

If he believes that, why did his government not offer the bridge financing? Why does it not take a more active role in supporting the CBC? It may be all right in parts of Canada where there are a multitude of services, but in some regions of Canada, there is nothing else but the CBC.

Long live the CBC.

6:35 p.m.


Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member would be happy if he read the report on the future of broadcasting that was completed by the heritage committee last June. He will see that there are a number of good recommendations in there for broadcasting.

One of the things that we recommended in that report was an extension of the local programming improvement fund. Of interest to that member is that the local programming improvement fund, or the LPIF, specifically provides funding for those stations that operate in communities smaller than one million people, the types of communities that he is talking about, to make sure that there is funding to provide information and services to these areas.

If the member does his research on that, he will find out that this fund is providing exactly the help that he seeks to see.

6:35 p.m.


Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I asked a question in this House on April 22, and the reply that I got was really not satisfactory.

The cuts made by the Department of Canadian Heritage to arts programs in August 2008 really hurt the cultural sector. In fact, these cuts are going to be felt for a long time.

In August 2008, the Conservative government showed real contempt when it cut $27 million in grant programs that allowed artists and organizations, including in the performing arts sector, to go and show their products abroad. The PromArt and Trade Routes programs were particularly affected. Some artists had to cancel their tour, while others did tour but lost money in the process. I am going to talk about this later on.

On April 22, I referred to the B.C. Scene, an event to which the Department of Canadian Heritage had given $2 million. That festival was taking place in Ottawa. It was an event where artists from British Columbia were performing before foreign producers in order to sell their shows. I asked a logical question, namely why invest $2 million in an event designed to promote products that artists will not be able to present abroad.

Indeed, the Conservative government cut several very important grant programs that allowed artists to perform abroad. I asked how these artists were going to honour the contracts that they might sign during that event. I felt that this was a very poor investment and that is what I told the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

I also asked him what he had to offer to Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, which had to honour contracts last June to perform in the Middle East. In my opinion, the answer was “nothing”, the minister had nothing to offer to Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. The minister was upset and said that this was completely false.

Yet, on June 17, the Minister of Canadian Heritage replied in writing to a question that I put to him, namely:

Are there Canadian Heritage or Canada Council grant programs under which Les Grands Ballets Canadiens could receive more than $51,000 [which is the cost of its tour] to stage a production outside the country and, if so, what are the programs?

The answer arrived on June 17:

—there are no programs offered by the Department of Canadian Heritage which fit the requirements listed above.

The reply also talked about a pilot project, but there was nothing. The Minister of Canadian Heritage had nothing to offer to Les Grands Ballets Canadiens to allow it to do its tour abroad. That is the question I put to the minister and that is the answer I got from him.

I am asking the question again: what is the Department of Canadian Heritage prepared to do so that, from now on, artists and cultural organizations, and particularly Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, can stage their productions abroad?