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.