Mr. Speaker, I join with my colleagues from the Liberals and Conservatives in congratulating the member for Ahuntsic for her work on the bill.
It is obvious from the speeches we have heard so far that all parties are aware of the serious nature of human trafficking. I was just speaking to my colleague and we were wondering when we began to identify this.
From my own practice as a lawyer in the Windsor area, we began identifying it as early as the mid-eighties, seeing the biker gangs, in particular, trafficking women, ostensibly as exotic dancers, but often times doubling as prostitutes. Those women had very little control over their lives, all of it being controlled and enforced by the bikers. That was both domestic and international, because we had them moving back and forth between Windsor and Detroit. We have known about this for quite some time.
I want to echo the comments by my colleague from the Liberal Party that it really is a shame. We have seen the quite excellent work and the passion that the Conservative member for Kildonan—St. Paul has brought to this issue, both in the House and on the Hill and in the country as a whole. However, she has not had basically any support from her own government or party.
The bill that went through under her name earlier last year was a step forward. It addressed one part of this problem. Without taking, in any way, away from the work that was done, it was a relatively small part of the overall problem. It addressed it and it was a way of dealing with it. However, we need a much more comprehensive response to this, both in changes to the Criminal Code, some of which were seen in the bill presented by the Bloc member, but much more than that. In my own opinion, we also need much more practical resources being put into this battle. By that I mean greater police forces to do the investigation and additional prosecutors specifically trained in dealing with this issue.
It is a slavery issue. There is no other word to accurately describe it in the common vernacular. This is slavery. Violence is used on a regular basis, both physical, direct to the victims, and threats to them and their families. Quite significant resources need to be put into play above and beyond the amendments we need to the Criminal Code to make it easier for our prosecutors, in particular, to prosecute these offences, especially going after the gangs.
Because I do not want to take up a lot of time today, I will address the bill itself. Generally the NDP would be supportive of this. Even though it is a private member's bill, I can say that on behalf of my party. I do have a couple of reservations about it. I think the issue around the presumption, around the exploitation issue, is open to a challenge. Because of the way it is worded, which is quite excellently, I hope we would survive that charter challenge. The challenge would be around whether it were specific enough to be clear what the offence would be. It will be interesting to see if we can get that through. I am optimistic we will, but I would expect we will have a challenge.
The other one that may be a greater problem in terms of its consequences, its usefulness, is the issue of how we would treat consecutive sentencing. The Supreme Court of Canada has been very hard, as have most of our courts across the country, on enforcing the concept of proportionality in sentencing. Even though we would say that a person committed this offence, assaulted the victim and also exploited her, because it is almost always a women that is being exploited, which would be two different charges, we would give the person a certain length of sentence for the assault but the exploitation would be consecutive.
Even if we do that, I am not convinced the outcome would be much longer sentences. The courts would refer to the proportionality principle, which would say that in total they want the person to be in custody for this length of time. Therefore, the two sentences in total, even though they are consecutive, may not be any longer than the first one would have been with the second one served concurrently. I am not sure we will see much change.
I will finish with again congratulating the member for having done this work. I just wish the government would take a holistic view to this problem and get at it both in terms of amendments to the code through this chamber and also at the street level where we need more police and more prosecutors to really get at this effectively.