House of Commons Hansard #217 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was victims.


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1:05 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario


Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, my colleague asked why the government brought forward this legislation and what the timing was all about. She has been in the House for a while, and I want her to be aware that it is very consistent with our government's commitment to making Canadian streets and Canadians safer.

It sounds like she is very supportive, and she mentioned that the legislation has three new components: one, putting public safety first; two, creating a high-risk designation; and three, enhancing victims' involvement. That is one I want to talk about because we have heard of some horrible cases where three beautiful children were murdered and then the perpetrator was released into the community after a short period of time without the family of the children knowing.

Could the member put forth any of the NDP's ideas to better enhance victims' involvement and victims' rights? At the end of the day, this is what it is all about. I would like to hear her comments on that.

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1:10 p.m.


Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague. I would like to touch on two points in his question.

First, he asked me why the bill was introduced at this particular point in time. In fact, it was introduced according to the roadmap and the agenda that the government has set.

That being said, the fact that the announcement was made on the same day we learned that Dr. Guy Turcotte had been released from prison and had gone home to his community seems to me to be a hugely political move rather than a move intended to improve the law. That is why I expressed concern about that.

The second part of his question concerned the three amendments that were made. As I said in my speech, we think that these are sound measures. I do not agree that a criminal should be able to return home without the family being made aware of it. I am very happy that the bill now takes this into consideration and that the family can be notified.

Nonetheless, I still have concerns about what is done to help the accused reintegrate into the community. I find that not much support is provided.

In addition, we must not forget the victims, who must be given assistance, including psychological support. We have to be sure that they understand the process. We often hear that the process is complicated.

I had to reread the bill the number of times before talking about it, and I was a teacher before becoming a member of Parliament. Many of the sections are extremely complex and they have to be clearly understood. Most people will not find this very easy. An awareness campaign is perhaps necessary to ensure that everybody clearly understands the issues and that people agree with the way in which the decisions are made.

For the victims, this is certainly a step in the right direction. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses in committee.

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1:10 p.m.


Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, clearly public safety has to be protected, in a way that is consistent with the rule of law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I would also ask that the government take those things into consideration and that all the legislation it proposes comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution.

My hon. colleague also mentioned that in addition to introducing bills and enacting measures in the House to assist victims, we have to have the necessary resources to fight crime effectively and help victims regain control of their lives.

Does my colleague have any additional comments on that issue?

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1:10 p.m.


Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

As I said earlier in my speech, I think the government has a tendency to produce a lot of bills that shift the cost to the provinces. I do not know what the provinces’ reaction has been, but we will certainly have to think of a way to help them.

According to the CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, the bill will mean that the public will be more prejudiced against persons with mental disorders. In my opinion, the bill does not help them, since they will be further stigmatized.

The provinces do not have a lot of resources to work on prevention and support these people. Individuals who have mental disorders are victims of what is happening to them. I do not think there are many resources to help the province ensure that individuals with mental disorders are properly reintegrated into society, that they do not reoffend, and that their mental health care helps them feel better in society.

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1:15 p.m.


Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will start by talking about the implications when someone receives a verdict of not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. I will focus on understanding the parameters for and applications of such measures in criminal proceedings.

It is an honour for me to be able to inform the public. Over the holidays and over the past few weeks, I toured a number of reserves in Quebec. I was informing people about the amendments set out in Bill C-45, Bill C-38 and Bill C-27. These amendments will affect both the traditional and contemporary ways of life of the aboriginal peoples.

I will do the same thing today. I will be informing the public. My background is in law. I was a litigator for almost six years. I worked primarily in criminal law, but I also worked in mental health. During my years as a lawyer, I was called upon to present a number of applications under subsections 672.11(a) and 672.11(b). Later on, I will talk more about how these two parts of the section are applied.

Based on how the media have covered certain cases over the years, it seems clear that the bottom line is popularity and ad revenue, and that the media will resort to flashy tactics, broad appeal and—to a certain extent—misinformation. This is why some people err in fact and in law. This is not a criticism, because not everyone has a legal background, but there are some misconceptions floating around. I think it is important to get back to the basics with this debate, to talk about the foundations, what it truly means and how these sections are applied.

Subsections 672.11(a) and 672.11(b) of the Criminal Code refer to applications that the defence lawyer and the prosecutor can submit to a judge in a specific case. When we meet our client for the first time in a criminal case—I will talk about my experience as a defence lawyer—we can determine fairly quickly whether the individual is in a fragile state of mind, as we say. When we visit a client in his cell or in the psychiatric wing and he is not in his right mind, the psychiatrists' reports will often say that he is in a fragile state of mind, disoriented and confused.

It is at that point that the lawyer goes to the judge and says that when he met with his client, the client was not able to give clear instructions and seemed to be in a fragile state of mind and somewhat confused. There is therefore reason to believe that he is not in his right mind and should undergo an assessment pursuant to paragraph 672.11(a) or 672.11(b). The crown prosecutor may also broach this subject.

I see this all the time in my practice in my riding. For example, in the past few days, journalists from Radio-Canada—not to name names—have said that drug-related crime in my riding increased by 38% in 2012.

Psychosis and toxic psychosis are recurring themes. That is why I have submitted dozens of requests pursuant to section 672.11 over the years. That is specific to my practice in my riding. There is a lot of violence. The psychiatric wing is very well equipped. There are a number of psychiatrists working in Sept-Îles. Some cases, not the majority, were so serious that clients were routinely transferred to the Philippe-Pinel Institute in Montreal for help.

It can take about a month for a client to leave and get assessed to determine if he is criminally responsible. The client is sent to Montreal or, sometimes, to Sept-Îles. The serious cases are usually sent to Montreal to be assessed. The client comes back with an assessment, and the findings go on for pages.

It is interesting reading material and I miss it very much. I will not hide the fact that I miss my practice. I often receive calls on my business cell phone asking me to represent someone. I have to refuse because I do not have the time.

When the client returns and we look at the case, we examine the assessment and the expert report, which provide information about the circumstances and the expert's opinion. To date, I have never seen the Crown challenge the assessment or ask for a second one, but that can happen.

The judge relies on the findings of the expert in Montreal or Sept-Îles, as the case may be. The judge will refer the case of the individual in question to Quebec's administrative tribunal. He will rule that the individual is not responsible and simply transfer the file.

This is one aspect that we have not talked about much. I have not heard anything about this today. None of my colleagues has mentioned this. In Quebec, the administrative tribunal is responsible for the file and will determine the course of action to be taken for people who are not criminally responsible.

To put all of this into perspective, I will add that the hearings of Quebec's administrative tribunal are held by videoconference at the Sept-Îles hospital, in my experience. The tribunal members appear by video. The lawyer is present with his client, who must appear once or a few times a year, if I am not mistaken.

Ultimately, the members of the administrative tribunal will determine what course of action should be taken in a case. That is where the problem lies. I will provide more information on this subject in the next few minutes.

I worked for years with clients with mental health problems. Some but not all people with these types of disorders are stubborn about or opposed to being monitored and taking medication. Many of my clients were opposed to taking medication.

One of the criteria for determining whether people are mentally ill is that they are not aware of their own illness. As a result, as soon as they are not being so closely monitored, individuals who do not realize that they are sick tend to stop taking their medication because they do not believe that they are sick and they do not think that they need to take it. This is a fairly volatile client group. These people may simply stop going to their monthly appointments with their psychiatrist and may just vanish.

I have dealt with this type of situation in my practice. The extremely difficult cases I have had to deal with sometimes gave me the shivers. I will not give any identifying information because of privacy concerns. However, some files dealt with necrophilia, arson and extreme violence. Over the years, I was able to help some of these individuals get back on the right track.

Sometimes, once these individuals were released following their hearing before Quebec's administrative tribunal, they vanished because they were not being monitored closely enough.

I have sometimes received calls after a few months or years from the police or from the client himself who is in a fragile mental state but, in a moment of lucidity, called me to find out the status of his case. I would ask him if he was still taking his medication and where he was in Quebec. I wanted to know where he was because I knew he had high potential for violence. I will spare you the details, but they sometimes keep me awake at night.

In short, these individuals decided to run away, which is why I insisted that, at the very least, they be more closely monitored and that their location be tracked in order to prevent them from vanishing.

I also dealt with arson, which is a fairly common occurrence. Those working in the field of psychiatry see all kinds of people. Sometimes it can be interesting to read about these cases.

The cases could give you goosebumps.

Some recent highly publicized cases have called the existing approach into question. So we must refocus the debate on the best interests of victims, while ensuring that the rule of law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are respected.

I plan on returning to practising law sometime in the future. Perhaps I should not say this, but it comes naturally to me to represent these individuals and help them get back on the right track after they are assessed by the people in Montreal. The judge would simply refer the whole thing to Quebec's administrative tribunal.

As I have already said, decisions from this tribunal do not carry a lot of weight, at least not in Sept-Îles. It may be different in a metropolitan or urban area, where the hearings are conducted in person. But that is not the case where I come from. I remember one case in particular, with someone who took off after the hearing and attended only one hearing with the administrative tribunal. Perhaps this person was eventually caught. An arrest warrant may have been issued. The police eventually tracked him down to make sure that he was not in a fragile state of mind, that he was taking his medication properly and did not represent a danger to himself or others. I am thinking of cases of schizophrenia, since people with this illness can be dangerous to themselves and to the general public.

That is something that poses significant problems. I am thinking about a specific case, but I should mention that he was a martial arts expert and he assaulted anyone who tried to go into his cell or into his room in the psychiatric wing. He thought the Hells Angels were coming to the hospital to get him. That is why he punched people, including large men. The hospital uses “code 88” when a patient becomes violent. All of the large men are asked to help out. It may be “code 89”; I cannot remember anymore. There is an internal code at the hospital in Sept-Îles. Whatever the case may be, he punched out five people. He was in pretty good shape.

He was found not criminally responsible because he could not discern right from wrong. He was a victim of his own illusions. However, he was released and no one knew where he was for a while. A few months went by, maybe a year or two, and then he called me about his case. I knew then that he had stopped taking his medication and appearing at hearings.

That is my summary of the risks and implications, which I submit to you.

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1:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

If the member wishes to finish his speech, he will have six and a half minutes the next time.

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.

The House resumed from January 29 consideration of the motion that Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine has eight minutes to finish her speech.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:25 p.m.


Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I started my speech earlier in the first hour when we debated this bill. I got as far as describing the amendments proposed by the member for Ahuntsic. I will now continue my speech.

The amendments I mentioned the first time I spoke on this bill are a step in the right direction, but we need to go further. We need to address the fact that human trafficking affects mostly women, mainly aboriginal women, our sisters in spirit. Canada's first nations people, Innu and Métis need to be included in this dialogue and in efforts to fight human trafficking. This would be a good time for the Conservative government to come back on its decision to cut funding to first nations and women's groups.

Human trafficking is a terrible and dehumanizing crime, but it is very difficult to understand the scale of human trafficking in Canada because we lack data. Human trafficking is complex. It is done illegally, it is subversive, its victims are very often too scared to come forward or press charges on their traffickers, and when they do, victims lack protection after testifying against their traffickers. For all of these obvious reasons, we lack data.

Studies on human trafficking sometimes overlook trafficking of Canadians inside Canada to focus instead on international smuggling and trafficking, but Canadians can fall prey to exploitation if they are struggling to find jobs or finish their education or if they lack opportunities and are forced to leave their home communities to find work elsewhere, especially if they are women or girls. This has resulted in massive human trafficking across Canada.

At the beginning of last year, the Hamilton crown attorney's office prosecuted the largest case of human trafficking ever found in Canada and was successful in receiving a guilty plea on the matter for all accused. Last December, police uncovered human traffickers trafficking victims across the Canada-U.S. border in Stanstead, Quebec.

However, what is more disturbing is that many Canadian citizens are trafficked in a variety of different manners, including sexual exploitation and, most commonly, forced labour or servitude. Many victims of human trafficking, both Canadian and foreign nationals, are caught in a dangerous situation. They are forced to choose between being hurt or having their families hurt.

When it comes to human trafficking and victims, I think the member for Ahuntsic has not gone far enough in her bill. We have to understand that the victims do not choose to be in this situation. They are being asked to help us charge their pimps. The victims are afraid; they do not want to make accusations against their assailants because they fear for their lives. They have little reason to believe that the process will be successfully completed. They are also afraid for their families.

Last summer, I went to Thailand and Cambodia with a delegation of members to learn what the Thai and Cambodian governments are doing to solve the problem of human trafficking in their countries. That was a very interesting trip.

When I came home, I decided to talk about human trafficking in my riding, because it is definitely a problem there, particularly in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. At the Vendôme metro station and on Saint-Jacques, lots of girls get picked up. Lots of cheap motels are criticized for their disgusting practices. That is why I showed the film Avenue Zéro in my riding, which features Annie Robert, who is in charge of human trafficking investigations at the RCMP.

In the movie, she interviews victims. The image I have in mind is that of the poster and postcard that the RCMP used to ask the victims for help and to encourage them to testify. What you see is a woman who has been beaten up and is covered with bruises and blood. She is really dirty.

In Avenue Zéro, the victims tell us that the advertising is aimed at them. It is a poster showing a woman who is suffering. They tell us to help them by putting a stop to these kinds of situations. The victim interviewed in the film says that nothing in the poster gives her any hope or tells her that she will have a better life, that people will help her or that her family will be supported if she testifies against her attacker. In many cases, the victims are approached because they are alone, particularly victims of sexual exploitation. These are often young girls who do not really have families, who are forced onto the street and who wind up in these situations through no fault of their own.

There is also the whole forced labour aspect. This is practically slavery. If my figures are correct, this represents roughly 20% of human trafficking in Canada. PINAY is an organization near my constituency that works with Filipinos who come to Canada. These people often wind up working in homes doing domestic work. They are practically slaves who have no way out. These people have no assurance that they will be well treated after they testify.

I see my time is almost up. I had a lot more points to mention. Perhaps we can introduce amendments during the study by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights so that we can make a greater contribution to legislation that will protect victims and guarantee their well-being and subsequent reintegration.

I unfortunately have not had time to put any questions to the member who introduced this bill. I hope that, at the very least, she obtained a lot of legal opinions on reversing the burden of proof. That may be interesting to take a look at and it may be necessary. However, reversing the burden of proof in Canada is a serious matter. I hope we can discuss it in committee and really get some legal opinions on the issue.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:35 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-452 at second reading, in anticipation that it will pass and go to committee. It has the support of the Liberal Party to go to committee stage. The idea of having a discussion and hearing representations, possibly from different stakeholders coming before committee, we see as a positive thing. I trust and hope that the member from the Bloc Party will be receptive to amendments, because the issue needs to be addressed.

Slavery, exploitation or human trafficking needs to be put into a couple of different perspectives. One is locally, here in Canada. Also, we do have a responsibility, on the world front, to demonstrate leadership and address the broader issue of exploitation and the trafficking that occurs worldwide.

Most people would probably be surprised to know there are more people who are slaves today than there have been in the history of the world. It costs a lot less today to purchase a slave in many different countries than it did 150 or 200 years ago. There is a need for us to address the issue of slavery and human trafficking.

When I think of the stories I have heard over the last number of years, it is horrific what individuals have had to go through in order to survive. It is not to point to any particular country in the world, but we should all be reflecting on our own countries.

Earlier we were talking about the aboriginal community, our first nations. Many thoughts came through my mind when the member was talking about the first nations. It is not necessarily the most exploited community worldwide. I do not know all the statistics on the province of Manitoba and our country, but I know there is a real issue with exploitation of many of our children in our communities. These are not necessarily individuals who have been brought in from outside of Canada.

We need to get a better understanding as to why that exploitation happens. What is the environment we have created in many of our communities that allows our children to be exploited to the degree they are? It sickens me to see the number of young children, ages 8, 10, 12, who are being trapped in a situation where ultimately they are being used for the sex trade or to sell drugs or in gangs. A lot of that is done through exploitation.

We could talk quite a bit about that particular issue, but I want to focus more attention on the trafficking that brings people from outside of Canada into Canada and the United States, with special focus on Canada.

We need to recognize that human trafficking is an industry that facilitates things such as prostitution. I suspect the sex trade is likely the number one reason that human trafficking is taking place in Canada to the degree it is today. We see individuals coming from countries, whether from Asia or Europe, to Canada, and quite often they are forced into prostitution or strip clubs and so forth. It is not by choice.

I remember meeting a family while I was in the Philippines a number of years ago. The father told me he was very concerned about Canada because of what he had heard about someone else and that now his daughter was being recruited. He referred to an ad that said, “Go to Canada and work in the hospitality industry”.

This particular young lady bought into the ad and applied, and then found out that it was more the entertainment aspect of the hospitality industry. They had a difficult time getting their daughter back to the Philippines.

At the end of the day, I believe a great deal of misinformation is out there trying to attract individuals to Canada to enter into what I believe is likely the greatest exploitation there is today in human trafficking—that is, our sex industry here in Canada.

There are also areas of concern with respect to slavery. Maybe it is not to the same degree as in the continent of Africa or other countries, but we still need to be concerned about it. We need to be aware of and concerned about the degree to which people are being trafficked into Canada and turned into servants.

One of the things that I take a great sense of pride in is a decision Canada made a number of years ago. Paul Martin, the former prime minister, said that not only do we want to have national museums in Ottawa but we also would like to see them elsewhere. Winnipeg was awarded the human rights museum, which is nearing completion. I hope it will allocate space to the whole issue of human trafficking, because that issue is very real and alive today. By doing that, hopefully, we will be able to better educate the population.

I started off by saying that there are more people in slavery today than there ever have been in the history of the world. That was, I must admit, a bit of a news flash even for me. I do not think that people realize the degree of exploitation.

I think that is the reason the member brought forward this legislation. We do have some concerns about it and our Liberal Party critic, the member for Mount Royal, has addressed this bill and will continue to follow it, but at the end of the day it will bring more public attention to the issue, so in that sense I see it as a positive.

Ultimately, human trafficking exists today because of money. It is profit that really drives it to the degree we have today. In fact, only drug trafficking brings in more money illegally. Of the top three, number one is drugs, and then it might be a toss-up between human trafficking and illegal arms. I suspect it is likely human trafficking.

We have to demonstrate through leadership, and Canada is in a great position. Our provincial governments have departments of labour to deal with labour exploitation if it is occurring. A member made reference to live-in caregivers; if live-in caregivers are being exploited, we should be encouraging them to contact the provincial departments of labour and we should be encouraging members of parliaments or MLAs to speak out and be there for them in a very real and tangible way.

I believe that at the end of the day, Canada is in a great position to not only do more to fight it at the local level but also to demonstrate leadership around the world.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the member for Ahuntsic for introducing this bill. Although it requires a few amendments from a constitutional point of view, it is a step in the right direction in terms of the fight against exploitation and human trafficking. I believe that the will to consider it in greater depth in committee should provide an opportunity for unity in this Parliament.

Let us remember that, just like arms trafficking and drug trafficking, human trafficking is highly lucrative. In 2005, the United Nations estimated the total market value of human trafficking at $32 billion. It would be foolish to think that Canada is exempt from this kind of vile exploitation.

Its clandestine nature makes it difficult to find out exactly how many people are victims of trafficking and how it happens. However, we do know that the majority of victims are women and children. Victims of human trafficking are linked primarily by factors such as poverty and ethnocultural origin. Social and economic vulnerability and the lack of strong support networks make the traffickers’ lives easier. They find it all too easy to lure their victims using manipulation, threats and violence. With increasing unemployment among young people and the rise in the cost of living, we can foresee unfortunately that a number of young Canadian women will be easily recruited by criminal organizations that will force them into the sex trade.

In Canada, aboriginal women are overrepresented among victims of trafficking. In certain areas, they may account for up to 90% of women who are trafficked for sexual purposes, although they make up only 3% to 5% of the Canadian population. I am saddened to see the cuts made by this government to the budgets for native women’s groups. It is essential that they play an active role in the fight against trafficking of young aboriginal women. I hope the government will correct the situation.

Considering that the impact of our colonial past on aboriginal peoples is still strong, Canada’s attitude to the damaging reports by the United Nations is shameful. It is high time that this Parliament took real action to improve living conditions on reserves. They are the primary reason for the trafficking of aboriginal women, who are looking for an escape by any means possible from the conditions on reserves shaped by the contempt of successive Canadian governments.

Canada is also affected by international trafficking. Although it is not the subject matter of this bill, I cannot ignore the systemic barriers to the fight against international human trafficking generated by our immigration system. With the tightening of immigration criteria, more people are turning to human smugglers or so-called agencies offering so-called migration services, and migrant women are undoubtedly more vulnerable to the traps set by organized crime. Given their justifiable fear of being sent back to their native country, migrant women who are the victims of trafficking find themselves all the more enslaved by those who exploit them.

Our immigration system must be revised to protect potential victims of human trafficking so they will testify against the persons who traffic them. On that point, a report by the Institut de recherches et d'études féministes at UQAM recommends that Citizenship and Immigration Canada work with police services to protecting victims. The researchers also recommend that a special category of refugees be created for victims of human trafficking.

I am shocked to see how commonplace this phenomenon has become. Imagine my surprise when I learned that Montreal was a hotbed of sex tourism. We need only glance through the classified ads in any newspaper to see that they are full of possible sex trafficking dens. The first individual convicted of human trafficking in Canada was prostituting teenagers through advertisements on Internet sites, in full view of the entire world.

Sexual exploitation is often connected to organized crime, and too often takes advantage of the vulnerability of women and girls who want to escape from hardship and earn substantial incomes. In Canada, the stakes are estimated to be between $120 million and $400 million U.S. per year. A single woman forced into prostitution by a criminal organization in Quebec brings in around $1,000 a day for the organization, or at least $250,000 a year. I am sure that this is not the kind of economic policy this government wants to encourage.

I think that passing this bill at second reading will give us an opportunity to come to a strong consensus in the House because we all want to help and protect the victims of human trafficking. We will have to build on this bill with a solid action plan that combines human, police, electronic and materiel resources so we can tackle the problem at its root, help the victims and support the work of law enforcement agencies.

I have spoken several times in the House about the drug-related prostitution that afflicts my riding. The proposed solutions are very controversial, but we all agree that we must protect women forced into prostitution. Amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada are important, and the institutional and community resources that provide front-line services to these women are essential tools in combating exploitation.

Indeed, the launch, in the coming months, of the community organization Dopamine in Hochelaga's red light district, and the opening of a respite care centre for prostitutes will allow us to take concrete action. These initiatives are the first cornerstones of a neighbourhood strategy to help people dealing with drug-related prostitution, homelessness and substance abuse. I want to say that this was made possible thanks to the federal government's commitment through an investment under the homelessness partnering strategy, the HPS. Therefore, I am taking this opportunity to encourage government members to renew, in the upcoming budget, this HPS initiative, which is a critical program for many communities in Canada, including mine.

I also want to mention the tremendous work done by stakeholders from many organizations in my riding, including CAP St-Barnabé, Stella, Anonyme, Dopamine, the Concertation des luttes contre l'exploitation sexuelle, Tandem Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, the CSSS Lucille-Teasdale, and the SPVM community police station No. 23. These stakeholders, who work every day with Hochelaga's prostitutes, deserve to be thanked personally.

Despite the hard work of police and community organizations, improving women's socio-economic conditions is one of the most effective way to fight commercial sexual exploitation by unscrupulous individuals.

It is absurd that today women still only earn a portion of men's average salary, that they do not have access systematically to the EI program like young people, that they are overrepresented across the country among minimum wage earners, and that a majority of single parent families are headed by women and are significantly poorer partly because of the serious lack of affordable rental and social housing units.

Bill C-400, introduced by the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, offered a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, but the Conservatives chose to ignore this reality. The recent EI reform directly hits people who earn less money or who work part-time. Again, that group includes a lot of women.

As we approach International Women's Day, which is exactly in one week, I call for greater mobilization in this House to pass this bill. Together, we have the power to make it possible to live in a world where exploitation and trafficking in persons, including many women and children, will become a thing of the past. Let us not be afraid to make Canada again a champion of human rights protection.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak about such an important issue, particularly since I am a young woman working in politics. Bill C-452 seeks to amend the Criminal Code in order to provide consecutive sentences for offences related to procuring and trafficking in persons.

Bill C-452 also makes it possible to reverse the burden of proof for this type of offence. The accused would therefore be considered guilty until he proves beyond doubt that he is not exploiting others. Finally, this bill adds the offences of procuring and trafficking in persons to the list of offences to which the forfeiture of proceeds of crime apply.

Public Safety Canada accurately describes human trafficking as one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, often described as a modern day form of slavery. It is nothing less than that. The victims, who are mostly women and children, are deprived of their normal lives and compelled to provide their labour or sexual services, through a variety of coercive practices all for the direct profit of their perpetrators. Exploitation often occurs through intimidation, force, sexual assault and threats of violence to themselves or their families.

Human trafficking is a scourge that knows no borders and affects many countries, including Canada. We must not put on our rose-coloured glasses. People need to know that this is happening here, not far from where we live.

According to the Department of Justice, it is difficult to provide accurate estimates on the full extent of trafficking in persons within Canada because victims are reluctant to come forward, and understandably so. Often victims are afraid to testify against a procurer for fear of reprisal.

The RCMP described human trafficking as a growing phenomenon. Statistics are hard to ascertain; however, estimates indicate that between 1,500 and 2,200 people are trafficked from Canada into the United States every year. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police estimates that around 600 women and children are trafficked into Canada each year for the purposes of sexual exploitation, and that this number rises to 800 when broadened to include those trafficked into Canada for other forms of forced labour.

Contrary to popular belief, victims of trafficking in Canada are not just young women from abroad. They are often Canadians. Unfortunately, trafficking of Canadian men within the country is a problem not often covered by studies and statistics about human trafficking, especially trafficking related to the sex trade. People who come to Canada to flee conditions of abject poverty in their own country can end up in a work environment where they are taken advantage of. So, too, can women from all over Canada, many of them young women in crisis and socially or economically disadvantaged women who leave their homes to join the sex trade in major Canadian cities.

There are a number of reasons why a vulnerable woman may be convinced to become a prostitute. We do not have to identify them all here. But no matter the circumstances, trafficking of Canadian men and women is a reality in our country, and it affects the most disadvantaged communities in particular.

For that reason, although Bill C-452 is a step in the right direction, we need a more comprehensive response to the problem of human trafficking. We have to wage this battle with practical resources. To solve the problem of human trafficking, we need a plan that will mobilize human, police, electronic and material resources that goes far beyond a simple bill. We need political leadership.

Surveillance of strip clubs, massage parlours and Internet networks and the creation of a joint investigative unit are solutions that should be studied. Canada must implement a strategy that will not only attack the source of the problem, but will also help the victims and support the work of our police services.

Julie Miville-Dechêne, president of the Conseil du statut de la femme du Québec, also recommends establishing shelters for female trafficking victims. She said:

There are no shelters specifically for female trafficking victims. But their issues are very different from those of domestic abuse victims.

However, there could be some problems with the proposed consecutive sentencing and the presumption that reverses the burden of proof for procuring and human trafficking offences. The reversal of the burden of proof could be challenged on constitutional grounds. As my colleague, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, has said in the past, passing Bill C-452 does not guarantee that sentences will be much longer. The courts could potentially base their decision on the principle of proportionality, which means that sentences served consecutively may not end up being longer than if they had been served concurrently.

Despite these pitfalls, we will be supporting Bill C-452 so that it can be studied in committee. The problem is simply too serious to ignore. I have had the opportunity to meet with organizations in my riding that help boys, girls and women who are involved in prostitution. I would like to commend Projet intervention prostitution Québec and Maison de Marthe, which do excellent work with the limited resources available to them.

I want this government to take a comprehensive approach to the issues of prostitution and human trafficking. I would like it to address them here in the House, by amending the Criminal Code, as well as on the ground, where more help is needed for truly effective action. To me a comprehensive approach includes these simple bills that allow us to deal with other related issues.

This Conservative government has dismissed a bill as effective as Bill C-400 on social housing on more than one occasion. Organizations across Quebec are scrambling to get together and call on the Conservative government not to wait until the end of March 2014, but to renew the homelessness partnering strategy, the HPS, immediately.

This strategy provides a solution to associated problems and can help us take a comprehensive approach to this issue. It is important. The government must renew funding for the HPS immediately, for example, by adding an extra $50 million for Quebec. I know that my colleagues agree with this idea because it is an excellent decision. It is simple. We are talking peanuts here. Compared to all the F-35s and ships that will cost billions, $50 million is nothing.

The government is slowly destroying our social safety net, which would help us take a much more sensible and thoughtful approach to this problem we are facing.

I heard my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. Movies can sometimes have a huge impact on us. The movie that hit me the most was Human Trafficking, which came out in 2005 or 2006. This movie shows us how international the problems of human trafficking and prostitution are.

It is so insidious and pervasive that we must be aware. Who knows, we may have crossed paths with people who are experiencing these problems, in downtown areas, for example. We cannot be indifferent to what they are going through. My heart goes out to them, which is why I support Bill C-452. That said, I think we must do more, because small, simple actions could help us take a broader and more sensible approach.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 1st, 2013 / 2:05 p.m.


Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-452, which seeks to address the issue of human trafficking. I have already spoken several times about different aspects of this issue.

For example, in April, I spoke in favour of Bill C-310 to combat human trafficking in Canada and abroad. Then, in October, I spoke about Bill C-4, which seeks to combat the irregular arrival of refugee groups. At that time, I spoke out against the government's approach, which risks unduly punishing legitimate refugees rather than going after traffickers.

The issue of human trafficking is very broad and takes many forms. It is very important for Parliament to address the various forms of slavery because I firmly believe that the state has a duty to protect the most vulnerable members of society.

I am pleased to support Bill C-452, which amends the Criminal Code in order to provide consecutive sentences for offences related to procuring and trafficking in persons. It also creates a presumption regarding the exploitation of one person by another and adds circumstances that are deemed to constitute exploitation. Finally, it adds the offences of procuring and trafficking in persons to the list of offences to which the forfeiture of proceeds of crime apply.

I am pleased to support this bill because, first, instead of punishing victims of human trafficking, it seeks to punish procurers and traffickers. I would like to commend my colleague for introducing this bill because she really took the time to consult the community and get the primary stakeholders in the field involved.

I would like to mention some groups that support the principle of the bill. They are: the Council on the Status of Women, the Comité d'action contre la traite humaine interne et internationale, the Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale, the Regroupement des centres d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel, Concertation-Femme, Concertation des luttes contre l'exploitation sexuelle, the Association québécoise Plaidoyer-Victimes, the Collectif de l'Outaouais contre l'exploitation sexuelle, the diocèse de l'Outaouais de la condition des femmes and Maison de Marthe. It is important to consult experts and the community stakeholders affected by this issue.

In order to help hon. members grasp the scope of this problem, I would like to quote some excerpts from a recent RCMP report on this issue:

Recent convictions of human trafficking have mostly involved victims who are citizens and/or permanent residents of Canada trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

Human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation has been mostly associated with organized prostitution occurring discreetly behind fronts, like escort agencies and residential brothels.

...foreign national sex workers who engage illegally in the sex trade are vulnerable to being exploited and trafficked.

Organized crime networks with Eastern European links have been involved in the organized entry of women from former Soviet States into Canada for employment in escort services in the Greater Toronto Area and possibly in massage and escort services in the Montreal area. These groups have demonstrated transnational capabilities and significant associations with convicted human traffickers in the Czech Republic, Germany, Belarus, and Israel.

Some convicted offenders of domestic human trafficking were found to be affiliated to street gangs known to law enforcement for their pimping culture.

[Finally, we note that] [s]ignificant human trafficking indicators were identified in some cases involving foreign national domestic workers who were smuggled into Canada by their employers. These live-in domestic workers were controlled, threatened, underpaid, and forced to work by their employers.

There is no question that the violence associated with this type of trafficking mainly affects women and girls, and therefore children. In 98% of the cases, the victims of sexual exploitation are women.

I want to point out that aboriginal women are overrepresented among victims. As I explained earlier, this is a worldwide phenomenon that represents a lot of money. According to the UN, this crime reportedly brings in $32 billion a year for organized crime groups.

Since we are talking about sexual exploitation, I want to mention the controversial comments made by Tom Flanagan that were reported in the news this week. Tom Flanagan is a former advisor and mentor to the Prime Minister. This week he said that looking at child pornography does not hurt anyone. This libertarian said:

What’s wrong with child pornography—in the sense that it’s just pictures?...I do have some grave doubts about putting people in jail because of their taste in pictures.

Although he later apologized, these uninformed comments are quite shocking coming from someone so educated and with so much influence. It is shameful. For someone to look at child pornography, the child pornography must first be produced, which means that children suffer and become victims of abuse.

As Elizabeth Cannon, the president of the University of Calgary, said, “...child pornography is not a victimless crime. All aspects of this horrific crime involve the exploitation of children.”

I know that the Prime Minister has condemned Tom Flanagan's shameful comments about victims of child pornography. But the Prime Minister has been surrounding himself with some rather unsavoury people, which would lead us to believe that he is the one who is lacking judgment. In addition to Tom Flanagan, who trivialized child sexual exploitation, there is Arthur Porter, the fraudster involved in the McGill University Health Centre scandal who was appointed by the Prime Minister to the Security Intelligence Review Committee. There is also Bruce Carson, a former member of the Prime Minister's inner circle who is now facing charges of influence peddling. And, of course, there is Senator Brazeau, who was appointed to the Senate even though there were many complaints of misconduct against him, and he has now been charged for assaulting a woman.

So it does not mean much to me when government members criticize opposition members for being too soft on criminals. They should start by taking a look at their own ranks. But I digress. I will now get back to talking about the content of the bill.

As I said at the beginning, this bill is a step in the right direction. However, we need to address the issue of human trafficking with a far more ambitious plan that mobilizes human, police, electronic and material resources and goes far beyond a simple bill. I would like to see a comprehensive program that addresses the root of the problem, helps victims and supports the work of law enforcement agencies. I would like to see this bill studied in detail in committee, so that we can specifically look at whether it is constitutional to reverse the burden of proof in relation to the presumption regarding the exploitation of a person.

The other problem with this bill is that it provides for consecutive sentences for offences of procuring and human trafficking. That is the key measure in this bill. It may be struck down by the courts. The Supreme Court of Canada often cites the principle of proportionality in sentencing. For example, the bill provides that a pimp who assaults and exploits a woman would receive consecutive sentences. But even if we pass this measure, the courts may adjust the sentences for each offence in order to comply with the principle of proportionality. The punishment must fit the crime.

Once again, I would like to say that I support the content and principle of the bill, but I would like to hear from experts in committee so that they can provide us with constructive proposals.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Resuming debate.

I would like to inform the hon. member for Pontiac that he has just seven minutes for his speech.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.


Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in the House to speak to this bill.

As a parliamentarian and a human being, I find certain topics more difficult to talk about than others. The subject of this bill is one of those topics. The fact that human trafficking still exists goes against all that is good in the world. This is the 21st century, and I sometimes wonder if we are evolving in the right direction.

But we cannot give up. That is what Jack Layton told me. He told me to stay positive and he was right. Despair does no good. Like my colleagues, I believe that human trafficking is a heinous crime. The Criminal Code should be updated so that we can attack this crime head on.

The reality is shocking. According to 2009 figures from the UNODC, 79% of trafficking victims in the world are forced into prostitution. According to 2005 figures from the International Labour Organization, 80% of trafficking victims are women and children, particularly young girls, and between 40% and 50% of all victims are children. Women and girls represent 98% of sexual exploitation victims.

Moreover, at the national level, Criminal Intelligence Service Canada indicated in its 2001 report that, in Canada, the average age of entry into prostitution is 14. According to 2004 figures from the U.S. State Department, every year an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 persons are victims of trafficking from Canada to the United States. It is estimated that traffickers bring approximately 600 women and children into Canada to service the Canadian sex industry.

Canadian victims of trafficking in persons in their own country is a problem often overlooked in studies and statistics on this issue, particularly as regards the sex trade. Just like some people who enter Canada to flee abject poverty in their country can find themselves in a work environment where they are exploited, Canadians faced with poverty and a lack of education or employment opportunities in their home community are also pushed towards sectors where exploitation is common.

Women across the country, including a large number coming from poor communities, leave their homes to engage in the sex trade. They may have been lured by someone offering them employment, education or other opportunities, or they may have left of their own will and were spotted at a bus depot by individuals looking for this type of vulnerable newcomers. A young woman may also decide to go and live elsewhere with a boyfriend who convinces her to engage in prostitution to provide for the couples' needs.

As a father of two energetic and vibrant daughters, Sophia and Gabriella, I simply cannot accept this situation. It is totally unacceptable in a modern, democratic and prosper country like ours. These crimes, like all problems of that nature, affect the most marginalized elements in our society. In Canada, they particularly affect aboriginal women and girls, who leave to settle in urban areas and engage in the sex trade.

The RCMP finds that victims in the majority of recent convictions for trafficking in persons involving Canadian women and sexual exploitation were aboriginal women and girls. Therefore, any plan must absolutely include our aboriginal people and nations. We must listen to them and respect them. First Nations, Inuit and Metis people, and particularly aboriginal women's groups, must participate actively as full-time partners in the fight against trafficking in persons. That is what the Kitigan Zibi and Lac Barrière Algonquin First Nations in my riding want. They deserve no less.

It is unfortunate that the Conservatives cut funding for those groups that fight such crimes. Sometimes, I wonder what we are doing here and what parliamentarians of the past did. I admit that, since I was first elected, I have sometimes been disappointed in the work we do as parliamentarians. There is such a waste of time. If, since 1867, we have not been able to eliminate crime as serious as human trafficking, what are we doing here?

Are we useful? Did parliamentarians of the past spend way too much time eating and drinking at parties, because of their love of power?

My studies in political science may have left me quite cynical about politics, but we must do something. We must act.

However, we need more than this bill. We need a plan to mobilize the human, police, electronic and material resources that would enable us to go at the root of the problem, to help victims and to support the work of police services, in order to eliminate these horrible crimes in our society, regain our Canadian pride and have the right to consider ourselves civilized.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

I give the hon. member for Ahuntsic the last five minutes for her right of reply.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank all of my colleagues who support sending this bill to committee to be worked on and improved. Since I am a woman who really likes consultation, I am open to all sorts of amendments. However, I ask that all parties keep in mind that amendments made in committee must not drain this bill of all its strength.

The hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine said earlier that victims are afraid and that it is not right to ask them to testify against their assailants and their pimps. She is right, but she should look at the bill more carefully. The Criminal Code currently provides for the reversal of the burden of proof for procuring offences, and so this measure has already been proven to be constitutional. Victims who currently carry the burden of proof and have to testify sometimes forget things. Then, they are practically accused of lying in court. Recently, we heard about a human trafficking case where the victim, Sandy, was raped by 15 men and then again by 40 others. It is understandable that the victim's memory could fail her.

The reversal of the burden of proof protects victims. This measure was requested by victims' groups, women's groups and police officers working in the field. With regard to the constitutionality of this provision, such a measure already exists for procuring offences; the Criminal Code would merely have to be adjusted. As we know, 80% of human trafficking in Canada and throughout the world is for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

The NDP is saying that this bill needs to go further. I hope that it will not turn this bill into a weak piece of legislation with no teeth. On the other hand, my Liberal colleague, for whom I have a great deal of respect, spoke about consecutive sentences and the reversal of the burden of proof. Consecutive sentences exist in the Criminal Code and are recognized by the Commonwealth. Unlike with minimum sentences, this provision allows judges to determine the sentence and to impose exemplary sentences for heinous crimes. I hope that this provision will not be diluted when this bill is examined in committee.

I am calling of course on the NDP and the Liberal Party because they are the only two parties that have expressed reservations about the reversal of the burden of proof and consecutive sentences. I did not hear that in my Conservative colleagues' speeches.

I know that in the riding of the member for Hochelaga, and in mine as well, the problem of prostitution is part of daily life. It has been a long-standing problem in his riding, whereas it has only surfaced in the past four or five years in mine. We have to deal with it much more than before, which means that there has been an increase in a certain type of prostitution.

I agree with him. I, too, hope we will get rid of human trafficking in Canada and that it will become nothing more than an urban legend. Unfortunately, human trafficking is closely tied to prostitution. To fight trafficking, we have to fight procuring. This fight requires not only resources for women, the decriminalization of prostitutes, the criminalization of procuring, but also the criminalization of the clients. The member for Hochelaga needs to understand this.

We have to direct resources to organizations that get women out of prostitution, not those that keep them in the business. Giving condoms to prostitutes and telling them not to worry about bad clients and pimps will not change things. We have to give them an opportunity to get out of the business.

Prostitution is not work. Prostitution is not the future of our boys and girls. It is not true that women were born to be served up to men who want to pay for sex.

Prostitution is a crime. Prostitution is violence—

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Order. It being 2:30 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members



Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division on the motion stands deferred to Wednesday, March 6, 2013, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

It being 2:30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)