Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise today to talk about Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons).
I would first like to congratulate the member for Ahuntsic on the work she has done. I know that she has worked extremely hard on this bill, which she tabled in Parliament so that we could debate and discuss it. She may rest assured that the NDP will support it.
Such a bill naturally generates a great deal of emotion. I had the good fortune, as deputy justice critic, to sit on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Some of the evidence was so touching that it left us shaking. It made us realize certain things. The victims who came to testify have all my admiration. I would like once again to salute the courage they showed in coming to share their experiences in order to give us a better understanding of what is happening on that front.
We also heard from numerous experts, people working in community organizations and people in law enforcement. Those working in the field emphasized the importance of this bill. They felt it was something that could really attack the problem of human trafficking, a problem that exists in Canada. We all agree that it is a heinous crime and that we must amend the Criminal Code in order to deal with it. This is one more step in that direction.
Witnesses talked about the lack of resources. It is all very well to have a bill, but you have to have the necessary resources on the ground. In that respect, we shall continue to pressure the government. This will not be just a bill and some words. We must have the means to attack the problem.
I am going to talk quickly about what this bill offers, since we are at third reading, and we have already supported it.
Bill C-452 would amend the Criminal Code in order to provide consecutive sentences for offences related to trafficking in persons. It would create a presumption regarding the exploitation of one person by another. It would also add circumstances that would be deemed to constitute exploitation. It would add the offence of trafficking in persons to the list of offences to which the forfeiture of proceeds of crime would apply.
Witnesses stressed the importance of the changes made in the Criminal Code. It was just as important to create a presumption and attack the problem of financial resources. The topic of consecutive sentences is always somewhat controversial, but it is something we can nevertheless support because we are talking about very serious crimes.
What is human trafficking, in broader terms? This is the RCMP's definition:
Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation or harbouring of persons for the purpose of exploitation (typically in the sex industry or for forced labour). Traffickers use various methods to maintain control over their victims, including force, sexual assault, threats of violence and physical or emotional abuse.
I raised this question with the bill’s sponsor. It is important to address sexual exploitation, but forced labour is also a very serious factor. While it may be more serious abroad, the problem does exist in Canada.
In committee, therefore, it was important for me to emphasize that the problem exists here. Fortunately, this bill covers trafficking in people who do forced labour. In some cases, this involves domestic work. In committee, the testimony of the victims was very touching. It was highly emotional. It was obvious that many people were affected.
When listening to anyone who has been a kidnapping victim speak about their experience, no one can remain unmoved by their story. Once again, I wish to say how much I admire the victims who are willing to talk about it. It is important to do so, to look for help and to discuss the problem so that we can be aware of the severity of the problem and the need to take action. Everyone, including ordinary people and law enforcement agencies, needs to know that parliamentarians are there to support and listen to them.
As for human trafficking, the RCMP estimates that some 600 women and children enter Canada each year through trafficking for sexual exploitation and that this figure increases to 800 when those who enter illegally for other forms of forced labour are included. Once again, I wish to point out that there are two aspects to human trafficking.
Most of the time, the victims are, of course, exploited women. What is even worse in my view is the fact that many of them are aboriginal women. There is a real problem here. The government has been mightily criticized because of the shortage of resources for aboriginal communities. This is yet another sign that there are problems. We would therefore like the government to work harder and to provide the resources needed to address this scourge.
Needless to say, it is essential to work together with the first nations, Inuit and Métis to attack the problem proactively and combat human trafficking. Unfortunately, when funding for these communities is cut, things only become worse.
As I was saying, we tend to think that human trafficking only affects foreign countries and that it cannot possibly exist in a country as developed as Canada. Yet it does. In my riding of Brossard—La Prairie I met people from the bar association in Longueil who explained to me clearly that in some areas, like the DIX30 complex, the problem—this scourge—existed. This demonstrates just how real it is. That is why I am proud to support this bill so that the problem can be addressed.
The reason I mentioned my own riding is that we all, as parliamentarians, need to realize that we are surrounded by these problems. We need to open our eyes and talk about them. That is why I take a great deal of pride today in speaking about these issues and being willing to address them.
I briefly mentioned resources. Providing resources is very important. We need a plan that will mobilize the police and that will also provide them with the resources they need to truly attack this problem. I said that the bill was a step in the right direction, but the people who work in the field need resources.
Unfortunately, it is important to look at what is actually happening. Once again, I will take an example from my riding. I learned that there was an Eclipse squad, a team of 10 to 15 police officers from several municipalities working specifically to combat street gangs, and all of this exploitation and human trafficking. Surprisingly, however, the federal government eliminated funding for the project. This was on April 1, 2013. What they told me in the field was that these people had to return to their offices. They had to walk away from all the expertise they had built up. They now need to work on their own on certain cases without the benefit of all the expertise that had been available.
It is all very well to have a bill that is moving in this direction, but resources are also needed. The government is clearly not headed in the right direction. It is hypocritical for the government to claim it is fighting and introducing bills when there is no evidence of funding to do the work. I gave the example of a group that was working in my riding. I find it deplorable.
I would like to conclude by saying that human trafficking is an important matter.
We in the NDP do not believe that this is a partisan issue. That is why we are proud to support the bill to tackle this scourge.