House of Commons Hansard #272 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was victims.


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

(Motion agreed to)

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

moved that Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons), be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I must say that it is a great victory that Bill C-452, a private member's bill, has made it as far as third reading. It is not my victory, but that of many groups. I feel it is important to name them because they are the ones who worked hard to develop this bill and who supported it throughout the process.

They are: the Council on the Status of Women, police experts from the SPVM morality branch and child sexual exploitation unit, the Comité d'action contre la traite humaine interne et internationale, the Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale, the Regroupement québécois 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, Maison de Marthe and the YMCAs of Quebec.

Many groups participated in the development of this bill. I thank them very much and I commend them for all the work that they did. These groups also appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to explain the importance of this bill and, in particular, the results it will achieve on the ground.

I would like to quickly mention the things that came up in committee that I found a bit surprising, since a significant number of amendments were made to the bill. First, no major changes were made to the provisions related to human trafficking, whether with regard to presumption or the reversal of the burden of proof, consecutive sentences for offences related to trafficking in persons, or the forfeiture of the proceeds of crime for people who are charged with human trafficking. These provisions did not really change, and that is a good thing.

The provision regarding the definition of sexual exploitation was changed. A government amendment removed this provision on the basis that it could make the definition hard to understand. These were not major changes. The principles underlying the provisions on human trafficking stayed the same. I am very pleased about that.

By the way, the NDP did not propose any amendments. The Liberals proposed amendments that were rejected and that I did not support either, and the majority of the amendments proposed by the Conservatives were kept since the Conservatives have the majority. Nonetheless, some of the amendments they proposed were supported by the NDP and the Liberals.

One of the government's amendments leaves me extremely perplexed. It is the amendment that replaced our wish to have the bill come into force 30 days after royal assent. The government's amendment would have the bill come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council. It seems that the government wants to control the implementation of the bill.

If the bill receives royal assent, I hope that it will come into force very quickly because, as all the witnesses said, this is an urgent matter. It is essential that the police, prosecutors and victims advocacy groups have the necessary tools to combat human trafficking.

As far as the provisions on procuring are concerned, I was very shocked. I did not at all expect the government to propose amendments to the procuring provisions. On the contrary, I expected the consecutive sentences for pimps, and the forfeiture of the proceeds of crime of pimps, to be provisions that the government would support.

In committee, the government said it wanted to wait for the Supreme Court ruling in the Bedford case.

We know that 80% to 90% of people who are victims of human trafficking are trafficked into prostitution, especially in Canada.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate it if hon. members would stop talking.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. There is a lot of noise in the House. I ask that the hon. members who wish to continue their conversations leave the House now.

The hon. member for Ahuntsic, resuming debate.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, I was very surprised to see the government's amendments respecting procuring. I do want to point out that these amendments are supported by both the Liberal Party and the NDP. Their purpose was quite simply to delete forfeiture of the pimp's proceeds of crime and, of course, consecutive sentences from the bill. The argument advanced by the government was that, since the Supreme Court was reviewing the Bedford decision, it preferred to wait until the court had ruled.

The Supreme Court heard Ms. Bedford's case on June 13. I was in the court and heard the testimony. What impressed me most was the argument of one of Ms. Bedford's lawyers. In response to a judge who had asked him a question, he said that, if Parliament—and that means all of us here—had made the legislation coherent, they would not be there. In fact, he was saying in a very polite way that, if Parliament had done its job, the Supreme Court would not be considering the Bedford case.

Why? We currently have a nonsensical situation in Canada. Prostitution is not illegal, but prostitution-related practices are. When this law was passed, it created a nonsensical situation. You cannot say that prostitution is not illegal in Canada and, in the same breath, that we are going to criminalize all prostitution-related practices, such as living on the avails of prostitution, keeping a bawdy house, soliciting and so on. That lawyer was right: that is nonsensical.

I have been a member of Parliament for seven years and a few months, and I have been waiting for seven years for the government to find the courage to table a bill on prostitution, thus triggering and provoking this debate in the House. It is not up to the Supreme Court to decide this matter; it is Parliament the must decide the kind of society in which we want to live. The Supreme Court recognizes that. It is up to Parliament, it is up to each of us, who are elected by the people, to decide, to conduct this debate in the House.

I have been waiting for this act for seven years, and I hope that the Supreme Court's decision will compel the government to bring the debate into the House and that the debate will be held in the House.

I very much hope that Canada will follow in Sweden's footsteps—that is my personal opinion—by making sure that it eliminates and eradicates this form of violence against women by criminalizing pimps, by criminalizing johns and, of course, by decriminalizing the people who are prostituted and providing the resources that must accompany that legislation in order to help these people.

Prostitution is not a job; it is a form of violence committed against another human being who is considered as merchandise. Prostitution is not the oldest profession in the world; it is the oldest lie in the world. Prostitution is not a job; it is a means of survival.

My mind is made up, and has been for a long time. I work with these women on the street, and I know all about it. All caucuses could debate this issue. Many wonder if the legalization of prostitution will result in the protection of prostitutes.

I wanted to talk to the House about a good example, that of Germany. Germany legalized prostitution 10 years ago and there have been assessments. Recently, the magazine Der Spiegel published its May 26, 2013, issue entitled, “German Brothels--How the State Encourages Trafficking of Women and Prostitution”. It is a very good issue and I recommend that my colleagues read it. It discusses how the legalization of prostitution in Germany has failed because it does not protect prostitutes.

According to estimates by the industry association Erotik Gewerbe Deutschland, there are between 3,000 and 3,500 red-light establishments in Germany. There are an estimated 500 brothels in Berlin, 70 in Osnabrück and 270 in the small state of Saarland. Travel agencies offer tours to German brothels lasting up to eight days. Prospective customers are promised up to 100 “totally nude women” wearing nothing but high heels. Customers are also picked up at the airport and taken to the clubs in luxury cars.

Large brothels have become established in Germany. They now advertise their services at all-inclusive rates. For example, management of the Pussy Club, which opened near Stuttgart in 2009, advertises the following: “Sex with all women as long as you want, as often as you want and the way you want. Sex. Anal sex. Oral sex without a condom. Three-ways. Group sex. Gang bangs.” The price: €70 during the day and €100 in the evening.

That is how they advertise.

According to the police, about 1,700 customers took advantage of the offer on the opening weekend. Buses arrived from far away and local newspapers reported that up to 700 men stood in line outside the brothel. Customers wrote in Internet chat rooms about the unsatisfactory service, complaining that the women were no longer as fit for use after a few hours.

These are examples from a country that legalized prostitution.

Consider the following example: a guy named Marian handed over a 16-year-old girl named Sina to “No Limit”, a brothel with all-inclusive pricing. She served 30 clients a day.

In 2001, a law was passed that was supposed to improve Germany's prostitution legislation. Did it improve anything for women like Sina? Absolutely not.

According to the report on human trafficking recently released by the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, that country has over 23,600 victims of human trafficking. Two-thirds of them are being sexually exploited. Axel Dreher, a professor of international and development politics at Heidelberg University, tried to answer the following question: did Germany's prostitution laws somehow increase human trafficking and encourage traffickers and, therefore, prostitution? He did an analysis of 150 countries. The results: in countries where prostitution is legal, there is more human trafficking than elsewhere around the world.

I could go on and on with examples of the horrors of prostitutes being mistreated and neglected, all in a country that legalized prostitution. Post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and repeated rape are all common problems. I could go on.

However, the big question I want to ask today is this: do we want to live in a society like the one I just described? Do we want to live in a society that passes the legacy of prostitution on to our children and our daughters?

I have always fought to stop this kind of thing from happening in our society. I do not want my sons to grow up in the kind of society that treats women like commodities.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Ahuntsic on her bill and on having done a great deal of work to promote it. I know she has worked very hard on this bill. That is why we are proud to support it.

When the bill was studied by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, there was a very clear discussion concerning sexual exploitation. This bill goes even farther with respect to exploitation and trafficking by protecting people who do domestic work or forced labour. I would like my colleague to talk about that.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

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

In point of fact, he is quite right. The bill addresses human trafficking, and in Canada, most victims are also victims of sexual exploitation. About 80% are victims of sexual exploitation, but that figure can sometimes reach 90%.

In Canada, forced labour represents a minority of cases. Elsewhere in the world, however, the phenomenon is extremely widespread. I shall provide some recent data. Worldwide, for example, 115 million children are reportedly victims of forced labour. When I saw that figure, I admit I fell off my chair.

Human trafficking for the purposes of forced labour exists, and it also exists in Canada. We must confront this new form of crime. I have spoken to a number of people in the field and I have reached the conclusion that this issue is becoming increasingly prevalent in the area of domestic help, for example.

Yes, the bill will also protect those people.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Ahuntsic for bringing forward this legislation. She gave a very compelling speech today.

We hear many speeches in the House, and sometimes we forget to listen to the kinds of things that very young people go through. I would like, for those who missed what the member said, for the member to talk about the pain that these young people go through when they are exploited and trafficked in such a horrendous manner.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. Ever since I have known her, she has been fighting for the passage of effective laws to deal with human trafficking. In Canada at this time, there are huge numbers of people suffering because of this phenomenon. We have to stop believing that human trafficking and prostitution are two different things. They are not two different things.

I would like to tell my colleague and the government that it is high time Canada produced a real law to combat procuring and prostitution in general, in order to eliminate this form of crime. The government should be leading the way.

If I were a member of the government, I would suggest that all members work together to produce this legislation. We could be the generation of members of Parliament that enabled Canada to be as modern and protective of victims as Sweden and the Scandinavian countries now are. Let us be those people.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Ahuntsic for her bill and for her speech on this very important issue, protection for women and very vulnerable people. I agree that prostitution is an issue that relates to violence against women and children. It is exploitation.

I have heard it said that legalization will enable prostitutes to be safer. Does the member believe that women who are now on the streets will instead be in safer brothels? Or is it more likely that they will not be any safer because of legalization?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague very much. This is an excellent question.

In my view, brothels do not protect women. I talked about Germany, which has between 3,000 and 3,500 brothels now that prostitution has been legalized. Women are no safer as as result, and it has not reduced human trafficking at all.

I talked about the mega-brothels with all-inclusive packages where women are treated like pieces of meat—if you will pardon the expression, Mr. Speaker.

In fact, 1,700 men have visited the mega-brothels located near airports. They even complained on the Internet about the fact that a girl was not very effective and pretty much useless after 30 guys had used her.

Brothels do not protect women. In fact, they do nothing but legalize violence against women. Consider this simple analogy. Does legalizing homicide, making it legal to kill someone, make the action less violent? The answer is no.

Prostitution is a form of violence against women and children. We must get rid of prostitution here, in Canada.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick


Robert Goguen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of private member's Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons). I would like to thank the member for Ahuntsic for introducing this important piece of legislation.

The purpose of Bill C-452 is essentially to step up the criminal justice system's response to human trafficking, one of the most odious violations of fundamental rights and freedoms.

It is generally acknowledged that trafficking in persons occurs in three stages: the recruitment, transportation and accommodation of a person for a specific purpose; exploitation, usually sexual exploitation; and forced labour. The existence of one of these factors is enough for a person's conduct to constitute the crime of trafficking in persons. A person who recruits a victim for the purpose of exploiting that person is engaged in human trafficking to the same degree as someone who transports or houses a victim for that purpose.

Traffickers force victims to work or provide services in circumstances in which they believe that any refusal on their part would threaten their safety or that of a person they know. The expression “labour or a service” includes, for example, all types of sexual services, domestic services, agricultural work and factory work.

Victims suffer physical, sexual and psychological violence and face threats of violence against family members, including violence or threats of physical violence that may be carried out.

A crime this serious requires that more rigorous measures be taken in criminal law. My colleague, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, has introduced two bills to combat these reprehensible crimes. We must all stand up and help the victims of human trafficking.

I see that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights made amendments to this bill. I believe my colleague who introduced the bill is of the view that those amendments contribute to the bill's main objectives, particularly those of making offenders accountable for their acts, providing for penalties that reflect the seriousness of the crime and ensuring that offenders do not reap the benefits of their unlawful acts.

Before commenting on the specific proposals contained in the bill and explaining why I believe they deserve to be supported, I would like to put them in context. This bill would make it possible to expand the exhaustive framework of statutory provisions against trafficking in persons.

In 2005, three specific human trafficking offences were added to the Criminal Code. In 2010, a new offence of trafficking in children was adopted when Bill C-268 sponsored by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul was enacted. An offender convicted of that offence is liable to mandatory minimum penalties when trafficking victims are under 18 years of age.

In 2012, another bill sponsored by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul granted extraterritorial jurisdiction over all Criminal Code trafficking offences and created a tool to assist the courts in interpreting the human trafficking provisions.

In addition, section 118 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act prohibits transnational trafficking in persons, and many acts related to trafficking in persons, such as forcible confinement, kidnapping, sexual assault and uttering threats, to cite only a few examples, are offences under the Criminal Code.

However, it is possible to do more. Bill C-452 provides, first of all, for the creation of an evidentiary presumption that would help prosecutors establish that trafficking in persons has been committed. We know that victims are vulnerable and that they fear their traffickers. That means that they may well be reluctant to testify, and we understand that.

The presumption would allow prosecutors to establish the commission of the offence of trafficking in persons by submitting evidence that an accused lives with or is habitually in the company of a person who is exploited.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights amended this proposal to make it compatible with other similar presumptions currently set out in the Criminal Code, particularly subsection 212(3), which establishes a presumption for the purposes of procuring provisions, namely paragraph 212(1)(j), and subsections 212(2) and 212(2.1).

Prosecutors also find it difficult to establish that the offence was committed because victims in these situations are often too afraid of their pimps to testify against them.

In 1992, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the constitutional validity of this presumption in R. v. Downey. The final submissions of the majority are significant and directly relevant to trafficking in persons:

Prostitutes are a particularly vulnerable segment of society. The cruel abuse they suffer inflicted by their parasitic pimps has been well documented. The impugned section is aimed not only at remedying a social problem but also at providing some measure of protection for the prostitute by eliminating the necessity of testifying.

Surely the same considerations apply to the victims of human trafficking.

Bill C-452 also provides that a sentence handed down for an offence involving trafficking in persons shall be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the person for another offence arising out of the same event or series of events. Establishing mandatory consecutive sentencing sends a clear message: committing an offence leads to a long prison term. Is this not a message we want to send to the perpetrators of human trafficking offences? There are few crimes that deserve such lengthy sentences. I applaud this proposal.

Bill C-452 would also require an offender to prove that his property does not constitute proceeds of crime for the purposes of the Criminal Code forfeiture provisions. Trafficking in persons necessarily involves profiting from the suffering of others. In fact, global revenues generated by this crime are estimated at some $10 U.S. billion a year. That is unacceptable.

Trafficking in persons is thus one of the three most lucrative organized crime activities. We must ensure that traffickers are not allowed to keep their ill-gotten gains. It is essential that we strip them of the monetary benefits they derive from the exploitation of others so that the public can trust in the justice system's ability to hold offenders accountable for their actions and to bring them to justice. Justice is not served if an offender is allowed to profit from the suffering he inflicts on others.

The provisions of Bill C-452 contribute to the existing legislative framework to fight this crime, supplemented by a multi-pronged response to a complex problem.

I am particularly pleased to note that, on June 6, 2012, the government introduced the national action plan to combat human trafficking, which acknowledges that an exhaustive approach must be taken to consolidate efforts to fight this crime by emphasizing the four Ps: the protection of victims, the prosecution of offenders, partnerships with key stakeholders and, of course, the prevention of trafficking in persons.

All activities are coordinated by the working group on trafficking in persons, which is managed by Public Safety Canada. This shows that Canada is currently taking a strong approach to human trafficking. However, that does not mean that we cannot do more. We must be vigilant and do everything in our power to ensure that our approach is as rigorous as possible, which inevitably presupposes ongoing analysis to determine what else we can do.

Bill C-452 is precisely an example of what else we can do. We can support Bill C-452, which would assist in securing convictions, guaranteeing penalties that are proportionate to the severity of the crime and depriving offenders of their ill-gotten gains.

I believe that all members of the House should join me in supporting this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Lise St-Denis Liberal Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, the introduction of the human trafficking bill, which the Liberal Party supports, calls the attention of the House to the darkest aspects of the human soul. All over the world, women, children and men are deprived of their freedom and dignity. Examples of mistreatment and abuse abound in many countries, on every continent.

It is almost impossible to restrict human trafficking within a country, a city or a community. Children are forced to become soldiers in regional conflicts. Women are sexually exploited in the western world. Men toil in farming operations in the new world and the old. We powerlessly witness the proliferation of the most diverse forms of exploitation.

In earlier centuries, the slave trade was the bedrock of colonial settlement. From Santo Domingo to Haiti to Senegal to the Andean countries to the confines of Asia, this form of human exploitation prospered everywhere. We wrongly believed that eliminating the major slave trade networks from the colonial period had for all practical purposes disappeared.

However, the world today still appears to be heavily imbued with the stench of neocolonialism, in which servitude plays a fundamental role in the underpinnings of our economies.

Nowadays, efforts are being made to identify the contours of these new exploitation networks that have become an essential component of our production, distribution and consumption systems.

Children toiling on machines to produce consumer goods can be counted in the thousands. Countless women sell their bodies working for pimps. Thousands of exploited men work on tenant farms and unsanitary farms until they reach exhaustion.

All these products and services can be used to bind, exploit, abuse and discriminate. All these girls and women are raped and held against their will because of power relationships and the absence of justice.

A new bill has been added to the order paper to take away some of the latitude available to exploiters and abusers. Bill C-452 asks a fundamental question about trafficking in persons: what can be done to curb a growing phenomenon that has been taking the most unexpected forms?

By becoming more interdependent, the world can work to further advance the principles that underpin democratic regimes on the one hand, while on the other hand, it allows the proliferation of criminal systems for exploiting people. Canada's role in protecting people has been made increasingly complex as a result of the new human mobility provided by modern modes of transportation.

How can children be protected from compulsory service in armed conflicts? To be sure, concerted action has been taken by the nations of the world, at the instigation of exemplary people like General Roméo Dallaire who urge us to draw up international conventions and treaties.

Something must also be done to address the exploitation of stateless people who should have real access to international labour organizations.

Sexually exploited women should not simply be sent back, beyond our borders, but rather given our protection and the protection of other nations of the free world.

However, while Canada's ratification of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is a step in the right direction, it must be based on criminal penalties designed to restrict the latitude of all kinds of abusers and exploiters.

This bill and its aims are certainly compelling.

We are attentive to the needs of the victims of this system of exploitation, and we believe that the elected members of this House are all aware of the social havoc wrought by human trafficking.

In another age, abolitionist legislation could have a definite effect. The centuries-long slavery of the colonialists of the past no longer exists, but has transformed itself into a modern form that is insidious and far-reaching.

We are wholeheartedly behind this bill and its goal of eliminating trafficking in children, women and men. We support this battle for freedom and dignity. However, given the scale of the phenomenon and its highly sinister ramifications, we are bound to note the limitations of our judicial intervention.

Mankind now has the financial and technical resources to eliminate human trafficking, but does it have the necessary awareness and empathy to do so?

The debate generated here by these amendments to the Criminal Code necessarily goes beyond the boundaries of parliamentary life. This is a step in the right direction. However, are the provisions for consecutive sentences contained in this bill, and the presumption of guilt established by living with an exploited person contrary to the principle this bill seeks to defend?

In Canada, in recent years, we have unfortunately seen significant restrictions placed on judicial discretion with respect to sentencing under the Criminal Code.

How can we reconcile the elimination of human trafficking systems with respect for the fundamental rights entrenched in the Canadian charter? How can we reconcile the new criminal restrictions on present-day servitude and slavery with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

We face a tremendous challenge: that of aligning our domestic legislation with the great humanist principles that guide our society. We can only be inspired by our colleague’s initiative, as she searches with us for a solution to this scourge. We believe that the elimination of these practices demands further political action along the lines of what we find in the form of this bill.

Federal policy in this area is unequivocal with respect to the educational effort required here and abroad in order to change these appalling behaviours. An inventory of the various types of human trafficking in Canada is contained in a report published in 2010 that leaves no doubt about the dimensions of modern slavery and the forms it takes.

We can only embrace this 21st-century challenge of restoring to millions of individuals a place and the resources to live their lives in dignity and respect. We must therefore be vigilant in everything we do that has an impact on the victims of human trafficking. Our refugee protection policies, our foreign policy, our financial investments and our criminal justice system are all things that can definitely contribute to the elimination of human trafficking.

I repeat: the Liberal Party will support this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would very much like to again thank the member for Ahuntsic for Bill C-452. It is a very important bill. We have talked tonight about the importance of the bill, including the consecutive sentencing and the things in the bill that would enhance the Criminal Code here in our country. That is very important. Our government, on this side of the House, is supporting this bill.

I would like to comment on some of the other comments that have been put forth in this House.

Just a week ago I led the Canadian delegation against human trafficking to Ukraine, which was hosting a meeting on human trafficking, where 52 countries attended. As I was sitting there, each country's representatives were talking about what happens to the victims of human trafficking who are pushed into brothels. The member for Ahuntsic spoke very eloquently about what happened to the girls, young women and young men who are forced into those brothels. For one moment, parliamentarians and people from non-governmental organizations from all across the nations were sitting together and talking about what we all know.

Up on the screen came the gateways and routes that the human traffickers use with their victims. They were all over the map. In Canada the traffickers use certain routes where they send their victims, who go through their own private hell.

What a lot of people do not know is that the traffickers target young people under 18 years of age. Why? It is because they are easy to manipulate and scare and control, and they are afraid and ashamed. As soon as they have serviced one man, they are afraid and ashamed, and the predators use that so that they can manipulate and coerce the girls.

A victim brings in between $250,000 and $260,000 per year to the predator. That is really a lot of money. If they have one victim it is one thing, but many of the predators have a lot of victims whom they traffic across this country.

For one moment in this Parliament tonight, I would like members to imagine their own daughter or grandchild and how they relate to them, or how members of the community listening to this telecast tonight relate to their whole families. These are children who watched Sesame Street as young children. These are children who give hugs when they go to bed at night. Then they become beautiful young girls and beautiful young boys, and that is when they are targeted.

I want all parliamentarians to know how predators work. The predators approach their victims in a very friendly manner and get their trust. Their objective is to get the victims' trust so that they can start influencing them. Sometimes it is young men or women who give the kids anything they want. It can be friendship. It can be parties. It can sometimes be drugs. It can be a lot of things, but the objective is to get them away from their support systems. Those support systems can be schools, families, friends or sports teams. They want to get them away and separate them from their support systems. Once they get them away, they persuade them to give them their identification, which can be drivers licences, charge cards or other things.

If parliamentarians think it cannot happen to the girl next door or to their own families, they would be mistaken. Hundreds of young girls have shared with me the terrible experience they have gone through, and to this day they have not told their parents.

It marks the victims forever. A lot of these girls never really get over it, but they do grow and become rehabilitated to a degree, and they do a lot to help others who are in the same predicament.

Therefore, when we talk about Bill C-452 tonight, let us put a face to the real people it would affect, the real people who have to live with it day to day, the real people who tonight are suffering not 10 minutes from Parliament Hill. We know of the very well-known case here in Ottawa with Mrs. Emerson, and there are other cases in Ottawa. The victims were manipulated. As parliamentarians, we have the wherewithal to take up the torch and stop this horrendous crime.

In Ukraine, 52 countries said they had the ability to stop human trafficking and they would do it.

As I was sitting in Kiev, Ukraine, there came an email from Calgary, Alberta. The email indicated that Staff Sergeant Rutledge and the Calgary police had taken down a trafficking ring and rescued some kids. I stopped the meeting and I read the email to the people in attendance. There was not a dry eye in the place. These high-profile, high-level conference people knew what this was all about. I told them that was the reason we were in Kiev that day, and I say to members tonight that it is the reason we are here in Parliament tonight working together as parliamentarians to stop this horrendous crime.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul will have three minutes remaining, should she wish it, for her remarks when the House next returns to debate on the question.

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.

The House resumed from June 17 consideration of the motion that Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (mental disorder), be read the third time and passed.

Not Criminally Responsible Reform ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.


Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased tonight to be speaking to Bill C-54.

As a member of the justice committee, I had the opportunity to review the legislation in detail. I had the benefit of hearing witnesses who came to the committee to testify with respect to this piece of legislation. We heard from people who were strongly in favour of the legislation, people who had been victimized by those who ultimately became NCR accused. They had certain things that they thought this legislation would do to help them. They had some other comments.

We also heard from some people who had concerns with respect to the legislation. I would respectfully submit that when we deconstructed most of the concerns that people raised at the committee, they were a result of either not understanding the legislation or not having read the legislation, or perhaps a combination of both, because most of the criticisms really did not withstand an examination by members of the committee.

I want to talk a bit about what this legislation would do. I will start off by going through four of the key changes.

In my view, one of the key changes in Bill C-54 starts off with making the safety of the public the paramount consideration when determining whether or not somebody who has been found not criminally responsible is going to be released into the public.

As I have often done when I get up and talk about these particular pieces of criminal justice legislation and many of the things that we have brought forward, I say that many of the things that we put forward actually just make common sense. When we talk to the average Canadian on the street, for example, or when I talk to people in my riding of Brampton West and explain some of these things and tell them this is the change that we are going to make with respect to this particular bill, often their response is, “Really? You have to make that change? Boy, it would just make common sense for that would be the law. Why would you have to make that change?”

Therefore, when we say that safety of the public is paramount, it means that when a court or a review board is going to make a disposition with respect to an NCR accused, it would take safety of the public as the paramount consideration. Not only would that make sense, but we would also be codifying some of the Supreme Court jurisprudence in that area. In R. v Conway, it was made very clear by the Supreme Court that safety of the public should be the paramount consideration, so when we amend section 672.54 of the Criminal Code, we would make it clear that:

When a court or Review Board makes a shall, taking into account the safety of the public, which is the paramount consideration, the mental condition of the accused, the reintegration of the accused into society and the other needs of the accused,

—and here is the next change—

make one of the following dispositions that is necessary and appropriate in the circumstances....

Again, that just would make sense. We would make a disposition that is necessary and appropriate in the circumstances.

The next major substantive change would be incorporating what we call a “high-risk” accused.

There are have been many who have come to this committee and said, “Well, this is going to stigmatize people. I mean, how dare you call somebody “high risk”? This is a person who has perhaps a significant mental disorder, and you're stigmatizing that person.”

I would say the exact opposite. In fact, we would not be stigmatizing people who have mental health issues, because what we are actually doing is saying that there are a select few who might be high risk, and we are destigmatizing everybody else, because people would then know they are not high risk.

I went back to this at committee over and over. When people were raising concerns about these issues, I would say, “Let us look at the section.”

Quite clearly, proposed section 672.64 would state, “On application made by the prosecutor before any disposition to discharge an accused absolutely, the court may, at the conclusion of a hearing, find the accused to be [a] high-risk...”

There are a number of processes taking place here.

The first is an application that may be brought by a crown attorney. It is not saying a crown attorney would bring this application for every person who is found to be NCR. It is quite the contrary. I know crown attorneys. My wife is a crown attorney. They are hard-working people. They are not looking for extra work. They would not try and dig up case files just because they want to make a person high risk. That would be reserved for cases where there is a significant concern.

Even if a crown prosecutor had that significant concern, it would not mean that person would be designated high risk because there is a two-fold test: first, the crown prosecutor has to bring the application; and, second, he or she has to convince a judge that the high-risk designation is necessary in the circumstances.

If I go back to the proposed section, it states: the conclusion of a hearing, [the court may] find the accused to be a high-risk accused if the accused has been found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder for a serious personal injury offence...and...the court is satisfied that there is a substantial likelihood that the accused will use violence that could endanger the life or safety of another person;

When we really take the time to listen to that section, it is saying that for a person to be designated high risk a court has to be satisfied that there is a substantial likelihood that the accused would use violence that could endanger the life or safety of another person. That to me is absolute common sense. Why would we consider an absolute discharge where a person would be released into the community, if he or she may be a high risk and there is a substantial likelihood that he or she would use violence that could endanger the life or safety of another person? That is the part of the test that has been changed. I am quite sure it would be used judiciously by our judges and it would not be used by crown attorneys all the time.

The second way that someone could be found high risk is if the court is of the opinion that the acts that constitute the offence were of such a brutal nature as to indicate a grave risk of physical or psychological harm to another person. That is a proposed section that a number of people at committee have said is wrong and that, if it were a brutal offence, would mean that the person is high risk. That is not true. A number of witnesses made that statement at committee. I had to walk them through the proposed section. It does not just say “brutal”. We must look at the proposed section, which does not say that. It states:

[If] the court is of the opinion that the acts that constitute the offence were of such a brutal nature as to indicate a risk of grave physical or psychological harm to another person.

It is saying that there has to be some correlation. It is not just brutal; rather, it is brutal such that there is a risk of grave physical or psychological harm to another person. Therefore, if people want to suggest that we are saying brutal is high risk, they are not being truthful or they did not take the time to read the proposed section and understand what it says.

That is not enough. It does not just mean that there must be an indication of a grave risk of physical or psychological harm to another person because under subclause (2), “Factors to consider”, it goes on to state:

In deciding whether to find that the accused is a high-risk accused...

That could be under that first part of the test I talked about or the second part of the test. In either case, the courts would have to be satisfied that they have considered all relevant evidence included in the list. However, the phrase “all relevant evidence” does not mean that they are constrained by the factors in the list for a judge to consider. It is a non-exhaustive list.

Even if we accept the argument, “brutal”, we would then go down and look at what else has to be considered: the nature and the circumstances of the offence; any pattern of repetitive behaviour which the offence forms a part; the accused's current mental condition; and the opinions of experts who have examined the accused.

Even if someone tried to bring an application under the so-called “brutal nature” section, a court would have to look at all the evidence, which would include such things as the opinions of experts who have examined the accused.

The criticism that this might lead to a brutal crime, meaning the person is high risk, does not hold water. It is not a legitimate argument because a section in the statute says something very different.

Another issue that was raised at committee was that if a person was designated high risk, that person had to wait three years for his or her review and this was not a good thing. That is absolutely not true. It is not automatically three years. In certain circumstances, the review for a person who has been designated high risk can be moved to three years, but it is not automatic.

It is interesting, because the person who raised the matter of this being an automatic three years was Justice Richard Schneider, who came to the committee to provide us with his evidence on this and suggested that the three years was mandatory. I asked him if he could show me where it said that in the section. I understand there was constraints of time and we were talking, but he could not find it. However, when I look at the section, which is on page 8 of the statute around line 20, there are two ways in which this can be extended to three years.

First, it can be moved to 36 months after reviewing a disposition if the accused is represented by counsel and the accused and the attorney general consent to the extension. It has to be with the consent of the accused. Because we are dealing an accused, and in this case in particular an NCR accused, it has to be represented by counsel and with consent of the attorney general because we want to ensure we have real and legitimate consent to extend something to 36 months.

The other extension goes to the section again. I keep going back to this because we have to read the section before we decide to make the commentary. It says:

—at the conclusion of a hearing under subsection 672.47(4) or this section in respect of a highrisk accused, the Review Board may, after making a disposition, extend the time for holding a subsequent hearing under this section to a maximum of 36 months...

Here is the reason. If the review board is satisfied on the basis of any relevant information, including disposition information, in an assessment report made an offer under certain paragraphs, and this is key, “That the accused's condition is not likely to improve and that the detention remains necessary for the period of extension”. There is a burden of proof that has to be met in order to do that extension.

One of the things that was quite clear at committee, and this was virtually unanimous, was that review boards did good work. They work hard. They understand the law and we are putting that decision, the 36 months, back with the review board.

It is interesting because we did have a witness who came to the committee and who suggested that there was a problem with this 36 months review. When we look at the section, it is only if the accused's condition is not likely to improve and that detention remains necessary for the period of the extension.

Interestingly enough, when I had the opportunity to discuss that with Catherine Latimer from the John Howard Society, her response was, “Yes, I noticed that, but you will find that if you give very burdened organizations and review boards an option to extend the review periods, they always take it to the outer limit”.

Ms. Latimer was basically suggesting that review boards do not care what the test is. They do not care if the accused person's condition will or will not likely improve. The boards will do it at 36 months, because they do not want to work, because they have too much work. Ms. Latimer was one of the people who came to the committee and suggested that this bill should not pass. That was the argument. I vehemently disagree with that position.

I am going to talk briefly about the rights of victims, which is an important aspect of this legislation. I can say that I heard what I consider to be, in many circumstances, absolutely heartbreaking testimony from people who came to talk about family members who had been killed by an NCR accused person. They talked about their children being killed. We heard these things, and it was very difficult to listen to that kind of testimony.

I can tell you some of the things they were unhappy with that we wanted to fix. We cannot fix what happened. We all know that.

I cannot remember who told this story, but a person was walking in a mall and bumped into the NCR accused person who had committed the acts of violence against his or her family member. The person was in a panic. One of the revisions in this act would give the victim notice of the discharge of an NCR accused. The victim would receive notice when the NCR accused was going to receive an absolute discharge. That would be a huge step up.

The bill would make victim impact statements mandatory. If victims wanted to make statements, they would have to be considered before a disposition was made. Non-communication orders would also be mandatory. If victims did not want communication from an NCR accused, they would not have to have it. It is common sense.

I have a great example of the bipartisanship at the committee. An amendment was put forward by my colleagues in the NDP on letting victims know the intended place of residence of NCR accused people. That goes back to the story of someone bumping into the NCR accused in the mall. If victims know that they are being discharged and where they are being discharged to, the chance of having those unfortunate incidents would decrease.

Another point raised at committee was that with this legislation, NCR accused persons would be put in jail. That was put forward by Dr. J. Paul Fedoroff. I asked him where in the legislation it said that an NCR accused person would go to jail. He could not point it out. I then walked him through the section and talked about what would happen. When dealing with people deemed high risk, they would be put in treatment.

Going back to the terms of disposition, subsection 672.54(c) states that, “by order, direct that the accused be detained in custody”, and this is key, “in a hospital”. Somebody designated high risk would not go to jail. I do not know where that came from. It is not true. NCR accused persons would be put in a hospital for treatment.

When I pointed that out, the response was that before people were declared NCR, they would be put in jail, and that was the problem. The answer was that this is how the system currently exists. When people have committed serious crimes, are awaiting trial and do not get bail, they are put in jail. This legislation would not change that.

This is a piece of legislation that would be moderately used. It is a tool. I like to call it a double-check. When a review board was about to absolutely discharge an NCR accused person, there could be an application to the court to say that the person might be high risk and could reoffend and commit a violent act. The court could be asked to look at it to make sure that it was the right disposition. It would be a sensible, reasonable safety check. I hope that it has the support of all members of the House of Commons.

Not Criminally Responsible Reform ActGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have talked about cases of people found not criminally responsible on account of mental illness. In various cases, there has been an opinion that has received heavy media coverage in Quebec. I have not necessarily taken a position, but I would be curious to know whether it was discussed in committee.

People have talked about the complexity of mental illness and whether it makes a person not criminally responsible. For example, a person can have schizophrenia but may have been completely aware of what they were doing at the time they did it, and be criminally responsible, just as they may not be.

People have said that when a person pleads not criminally responsible, they should be tried, not by ordinary juries, but by a panel of health professionals who are more capable of understanding the complexity of mental illness.

As I said, I have not necessarily taken a position on this, but I think it is particularly appropriate, given the subject.

I would like to know whether this question was addressed in committee or whether it unfortunately was not.

Not Criminally Responsible Reform ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.


Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. She certainly raised an interesting point.

Changing the system of how one is designated an NCR accused was certainly not discussed at committee. However, from listening to evidence from witnesses who were victims, I can say there certainly is a concern about how people are designated as NCR accused.

I am paraphrasing to an extent, but I think that many victims felt the NCR accused designation is applied too easily and too liberally. Of course, this legislation has nothing to do with that determination, but I can certainly understand and sympathize with victims who feel that way. To an extent, they feel there is no one who is therefore responsible, in some cases, for the murder of one's children.

Not Criminally Responsible Reform ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in debating Bill C-54, there are two issues that come to mind for me personally.

One issue is regarding the issue of victims. I, for one, in representing Winnipeg North, am very much concerned about victims. In fact, I believe the Conservative government is doing very little to prevent people from becoming victims in the first place. It has not been progressive in terms of coming up with ideas to deal with the causes of crime in the first place. It is something in which the government has fallen short.

Speaking specifically to the bill, could the member provide a brief comment regarding the Chief Justice of Canada, who has indicated that the bill is not necessary to deal with the mental disorders and NCRs? I would appreciate a comment on that.

The other issue is on why it is that again we have the bill being rushed through in this fashion. We have seen this disturbing behaviour from the Prime Minister's Office of wanting to prevent members from having proper debate on important issues that Canadians want us to address.

Could the member could provide comment as to—

Not Criminally Responsible Reform ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Brampton West.

Not Criminally Responsible Reform ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.


Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it a bit rich that a member from that party is somehow suggesting we are not doing enough for victims. It would be funny, if it were not so tragic.

We do a lot for victims. We could talk about the victims ombudsman. We could talk about doubling the victim surcharge. These are just a couple of things off the top of my head. This party has put in significant reforms within the NCR regime to support the requests of victims, so that they are not revictimized by the system.

The Liberals are going to vote against this bill, which would enshrine significant rights for victims. I do not what the comment is about in saying “We're not supporting victims”, but they are going to vote against this legislation.

Yes, there has been a critic, and a good critic obviously, a former Supreme Court justice; however, I respectfully disagree. I think this bill is necessary, reasonable and prudent. Bill C-54 is a second check to make sure that we have things right. I do not see how it cannot be supported.