House of Commons Hansard #102 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was prostitution.


(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #205

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from June 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Attorney General of Canada v. Bedford and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

When this matter was last before the House, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster had completed his remarks, but had not yet had questions and comments.

Seeing none, resuming debate, the hon. member for Charlottetown.

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, I am honoured to speak today to Bill C-36.

Today, we debate a Conservative bill that purports to comply with the Supreme Court's decision in the Bedford case. Allow me to briefly go over the circumstances that led us here today, debating the bill.

First, we are here today because a group of courageous sex workers challenged in court, and at great expense, the laws that govern prostitution, commonly known as the “Bedford case”. They did so because they wanted to ensure their work could be done in such a way that protected their security. They fought for safety and security not only for themselves, but for all people involved in the sex industry in Canada, and the Supreme Court of Canada agreed with these women.

By way of background, and many Canadians may be unaware of this, prostitution is currently legal in Canada and has been so since the Criminal Code came into force in 1892. It is the many activities surrounding prostitution which the Criminal Code prohibits, including keeping, using, or transporting a person to a bawdy house, living on the avails of prostitution or communicating in public for the purposes of engaging in prostitution. That was the state of the law prior to the Bedford case.

In December 2013, the Supreme Court struck down those sections related to bawdy house, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating for the purposes of prostitution. The court ruled that these provisions violated section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of the person. The court also indicated that the provisions made it almost impossible to engage in prostitution in a safe environment, as a person selling could not legally operate indoors or hire security personnel. It was a historic ruling.

The court also provided government with one year to legislate and to do so with the interests of providing a legal framework that protected the safety of sex workers. This is this the government's response. Here, in part, is what the summary of Bill C-36 states:

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to, among other things,

(a) create an offence that prohibits purchasing sexual services or communicating in any place for that purpose;

(b) create an offence that prohibits receiving a material benefit that derived from the commission of an offence referred to in paragraph (a);

(c) create an offence that prohibits the advertisement of sexual services offered for sale and to authorize the courts to order the seizure of materials containing such advertisements and their removal from the Internet;

(d) modernize the offence that prohibits the procurement of persons for the purpose of prostitution;

(e) create an offence that prohibits communicating — for the purpose of selling sexual services — in a public place, or in any place open to public view, that is or is next to a place where persons under the age of 18 can reasonably be expected to be present;

As the justice minister said last week in his press conference and yesterday in his speech, the proposed measures criminalize prostitution for the first time since 1892. It criminalizes advertisement of sexual services and criminalizes communicating in public, which is one of the very components of the existing law that the court had already struck down in Bedford.

It is hardly surprising then that a great many of us in the House, and outside of the House, are concerned about the approach the government is taking. By criminalizing almost all aspects of prostitution, the government claims to have struck a made-in-Canada solution to the so-called Nordic model.

Sadly, Bill C-36 has as much, or more, in common with the prohibitionist approach in force in Albania, Croatia and Russia.

In Russia, brothels are illegal. Under Bill C-36, they would also be illegal in Canada. In Russia, living on the avails of prostitution is illegal. Under Bill C-36, this would also be illegal in Canada. In Russia, buying sex is illegal. Under Bill C-36, this would also be illegal in Canada.

In Russia, selling sex is illegal. Under Bill C-36, except for a few narrow exceptions, it will also be illegal in Canada. Selling sex will be illegal in public, it will be illegal near places where children may be, and it will be illegal with underage prostitutes. The differences between the Russian approach and this so-called made-in-Canada approach are relatively minor. I wonder if those present find it somewhat troubling that a country with Russia's human rights record has a regime governing this social issue that is so close to the legislation before the House today.

The purpose of the Bedford case in the Supreme Court decision was not to pass moral judgment on this activity but rather to provide a legal framework that would make the environment safe for the women and men involved in the sex industry. Therefore, it is incumbent on the Conservatives to introduce a law that provides a legal framework that would make sex work safer. Instead, we have a law that would do the opposite.

Bill C-36 should be about public safety, and I have concerns that the bill falls short of that goal. I am not at all convinced that this bill would protect the women and men who are engaged in sex work. I would also suggest that Bill C-36, in all likelihood, violates the charter with respect to section 7, on life, liberty, and security of the person; with respect to the provisions regarding cruel and unusual punishment; and in respect of the ban on advertising, the charter protection of free speech. One wonders whether the Conservatives and the justice minister know this.

Perhaps they know that this bill is unconstitutional, and perhaps they know that the bill is not consistent with the Supreme Court ruling in the Bedford case. Again, the Conservatives have a duty to comply with the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling in Bedford. I am not convinced that this is the case, and I doubt that the bill meets the letter or the spirit of the Bedford ruling. The one element of the court ruling they seem to have complied with was the one year provided by the Supreme Court to legislate in this matter.

The last couple of times they faced problems with legislation that clearly intersected with the Constitution, the Conservatives did a couple of things. The two most recent examples are the Senate reference and the Nadon appointment. With respect to the Senate reference, the Conservatives realized that there was a potential conflict with the Constitution and referred the matter to the Supreme Court. With the Nadon appointment, again they realized that there was a potential conflict with existing legislation. They took a couple of steps. First, they sought outside opinions with respect to compliance with the Supreme Court Act, and second, they also made a stated case to the Supreme Court.

In addition, there are provisions within the Department of Justice Act, section 4.1, that come into play with respect to the constitutionality of the legislation. Undoubtedly the government has an opinion pursuant to section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act.

There is no doubt that this bill is also headed, eventually, to the Supreme Court for adjudication on whether it complies with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, the minister to date has refused to refer the bill to the Supreme Court to ensure its constitutional validity, resorting instead, as we saw yesterday, to personal insults. Nor have the Conservatives given any indication that they will disclose any time soon key evidence to support the bill.

Perhaps this bill is a political stopgap measure to meet the one-year deadline imposed by the Supreme Court. Perhaps the bill is a politically driven document with an overarching purpose, which is to punt this sensitive and important issue beyond the next election. Refusing a referral to the Supreme Court of Canada is consistent with this view.

As I have indicated on many occasions, the Conservatives have a track record of introducing legislation for political and partisan reasons. I hope that is not the case in this instance. I hope it is not the intent of the Conservatives to tee up the fundraising machine on an issue related to the safety of sex workers in Canada, in the context of the bill and the court ruling. I hope that the Conservatives will avoid what they have done so often in the past and will avoid the temptation to place their own political interests first.

I am also concerned about the lack of transparency as it relates to evidence. Why will the Minister of Justice not produce the evidence to support his assertion that the bill is constitutional? Why will he not waive his privilege and release the Department of Justice documents that prove that Bill C-36 passes the charter test, as is required under section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act? Why will the minister not release any evidence, if he has any, that would support his contention that the bill is charter compliant?

We know that he will not release any charter compliance documents, but the minister is also refusing to release any time soon the $175,000 study his department conducted on this topic. Canadians want to know why the minister is refusing to release the study, a study paid for with public funds and one that would have material relevance to the five-hour debate before this House and material relevance to the committee hearings that are undoubtedly on the horizon.

Might we speculate as to why the minister would refuse to release that study? Could it be that the study might contain facts or evidence inconvenient to the Conservative's position or political interests?

As criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt said in a recent blog about research and the recent cuts made at the justice department:

It is sometimes said that justice is blind—but justice policy should not be....

This is not about politics—quite the opposite—this is about evidence-based policy. It is only when legislation is based on legitimate evidence that there can be any confidence that the law will accomplish its goals.

Perhaps the Conservatives are not really concerned with achieving their criminal justice goals, (i.e., keeping the public safe). They have ignored evidence on drug policy, minimum sentences, and child protection—to name a few (resulting in multiple laws being struck down as unconstitutional).

In the lead-up to introducing this bill, the minister was claiming to have all the evidence he needed. What might that evidence be? The minister seems to be basing his bill in part on an online survey he conducted. A voluntary, non-scientific, online survey cannot be the basis for constructing a bill of such importance, let alone one mandated by the Supreme Court of Canada. We really should be concerned that the government seems to be using a Kijiji approach to public policy.

Also notably absent from this bill is any measurement mechanism. It is often said that we cannot manage it if we do not measure it. There are absolutely no provisions in this bill to collect data on the effectiveness of the measures contained in it. Data collection would help inform future amendments and fiscal measures to help the most vulnerable. The concern over this is magnified when we look at the millions of dollars cut out of the Department of Justice budget with respect to research. The reason given is that all too often the research did not align with government priorities. Against that backdrop, we have the absence of any data collection measures in this bill. It is indeed troubling.

An email was recently sent to the leader of the Liberal Party by a woman named Rachel. She wanted the opportunity to share her story about the impact this legislation will have on her. She wanted someone to listen to her and to the many others who feel similarly. Here is what she wrote:

Bill C-36 horrifies me—it will have a catastrophic effect on my safety and livelihood.

I have been an indoor sex worker for 5 years. I screen clients to ensure my safety. This involves asking for a reference from another sex worker, and then contacting that worker to ensure the potential client was respectful. If it's the client's first time seeing a sex worker, I require their full legal name, employment information, and cell phone number. I have a conversation via phone or email to discuss what services they are seeking, and what I am comfortable providing.... I check the client's information against a bad date list—a compilation of bad clients which is shared among sex workers. I always meet new clients in a public place prior to the session, for example: a coffee shop or the lobby of their hotel.

Because I am able to screen my clients, I have NEVER experienced violence during my 5 years in sex work. If you criminalize my clients, they will be unwilling to provide the screening information I require to ensure my safety. I will not have any client information to add to a bad date list should something go wrong. If they've seen a sex worker in the past, they will not want to provide that reference because it will mean they are admitting to committing a crime. I will be forced to accept clients that block their phone number, hide their identity, and have no references. This is a gift to sexual predators posing as clients.

Like 90% of sex workers in Canada, I work from an indoor space, known as an “incall”. If I am assaulted in my workspace, due to my inability to screen my clients, I will be unable to contact the police, as this would reveal the address of my incall location. This means police can easily arrest my good clients as they come to see me at my safe indoor location. I also risk being evicted by my landlord.

Bill C-36 will have an even worse impact on street based sex workers, who also rely on screening their clients to ensure safety. Street based workers need time to refer to bad date lists, to negotiate safer sex practices (such as condom use), and to assess the client. Bad date lists may include the time and date of an incident, a description of the vehicle, a licence plate number, a description of the person, etc. If clients are criminalized and fearful of arrest, they will try to speed up the process limiting the time a sex worker has to vet their client, and refer to a bad date list. Sex workers will be forced to jump into a vehicle with a client without taking these vital safety measures. They will be forced to work in isolated areas away from police, so their fearful clients will continue to see them. Bill C-36 is a gift to predators posing as clients.

This bill will not stop sex workers from working, it will just impede their ability to work safely.

The letter closes with:

Bill C-36 will kill sex workers if it is passed.

History will look poorly on this government for many reasons: the deliberate division, the attack on people who disagree, the politicizing of criminal law, the abuse of power, election fraud, and the list goes on, but I believe that what the government is doing here today with this bill is particularly concerning.

The government's history of politicizing every issue causes us great concern about what it has done with the bill before the House. Never should the interests of a political party trump the safety of Canadians.

Many people believe that Bill C-36 will hurt people, and it will potentially force sex workers into the back alleys without the protection they need.

Parliament has a duty to protect Canadians, whether or not we personally morally agree with their profession. The Conservatives have a duty to obey the letter and the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling in the Bedford case. On all these counts, the Conservatives have failed and are doing so for political reasons, and for that they will have to live with the consequences should Bill C-36 be enacted by Parliament.

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Jim Hillyer Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of concerns about the opposition to the bill. A lot of the opposition is based on the assumption that the current status quo is full legalization.

In the sex worker's letter he quoted, the lady was describing activities that are already illegal. Advertising, soliciting sexual services, and doing it both online and in public are already illegal activities. If these people are already willing to give their information during this illegal activity, I am not sure why they would not under this new legislation.

This legislation actually does meet the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling. It was clear in its ruling that it was not only open to it but was requesting that Parliament seek legislation around prostitution. To just decriminalize it or legalize it all we would have to do is let the year go by. It was clear that it wanted to do something more than just get rid of all legislation.

I would like the member to comment on this and explain how this does not meet the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling.

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, when the member says that many of the complaints raised by Rachel in her letter to our leader are already illegal, perhaps he should be reminded that if we take that statement as true, there is a Supreme Court of Canada decision that says the laws that make whatever conduct he says is illegal are unconstitutional.

If we take what he says as true, that these parties are engaging in illegal activity, the highest court in our land has said that the laws that make it an illegal activity do not withstand the scrutiny of the charter.

The second part of the member's question was exactly how does this offend Bedford. In the Bedford decision, Parliament was directed to focus on the safety and the security of the most vulnerable in our population. Instead of focusing on their safety and security, in many places and in many aspects, the legislation makes them criminal.

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for a very thoughtful and analytical discussion. The government cut funding to the Status of Women, closed 12 of 16 regional offices, defunded the National Association for Women and the Law, CRIAW, undermined pay equity, changed EI, and jeopardized women in low-income and part-time work, provided no national child care program, no housing, said no to an inquiry into the murder of 1,200 aboriginal women. It now purports to care about women?

Conservatives have made it very clear over the last eight years that they have no regard and they are not interested at all in the welfare of women. How can we possibly trust them to look after the most vulnerable of women?

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I frankly could not agree more. What we have seen with the government is a single-minded obsession with balancing the budget and everything else is way down the list. Veterans are way down the list. Charter rights are way down the list. Certainly in this case, sex workers who have had the benefit of a Supreme Court decision are well down the list.

It is a sad indicator on where we are in Parliament today that the single-minded obsession with matters of finance have put the rights of individuals and the charter and the interests of the regions as far down the list as it has. Unfortunately, such is the world in which we presently live.

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, to my colleague from Charlottetown, the Canadian Federation of University Women is a group that has been staunchly supporting the so-called Nordic approach based on women's equality and based on reducing violence and exploitation of women and children. It has responded to the Conservative government's bill by issuing a press release strongly criticizing the bill for criminalizing vulnerable women in the sex trade.

Could my colleague please explain why criminalizing prostitution further endangers these victims of exploitation?

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I believe much of the answer is found in the letter to our leader from Rachel.

There is no more striking example than the provisions within the bill with respect to those who are underage. I could think of no one in the context of the Bedford decision who is more vulnerable than an underage prostitute working the streets. The bill criminalizes anyone who is under age 18 for communicating for the purpose of prostitution. It singles out the most vulnerable and puts a criminal sanction on their work.

The result of this would be to push everything into the shadows. As Rachel so eloquently said, this is a gift to sexual predators posing as clients.

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale Ontario


Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, last week the member's colleague, the member for Malpeque and the Liberal critic for public safety, agreed with the NDP critic for justice and myself that the majority of the women who find themselves in this ugly trade are in fact exploited. By the way, we did not say that it is 51% who are exploited. The studies we have seen show that it is more like 90% of the women are exploited, and some would say it is higher than that. Do we not have an obligation as parliamentarians to protect those people?

Earlier today, Katarina MacLeod, a former sex worker, appeared at a press conference and told her story. She detailed a harrowing story of abuse, rape, and exploitation starting at the age of five when she was molested, and it lasted through her 15 years as a sex worker. She went on to say that if Bill C-36, the government's proposed prostitution legislation, had been around when she was a sex worker, there would have been no demand and no supply, and that maybe she would be less scarred today. She said, “I can tell you there is no safe location for prostitution“. Not inside, not out on the streets.

I wonder if the member could comment on that as well as on protecting our communities.

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, we absolutely do have an obligation to protect those most vulnerable. That is what the Supreme Court of Canada has directed Parliament to do. However, Bill C-36 would fail in that regard. The bill would drive prostitution into the dark corners. It would make it less safe. It would not, in any way, protect the most vulnerable. It fact, it would have the opposite effect.

The decision to double down on criminal sanctions in the face of a complex social problem is absolutely consistent with what we have seen with the Conservative government. When the only thing one has in one's tool kit is a sledgehammer, everything looks like a rock. If there is a complex social problem, the Conservatives have a mandatory minimum for that. The very problem with the overarching approach of the current government is that when faced with complex social problems, the Conservatives seem to always have a one-size-fits-all solution.

Criminalizing the very people who need protection is the wrong way to go, but, sadly, that is the approach that has been chosen.

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 1:20 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and speak to Bill C-36, the protection of communities and exploited persons act. As my hon. colleagues know, this bill is the first of its kind in Canada. It is historic. For the first time in Canada's history the buying of sexual services would be illegal. For the first time, women trafficked into prostitution would not be treated as nuisances, but with dignity. For the first time, the Government of Canada would provide robust funding to help women and youth escape prostitution and their traffickers.

I want to begin by addressing one of the key myths that is being spread by the pro-legalization lobby. What Canadians have been told over the past week in the newspapers and other media is that prostitution is a legitimate occupation for women and that it is entirely separate from sex trafficking and exploitation. This is a lie. Prostitution exploits women, youth, and vulnerable populations. It escalates gender inequalities by turning women's bodies into a commodity to be bought, sold, rented, and exploited by men. In short, prostitution provides an avenue for abuse and violence.

Research of prostitution in Canada and abroad reveals that women in prostitution, whether by coercion or by choice, experience alarming levels of violence and abuse. One of the clearest links between prostitution and human trafficking is found in a recent empirical analysis of human trafficking trends in over 150 countries. Researchers at the University of Goettingen's Department of Economics found that, on average, legalizing prostitution increases human trafficking inflows.

The inseparable link between prostitution and sex trafficking has been recognized and adopted across political lines in Canada. In 2007, the report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, of which I was the vice-chair, adopted this position. “Turning Outrage into Action” said:

Like the majority of witnesses appearing before us, we came to the conclusion that prostitution is closely linked to trafficking in persons.

That is our own parliamentary report. It goes on to say:

We believe that prostitution is a form of violence and a violation of human rights. The Committee feels that the prostitute’s consent is irrelevant, because you can never consent to sexual exploitation.

This position was supported by the Conservative, Liberal, and NDP members who sat on the committee. The members for London—Fanshawe, York West, and Ahuntsic all sat on the committee with me and will remember the compelling evidence that we heard from survivors.

Let me be clear. Prostitution is the avenue or means for pimps and traffickers to sell women and youth. We cannot separate this fact, and we cannot separate prostitution from sex trafficking. Prostitution is the means for sex traffickers to profit off the exploitation and abuse of others by pimps. If Canada wants to seriously reduce sex trafficking, it must target those who drive prostitution through demand, namely, the johns. It must also target those who profit from and facilitate it, namely, the pimps. That is why Bill C-36 would make buying sex illegal for the first time, and it would significantly strengthen provisions against pimps and traffickers.

It has been appalling to hear from pro-legalization lobbyists over the past weeks that criminalizing the demand would make things more unsafe for women in prostitution and that it would have devastating consequences. This argument is absolutely absurd. One study that interviewed 100 prostitutes in Vancouver found that violence is the norm for women in prostitution. Sexual harassment, verbal abuse, stalking, rape, battering, and torture are the points on a continuum of violence, all of which occur regularly in prostitution.

This violence is perpetrated by johns and pimps. Let us be realistic. When looking to buy sex, a john is not concerned with whether the prostitute is free, underage, or trafficked, nor is he going to ask. In his mind, he wants to buy sex because he has been taught that it is acceptable to buy people to be used at his disposal. That is why we want to target johns.

There has been a paradigm shift that is so important in this country. Canada's approach must recognize that prostitution itself, not just violence, is a form of violence.

For over a century, the violence and the exploitation of women and youth in prostitution have been ignored. The historical approach to prostitution in our great country has never recognized the harms of prostitution. It has focused only on hiding it from public view by incorporating offences based on the nuisance of prostitution in the Criminal Code. Regarded as public nuisances, prostituted individuals were arrested and criminalized at much higher rates than the men creating the demand for commercial sex.

This profoundly misguided approach to prostitution and the treatment of prostitutes changed in this month, on June 4, 2014. This shift in the approach to prostitution is clearly evident in the preamble to Bill C-36, which states:

....the Parliament of Canada recognizes the social harm caused by the objectification of the human body and the commodification of sexual activity...

The preamble also highlights the goals of the new legislation: protect human dignity and the equality of all Canadians by discouraging prostitution, which has a disproportionate impact on women and children...

The average age of entry into prostitution in this country is between 14 and 16 years of age. These are children.

Second, the preamble says: is important to denounce and prohibit the purchase of sexual services because it creates a demand for prostitution...

Third, the preamble says:

...Parliament wishes to encourage those who engage in prostitution to report incidents of violence and to leave prostitution.

Another indicator of this fundamental paradigm shift is in the location of the new offences in our Criminal Code. Previously, before this bill, all prostitution-related offences were located in part VII of the Criminal Code, under “Disorderly Houses, Gaming and Betting”. The new offences target the purchase of sexual services and target pimps. These offences will now be located in part VIII of the Criminal Code, under “Offences Against the Person and Reputation”. This is a distinct acknowledgement that the act of buying sexual services is an offence against an individual. It is an offence against the most vulnerable individuals in our society, who are enslaved by a violent pimp, poverty, or drug addiction.

It is for this reason that this new approach will be supported by $20 million in new funding, including support for grassroots organizations that help individuals exit prostitution. It is essential that with new legislation we provide support to organizations that help women escape prostitution from all circumstances.

As a nation, we are at a crossroads in this country at this moment, but this is not an experiment in which we can play with the lives and freedoms of future generations. The other option for Canada is to legalize or fully decriminalize prostitution. This approach will also lead Canada into a fundamental paradigm shift to regulate prostitution like any other industry.

It is an appalling shift that would have a severe negative impact on women and youth. I am shocked that such legislation has been advocated by prominent members of the NDP front bench and adopted as party policy. That is also what I am listening to this morning from the Liberals.

Legalization has also been adopted as an official party policy by the Green Party of Canada, to the dismay of many of its members. On a blog post on the official website of the Green Party, Green Party blogger Steve May offers the following critique of this Green Party policy:

I believe it is the wrong policy for our Party at any time, but especially at this time when so many voices, such as Victor Malarek's, are now just starting to be heard about the fiasco which sex trade legalization has caused elsewhere in the world.

We do not have to wait 10 to 20 years to see how legalization of prostitution works out. We only have to look to countries that legalized prostitution 10 to 15 years ago. Let us look at Germany, where prostitution has been fully legalized and regulated as an industry since 2001.

The deputy chairman of the German Police Association stated:

...politicians have shot themselves in the foot by implementing this law. Even though it was well intended, it has only strengthened the criminals.

Some prosecutors, also from Germany, have admitted that it made their work in prosecuting trafficking in human persons more difficult.

Also, in 2013 Germany's leading online paper, Der Spiegel interviewed a retired detective, who stated:

Germany has become a centre for sexual abuse of young women from Eastern Europe, and a playground for organized criminals from all over the world.

German police and women's groups now view legalization as little more than a subsidy program for pimps that makes the market more attractive to human traffickers.

Today there are over 400,000 prostitutes filling brothels located along the borders of that country. Brothels openly advertise “sex with all women as long as you want, as often as you want, any way that you want”, “sex, oral sex, oral sex without a condom, three-ways, group sex, gang bang”. Women are reduced to a sexual commodity to be used by sex buyers and disposed of when they are done. This is the future that the official opposition, along with the Green Party, is proposing for Canadian women and youth.

Let us look at another implication of the policies of the NDP and the Green Party, and now we have heard from the Liberal Party as well. If prostitution were to be legalized and treated as an industry, women would be expected to apply for all job openings before being eligible for EI, so if our daughters have just been laid off, they would be expected to apply at the local brothel before being eligible for EI. That is not the future I want for my daughters and it is not the future that Canadian parents want for their children.

We should also look at the New Zealand model, which has been brought up quite often. It is often cited by the pro-legalization lobby as a perfect example of decriminalization. However, this is far from the reality of the facts.

The National Council of Women in New Zealand stated that “The only winners from the prostitution reform act 2003 are men” and that they are “still seeing girls as young as 13 and 14 years old on the streets selling their bodies”.

The council also said that researchers found that human trafficking in children had increased since 2003, especially in ethnic minority groups. Over 10 years after decriminalization, New Zealand's aboriginal populations were still significantly overrepresented and among the most vulnerable in street prostitution. We know this is also true for Canadian aboriginals, and it would only increase under legalization.

In 2012, the Prime Minister of New Zealand stated that he did not think the act had achieved a reduction in street and under-age prostitution at all.

A shift toward the legalization or normalization of prostitution in Canada is advocated by prominent NDP members and the Green Party. This would be disastrous for women's equality and for our aboriginal populations and other populations. It would turn the clock back years for women's equality.

When Bill C-36 was tabled a week ago in the House, I was stunned to see how many journalists became constitutional legal experts overnight. They seem interested in speaking to the well-paid representatives of the pro-legalization lobby, who decried the bill as the worst thing that could ever happen to women in prostitution. We should not kid ourselves. Huge profits are made by a few people in prostitution, and the adult industry stands to lose a lot of income.

The media largely ignored the front-line agencies that work with women in prostitution, the families of victims, and, most importantly, survivors themselves. I want to share their voices and experience with the House.

Katarina MacLeod, a survivor, says:

As an ex-prostitute who spent 15 years being raped and degraded daily, I had no one to turn to and there were no resources. ... Prostitution damages your mind body and soul. This why I am in total support of Bill C-36 which offers these woman an exit strategy....

This is from the daughter of a prostituted woman:

I was very relieved to hear that Bill C-36 is going to be implemented. ... I am glad our voices are being heard. My mother was a prostitute and I want no women or her children to have to experience that damage. I am in agreement with bill C-36 since it will be getting at the root of this issue, which is the people who purchase sex. As well as providing help for the women to exit this lifestyle, which is very necessary.

This is from the parents of a young woman who was brutally beaten by her pimp and later found murdered. They wrote to the Minister of Justice saying: is our belief and our experience that tells us that if buying sex and selling others for sex was illegal, our daughter would still be alive and would be living a fulfilling and satisfying life. We strongly urge you to use this opportunity to enact new laws that would severely penalize those who buy sex, (the johns) and sell others for sex, (the pimps). Please act to protect the vulnerable and stop the exploitation and violence against young women and girls.

I want to note that front-line agencies and women's groups have raised a concern about the clause that would prohibit the selling of sex around public places where youth can be found, like schools and community centres. Some have said that the intent of this clause is focused on preventing youth from being solicited by johns, and this is a very good thing.

However, front-line agencies—who, I must emphasize, are strongly supportive of everything else in this bill—are concerned about unintended consequences that the clause could have on vulnerable women in prostitution. These are valid concerns, and I hope they will bring these concerns and suggestions forward when Bill C-36 is studied at committee.

It is my hope that Bill C-36 will be supported by members on all sides of the House. Having spoken to many MPs privately, I know support for the approach proposed in Bill C-36 does indeed cross party lines. There are many good people on all sides of this House who are supporting this bill. As parliamentarians, we share a collective desire for Canada to be a leader on human rights in the international community.

Proponents of legalized prostitution claim that it is the only option for a progressive society. I disagree. A truly progressive society encourages the equality and dignity of women, not the prostitution of women. I want to build a Canada that targets predators and pimps, helps vulnerable individuals escape prostitution, and upholds the dignity of women. We can do better for women and youth, and we must.

We have always heard about the Bedford case, and we hear voices across the way saying, “Oh, it is going to have a constitutional challenge.” I must remind those members that it was actually the Supreme Court that sent it to Parliament to build something new. This is what the Supreme Court said: “It will be for Parliament, should it choose to do so, to devise a new approach, reflecting different elements of the existing regime”.

The Supreme Court of Canada did something very wise. Instead of bringing down the law and saying, “This is the law”, it allowed 12 months for Parliament to reflect. I have to tell the House that thousands of people are watching these speeches today. Thousands of people are listening to individual MPs and what they are saying. Thirty-one thousand responses came. In my office today I have postcards that I have not even talked about. There are 36,000 signatures on petitions and over 50,000 signatures on postcards. This is Canada; I do not know all these people.

I have worked with sex workers and trafficking victims for a very long time. Since this bill was tabled, I have had a myriad of emails. Very many people want to come to the committee and support Bill C-36. They talk about maybe making little tweaks so we could do better.

The country is listening. The country is listening to the fact that here in Canada, members on all sides of the House have to ensure that we target the johns and ensure without a doubt that we provide programs and exit systems for prostitutes and trafficking victims, because behind the scenes the story that does not get out is about the bullying, the terrible threats, the coercion.

I heard from one 16-year-old girl whose boyfriend paid for a lot of things for her and then said, “You owe me $4,000 and you have to service Glen in the next room”. He was a trafficker. She was not going to do it. She said, “You're my boyfriend. I don't have to do that”. He said, “Yes, you do. I know where your sister goes to school. I know where she does her sports activities. We will get her if you don't do this”, and so that 16-year-old did it.

She got out. She is out of the trafficking ring now, and she is speaking out. We hear these voices all across this country.

This Parliament has to be responsible and support Bill C-36.

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her passionate speech. I would not expect any less. Anyone who knows her or has seen her in action during the study of her private member's bill by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights knows how passionate she is about the human trafficking issue.

Now I am seeing her in another light, as we are focusing on prostitution and the action to be taken in the wake of the Bedford decision. I will present my arguments a little later. First, she spoke to us about treating victims with dignity. I will ask her the question that came to mind in English, so that she can answer right away, since she will not have missed a single word of it.

How does clause 15 amount to treating the prostitutes with dignity? I am curious to know her opinion on that matter.

She is a proponent of the Nordic model. Everyone who is a proponent of the Nordic model said that it is needed. We cannot just have the Nordic model, where we criminalize the johns, the buyers, without putting substantial amounts of money into getting the prostitutes out of the business. How can she look at me seriously and say that $20 million for a country like ours, with a problem that big, is enough money? It is laughable, and all the people who would support the bill are in shock about that.

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is easy to look at her, because I am very proud. This is not the Nordic model. It is a made-in-Canada model. Speaking of that $20 million, my goodness, look at how big Canada is and how big the United States is, and when the United States first did this, it first put in $10 million. We put in $20 million, right off the bat.

This is a wonderful first step. I am proud of it, and I will look anyone in the eye because the paradigm has shifted. We now look at the survivors, the victims of human trafficking, with dignity and compassion. That is what our government has done. It has showed compassion. We also targeted the johns. They do not get off scot-free anymore

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, there were actually more than a few things in her speech with which we could agree. The Liberal Party is in support of the measures that are contained in the bill that govern human trafficking. If they could be hived off, that would be something we could support. What we do not support are the potential constitutional problems.

The member spent much of her speech talking about the awful situation in countries that have legalized or decriminalized prostitution, such as Germany. There were options available to the government. She spoke passionately against one, legalization or decriminalization. The other option, which the government has chosen, which is really the approach used in Russia, with a few tweaks, is a prohibitionist model. Would she not agree that there were other options in the middle that would be closer to what the Supreme Court of Canada directed and would more properly and more adequately protect those who are vulnerable?

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think his question is a little misguided. Actually, this is what the Supreme Court said:

It will be for Parliament, should it choose to do so, to devise a new approach, [a made-in-Canada approach] reflecting different elements of the existing regime.

I have talked about many different countries. We live in the best country in the world. The true north, strong and free, is right here in Canada. What our government has done has the right balance. The right balance is targeting the johns. The right balance is a compassionate view and an acknowledgement of what has happened to the victims and the survivors. The $20 million is a great first step to make it happen.

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Lévis—Bellechasse Québec


Steven Blaney ConservativeMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I feel privileged to ask a question of the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, who is a model and a source of inspiration for our government in its fight against human trafficking and for the victims of prostitution.

I want to commend the remarkable work of our colleague. We are very proud to stand with her in this party. She has been a great source of inspiration. She met this morning with people who have been victims of prostitution and have been able to exit. I would like to hear this from the member. Is it important for our government to put exit strategies in place for those victims of prostitution? What is the profile of those individuals? Who is the typical person this bill is aimed at supporting and helping?

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the public safety minister, for this very important question, and I commend all of his great work on this file.

I have met with many trafficked victims. Trafficked victims are vulnerable, beautiful, young women and, these last five years, more and more young boys. The bill would provide them the freedom to be able to leave prostitution or the claws of human traffickers and start new lives. This bill would also make the buying of sex illegal, so the traffickers would not be the big bullies anymore. They would be marginalized.

Canada has made a tremendous statement. It has said that this country will not allow youth—because the youth enter prostitution, on the average, between 14 and 16 years of age—and others to be bought and sold. There is no typical person. It is the predator who looks at the opportunity to draw them in.

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Maria Mourani Independent Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her speech and all the work she has been able to do.

I think it would be important to add a few things. I listened to my opposition colleagues, and after analyzing the Bedford decision and the bill from start to finish, I think that it would hold up constitutionally. I will explain why.

The Bedford decision states that in the current legal context, we cannot criminalize the practice of prostitution. The decision also tells legislators to decide on the legal context that will be put in place to deal with prostitution. The government decided to declare prostitution illegal.

In doing so, the government has established its right to criminalize certain players as pimps and johns. In addition, the government gave immunity to prostitutes. In my opinion, this approach is the fairest for Canada. It presents a Canadian model and, on that point, I hand it to them.

However, I disagree with criminalizing prostitutes in a public place. When immunity is adopted, it must be provided across the board, be it in massage parlours or in public places.

I would encourage the government to reconsider its position because criminalizing johns acting in public view is enough. Criminalizing pimps acting in public view is enough.

There is no need to criminalize prostitutes working in public places. This is how we can give these women, the most vulnerable people on the streets, the opportunity to report the people who assault them.

I would like to propose a friendly amendment.

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague across the way for her support of the bill and her very good comments.

This bill has a really good balance. I was a school teacher for 23 years, and people had to report to the office when they came in. There were pedophiles outside the fence who would lure the older girls. With this bill, we would be protecting the children too. It is not so much the prostitutes; it is the johns. The johns not only solicit the prostitutes or the trafficked women, but if they see attractive girls, they will go after them as well. It the bill has a nice balance. There is no arresting of the prostitutes, but that is something we need to bring to committee and hammer out at committee, where those concerns can come forward.

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is not exactly a clear-cut debate. The member for Ahuntsic was saying that the government had decreed that prostitution was illegal, but that it was not saying that prostitution is now illegal in Canada. Selling is okay, but buying is not, and under some circumstances, selling is not okay.

With Bill C-36, the government tried to take considerable liberties, but it did not have the courage or the deep conviction to do what the member for Kildonan—St. Paul would like to see. The member took great pains to talk about all aspects related to pimps and vulnerable people, but she did not give very good answers to questions about the major problem with Bill C-36: clause 15. This clause criminalizes the very women, the very victims that the Conservatives go on and on about wanting to protect.

Positions aside, we all take our role seriously. I take my role as the official opposition's justice critic seriously, especially when I have to go before the NDP caucus, where it is not always easy to make recommendations.

The member for Kildonan—St. Paul is quite right in saying that we all have concerns about prostitution and human trafficking. However, it is not always easy to enforce laws that comply with the Constitution and our charter, since this government is extremely secretive.

Instead of sharing its information with us, the government introduced Bill C-36 at first reading, which was a response to a Supreme Court ruling. We are not asking for 15 legal opinions. We only want one opinion of the Supreme Court assuring us that the clauses of Bill C-36 are in compliance. This would make us fell more confident that we had a solid foundation. We are often forced to rely on our own resources, which are not government resources, to try to fulfill our common obligation as members of the House.

We sometimes have to enforce laws and set aside our own personal convictions. The other day, a news report made it clear just how passionate the member for Kildonan—St. Paul is about this issue. I understood her personal and religious convictions, and I respect that. However, in my role as justice critic, I need to examine laws and sometimes set my personal convictions aside. That is part of my role as representative for the people of Gatineau.

The government is so secretive that it is more than happy to use this expeditious process on an issue as important as prostitution, the world's oldest profession. Good luck to anyone who thinks they can get rid of it. We are all working to ensure that one day no one will feel the need to turn to prostitution. We hope that one day people will choose this line of work solely because of their own personal choices or beliefs. We are doing everything we can do achieve that, but no method in the world is perfect.

The government did a quick online consultation but no one has no idea how scientifically valid it is. It did not deny the fact that pretty much anyone was able to say whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. We do not know where the responses came from; we do not have all of the details.

However, the government is not making that scientific poll public, and it will not release it unless it is forced to do so. I believe that it will not share the information before the end of July, based on how the minister has responded to questions in the House.

We will likely be examining Bill C-36 by then, given that it is subject to a time allocation motion. We will vote on it tomorrow, if not today. The committee will meet in early July, so that leads me to believe that we will have the opportunity to study the bill, but without that information. I find that unfortunate.

As I said, we rely on our resources. This bill is important to me; I want to do the right thing.

When I make a recommendation to my colleagues, I want it to be based not on my convictions and my own impressions, but on a careful analysis of the Bedford decision and on consultations. Like many here in the House, I consulted a lot of people. Many people wanted to talk to me about every aspect of this issue.

I heard from those who are advocating decriminalization and others who want prostitution to be legalized. Groups came to talk to me about the Nordic model. I heard from sex workers. Some of them like the idea of the Nordic model, others do not. I met with nearly every individual and every group that will come in July to tell us what they think about the issue.

I always shared my concerns with everyone I spoke to, and I think that we came to a consensus about the issue of safety.

As for the issue of safety, I believe it is very important to repeat the points made by the Supreme Court of Canada. The government and various Conservative members who spoke before me took a bit of liberty when quoting the Supreme Court. They attributed to the Supreme Court some things that it did not necessarily say, or they omitted, probably because it is to their advantage, certain aspects or certain words in some phrases, which are worth their weight in gold.

When we go out into our constituencies and people talk to us about prostitution, they all refer to the Bedford ruling. What is the Bedford ruling? I think it is important to review the main principles established in the Bedford ruling to determine whether Bill C-36 is in keeping with the ruling and whether it will pass the test included in that ruling. I am reading from the ruling:

...current or former prostitutes, brought an application seeking declarations that three provisions of the Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, which criminalize various activities related to prostitution, infringe their rights under s. 7 of the Charter...

Despite Bill C-36, section 7 of the charter still exists.

What are the three provisions?

...s. 210 makes it an offence to keep or be in a bawdy-house; s. 212(1)(j) prohibits living on the avails of prostitution; and, s. 213(1)(c) prohibits communicating in public for the purposes of prostitution. They argued that these restrictions on prostitution put the safety and lives of prostitutes at risk, by preventing them from implementing certain safety measures—such as hiring security guards or “screening” potential clients—that could protect them from violence. B, L and S also alleged that s. 213(1)(c) infringes the freedom of expression guarantee under s. 2(b) of the Charter, and that none of the provisions are saved under s. 1.

Everyone knows that the charter can be violated. If it is all right in a free and democratic society, it passes the test of section 1. Those were the arguments made by the three plaintiffs in the case.

I will spare you everything that was said in the Supreme Court, but suffice it to say that the three plaintiffs won on every count. Sections 210, 212(1)(j) and 213(1)(c) of the Criminal Code were declared incompatible with the charter. The declaration of invalidity was suspended for one year, giving the government time—

Second ReadingProtection of Communities and Exploited Persons ActGovernment Orders

2 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I am sorry, but the time provided for the consideration of government orders has expired. As a result, the hon. member for Gatineau will have 10 minutes remaining after question period.

City of ArvidaStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Claude Patry Bloc Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have recently had the honour of being appointed, with 17 other public figures in my region, to the Club des ambassadeurs d'Arvida, the historic capital of aluminum. The objective of the Club des ambassadeurs is to have UNESCO recognize and protect Arvida.

This small labour city, which stands out for its urban planning and industrial infrastructure, is unique in the world. Its first 270 houses were built in 135 days. In 2012, Arvida was recognized as a national historic site of Canada.

Like all my constituents, I wish to help showcase the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region on the international stage. A good way to do this would be to ensure the sustainability of Arvida, a place steeped in our collective history that exhibits the beauty and style of the so-called French-Canadian houses.

To conclude, I invite all my colleagues in the House to come and admire this industrial city that was built on our natural resources and the courage of the workers in my region.