Mr. Speaker, I attended the meeting of the special committee that examined Bill C-36.
I would like to point out that we are once again hearing the Conservatives' unilateral view that justice can solve the problems inherent in prostitution.
I have an eye infection. This may not seem to have any relevance to the bill before us. However, yesterday, I went to the pharmacy to get some eye drops, and the pharmacist told me that merely putting one or two drops in my eye would not cure the infection. He said that the infection needed to be treated and that it would take several days for it to be cured.
My Conservative colleagues' remarks about Bill C-36 give the impression that this bill is like some sort of magical cure for an infection that will solve all of the problems in one day. It is as though every victim will be saved, prostitution will be eliminated and all the pimps will be sent to prison on the day Bill C-36 comes into force.
We are not living in a comic strip or a world of make-believe. We are living in a real society. Justice is not the way to eliminate the problems inherent in prostitution. We can put anyone we like in prison but it will not solve the problem. We spoke about poverty, vulnerability and drug use. To my knowledge, Bill C-36 does not address any of those issues.
As I said earlier, I truly admire my colleague for all of the work that she has done for victims of human trafficking and exploitation. The main point of her speech and that of the minister of state was that these people are in an extremely difficult situation. This may be because of family problems, drug problems or poverty. However, regardless of the underlying problems, these people did not make a free choice. How can someone be given the opportunity to make a free and informed decision? They must be given options.
The government would have us believe that these men and women will be able to make a free and informed decision and get out of the situation they now find themselves in. I would be happy if we could all live in utopia and everyone could be equal. However, a bill such as Bill C-36 is not going to resolve the issues of poverty and drug use. The very basis of the Supreme Court's ruling was that no one can freely and safely engage in an activity if everything associated with that activity is illegal. In this case, we are talking about bawdy-houses, pimping and prostitution itself or the issue of soliciting.
The Conservatives are now saying that we should forget about all those offences but that, according to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, prostitution will be illegal. According to the minister of state, only purchasing the services of a prostitute is illegal. This is not clear.
Does this really respect the basis for the Supreme Court ruling? If we listen carefully to the Conservatives' speeches, some say that prostitution is illegal while others say only purchasing the services is illegal. Does that provide a legal, secure and safe framework for the individuals? That is the question.
According to the witnesses, making illegal everything surrounding a legal activity does not make this activity any safer. That is the very basis for the Supreme Court ruling. Most of the witnesses said, unfortunately, that the bill will be challenged because you cannot criminalize victims for an activity that is not illegal. That is unconstitutional. Even the witnesses invited by the Conservatives to appear before the committee clearly said that the victims cannot be criminalized.
Toughening the laws as they do, without any consideration for the problems inherent in an activity and a situation—I spoke about poverty—does not solve anything.
This bill does not solve anything. As I mentioned, it is like a magical cure for an infection. It does not work. It does not exist. It is like continuing to put a band-aid on a wound that will not heal. We are only adding a legislative framework and that is not a solution to a problem.
My colleague said that victims are now able to report and are able to get out and that we are now offering them the option to do so. Could they not report before?
All of the police officers who testified in front of the committee said that police officers do not prosecute and arrest prostitutes. They do not do it anymore. They have not done it for at least the past seven years. Is she saying that the police officers lied in committee and that they would arrest prostitutes? Is she saying that before they were not able to report, and now they are?
I would like to remind the hon. member that exploitation, rape, and human trafficking are already criminalized under the Criminal Code, and the sentence is jail to life imprisonment.
I would like my colleague to read sections 279.01 and 279.04 again. They are clear: human trafficking and exploitation are illegal. I already asked her the question, but she could not answer me. What new tools would Bill C-36 give to police to get young people out of prostitution? I did not ask about money, for that is another matter entirely.
All 75 witnesses said that $20 million over five years is completely ridiculous. I think the answer was clear. I repeat, 75 out of 75 witnesses, 100%, said that it was completely ridiculous.
When I asked the question, none of the police officers could name a single new tool that Bill C-36 would give them to help the victims of prostitution and human trafficking get out of it. This bill does not provide any new tools. I asked all the police officers who appeared before the committee.
According to the Conservatives, the Criminal Code is ineffective. Does that mean that section 279.04 on exploitation is ineffective? Should we get rid of that section and draft a new one? According to the Conservatives, section 279.01 of the Criminal Code on human trafficking is also ineffective. Does that mean we should take it out of the Criminal Code and draft a new one?
According to the Conservatives, no victims of human trafficking could get out of it before Bill C-36 was introduced. What, then, is the purpose of the Criminal Code? Are police officers incapable of enforcing the existing sections of the Criminal Code? In that case, we are talking about another problem, that is, whether police on the ground have the resources they need to do so. We heard from many police officers, and their message was clear: there is only one person in the police squad for an entire region.
If human trafficking in Canada is so extensive that the Conservatives want to do something, why not allocate more resources to police so they can take action on the ground? As it stands, Bill C-36 simply makes something illegal that may or may not already be illegal, according to the Conservatives. They cannot even give us a straight answer on that.
The minister of state spoke about the defence strategies used by pimps and johns, as she calls them. I must remind her that none of the defence strategies she listed in her speech can be used under the Criminal Code. She talked about drug use. Under the Criminal Code, drug use is clearly not an acceptable defence in a court of law. She also talked about consent. The section of the Criminal Code dealing with rape and sexual assault is clear: even if the victim previously consented to sexual relations, that does not mean that the person consented to rape. All of the examples of defence strategies used by pimps and johns, as she said, are unacceptable and would not work.
Will Bill C-36 truly solve the problems associated with prostitution? Not at all. The bill does not respect the very basis of the court's ruling, which is that people have the right to be safe when carrying out an activity.