This page is in the midst of a redesign. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was businesses.

Topics

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion, the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 66, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, September 24, 2014, at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

September 23rd, 2014 / 7:30 p.m.

Green

Bruce Hyer Green Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand to voice my opposition to the Conservatives' Bill C-36, the so-called “protection of communities and exploited persons act”. Bill C-36 would do nothing to improve the working conditions for those involved in the sex trade.

Under Bill C-36, a prostitute who communicates to sell sexual services could be thrown in jail for up to six months. This is the same criminalization of sex workers under a new name.

When sex workers and their clients are scared of prosecution, they will take steps to avoid police detection. This will lead to even more unsafe and riskier working conditions.

Bill C-36 flies in the face of all the concerns raised by our Supreme Court last December.

The Conservatives have tried to sell this bad bill by claiming that targeting the buyers of sex will decrease the demand for prostitution. This is ridiculous. The demand will always exist and has existed for the world's oldest profession.

A report from Norway, where prostitution laws were similar to those proposed by this government, concluded that sex workers there were still experiencing high levels of violence and discrimination against women had actually increased.

Bill C-36 is part of a pattern of the Conservatives' blatant disregard for the rights of Canadians. The unanimous ruling by our highest court was clear: the old laws were unconstitutional. They infringed on the charter right to security, which all Canadians are entitled to, including sex workers.

The Conservatives have totally ignored the Bedford ruling. The bill discriminates against sex workers. It openly defies the Supreme Court and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Of course, this is hardly the first time the Conservative government has disregarded the Supreme Court. Its Bill C-2 banned safe injection sites, which the court unanimously ruled were necessary to reduce health risks in 2011. The Conservatives have ignored the court's affirmation of Canadians' privacy rights and introduced Bill C-13, which would legalize Internet snooping.

This is shameful. The Conservatives' disdain for the constitutional rights of Canadians is reprehensible and dangerous.

The Conservatives had an opportunity to introduce evidence-based policy. They could have taken a hint from New Zealand, where prostitution is legal, regulated and taxed.

Research there shows that sex workers are safer and are empowered to refuse dangerous clients. Sex workers in New Zealand are more likely to use condoms and HIV rates there are lower there than in other countries. Employment conditions for sex workers in New Zealand have improved drastically and violence against sex workers there has declined significantly.

The facts speak for themselves. While the Conservatives are entitled to their own opinions about sexual matters, they are not entitled to their own facts.

The government should know that poverty is the major driver for many women in the sex trade. If the Conservatives really want to help sex workers, perhaps they would implement a guaranteed livable income so all Canadians could prosper in a safe career of their own choosing.

Our response should have followed the successful New Zealand model, a safe and regulated work environment. A practical and progressive government would, and will soon in about a year from now, face reality and make prostitution legal, regulated, taxed, safer for everyone and get organized crime out of the sex business.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, today I will speak about Bill C-36, the protection of communities and exploited persons act. Specifically, I would like to discuss how the Supreme Court of Canada's Bedford decision informed Bill C-36's proposals for law reform.

Under the current law, neither the purchase nor sale of sexual services is illegal. However, certain activities related to prostitution are prohibited. The Supreme Court found that three of these offences were unconstitutional on the basis that they violate section 7 of the charter, the right to security of the person—in this case, individuals who sell their own sexual services—by preventing them from taking measures to protect themselves while engaging in a risky but legal activity. These protective measures include independently selling sexual services from a fixed indoor location, hiring bodyguards and drivers, and negotiating safer conditions for the sale of sexual services in public places.

The offences were found to be grossly disproportionate or overly broad in scope with respect to their legislative objectives, which, in the court's view, target primarily the nuisance aspects of prostitution.

In response, Bill C-36 would make prostitution an illegal activity by criminalizing the purchase of sexual services, which represents half of the prostitution transaction.

Bill C-36's preamble explains why it would make prostitution illegal. It clarifies that Parliament sees prostitution as an inherently exploitative activity that always poses a risk of violence.

Bill C-36 also seeks to protect communities from the harms associated with prostitution, including related criminality and the exposure of children to the sale of sex as a commodity.

For these reasons, Bill C-36 seeks to reduce the incidents of prostitution with a view to abolishing it as much as is possible.

These new statements of purpose, which are reflected in Bill C-36's preamble, would serve as a starting point for any future charter analysis of Bill C-36's reforms. The court would have to analyze the new offences, offences that would restrict an exploitative and therefore illegal activity, through this lens.

Moreover, Bill C-36's provisions would provide that persons who sell their own sexual services could not be prosecuted when they sell sexual services from a fixed indoor location, whether independently or co-operatively. This approach responds to the Supreme Court of Canada's safety concerns about the ability to sell sexual services indoors.

Bill C-36 would also carefully balance the Supreme Court of Canada's safety concerns regarding the availability of protective services with the need to ensure that exploitative third parties are criminalized. Specifically, Bill C-36 would limit the scope of the new material benefit offence through legislated exceptions that would apply to several groups of people, including those who provide protective services to persons who sell their sexual services, but it clearly stipulates that those exceptions would not apply in exploitative circumstances.

Finally, to address the Supreme Court's concern that persons who sell their own sexual services must be able to take steps to negotiate safer conditions for the sale of sexual services in public places, Bill C-36 would significantly narrow the scope of the existing communicating offence.

The current offence applies to all communications made in any public place for the purposes of purchasing or selling sexual services. However, under Bill C-36, the new purchasing offence would also prohibit communicating in any place for the purposes of purchasing.

A separate offence would apply to communicating for the purposes of selling sexual services, but only in a public place or in any place open to public view that is, or is next to, a schoolground, playground, or daycare centre. It would only be in those places.

This approach strikes a careful balance between the interests of two vulnerable groups: those who are exploited through prostitution and those of children who may be exposed to the sale of sex as a commodity, which is a harm in and of itself.

I hope that this clarifies any concerns about Bill C-36's compliance with the Supreme Court of Canada's findings in Bedford.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

Green

Bruce Hyer Green Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, we simply cannot afford to risk the lives of women and implement this ineffective bill. The new legislation would do nothing to protect sex workers or to accept the realities of the sex trade.

The Supreme Court ruled that Canadian prostitution laws infringed on Canadians' charter rights. The Conservatives have done nothing to remedy this. They have only further marginalized vulnerable people in a vulnerable trade, introduced legislation that is clearly unconstitutional, and empowered organized crime.

We need progressive and effective legislation that will protect sex workers from the dangers they face. The government has a chance to implement legislation that would legalize, regulate, and tax the sex trade, as in New Zealand, where discrimination and violence against women and sex workers is declining.

Will the Conservatives please show that they care about violence against women and the constitutionality of our legislation, their legislation, and adopt more progressive legislation based on evidence, not repressive and hypocritical ideology?

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, in fact what my hon. friend says is incorrect.

Bill C-36 specifically responds to the major concern in the Bedford case, which was the inability of sex workers to carry on their trade from a fixed, safe indoor location where they could have security and properly screen their clients. Bill C-36 allows exactly that. That is what each of the litigants in the Bedford decision asked for, and that is what Bill C-36 delivers to them.

Some are saying that decriminalization of prostitution is the only way to ensure the safety of those subject to it, and that Bill C-36 will increase prostitution's risks by criminalizing both the purchase and the sale of sexual services in a narrow range of circumstances. They also question the compliance of Bill C-36 with the charter. These assertions are not true.

First, Bill C-36 reflects a fundamental paradigm shift away from treatment of prostitution as a nuisance toward treatment of prostitution for what it is, sexual exploitation. Consistent with this transformative objective, Bill C-36 would criminalize the purchase of sexual services, but generally, not the sale. Those who sell sexual services are viewed as victims of an exploitative practice, and accordingly, they would be immunized from prosecution for any part they may play in the new purchasing, material benefit, procuring or advertising offences.

I would also note that decriminalization has been linked to higher rates of human trafficking in countries such as Germany and the Netherlands. I therefore reject the assertion that decriminalization is the only way to ensure the safety of those who offer sex for sale.

PrivacyAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 30, I asked the government why the Conservatives had such little respect for Canadians' right to privacy, a fundamental right, an immutable respect and non-negotiable right. According to documents we have obtained, we know that the Canada Revenue Agency committed roughly 3,000 privacy breaches and data breaches against Canadians in less than a year. That means there were more breaches at the Canada Revenue Agency this year than in all the departments combined since 2006, or when the Conservatives came to power. That is not trivial.

The changes the Conservatives are proposing would allow employees of the Canada Revenue Agency to hand over taxpayers' private information to the police without authorization from any sort of warrant. It is as though the Conservatives want to reward the Canada Revenue Agency for its mismanagement of private information, as we saw in recent scandals. Data breaches at the Canada Revenue Agency, the systematic collection of private information at airports and the passage of legislation facilitating access to private information without a warrant reinforce the perception that the government does not respect the right to privacy and that it is also opening the door to abuse with ill-conceived legislative reform.

The government introduced a series of bills that, according to experts, could have serious repercussions on Canadians' privacy. Indeed, Bill C-13, Bill S-4 and Bill C-31 enshrine a number of controversial practices in law.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has been sounding the alarm since last May. After revealing that the federal government is collecting vast amounts of personal information from telecommunications companies, the Privacy Commissioner's office then revealed that the federal government is also collecting personal information about Canadians from social networks.

Bill C-13 on cybercrime and Bill S-4 on the protection of digital information would allow telecommunications companies to provide personal information to other companies or law enforcement officials without a warrant. That is a very significant and serious issue.

I would like to quote a professor and intelligence expert from Laval University, Stéphane Leman-Langlois, who believes that Canadians should be very concerned. He said:

We can all agree that there is not very much privacy on the Internet, but still, there are some very weak protections in place. However, rather than strengthening privacy, which of course would be the best thing to do, the government is bombarding us with bills that will reduce those protections...

That is what is happening on the Conservatives' watch. They are reducing these protections and eroding respect for Canadians' privacy. As I said on a number of occasions, this truly is an intrusion into people's lives. That is very worrisome. We spoke about it last May, and I would like to talk about it again this month, now that Parliament is back in session, because it is really important.

The government did away with Statistics Canada's long-form census because it was too intrusive, but it has no problem allowing private companies to impinge on the privacy of millions of Canadians. That is completely hypocritical.

To shed some light on the consequences of these privacy bills, the NDP is asking for the creation of an independent panel of experts to examine how the government is using and storing Canadians' communications data.

Obviously, I am asking my colleague opposite to respond to this proposal. Does he intend to follow the NDP's recommendation and set up an independent panel of experts so that Canadians can be reassured with regard to their right to privacy, an immutable and fundamental right that all Canadians hold dear?

PrivacyAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue and for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member wants an answer, then she can only ask one question. She has about 15 questions there, so she would need several answers to answer them all. Her original question that started this late show was on the privacy requirements around Canada Revenue Agency.

There are occasions when government officials, in the course of their ordinary duties, may become aware of information that they think could be evidence of serious criminal activity. In such instances, most government officials are able to contact law enforcement with their findings and let the police take it from there. However, prior to June 19, the strict confidentiality provisions in the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, and the Excise Act, 2001, for the most part prohibited Canada Revenue Agency officials from communicating such evidence to law enforcement authorities.

Our government, in response to that, and as part of economic action plan 2014, amended the relevant legislation to allow the CRA to disclose some taxpayer information to law enforcement agencies in very specific, relevant circumstances if the information was related to serious criminal activity. This change reflects a 2010 recommendation from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD. It permits the CRA to provide taxpayer information to an appropriate police organization when there are reasonable grounds to believe that the information could provide evidence of specific serious offences such as drug trafficking, terrorism, child pornography, and contracts for the commission of murder. Those are all serious crimes that all Canadians would agree are reprehensible and should be shared with law enforcement.

There seems to be some confusion among members of the opposition about the intentions and goals of the changes to Bill C-31. Our government takes the protection of Canadian taxpayers' information extremely seriously. We appreciate the confidence and the trust that individuals and businesses place in CRA as a cornerstone of Canada's voluntary tax system. However, we also believe that not being able to report evidence of a possible serious criminal offence is at odds with the value Canadians place on the principles of justice, fairness and support for the victims of crime.

Let me be clear. If a CRA employee detects evidence of serious criminal activity in the normal course of his or her duties, relevant information may only be shared with police if authorized by legislation. The law is very specific about the narrow set of circumstances that would allow such information to be shared. CRA officials take their responsibilities to apply due diligence to such a sensitive matter extremely seriously, and I have full confidence they will carry out this responsibility with the highest level of professionalism and discernment.

Quite frankly, I find it extraordinary that the member opposite would not favour such common-sense reforms to protect the public. Is she advocating that in the course of his or her duties, a CRA auditor who uncovers evidence of a commission of a criminal offence of drug trafficking, child pornography or a commission to commit murder, because of the legislation as it exists, that person should not be able to share that with relevant police organizations? That is what she is suggesting.

PrivacyAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague opposite said that I asked 15 questions in four minutes. That is the point of the late show. The point is to ask many questions of the government, because Canadians have many questions. Experts raise many important points.

Here, we endure gag order after gag order. Our speaking time is always being cut short. That is why I have to bombard the government with questions in order to get answers. It would be great to hear some.

The government is once again giving itself discretionary powers, as it has done in a number of departments and in a number of areas, but it is not guaranteeing that it will protect the privacy of Canadians.

If it truly wants to do some cleaning up, it should appoint inspectors at the Canada Revenue Agency to investigate tax havens, for example, which are worth billions. Why is the government not doing that?

The government only wants the power to look for information as it sees fit. If it wants some information, it will simply go get it, without a warrant. It is doing away with procedure and is not respecting the privacy of the public.

The NDP will prevent that from happening, since Canadians are justified in asking for guarantees regarding this government's actions. This is only natural. It is a matter of transparency. Perhaps the Conservatives do not understand that concept and have no ethics at all.

PrivacyAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about tax loopholes. The reality is that the offshore tax loopholes have been plugged. That hon. member voted against doing that, by the way.

There are occasions, and there have been occasions, when CRA officials in the course of their ordinary duties have uncovered evidence of drug trafficking, terrorism, child pornography and contracts for the commission of murder and have been restricted from conveying this information to law enforcement because of the privacy provisions and confidentiality provisions of the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act and the Excise Act, 2001, as I mentioned earlier.

We are not talking about opening this up like the wild west. We are talking about strict controls to ensure that the sharing of taxpayer information meets all legal requirements. The transfer of information will flow one way from CRA to law enforcement. Police forces cannot compel the CRA to seek out evidence of serious criminal activity on its behalf. Nor can they direct it, or transfer or collect the information.

This is a common sense response to a serious problem that existed because of privacy legislation. The privacy of Canadians will still be protected, and this is a responsible way to do it.

PrivacyAdjournment Proceedings

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:55 p.m.)