House of Commons Hansard #249 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was code.

Topics

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

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

Vote #434

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I declare the motion carried.

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

The Environment.Adjournment Proceedings

December 11th, 2017 / 7 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, September 25 of this year, I raised this concern. While the government claims it is seeking inclusion of strong environment and climate provisions in the modernized NAFTA, no such measures have been publicly revealed and no environment advisers have been appointed to the council advising the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is leading negotiations on NAFTA.

Only at the eleventh hour has the Minister of Environment and Climate Change announced she has now formed a NAFTA sub-group. None of the recommendations have been made public. Nor has it been revealed whether its proposals have even been tabled in the negotiations.

How can Canadians have faith that the Liberals are strengthening environment and trade deals without transparency? When will the minister reveal to Canadians what the Liberals are actually seeking for the environment at the negotiation table? The Americans, at the onset of the negotiations, publicly released their proposals for environmental provisions of a revised NAFTA. Therefore, where is the oft-touted Liberal government's openness, transparency, and accountability?

Here are some important questions requiring an answer.

Is Canada proposing to shut down the independent Commission for Environmental Cooperation, based in Montreal, created under the current NAFTA? Is Canada proposing to reduce senior level oversight over commitments for effective environmental enforcement and not to downgrade environmental laws by replacing authority vested in the council of ministers with instead junior level bureaucrats? Is the government recommending shutting down the secretariat, thereby ending any independent reviews and reports on allegations of failed enforcement? Finally, what is the baseline for Canadian environmental law? Is it the yet to be strengthened laws eviscerated by the Harper government?

The Environment.Adjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

North Vancouver B.C.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Mr. Speaker, Canada is firmly committed to the principle that trade and investment liberalization and environmental protection go hand in hand and is advancing a progressive approach to trade. Canada believes that commitments to high levels of environmental protection are an important part of all trade agreements, including NAFTA. Such commitments to good environmental governance in our trade agreements can help improve conditions for Canadian investment by promoting stable, predictable, and transparent environmental regulatory frameworks and institutions in partner countries.

The North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, an existing side agreement to NAFTA, clearly reflects the importance that, for a long time now, Canada has attached to strong environmental provisions. Since 1994, this agreement has served as an important mechanism to guarantee our firm commitment to a high level of environmental protection and provide a forum for multilateral North American environmental co-operation.

As we move toward modernizing NAFTA, we see an opportunity to strengthen the environmental provisions under the agreement to ensure environmental standards continue to be upheld as part of our trade and investment relationship. One of Canada's core objectives for these negotiations is that NAFTA can be made more progressive. This includes integrating high-ambition and enforceable environmental provisions into NAFTA, which fully supports efforts to address climate change and other global environmental challenges.

Canada is seeking commitments for NAFTA countries to maintain high levels of environmental protection, as well as provisions to ensure domestic environmental laws are both effectively enforced and not weakened to encourage trade and investment.

Canada is seeking to secure progressive elements such as those achieved in the Canada–European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, including provisions that seek to reaffirm the state's right to regulate in the public interest and provisions promoting the trade in environmental goods and services.

We announced the establishment of the NAFTA advisory council on the environment last August. The 10-member council brings together prominent Canadians with a variety of backgrounds, such as politics, law, and Indigenous groups. This expert council includes former Quebec premier, Pierre-Marc Johnson; former British Columbia premier, Gordon Campbell; former Saskatchewan NDP finance minister, Janice MacKinnon; and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president, Natan Obed.

The council members are supporting the advancement of our government's progressive trade agenda by serving in their personal capacity to advise the Minister of Environment and Climate Change as Canada looks to strengthen environmental protections in a modernized NAFTA.

The Environment.Adjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed that I did not obtain answers to any of the questions I asked. In all the trade deals negotiated under the Conservative government, and now by the Liberal government, they have not retained the provisions in the side agreement to NAFTA, which is an independent council and secretariat and high-level oversight of decisions on whether trade deals or business are actually undermining environmental protection.

Is the Liberal government proposing at the table? Will it let the public know what it is proposing at the table? Is it its intention to retain these very important measures that have actually delivered a lot?

I had the privilege of working with the secretariat. We delivered a lot of very good work. There has been a lot of good work by the independent secretariat on reviewing submissions claiming failed enforcement, but what has failed is the response by governments to those reports.

When is the Liberal government going to finally reveal to the public what it is bringing forward at the table so we can know whether this future NAFTA will in fact be stronger, or will it be weaker?

The Environment.Adjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think I was pretty clear that the focus of this government is on enhancing and raising the environmental bar with respect to the environmental provisions of NAFTA. One needs to look at the track record. Canada has successfully included provisions on climate change in recent agreements, such as CETA, recognizing the need to co-operate among trading partners and the important role trade agreements play in facilitating market access. The focus for us is ensuring that the environment is robustly considered in the context of all trade agreements going forward. We are raising the environmental bar, and that is a good thing for Canada.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, earlier this month I highlighted the fact that every year, hundreds of young Canadian women, girls, and boys are lured into the vicious cycle of sex trafficking. I asked when the Liberal government would start fighting this horrific form of modern-day slavery.

This is not the first time I have raised the issue of sex trafficking and this government's lack of action on it. In fact, exactly one year ago, I stood here to raise the same issue during adjournment, and in the past 12 months this government has done nothing. In fact, since coming to power, the Liberals have allowed the fight against human trafficking to languish. They have allowed the national action plan to combat human trafficking to expire. They ended funding for NGOs. They have blocked important tools for police that were adopted by this House over four years ago, and then the Liberals introduced legislation, Bill C-38, to lighten sentences for sex traffickers.

A week ago the parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety, in his response to my question during question period, claimed that the government's Bill C-38 would give police and prosecutors new tools to investigate human trafficking.

I would never suggest that the member was misleading the House, but I would rather give him the benefit of the doubt that he may not have read Bill C-38 in answering the question. If he had read it, he would know that Bill C-38 is only one paragraph long and does not have any provisions whatsoever giving police or prosecutors new tools to investigate human trafficking. Even the Minister of Justice, when she introduced Bill C-38 last February, wrongly claimed that Bill C-38 included tools for police and prosecutors to combat human trafficking.

However, the tools they pretend to be in Bill C-38 were in fact unanimously adopted by this House four years ago in an NDP private member's bill, Bill C-452, which was supported by a Conservative government and voted on by the current Prime Minister. It was Bill C-452 that created the presumption with respect to the exploitation of one person by another, added the offence of trafficking in persons to the list of offences to which the reverse onus forfeiture of proceeds of crime provisions would apply, corrected a technical discrepancy, and included a provision that human trafficking sentences would be served consecutively.

Bill C-452 received royal assent in June 2015. Then the Liberal government came into power and has since blocked Bill C-452 from coming into force. Why? It is because the Liberals do not like the idea that sex traffickers might face consecutive sentences. They feel it is too harsh to expect that a child trafficker should serve a long sentence for exploiting a minor in sex slavery.

All Bill C-38 does is to prevent sex traffickers from receiving consecutive sentences. That is it. Nothing more. It certainly doesn't help the police.

Eighty percent of the victims of sex trafficking have never come forward because of their fear. All of the investigators of human trafficking who testified on Bill C-452 welcomed the consecutive sentencing and highlighted that long sentences give victims the confidence to come forward to testify. They also pointed out that without consecutive sentencing, a pimp who traffics only one minor will receive the same sentence as a pimp who traffics five or 10 minors. Consecutive sentencing allows for punishments that better reflect the gravity of the situation.

When will this government stop misleading the public about Bill C-38? When will it stop blocking important tools for the police? When will the Liberals stand up for the victims of sex trafficking instead of blocking tougher sentences for those who enslave them?

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Marco Mendicino LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is regrettable to hear that kind of hyperbole and rhetoric from my hon. colleague. It would be more appropriate to hear that from his usual seat in the House. I notice he has come to this side of the aisle. On this side of the aisle, we are actually quite proud of our record when it comes to human trafficking. I will get to that in just a moment, but I would point out that, perhaps it was not my hon. colleague, but certainly the last Conservative government cut close to $1 billion from the public safety portfolio, including from the CBSA and the RCMP. All of that undermines many of the gross assertions he just made.

Returning to the question at hand, human trafficking is a heinous crime and a human rights offence. In collaboration with provinces and territories, indigenous communities, law enforcement, and community organizations as well as international partners, we are using a wide variety of measures to combat human trafficking, to support victims and potential victims, and to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.

The national action plan to combat human trafficking was a four-year initiative that ran until last year. Since then, Public Safety Canada has been leading a formal evaluation of the action plan to help inform how we move forward on this important issue. While that evaluation has been going on, federal departments and agencies have continued to combat human trafficking through a full range of initiatives. We have, for example, and my hon. colleague referred to it, introduced Bill C-38.

Contrary to what he said, the House has debated, and thoughtfully had a discourse about, reversing or easing some of the presumptions when it comes to the burden of proof so that prosecutors can ensure that offenders who participate in human trafficking are held to account. Unlike the last Conservative government, we believe we have an appropriate sentencing regime where we place faith in our judiciary. That means not supporting unconstitutional mandatory minimums, like the last Conservative government introduced, which was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada. That means ensuring that we have an appropriate mandatory minimum sentencing regime, one that is evidence-based.

In addition to Bill C-38, we also introduced Bill C-21, which will be an important new tool to combat cross-border crimes. The RCMP has several initiatives that target human trafficking. Its human trafficking national coordination centre conducts public awareness campaigns, training, and awareness sessions for law enforcement and stakeholders, as well as national threat assessments on human trafficking.

This past October, the RCMP partnered with police agencies and community organizations across Canada in a coordinated anti-trafficking effort called Operation Northern Spotlight. There was also Project Protect, a joint initiative between the Government of Canada and the private sector. It allows Canadian financial institutions to report transactions that are suspected of money laundering related to trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation. The impact of Project Protect on identifying suspicious transactions linking money laundering to human trafficking has been phenomenal. In 2015, prior to Project Protect, there were 19 such disclosures.

In 2016-17, the government made over $21 million available to provinces, territories, and non-governmental organizations through the federal victims fund. In budget 2017, the government allocated $100.9 million over five years to establish a national strategy on gender-based violence, which obviously overlaps with human trafficking.

The point is, on this side of the House, contrary to where my hon. colleague is currently sitting, we believe in evidence-based policy-making. We believe in supporting our law enforcement branches to ensure women and girls are protected as part of our overall national plan when it comes to human trafficking.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, if the Liberals were investing in fighting sex trafficking, why did they allow the national action plan and its funding to expire a year ago? They had a whole year to get their plan in place, and now we are one of the only countries in the western world that does not have any strategy to combat human trafficking.

In 2011, the Conservatives were the first and only political party in Canadian history to make fighting human trafficking an election promise. Twelve months later, in 2012, the Conservatives fulfilled their promise and launched the four-year action plan to combat human trafficking. This plan included funding for survivors and law enforcement, and focused on four areas: protect, prosecute, prevent, and partnerships.

A year later, the Conservative government launched a special RCMP enforcement team to combat human trafficking and led initiatives to combat human trafficking at the UN.

It has been two years since the Liberals were elected, and there has been no action to combat human trafficking. Will the government commit to developing a new action plan to combat human trafficking and restore the support for victims of sex trafficking and law enforcement? Will the government work with the opposition to fight modern-day slavery together?

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure my colleague that we have been evaluating the national action plan to ensure that we can make Canada's efforts to combat human trafficking stronger and more effective.

As I outlined, that evaluation has been happening simultaneously with a comprehensive suite of measures both within Canada and internationally. Indeed, Canada continues to work with international partners and agencies, such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Organization for Migration, and Interpol, among others, to fight against human trafficking and provide technical assistance and capacity-building, enabling the global effort to successfully address trafficking in persons. We also engage regularly with the United States and Mexico, through the Trilateral Working Group on Trafficking in Persons.

The fight against human trafficking, both at home and internationally, is a moral imperative that is the utmost importance to our government.

I would urge my hon. colleague, since he is sitting on this side of the House, to support this side of the House's important work on this important file.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy 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 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:21 p.m.)