Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Shepard.
Bill C-75 is an enormous 302-page omnibus bill that includes major reforms to our criminal justice system. This is the second large bill that has been proposed by the Liberals. Under the proposed changes, many serious offences may be prosecuted by summary conviction and thus will result in lighter sentences.
I would like to spend much of my time talking about human trafficking and what it looks like in Canada.
First, I would like to talk a little about the government's record. The human trafficking offences are being changed a bit by this bill. I have addressed this issue many times in this place already. Modern-day slavery and human trafficking are a horrific form of injustice. They are extremely profitable. They are growing in Canada and around the world, and are probably taking place within 10 blocks of where we live.
We know the vast majority of human victims in Canada are female and young. While those most at risk include indigenous women and youth, teenage runaways, and children who are in protection, we know anyone can become a victim of human trafficking.
Sadly, the government has been in power for 30 months, and never has a government done anything so little to fight human trafficking in so much time. Every time I have asked the government what it is doing, its only response is that it is reviewing the Criminal Code. We know that fighting complex and clandestine crimes, like human trafficking and modern-day slavery, require more than just changes to the Criminal Code. They require vigorous development and application of policy.
Since coming to power, the Liberals have done little to fight against human trafficking, and they have allowed the fight to languish. The Liberals allowed the national action plan to combat human trafficking to expire and they made no effort to replace it. It is not that they did not have the time or were not prepared, they could have announced an extension or launched a new one. However, they let it lapse, becoming one of the few developed countries that no longer has a comprehensive plan to eliminate human trafficking.
The Liberals ended federal funding to NGOs that provided support and options for victims of human trafficking. They blocked important tools that were adopted in the House over five years ago. Then the Liberals introduced legislation in Bill C-38 to lighten sentences for sex traffickers. The contents of Bill C-38 are now in Bill C-75.
It was not until budget 2018 that the Liberals finally addressed human trafficking and committed to funding the national hotline and a referral mechanism. While I applaud this, and it is important, it is long overdue.
I also want to recognize the fact that the announcement came after the Canadian Centre To End Human Trafficking, which is a great Canadian NGO, partnered with an American NGO, the Polaris project, to launch the official Canadian hotline. After it was public that Canada's national hotline was supported and funded by the United States, the government stepped in to offer support to it.
In 2011, the Conservative government became the first and only party to include a campaign promise in its platform to end human trafficking. Specifically, the Conservative Party committed to developing and launching the Canadian national action plan to combat human trafficking.
On June 6, 2012, only 13 months after the election, the Conservative Party launched its four-year national action plan to combat human trafficking. The primary goals of the national action plan were focused around the four Ps, prevention, prosecution, protection and partnerships, and included launching Canada's first integrated law enforcement team dedicated to combatting human trafficking; increasing front-line training to identify and respond to human trafficking and enhance prevention in vulnerable communities; providing more support for victims of this crime, both Canadians and newcomers; and strengthening coordination with domestic and international partners that contributed to Canada's efforts to combat human trafficking.
It is also worth noting that the Conservative Party was the only party in 2015 committed to fighting human trafficking, with its promise to establish new RCMP human trafficking teams in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg, at an annual cost of $8 million for five years, and to renew the national plan to combat human trafficking for five years at a cost of $20 million.
Here we are today. It has been two years since the national action plan has expired under the current government and, interestingly, in December, the government's own Department of Public Safety quietly released a report called “The 2016-17 Horizontal Evaluation of the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking”. I want to share with the House what the report said. It stated:
There is a continuing need to have a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking in order to consolidate federal initiatives, for federal organizations to partner together, and to strengthen accountability:
Prior to the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, each federal organization conducted its own anti-human trafficking initiatives. The National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking consolidated federal initiatives to combat human trafficking under one plan;
The National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking is required to meet Canada’s ongoing international commitments to combat human trafficking:
That means without one, we are not even fighting human trafficking at the same level as other countries. It further states, “There are opportunities for the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking to evolve.” The department was preparing to help the government develop and advance further action items to combat human trafficking.
Human trafficking is an extremely profitable crime that preys on young and vulnerable Canadians, especially in indigenous communities. Police officers and NGOs across Canada work incredibly hard to end human trafficking and help victims, but their resources are strained. Many hours go into this, and a lot of their own time. They are asking for federal support and leadership. As I mentioned earlier, the Conservative government committed $25 million over four years to build on and strengthen Canada's significant work to date to prevent, detect, and prosecute human traffickers. The Liberal government allowed that plan to expire in 2016 and, with it, critical funding for victims of human trafficking and law enforcement. Many organizations appeared at the justice committee's study on human trafficking and urged the government to renew its national action plan.
When the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-38 in February, she misled Canadians and the House by claiming that it had tools for police and prosecutors to combat human trafficking. Bill C-38 was only one paragraph and it is now included within Bill C-75. Let me be clear that the changes proposed by the minister, first in Bill C-38 and now in Bill C-75, have no provisions whatsoever to give police and prosecutors new tools to investigate human trafficking. However, the tools that Liberals pretend are in Bill C-38 and Bill C-75 were, in fact, unanimously adopted by the House over five years ago in an NDP private member's bill, Bill C-452.
Bill C-452 was supported by a Conservative government and voted for by the current Prime Minister. It was Bill C-452 that contained provisions to provide tools to police and prosecutors. It created a 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 applied, and it corrected a technical discrepancy and included a provision that human trafficking sentences be served consecutively.
Bill C-452 received royal assent in June 2015 and when the Liberal government came to power, it blocked that bill 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 could serve a long sentence for exploiting a minor in sex slavery. The only thing the proposed amendments would do in Bill C-75 is prevent sex traffickers from receiving consecutive sentences. That is it. It does nothing more. This certainly does not help the police.
Eighty per cent of the victims of human trafficking never come forward out of fear. All of the human trafficking investigators who testified on Bill C-452 welcomed the consecutive sentences and highlighted that long sentences gave victims the confidence to come forward and testify. They also pointed out that without consecutive sentences, a pimp who trafficks one minor would receive the same sentence as a pimp who trafficks five or 10 minors. Consecutive sentences allow for punishments that better reflect the gravity of the offence.
When will the government stop misleading the public about its intentions with this bill, when will it stop blocking important tools for the police, and when will the Liberals stand up for victims of sex trafficking rather than blocking tough sentences for those who enslave them?