Madam Speaker, last month I asked the Minister of Public Safety an important question. I asked if he would support bringing Canada into full alignment with the Palermo protocol. I was a bit alarmed by his response. He did not seem to know what the Palermo protocol was.
I am sure that the parliamentary secretary has been well prepared for this discussion and is aware that the Palermo protocol is an international protocol to prevent, suppress and punish human trafficking.
The parliamentary secretary will know that Canada signed the protocol in 2000 and it was ratified in 2002. The protocol defines three elements of human trafficking.
The first is the act, meaning what is done, including the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons.
Second is the means, meaning how it is done, including by use of threat or force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, or the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person.
Third is the purpose, meaning why it is done, including for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
The challenge is that when Canada added the offences of human trafficking to the Criminal Code in 2005, we added another element that departed from the international standard in the Palermo protocol. Canada's Criminal Code defines exploitation in human trafficking offences as follows:
a person exploits another person if they cause them to provide, or offer to provide, labour or a service by engaging in conduct that, in all the circumstances, could reasonably be expected to cause the other person to believe that their safety or the safety of a person known to them would be threatened if they failed to provide, or offer to provide, the labour or service.
This extra burden of proof has become a real challenge in securing human trafficking convictions across Canada. Proving exploitation requires evidence that a reasonable person standing in the shoes of the survivor would be afraid or fearful. The problem with that is that in many cases of human trafficking, there may not be fear of any kind.
For example, the Palermo protocol lists fraud, deception and abuse of power as examples of how traffickers might exploit someone. In cases of trafficking involving these examples, fear is quite unlikely to be present.
We know that in Canada the most common types of human trafficking cases involve the Romeo pimp, or boyfriend pimp, where a young girl or woman is exploited by a person she believes to be her lover or boyfriend. Police see this over and over again.
In these cases, police know the girl is being trafficked but she has no fear of her trafficker. She is in love with him, and in many cases the hands of the police are tied, even when she becomes fearful. It could take months before the trafficker becomes violent or the first time she disobeys him or tries to leave, but she is being trafficked the whole time.
I suspect that the parliamentary secretary has prepared a response about how Canada is fully in alignment with the Palermo protocol, and will talk about the national hotline and the strategy they finally released last September, three years after it expired.
I am proud to say that the alignment of the offences with the Palermo protocol is part of the Conservative Party's platform and would like to see this as a priority for the government.