Madam Speaker, as my colleague said, many people have been working on this for a long time. He mentioned 2019, but it has been going on a lot longer than that.
I want to take this opportunity to thank certain key people: Senator Ataullahjan, who brought this forward in the Senate; Senator Boisvenu for his advocacy; and colleagues here in the House, who took time this afternoon to speak to this bill, especially my colleague from Peace River—Westlock and the member for St. Albert—Edmonton.
I want to thank key staff members, Rhonda Kirkland from my office and Joel Oosterman, as well as many stakeholders, including Holly Wood from BRAVE, the Durham Regional Police and all the victims, victims' groups, moms and dads, survivors and workers. Of course, I also want to thank my constituent, Darla; through her courage, her story of human trafficking across the Canada-U.S. border became one of the great motivations for this bill. Instead of allowing the experience to define her, Darla brought it to the attention of her community leaders.
This bill, although a small step, is a step in the right direction. We need to move towards modernization and change. Instead of seeing a decrease in human trafficking, this modern-day slavery, we are indeed seeing this practice expand. Things are getting worse. We are hearing more and more about human trafficking. Police data indicated that human trafficking increased elevenfold between 2010 and 2016. This is why the bill needs to pass as soon as possible.
The bill's purpose is to align Canada's Criminal Code with that of the 2000 Palermo Protocol. It removes the unfair burden placed on exploited individuals, who must prove under current Canadian law that there is an element of fear in their abuse in order to obtain a conviction in court.
Again, let us pause on this very point. There is no debate about it: A horrible crime of human trafficking has occurred. However, under current Canadian law, the victim is required to prove fear in order for a conviction to occur. This is absurd and backwards. The victim should not be forced to prove their state of mind. For example, if there were absolute proof of a human trafficking crime, would the offender be convicted if fear could not be proven? That is absurd.
Everyone agrees that we should not treat human trafficking victims so differently. Things need to change, and time is passing. The Palermo Protocol was adopted over 20 years ago, and Canada signed it then. This bill makes a very small change, and I want to read it into the record:
For the purposes of sections 279.01 to 279.03, a person exploits another person if they engage in conduct that
(a) causes the other person to provide or offer to provide labour or a service; and
(b) involves, in relation to any person, the use or threatened use of force or another form of coercion, the use of deception or fraud, the abuse of a position of trust, power or authority, or any other similar act.
This is a very short amendment.
It has been over 20 years. Let us make the commitment today to pass the bill, which I think every member could get behind. The statistics are ominous. Human trafficking generates $32 billion annually, with over 40 million victims every year. Fewer than 8% of perpetrators charged with human trafficking have ever been prosecuted. Few perpetrators are even charged with the crime.
Human trafficking is happening today within 10 blocks or 10 minutes of our home, as my colleague just said. Traffickers search out young people who are homeless, addicted or traumatized: our most vulnerable.
This is the story of so many victims and survivors. I am standing here today for Darla and all the vulnerable individuals who are facing or have faced the crime of human trafficking. I am so proud and optimistic, listening to the speeches of my colleagues here in the House; it appears that the bill will get its day in committee. We are open to hearing from experts to see if we can make the best bill possible.
Everybody is in agreement that we have to abolish modern-day slavery. We need to urgently address the accelerating increase of human trafficking in our communities. I look forward to moving the bill to committee and fulfilling a promise of 23 years, a promise to victims and survivors, and a promise to Darla.