House of Commons Hansard #316 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


Opposition Motion—Federal Intrusions in the Exclusive Jurisdictions of Quebec and the ProvincesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

It being 5:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the motion.

If a member participating in person wishes that the motion be carried or carried on division, or if a member of a recognized party participating in person wishes to request a recorded division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

Opposition Motion—Federal Intrusions in the Exclusive Jurisdictions of Quebec and the ProvincesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I request a recorded vote.

Opposition Motion—Federal Intrusions in the Exclusive Jurisdictions of Quebec and the ProvincesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the division stands deferred until Monday, May 27, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

Respect for the Authority of the ChairPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to contribute to the point of order raised by the NDP House leader on April 30 and May 1, to which the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader made a significant addition on May 8.

At its heart, the point of order is, I believe, an effort to censor and silence the fallout from the controversial events that happened during question period on April 30, an event none of us will forget any time soon. The hon. member for Lethbridge was called to order about comments concerning the Chair. She withdrew those comments, yet was named by the Chair and kicked out for the day.

The member's withdrawal of her comments, which was recorded in the blues, never made it into the day's Debates. That is an important distinction, because the blues are the temporary recording and transcript of what happened in the House, but what actually gets published and permanently put up on the parliamentary website, and indeed printed, are the Debates. The withdrawal was in the blues but somehow never made it into the into the permanent record. The Chair is currently seized with a question of privilege concerning that alarming editing of our records to align with the Speaker's conduct.

Then, the Prime Minister referred to the Leader of the Opposition as having “spineless leadership”. Though the Speaker may have chided the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister was neither sanctioned nor disciplined. Immediately after, however, the Leader of the Opposition's next question also offered strong language, yet the Speaker applied a different standard to the Conservative Party's leader than he did to the Liberal Party's leader.

As a result, the Leader of the Opposition was also named and banished from the House for the day. Conservatives left the House for the balance of question period, as you might understand, after our leader had been, incredibly, ordered to stop questioning the Prime Minister about British Columbia's disastrous drug decriminalization experience and to leave the chamber. Nonetheless, I am not here to litigate that matter.

The main substance of the point of order now before the Chair lies in tweets many members of the Conservative caucus published in the minutes immediately following the shocking decision to name the Leader of the Opposition and expel him from the House in the middle of question period.

The NDP-Liberal coalition spokespersons on this matter have each suggested that various Conservative MPs must “withdraw their tweets”, which I assume means deleting the tweets, and apologize before returning to the House. In other words, they would prefer Conservatives just stay silent and not draw any public attention to how the House is operating during these days of an NDP-Liberal coalition government in Canada.

As I mentioned, those members raised this as a point of order. As you would know, points of order concern House proceedings and irregularity in procedures. It is also well established that statements made outside the House do not fall within the Speaker's purview to maintain order here, under points of order, within the chamber in ensuring that House proceedings run smoothly. I would refer the Chair to page 620 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, which says quite clearly, “The Speaker has no authority to rule on statements made outside the House by one Member against another.”

In fact, this point was made by the Assistant Deputy Speaker on April 30, when the NDP House leader first raised the point of order, saying, at page 22816 of the Debates, “The other [aspect] that was brought to the attention of the Speaker was the fact that statements are being made outside of the House by a member. The Speaker has no authority to rule on that, as the hon. member has indicated.”

Several of your predecessors have been invited to weigh in on statements made by members outside the walls of the chamber. In one of the earliest rulings concerning tweets, Speaker Milliken held, at page 1284 of the Debates for April 1, 2010:

It is clearly impossible for the Chair to police the use of personal digital devices by members, for example, by trying to distinguish whether certain texting has originated from the Chamber or not. Nor would the Chair want to change its longstanding practice of refraining from comment on statements made outside the House.

In any event, as you will recall, Conservative MPs exited the chamber after the Leader of the Opposition was named, so they had tweeted from outside the House. Moreover, since the leader and the hon. member for Lethbridge had been named, their subsequent tweets, which were among those of concern in the point of order, simply could not have been published from inside the chamber.

Turning back to the precedents on point, one of your more recent predecessors, Speaker Regan, said on November 20, 2017, at page 15303 of the Debates, “the Chair's role is very limited to the review of the statements made in a proceeding of Parliament. In other words, the Chair cannot comment on what transpires outside of the deliberations of the House or its committees.” Speaker Regan expanded upon this point in his October 30, 2018, ruling, at page 23033 of the Debates, stating, “As a result...the Speaker cannot be officially apprised of anything said to have transpired outside the walls of this place”.

Another of your predecessors explained the underlying principle for this approach on February 9, 2012, at page 5096 of the Debates:

We know that outside the chamber, when a member or anyone may say something that would offend or call into question someone's character, there are remedies that are not available inside the chamber. That is usually why the authority of the Speaker does not extend outside the chamber for things that are said.

In sum, Mr. Speaker, I would urge you to heed the well-trodden ground of your predecessors and find that the member's comments made outside the House, including tweets, simply do not come within your jurisdiction to maintain order within the chamber. A point of order raised on this very question simply is not under the Speaker's purview.

Before concluding, there is one final point I would like to add, because I know the Chair is seized with a couple of different aspects of the events of April 30. In a May 1 Canadian Press article on the opposition leader's naming, one might read this passage:

A spokesman for [the Speaker] said Wednesday that the Speaker didn't just single out [the leader of the opposition], noting he also asked [the Prime Minister] to reframe one of his questions after he called [the member for Carleton] a “spineless leader”.

“The prime minister reframed his answer,” Mathieu Gravel said.

Mathieu Gravel is the spokesman for the Speaker. That is a direct quote: “The Prime Minister reframed his answer”. The quote goes on:

“The Speaker offered [the Leader of the Opposition] four opportunities to withdraw his comment and reframe his question. [The Conservative Leader] did not avail himself of those opportunities.”

That is the Speaker's spokesman speaking on behalf of the Speaker publicly to the media on events that happened in the chamber.

Let me read Hansard from that day. There is the first interaction with the Speaker, saying, “I am going to ask two things. The first is that the hon. Leader of the Opposition withdraw that term, which is not considered parliamentary.” The opposition leader then said, “Mr. Speaker, I replace ‘wacko’ with ‘extremist’.”

The Speaker got up again and said, “I am going to ask the Leader of the Opposition once again to simply withdraw that comment, please.” The Leader of the Opposition said, “Mr. Speaker, I will replace it with ‘radical’.”

The Speaker then goes on to say, “I am going to ask the hon. Leader of the Opposition one last time to simply withdraw that comment, please.” Here is the key phrase that comes next; the Leader of the Opposition said, “Mr. Speaker, I simply withdraw it and replace it with the aforementioned adjective.”

Here we have the spokesman for the Speaker saying that the Prime Minister reframed his answer, as an excuse for why the Prime Minister did not face any sanction. The spokesman for the Speaker said that the Speaker offered four opportunities to withdraw his comments and reframe his question, and that the Leader of the Opposition did not avail himself of those opportunities.

As I just said, the Leader of the Opposition absolutely did withdraw it and reframe it, exactly as the Speaker's spokesman said publicly in the media but in a way to suggest that it did not happen. It actually happened, if we look at the video of that day's events and Hansard, which is printed.

If it is fair game for the Speaker, through his spokesman, to comment outside the chamber on House proceedings with what, I would submit, is an incorrect and inaccurate spin, then it can only be equally fair for other members to make their own comments outside the chamber about what happened during this unprecedented sequence of events. I trust that any ruling on this current point of order from the NDP-Liberal coalition would not result in double standards being created or extended.

Respect for the Authority of the ChairPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

I thank the hon. member for the intervention. Of course the Chair will take it under advisement and come back to the House as soon as possible.

The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader is rising on a point of order.

Respect for the Authority of the ChairPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I suspect if you were to canvass the House, you would find unanimous consent to see the clock at 5:30 p.m. to start Private Members' Business.

Respect for the Authority of the ChairPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

Is it agreed?

Respect for the Authority of the ChairPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Respect for the Authority of the ChairPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-224, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

There are two motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill S-224. Motions Nos. 1 and 2 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.

I will now put Motions Nos. 1 and 2 to the House.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON


Motion No. 1

That Bill S-224 be amended by restoring the long title as follows:

“An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons)”

Motion No. 2

That Bill S-224 be amended by restoring Clause 1 as follows:

“Criminal Code

1 (1) Subsection 279.‍04(1) of the Criminal Code is replaced by the following:


279.‍04 (1) 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.

(2) Subsection 279.‍04(2) of the Act is repealed.”

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Oshawa to speak to Bill S-224, a non-partisan bill which aims to further solidify the concept of exploitation, for the purpose of establishing whether a person has committed the offence of trafficking in persons and to remove the unfair burden placed on exploited individuals to prove that there was an element of fear in their abuse.

Before arriving at the stage of consideration at committee, Bill S-224 was introduced in the Senate and eventually passed unanimously in the Senate on October 6, 2022. I then had the immense distinction as a member of Parliament to sponsor and introduce this important bill for the first time here in the House of Commons two weeks later.

I would like to take a moment to thank Senator Ataullahjan for her collaborative effort and wonderful success in getting the bill through the Senate, a success I hope to share here in the House of Commons. I would also like to thank the member for Peace River—Westlock for his unwavering support throughout this process and, as well, for his unending commitment to end human trafficking.

Furthermore, I want to thank the amazing community of supporters, victims, moms and dads, survivors and workers. These individuals and many more like them have shown a dedication and servitude in making a difference in the lives of the vulnerable victims in everyone's communities. These people are real heroes and they are saving lives with the work that they are undertaking and that they are accomplishing.

When a member of Parliament has the opportunity to bring both Houses together for a common cause, it is truly an honour, especially with respect to a bill that represents a small change that would make a big difference in the lives of so many vulnerable people, people denied justice and people denied their human dignity.

Unfortunately, when Bill S-224 was considered in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the bill experienced a fatal outcome. The vital contents within it were completely gutted, the committee leaving the bill to just one page. By leaving the bill empty, and instead of passing any improved amendments, there has been a failure to solidify the concept of exploitation for the purposes of establishing whether a person has committed the offence of trafficking in persons, as well as a failure to remove the unfair burden placed on exploited individuals to prove that there was an element of fear in their abuse.

I would like to take a couple of minutes now to discuss an in-depth review of the importance behind the original contents of Bill S-224. This modern-day slavery initiative was first brought to my attention by Darla, a survivor friend and one of my constituents, and I would like to thank her for sharing her story with me. As a father, I was motivated by her story to look for real solutions to the problem.

At its heart, Bill S-224 aims to align the Canadian Criminal Code's definition of trafficking in persons with that of the 2000 Palermo protocol. Importantly, this would remove the unfair burden placed on exploited individuals who, under the current Canadian law, must prove that there was an element of fear in their abuse in order to obtain a conviction in court. When a crime is committed, there is no debate as to whether the acts have occurred, yet under Canadian law, the victim of trafficking is required to prove fear in order for a conviction to occur. The absurdity of the situation is unmatched. An offender could be released even if there was proof of the crime but the victim was unable to prove fear.

Why do we treat this particular crime so differently when it comes to exploitation in human trafficking? That is backwards. Instead, we need to make the focus on the perpetrator's actions, on the person who actually committed the crime, and not force a victim to prove an emotion, in this case fear. Something needs to change as this is not justice, and, in turn, this is not how a Canadian justice system should function.

Human trafficking is a plague, mostly on vulnerable young people and their families across Canada, in my area and in others'. I was hopeful, since I first sponsored and introduced Bill S-224 in the House, that my colleagues, regardless of their political stripe, would help me secure this long-overdue change to Canada's Criminal Code. Human trafficking does not discriminate, and my goal is to ensure that our country and local communities are safer for our most vulnerable young people.

Vulnerable young people often think of their abuser as their friend, thinking that their abuser cares for them and loves them. Those of us not involved in human trafficking can see that this is not the case. We see the coercion, manipulation and lies. We owe the victims justice.

Often the Crown's case depends on the victim's testimony, the only evidence against the trafficker. Without the victim's testimony, there is no case. In Canada, sometimes it takes years to come to court. There the victims can be victimized again and again. We have heard from experts that victims often deceive themselves and portray themselves within their own perception as not being victims.

We need to take serious and effective action to ensure that victims come forward and need to guarantee that they will not be repeatedly victimized. I once again raise within this House the dispute as to whether the crime of human trafficking has occurred should only be defined by the perpetrator's actions, rather than the victim's experience. Victims should not be revictimized by a system. We owe it to victims to make this small change that would make such a huge difference.

By amending the Criminal Code to reflect the international definition of trafficking in persons, as outlined in the Palermo protocol, we would enable the Crown to efficiently convict human traffickers. The Palermo protocol was adopted in November 2000 at the 55th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. It has 117 signatories, including Canada. Human trafficking is defined as the act of recruiting, transporting, harbouring and receiving a person by means of coercion, abuse of power or deception for the purpose of exploitation.

More than 24 years have passed, yet this small but important change is still not reflected in our Criminal Code. Let us not continue to make this another example of Canada's promises that never see concrete action. This is about protecting vulnerable Canadians from predators who exploit their victims for personal gain, and sadly, that gain is becoming greater and much more lucrative. Human trafficking generates more than $32 billion annually and abuses over 40 million victims each year.

Unfortunately, it is seen as a low-risk criminal activity here in Canada with a very high reward. According to Statistics Canada, fewer than 8% of perpetrators charged with human trafficking have been prosecuted. Let us think about that and consider this: Very few perpetrators are even charged. One witness felt we no longer needed the bill, due to the Ontario provincial rulings. However, we see that even with these provincial rulings, conviction rates remain shamefully low, which is why we need to restore this bill, Bill S-224, and to pass it here in the House. We can do better, and we must do better.

I stand here today for Darla from Oshawa and for countless other human trafficking survivors. I invite all members here to stand with me, and I am hoping that every member in the House still continues to support this initiative. I stand here for those who are being exploited tonight, right now, in plain sight, some right outside my office doors in downtown Oshawa. This does not end at my doorstep. Each member in the House of Commons can be sure this is happening right outside each of their doorsteps as well. My colleague from Peace River—Westlock has a statistic and saying that puts things into perspective: This crime of human trafficking is happening today, within 10 blocks or 10 minutes from one's home.

Human trafficking is on the rise, and it relies on abuse, coercion and manipulation. As I have said, victims are often convinced that their traffickers are their friends or their boyfriends. Traffickers have made promises of clothes, money, work, drugs, education and even protection. Many victims truly and naively believe that their traffickers have their best interests at heart. Traffickers prey upon the most vulnerable for a reason, as they also resort to violence and threats to make them do what they are told. Traffickers seek out young people dealing with substance abuse, traumas, addictions, abuse or homelessness. Women and girls, indigenous children, new immigrants, persons living with disability, LGBTQ2+ and migrant workers are among groups most at risk.

How can we continue to put so much responsibility upon these victims who have endured such unimaginable atrocities? If we do not amend the Criminal Code, these cases depend upon the victims' ability to perform on the witness stand. Remember, these are the same victims we just described as being vulnerable to gaslighting and manipulation. Some of these victims do not have the strength to fight our current system. They do not have the strength to stand up against slick lawyers and a system stacked against them. This is not justice, and it usually results in charges being dropped.

We need to give victims every possible tool that is available to allow the return of both their dignity and their humanity. The goal of Bill S-224 has been to implement a simple amendment to the Criminal Code, a very small modification that would make a huge difference in the ability of the Crown to prosecute human traffickers. There is no more settling for an 8% prosecution rate. To Darla, to the moms, to the dads, to the victims and to the wonderful Canadians who have dedicated their lives to ending human trafficking, this small change can happen, and the opportunity for us to come together to end this horrendous crime must not be lost.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario


James Maloney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to stand in the House on behalf of the residents of Etobicoke Lakeshore. This evening, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-224, an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to human trafficking.

I want to say at the outset that while we are unable to support the bill, I understand the objective the sponsor was trying to achieve, and it is a laudable one. The intention of the sponsor is to protect victims and to hold human traffickers accountable. However, after the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights' review of the proposed legislation, including hearing from a variety of witnesses, it was apparent that the bill raised significant legal concerns and would likely end up making it harder to prosecute human traffickers rather than easier, as was intended. Although the committee and the government cannot support the bill, I am very grateful for the opportunity this bill, Bill S-224, has provided to review the Criminal Code's human trafficking provisions. It is critical we do so to continue to ensure a robust response.

Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. It is often described as a modern-day form of slavery. It involves the recruitment, transportation, harbouring and/or control over the movement of persons for the purpose of exploitation, typically for sexual exploitation or forced labour. Human trafficking devastates its victims and survivors, their families, communities and society as a whole.

In Canada, available data primarily concerns human trafficking for sexual exploitation. Traffickers seek to profit from the sexual exploitation of others, treating victims as commodities for the traffickers financial gain. Between 2010 and 2021, the large majority of individuals accused of trafficking were men and were most commonly between the ages of 18 and 24. While we know that anyone can be targeted by a trafficker and can become a victim of human trafficking, between 2010 and 2021, 96% of police-reported victims were women and girls. Almost one in four, or 24%, of the reported victims were younger than 18 years old; half, 45%, were between 18 and 24 years old; and one in five, 20%, were between 25 and 34 years old. Moreover, women and girls are more at risk of being targeted by a trafficker when they are impacted by factors like poverty, isolation, precarious housing, substance use, history of violence, childhood maltreatment and mental health issues. In short, traffickers look for young women and girls in precarious situations and target these individuals for their own financial gain.

We also know that indigenous women and girls are disproportionately represented among those trafficked, or are at risk of being trafficked for sexual exploitation. The final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls speaks to many of the intersecting factors that increase the likelihood of being targeted by a trafficker, including systemic racism, violence against indigenous women and girls, intergenerational trauma from colonization, lack of access to social and economic resources, and colonial assimilation policies. The majority of victims are trafficked by someone they know. For example, nearly one-third of victims have been trafficked by a current or former intimate partner. In fact, some traffickers target and romantically pursue a potential victim with the specific intent of exploiting them.

Traffickers use manipulation and deception to exploit the vulnerabilities of those they target. This can include providing at-risk women and girls with affection, care and security. Why do they do this? They are positioning themselves as someone their victim can trust so that they can more easily control that victim. Once control is established, traffickers use a variety of tactics to maintain control. They may sexually and physically assault the victim, starve or confine the victim, engage in psychological abuse or threaten violence. They turn the victim's life into a living nightmare. Traffickers will go to great lengths to keep victims isolated and unable to seek help. They often separate victims from those who could help them, hiding them from the public and ensuring they do not have access to support. They may force victims to commit crimes while being trafficked and convince them that they will be arrested if they try to seek help.

We also know that victims may be unwilling or unable to seek help for a number of reasons, such as distrust of authorities, which is often created or fostered by the traffickers themselves, or because victims are fearful or ashamed, are not aware of their rights in Canada, are experiencing language barriers or are wanting to protect their trafficker. After being trafficked, victims may experience post-traumatic stress and memory loss as a result of the physical, sexual, financial, emotional and psychological abuse they were subject to while being trafficked.

Many victims live with both the physical and the psychological scars of the trauma they have endured. It is paramount that victims be supported and that the traffickers be brought to justice. I am assured by the fact that the Criminal Code contains a robust legislative framework governing human trafficking, which includes specific human trafficking offences, including trafficking in adults, child trafficking, materially benefiting from human trafficking and withholding or destroying identity documents to facilitate this crime, with maximum penalties up to life imprisonment.

As human trafficking cases are complex, additional offences may be used, depending on the facts, such as uttering threats, forcible confinement, assault and sexual assault. Bill S-224 sought to strengthen the framework, and I agree with the bill's sponsor that we must continue to reflect on how we can ensure the most robust legislative framework possible, and as I have said, I am grateful that we have had the opportunity to do just that.

We know that the Criminal Code's human trafficking provisions, which were first enacted in 2005, have been interpreted broadly and that they apply in a broad range of cases, including those that involve only psychological forms of coercion. I will quote from one committee witness, Dawne Way, who represented the victims of human trafficking and who opposes the bill. She said, for example, “I have two main reasons for taking this position. The first is that it is unnecessary, and the second is that the amendment would result in unintended delays and constitutional challenges that would be to the detriment of complainants.”

I want to conclude by expressing my thanks to Senator Ataullahjan and to the member for Oshawa for providing us with the opportunity to review the Criminal Code's legislative framework that criminalizes human trafficking. While I firmly believe we should be reviewing these important provisions to ensure they are achieving their important objectives, I am reassured by the court's broad interpretation, which is consistent with its objectives of protecting victims from the full range of exploiting conduct and of holding offenders to account.

Given the evidence that Bill S-224 is likely to make it harder to prosecute human trafficking rather than easier, we have to oppose the bill.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 23rd, 2024 / 5:40 p.m.


Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-224, which “amends the Criminal Code to specify what constitutes exploitation for the purpose of establishing whether a person has committed the offence of trafficking in persons”.

The Bloc Québécois supports the principle of this bill, because it is imperative that we discuss all the tools likely to help the authorities combat this scourge, which is getting worse as more people move around the globe and the number of refugees increases. This topic is near and dear to my heart, because I would actually like to point out that, although I was unable to attend the annual general meeting yesterday, I had expressed my interest in renewing my mandate as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking with my three other colleagues. There are four co-chairs, and we have been working on this issue for several years now.

I will talk about this bill by explaining it in greater detail, then I will talk a bit about the Palermo protocol, and then I will close by denouncing human smugglers.

First, this bill responds to the demands of several human trafficking survivors' groups and would make the definitions of exploitation and human trafficking more consistent with those set out in the Palermo protocol, which Canada signed in 2000. Bill S‑224 is very simple but very important. It removes a phrase from the Criminal Code stating that a charge under these provisions must be based on the fact that the victim believes “that their safety or the safety of a person known to them would be threatened” if they fail to comply. According to the International Justice and Human Rights Clinic at the University of British Columbia's Faculty of Law, asking victims to demonstrate that they have reasonable grounds to fear for their safety may be an obstacle to obtaining convictions for human trafficking. Elements of the offence of human trafficking are more difficult to prove than those of other similar offences. For example, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which prohibits human trafficking, does not require the person involved to prove that they fear for their safety. This standard is no longer appropriate.

Second, it is important to note that this issue transcends borders because of the Palermo protocol, which dates back to 2000. On May 13, 2002, Canada ratified the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Article 3 of the convention clearly defines trafficking in persons. That is how trafficking in persons was added to the Criminal Code in 2005. However, the Canadian definition does not match the one in the Palermo protocol, since the issue of consent or the victim's sense of security is taken into account in it. In Canada, the victim must prove that he or she was in danger or that he or she refused to be exploited.

In a case of trafficking in persons, regardless of whether the victim was initially willing or felt safe, the victim should not have to justify the circumstances under which they were lured in order to prove that trafficking in persons occurred. The U.S. State Department studied the legislation of its two neighbours, Canada and Mexico. Obviously, there is no real comparison. However, the report does make suggestions for Canada. It is important to remember that even if consent was given, such as consent to come to Canada, it does not mean that the person consented to the forced labour or sexual exploitation to which they were subsequently exposed, especially if the victim is dependent on someone because of isolation, lack of resources and language barriers.

In 2005, Bill C-49 added three human trafficking offences to the Criminal Code, as well as a definition. Trafficking in persons is now defined as receiving a financial or other material benefit for the purpose of committing or facilitating trafficking in persons, as set out in section 279. 02; withholding or destroying a person's identity documents—which happens sometimes or often, even—such as a passport, whether authentic or forged, for the purpose of committing or facilitating trafficking of that person, as set out in section 279.03; and exploitation for the purpose of human trafficking offences, as set out in section 279.04.

In 2008-09, the first case involving a human trafficking charge under this new legislation was completed in adult criminal court. In 2010, subsection 279.011(1) was added to the Criminal Code. It imposed mandatory minimum penalties for individuals accused of the “trafficking of a person under the age of eighteen years”. That was Bill C-268. In 2012, the Criminal Code was amended to allow for the prosecution of Canadians and permanent residents for human trafficking offences committed internationally and to provide judges with an interpretive tool to assist in determining whether exploitation occurred. That is in subsection 279.04(1), and it was Bill C-310.

In 2015, mandatory minimum sentences were imposed for the main trafficking in persons offence under section 279.1 of the Criminal Code, for receiving a material benefit from child trafficking under subsection 279.02 of the Criminal Code, and for withholding or destroying documents to facilitate child trafficking under subsection 279.03(2), stemming from former Bill C-454 introduced by the Bloc Québécois. We have been thinking about this issue for a few years now.

Let us talk about the link between human smugglers and human trafficking. In the context of trafficking in persons, it is important to recognize the related issue of migrant smuggling, which is often mistaken for human trafficking. Migrant smuggling, or what some might call migration assistance, consists of helping an individual cross a border illegally. The individual consents to being transported and makes a payment to the smuggler in exchange for the desired service. On their arrival, the individual can simply be dropped off and cease all contact with the smuggler.

In contrast, human trafficking involves deception, coercion or debt bondage with the aim of exploiting people who might be transported from one place to another. Victims do not necessarily cross borders.

Human trafficking and human smuggling often intersect because smuggled migrants often find themselves in situations of exploitation similar to those experienced by victims of trafficking. This may be the case for people who owe their smuggler money for transportation costs and have to work to pay it back. This is abusive, because the sums involved can be exorbitant when these people arrive. That can also be the case for migrant workers who are forced to work in exploitative conditions. In these cases, human trafficking charges could be laid, even if the smuggled migrants consented to the smuggling at the outset. Things can go sideways afterwards.

All of that contributes to the low rate of reporting. That is the problem. As one can imagine, when victims of trafficking realize what is happening, they hesitate to come forward. According to the sponsor of the bill in the Senate, Julie Miville-Dechêne, a 2018 report from Public Safety Canada explains that victims are often reluctant to report their situation, since they tend to believe that the success rate of prosecutions is very low. Prosecutors, for their part, find it difficult to reach the high threshold of evidence required for trafficking cases.

The statistics are startling. In 2019, 89% of human trafficking charges resulted in a stay, withdrawal, dismissal or discharge. Less than one in ten charges resulted in a guilty verdict. That is why we are examining this issue today.

According to a study by the University of British Columbia's Allard School of Law, there are approximately 4.8 million victims of sex trafficking alone, and 99% of them are female. Statistics Canada has indicated that, according to police-reported data, 2,977 incidents of human trafficking occurred between 2010 and 2020. During that period, 86% of incidents were reported in census metropolitan areas, compared to 58% of incidents of violence or approximately six out of 10. Over half, or 57%, of incidents involved human trafficking alone, whereas 43% also involved other types of crime, mainly offences related to the sex trade. The vast majority, or 81%, of accused human traffickers were men or boys, who were most commonly between the ages of 18 and 24, at 41%, followed closely by men between the ages of 25 and 34, at 36%.

Human trafficking cases took almost twice as long to resolve as cases involving violent offences in adult criminal courts. That is another problem. The median time it took to resolve a case involving at least one violent offence charge in an adult criminal court was 176 days. In contrast, the median time to resolve a case involving a human trafficking charge was 373 days.

It is still hard to get accurate data about the true extent of trafficking. All the organizations agree that it is a widespread problem that generates proceeds rivalling those of drug and gun trafficking. In 2014, the International Labour Office estimated that illegal profits in the general category of forced labour amounted to $150.2 billion U.S. per year, a figure that is still often cited today because it is so huge.

In closing, I too applaud the new provision proposed by Senator Ataullahjan, not least because it uses the terminology from the Palermo protocol, which means that it focuses on the actions of the trafficker, not the victims' fear. Victims' confidence and dignity must be restored, and they must be able to report what is happening to them. More of these cases need to be reported.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Bonita Zarrillo NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Shefford for all the work she does to protect exploited women and persons in Canada. I really appreciate all of the hard work she does.

New Democrats are supportive of measures that help victims receive justice through the justice system. This is why we wanted this bill to go to committee for study. The study was very important, and I believe that all members are committed to better laws that can truly protect people from human trafficking. This is one of the fastest-growing crimes in Canada, and it disproportionately affects women and girls. We heard from other speakers today that, in 97% of detected crimes, the victims of human trafficking were women and girls. As the member for Shefford said, a quarter of them are under the age of 18. This is children being exploited. It is a serious problem, and it must end.

What we heard in committee and in the study is that the bill, as it stood, would not provide more resources for targeting trafficking units and for law enforcement, and it would not make the struggle against trafficking more effective. In addition, changing the legal definition could have unintended consequences, particularly for sex workers. We heard that in committee.

My colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke received a petition from more than 60 organizations asking us not to proceed with this bill without further consultation, and members of the House know that the bill reported back to the House reflected that. The Conservatives, though, are now ignoring important community input, which is usually a Liberal tactic, I will say, and are attempting to put back in the bill exactly what the justice committee took out of it. That approach is not helping victims. If the Conservatives want to protect trafficked victims, they need to start pushing for actions that would help address trafficking crime. This must be the goal, and it must be the goal for Canada. We must do this.

Casting a broad net, as the original bill did, risks the mistake of defining all sex work as trafficking and missing actual cases of trafficking. When we think about young girls, children, we need to make sure that we can get at every case of trafficking.

I will close by reiterating that additional enforcement resources are needed now, and additional services for survivors are needed now. These resource investments would have greater impact on reducing trafficking than any legislative change that would come from the bill.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill S-224. This is an incredible bill that would do important work when it comes to fighting human trafficking.

I want to acknowledge the hard work of the sponsors of the bill: Senator Ataullahjan, who steered this bill through the Senate, and the MP for Oshawa, who has been championing this bill and this issue here in the House for many years.

This bill is critical to Canada's effort to target and apprehend pimps and traffickers, and I want to begin by reviewing the bizarre situation we found ourselves in today.

The bill before us was an empty bill. It did not even have a title. However, Bill S-224 was introduced in November of 2021 in the Senate. It passed second reading there in April 2022, and by October it had been passed by the Senate unanimously.

Here in the House, Bill S-224 passed second reading unanimously and was sent to committee, where a number of survivors and frontline organizations all called in their testimony for this bill to be passed.

Then last June, when I was at the final justice committee meeting on this bill, it became clear that the NDP and the Liberals suddenly did not want this bill to pass. I was shocked to see the Liberals and the NDP gut this bill during clause-by-clause consideration. I had never seen anything like this before. They had an option of recommending that the House not proceed, but instead they gutted the bill and removed even the title and sent it back here as a blank piece of paper.

This bill on fighting human trafficking had unanimous support every step of the way through the Senate and the House of Commons until seven Liberals and an NDP MP decided to destroy it, so here we are today debating important amendments to restore the clauses of the bill.

Survivors and frontline anti-trafficking organizations are calling for this bill to be passed because our human trafficking laws are not accomplishing what we want them to do. Our current human trafficking laws put a burden of proof on the mindset of the victim rather than on the actions of the traffickers. This is contrary to the international legal standard called for in the Palermo protocol, which Canada signed on to over 20 years ago. The Palermo protocol defines human trafficking based on the actions of the traffickers, such as the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, or abduction, fraud, deception, or abuse of power or position of vulnerability. In contrast, our laws are much more narrow.

At the committee, Dr. Janine Benedet, a law professor from UBC's Allard School of Law, told justice committee members that:

the definition of trafficking in the [Canadian] Criminal Code at present is unnecessarily convoluted and too restrictive. It is very hard for victims to come forward, and having an offence that is so difficult to prove makes matters worse. ... Removing the requirement to prove reasonable fear for safety, as this bill does, would be very helpful, because it is inappropriate to impose a reasonableness requirement on victims. We should be focusing on the actions of the trafficker.

Dr. Benedet also pointed out that the fear of safety is not the only way that traffickers influence and control their victims, and we do not require this type of subjective focus from victims for other laws, such as the law on sexual assault.

We have seen the impact of this restrictive definition on human trafficking in the Criminal Code. For the 10-year period between 2011 and 2021, only 12% of adult human trafficking cases resulted in a guilty decision, which is only one in eight cases. Human trafficking cases are half as likely to result in a guilty finding as cases involving sexual offences or violent crime. This is tragic, and it is largely because convictions so often require the testimony of victims.

This gap in our law has even been noted by our strongest ally. Every year for the past few years, the Government of the United States' “Trafficking in Persons Report” has urged Canada to amend the Criminal Code to include a definition of trafficking that has exploitation as an essential element of the crime, consistent with international law.

An important question we always need to ask about any legislation is this: Who stands to benefit if the bill is defeated? For example, we have seen over the past number of years how Liberals have worked to protect big pharmaceutical companies. In fact, over the past few years, Liberal cabinet ministers have aided big pharmaceutical companies by keeping drug prices high for Canadians. The Liberals have helped to bring more profits into the pockets of big pharma executives.

Who stands to benefit if Bill S-224 is gutted or defeated? Pimps and traffickers do. That is tragic. However, it is consistent with the government. It has blocked consecutive sentencing for traffickers after being adopted by Parliament; reduced human trafficking offences to a hybrid offence, meaning traffickers would sometimes get away with as little as a fine; and extending house arrest for human trafficking offences. Who benefits from all these changes? Pimps and traffickers do.

Further, the government has been negligent in appointing judges. This year, a sex trafficker had two separate human trafficking cases thrown out because of delays. Each time these cases collapse, it denies justice to victims and their families, and it allows dangerous individuals to return to the street.

Let me be clear: By killing this bill, the Liberals and the NDP are helping traffickers stay out of jail. They are making it easier for traffickers to continue their business as usual. The Liberals and the NDP are helping to put more money in the pockets of violent pimps.

I want to conclude by highlighting the important testimony from the survivors and advocates who showed up at the justice committee.

Wendy Gee, the executive director of A New Day Youth and Adult Services, and a mother of a daughter who was trafficked, told the committee this: Out of all the young women the organization has supported, only two have come forward and provided a statement to law enforcement about the trafficking situation. Wendy urged the committee to adopt Bill S-224, stating the following:

Eliminating the burden of proving they were fearful while they were exploited tells a victim that we believe them, that what they have endured was not a measure of their worth or value, was not indicative of the type of treatment they deserved and was not the result of poor decision-making, and that their victimization will not be [allowed to continue] by our justice system.

Casandra Diamond, a survivor of trafficking, and the founder and executive director of an organization called BridgeNorth, also spoke to the committee. She said:

Bill S-224 would support victims by reducing the burden they experience when testifying and trying to prove they feared their trafficker. The proposed amendment would eliminate the difficult requirement that the Criminal Code currently places on prosecutors to show that there was reasonable basis for the survivor to fear for her safety. This would account for situations, like mine, where my trafficker had manipulated me to see him as someone who offered safety and protection, rather than the one who facilitated brutal sexual violence against [me as he trafficked me]. This bill would support victims in coming forward in the court process and reduce barriers, which would allow more victims to feel safe to share their allegations over time.

Casandra ended her testimony by saying, “Canada's trafficking survivors deserve better than what we currently have, and Bill S-224 is that better.”

I would ask my NDP and Liberal colleagues if they believe survivors such as Casandra, who have made it clear that the bill would make an extreme difference. I know my Liberal and NDP colleagues believe that a survivor deserves better. Do they believe it when survivors say that Bill S-224 is that better?

Canada needs to do much more in its fight against human trafficking, and the proposed bill is an important start. That is why I am pleased to support restoring the text of the bill today, and I urge all my colleagues to support this. I want to thank my colleague from Oshawa for his great work on the bill and all the survivors who have been relentless in calling for this change.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Niagara Centre Ontario


Vance Badawey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity today to speak about Bill S-224, an act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons).

This is a bill that presents the opportunity to consider Canada's criminal justice response to human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a devastating crime that involves recruiting, moving or holding victims in order to exploit these individuals for profit, usually for sexual exploitation or forced labour. Traffickers can control and pressure victims through force or through threats, including mental and emotional abuse and manipulation.

Human traffickers prey on individuals who may be in challenging situations. This could be someone who is not in contact with their family, struggling with their identity, a survivor of abuse or someone in desperate need to work for money. Whatever the reason, victims are often unaware that they are being groomed, as traffickers are often expert manipulators.

Human trafficking can involve crossing borders and, according to the UN, is becoming more difficult to detect. In 2022, for the first time, the UN reported a decrease in the number of victims detected globally. The “Global Report on Trafficking in Persons” posits that this decrease may be due to a lower institutional capacity to detect victims, fewer opportunities to traffic resulting from COVID-19 preventive restrictions and a proliferation of clandestine trafficking locations.

The UN also highlighted that climate change is multiplying trafficking risks. Climate migrants are vulnerable to trafficking, and in 2021, 23.7 million people were displaced by weather-induced natural disasters, while many others crossed borders to escape climate-induced poverty.

Importantly, human trafficking is not just a problem that occurs internationally; it is happening right now in communities across Canada.

Most trafficking convictions in Canada involve Canadian citizens. In some cases, however, they involve permanent residents or foreign nationals who are trafficked into Canada. These individuals may enter the country willingly, only to later find themselves in exploitative situations. For both internationally and domestically trafficked persons, vulnerability to being trafficked is heightened by economic deprivation, lack of opportunity or social isolation. In Canada, this includes population groups such as indigenous women and girls, migrants and new immigrants, members of the LGBTQ2 community, persons with disabilities, children in care and other at-risk youth.

I would also like to underscore the particular impact of human trafficking on indigenous women and girls.

The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls emphasizes the disproportionate impact of human trafficking and sexual exploitation on indigenous women and girls due to intersecting factors that increase the likelihood of being targeted by a trafficker. These include systemic racism, violence against indigenous women and girls, intergenerational trauma from colonization, lack of access to social and economic resources, and colonial assimilation policies.

That is why Canada has continued to demonstrate leadership in combatting human trafficking. Back in 2005, Canada enacted human trafficking offences in the Criminal Code. Those offences have been amended several times—including by our government in 2019 through former Bill C-75, which Conservatives are fond of maligning—to ensure a robust response.

For example, Bill C-75 brought into force a provision that allows prosecutors to prove one of the elements of the human trafficking offence, that the accused exercised control, direction or influence over the movements of a victim, by establishing that the accused lived with or was habitually in the company of the victim. We have heard the Conservatives say they would repeal Bill C-75, so I am curious as to whether they also plan to repeal this provision.

Moreover, in 2019, the Government of Canada launched the national strategy to combat human trafficking. This strategy is led by Public Safety Canada and is a five-year, whole-of-government approach to address human trafficking. It frames federal activities under the internationally recognized pillars of prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships. It also includes a fifth pillar of empowerment, which aims to enhance supports and services for victims and survivors of human trafficking.

Additionally, the Department of Justice's victims fund helps to ensure that victims and survivors of crime have improved access to justice and to give them a more effective voice in the criminal justice system. Since 2012, the Department of Justice has undertaken policy and program development through the federal victims strategy to support non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders to provide services and supports for victims and survivors of human trafficking. Since 2018, the victims fund has had an allocation of $1 million annually to support victims and survivors of human trafficking.

In terms of our legislative approach, the Criminal Code's main trafficking offence prohibits recruiting, transporting or harbouring victims to exploit them or to facilitate their exploitation by someone else under section 279.01. Separate offences criminalize materially benefiting from human trafficking under subsection 279.02(1) and withholding or destroying identity documents, whether authentic or forged, to facilitate human trafficking under subsection 279.03(1). In addition to these adult-trafficking offences, the Criminal Code also contains child-specific human trafficking offences. I stress that all of these offences have extraterritorial application, meaning that a Canadian or a permanent resident who engages in this conduct abroad can be prosecuted in Canada under subsection 7(4.2).

Importantly, convictions have been secured under these offences, including where traffickers have exploited their victims' vulnerabilities without using physical violence. Both the Ontario and the Quebec courts of appeal have found that under the existing human trafficking offences, prosecutors do not need to prove that the victim was actually afraid, that the accused used or threatened the use of physical violence or even that exploitation actually occurred. Prosecutors need only prove that a reasonable person in the victim's circumstances would believe their physical or psychological safety would be threatened if they failed to provide the labour or services required of them.

We look forward to proceeding with this discussion this evening, and I will end my comments here.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Marc Dalton Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to Bill S-224, an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to trafficking in persons.

The adoption of this legislation would remove the unfair burden placed on exploited individuals to prove that there was an element of fear in their abuse. That is very significant, “fear in their abuse”. Right now, they have to prove that they were afraid. It is incomprehensible how the Liberals have essentially gutted this entire bill and left it with a title.

We just heard very solemn comments from the previous Liberal member. However, at the same time, the Liberals are actually doing quite the contrary. They are not protecting people, primarily women and girls, from being trafficked.

On the weekend, I heard a presentation from Ally Global Foundation about the work that it is doing worldwide. I saw a video of children from Nepal and other countries, and how they were basically being sold by their families for a very minimal amount of money, or kidnapped, used as sex slaves or used for labour. They are abused and traumatized for the rest of their lives, if not killed.

There are millions of people who are being trafficked around the world. It is modern-day slavery. The thing is that it is not just happening offshore. It is happening here in Canada. It is happening here in Ottawa and where I live, in Maple Ridge, in the Vancouver area. It is happening everywhere.

A lot of what is happening is that these Canadians are lured through the Internet. Children, 12 years old or older, are lured into sex slavery. They are not even aware of what is happening. Then they get caught up in this life and get addicted to drugs. We are seeing a massive increase in the opioid crisis: 42,000 have died in the past number of years. In British Columbia, last year alone, a record 2,500 died. Many of those on drugs have been addicted through human trafficking. That is a big concern.

Conservatives want to bring in significant penalties. We had a mandatory minimum penalty before, which was removed by the Liberal government. Right now, a trafficker can get away with a small fine, $5,000, with no time in jail, for ruining lives.

We need to take this very seriously. It is spreading its tentacles, and those tentacles need to be cut off. I have a great concern. I am Métis. The indigenous population comprises approximately 4% of Canada's population. An astounding 50% of those who are trafficked in Canada are indigenous. That is devastating.

Indigenous women and girls are being trafficked, and it is destroying our people, my people, our people as Canadians. How can we bring reconciliation? How can we see redemption? How can we see growth and healing? This is something important. The government has an obligation to protect the most vulnerable, who are maybe going through some problems. I think of teenagers. I was a teacher for many years, and we were all teenagers at one time, but youth go through difficult times of feeling vulnerable. They are looking for security and looking for relationships. Traffickers and criminal gangs look for those who are a bit ostracized and they wean them through gifts, attention and so-called love. It is really a way to trap them and to use them for financial purposes. They treat girls and women like objects.

This is something for which, as legislators, we need to bring in the most stringent of consequences in order to set the people free. In our country, this is unacceptable. Also, I am aware of people who come from other countries, new immigrants, who get caught up in jobs and do not know how to get out of it. It could be through some type of employment like massages, or it could be a variety of things, and the person becomes trapped in this lifestyle and does not know where to turn.

I know this is going to go to committee afterwards. I really am hopeful. I should not say I am hopeful, because I have not seen a lot of evidence on the Liberal side of taking crime very seriously. We have seen a massive increase in assaults, gangs, car thefts and everything. Liberals have reduced the consequences for all sorts of criminal activity, so we see the same people repeating crime time after time.

In Vancouver alone, I believe last year or the year before, the same 40 offenders committed 6,000 crimes that we are aware of. It was just like a turnstile. We cannot have this destructive practice happening. We cannot just let the cancer in there; it needs to come out. We need strong legislation, so I really do hope the Liberals and the NDP supporting them will come to their senses and pass this.

It has already gone through the Senate. I want to thank my colleagues, the MP for Oshawa and the MP for Peace River—Westlock, for their efforts when they brought it in 2019, as well as many others. There are a lot of people who say they are concerned. We hear about it from all sides. We hear about the concern, but let us put that concern into action by changing the legislation.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Greg Fergus

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

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

Electoral ReformAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening in Adjournment Proceedings to pursue a question that I asked on February 5 of this year. It relates to a very key issue in our democracy, and that is our voting system, the winner-take-all system known as first past the post. We are one of the very few democracies on this planet that uses a system that separates the popular vote from the Parliament that is created from the seat count. It is a perverse system, and, as I put in my question back on February 5, one that many Canadians find unacceptable.

One of the reasons for the Liberals' election victory in 2015, and there is no question about it, was the promise that “2015 will be the last election held under...first-past-the-post”. It was in the election platform. It was then put in the Speech from the Throne. I joined a special standing committee of this place that toured Canada, listened to thousands of Canadians, heard from tens of thousands of Canadians. It was created as a standing committee on electoral reform to recommend a system that would replace first past the post, because we all believed and, I swear on a stack of Bibles, I believed the Liberal promise that 2015 would be the last election under first past the post.

The job of our committee was to come up with an alternative voting system that would be fair and would ensure that the popular vote was reflected in the Parliament that was created. On February 2, 2017, that promise was broken in spectacular fashion as a new minister, recently shuffled, got up in front of the mics out there and said that it is not in their mandate letter anymore, that they were not changing the voting system. There was then the excuse, the fake excuse, that there was no consensus. The Liberals invented a new condition never previously mentioned. They ran an election. They won based on telling people that 2015 would be the last election under first past the post.

The answer I received from the parliamentary secretary was more than inadequate, but so was the result. My question was this. Would this government at least agree to pass Motion No. 86, which was to create a citizens' assembly so Canadians could have a jury of our peers?

They did not listen to the parliamentary committee. They did not listen to the people of Canada in the vote, who said, yes, we will vote for Liberal candidates because 2015 will be the last election under first past the post.

That motion to create a citizens' jury went down to defeat, but I do not think we should give up on it. What happens when one makes a promise to Canadians and then one walks away from it and one breaks it? It is not that one has walked away from the problem. One has turned one's back on Canadians. One has fed into a well of increasing cynicism, disgust and distrust in the people of this country, in the voters of this country. It is not too late to return. This is what I want to pursue tonight.

How do we return to the promise that was broken and actually keep it? How do we let Canadians know that voting in Canada can become fair, that the way we vote will be reflected in the Parliament we elect? It is not too late.

I put it to this government: “Keep your word, bring the promise back and get rid of first past the post.”

Electoral ReformAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I know that the leader of the Green Party might not necessarily like this answer, but the truth of the matter is that, back then, there was no consensus achieved. I also know that the leader of the Green Party is very familiar with the history of this debate, not only here in Ottawa, but in other jurisdictions. Other provinces and other political parties, at the provincial level, for many years have been calling for a change to the first-past-the post system, yet all provinces, and here in Ottawa, have continued with first past the post. It has proven to be acceptable to governments, for the most part. Elections have been acceptable. I will acknowledge that there have been some anomalies that have caused a great deal of concern.

Reflecting back on what took place during that 2016-17 period, and the discussions around the table at the time, it became clear that we were not going to be able to achieve consensus. Some people were advocating preferential ballot, as an example, while others were talking about a different form to change elections. At the end of the day, we have seen provinces have independent groups do research into how they believed the province could change the system. That has taken place on several occasions. We have seen referendums at the provincial level.

What I have witnessed over my relatively short term of 30-plus years as a parliamentarian is that first past the post continues to be the preferred choice of Canadians, governments and opposition parties, consistently. At times, the issue of electoral reform does come up. A good percentage of people are very much concerned about it and looking at ways to change the system. Maybe we will see some sort of a change in the future, in particular at a provincial level, where we will be able to look at what that province is doing. Until we can achieve that consensus, I do not believe that we are in a position where we can see the type of change that the leader of the Green Party would like to see. I do not say that lightly.

I have been in a political party in Manitoba where there were only two Liberal MLAs. In fact, my daughter is the only Liberal MLA currently in Manitoba. I understand the arguments on all sides from a number of people who would like to see electoral change. I know of the examples where one party gets a majority of the vote, yet it does not get a majority of the seats.

All in all, when we weigh things out, we find that people are accepting and content with first past the post because it has been working for Canada to date. Until we can build that consensus, I think we need to stick with that.

Electoral ReformAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the problem is that the Liberals did not put out an election platform in 2015 that said, “If we can find consensus, we'll change the voting system”. No, it was unequivocal. The promise was that 2015 would be the last election under first past the post, not “If we can find consensus”. That was invented ex post facto after they won the election. Good MPs, like Craig Scott for Toronto Danforth, lost their seats. NDP supporters had gone up to him, saying, “Gee, Craig, I'm really sorry. I've always voted for you, but I'm not going to vote for you this time. I'll never have to vote strategically again because the Liberals are going to get rid of first past the post”.

We believed their lies. It is a damn shame to lie to Canadians. Shame.

Electoral ReformAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, those were strong words that the leader used. I think we need to recognize that there was a genuine attempt to change the system. We surrendered the majority by allowing the majority to be opposition members, including the leader of the Green Party. There was a genuine attempt made, but let us also recognize that we could not get consensus. Therefore, it would not have been appropriate for the government to move forward on the issue.

At the end of the day, I believe it is important that we reflect on what took place. Maybe we can talk about some of those details later, because we do not have the time needed to do so now. I would be more than happy to share some more intimate discussions with the member on this important issue.

Persons with DisabilitiesAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Bonita Zarrillo NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, National Caregiver Month is almost over and yet Canada's caregivers are no better off due to the inaction of the government.

Earlier today, my hon. colleague from Hamilton Centre pointed out that workers from SEIU and other personal support workers have been waiting for three years. The government promised that these workers would get help with building their retirement savings. It made these promises in the 2020 fall statement, the 2021 budget and the 2023 budget. Even though $50 million was allocated for their pension program, that money has not yet flowed. This is unacceptable.

I want to talk about the Canadian Centre for Caregiving Excellence report that was recently released, which said that caregivers in this country are caring for aged people and are not being compensated appropriately. According to the report, 57% of all caregivers are women, who are not being compensated in the work that they do. Of these caregivers, more than one in five pays more than $1,000 out of their very own pocket to take care of loved ones. Unpaid caregivers who are already working full-time provide an average of four and a half hours per day caring for their loved ones. This means that on any given week, they are putting in an extra 30 hours of work caregiving.

These costs to our caregivers are continuing to rise as things become more unaffordable. They have to take more time to support their loved ones and they have more expenses. The Liberals said they would fix this, but they continue to let down women as they refuse to make the Canada caregiver tax credit refundable. New Democrats know that Canadian caregivers deserve respect, and we cannot help but show gratitude for the tireless work that paid and unpaid caregivers do every day.

Care work is the backbone of our society and is essential to our future, but, like the government has shown, it is far too often undervalued and underappreciated. The data shows that caregivers need more support and with the cost of living going up, they need the financial support that has been promised by the government for years.