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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was chair.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Mississauga—Erindale (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 39% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act October 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Kildonan—St. Paul for her question. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the tremendous work she has done over many years to fight for the rights of trafficked persons in Canada and around the world. She deserves a lot of credit for that.

The Liberal member said earlier that he had a letter from 200 lawyers saying they thought the bill was unconstitutional and did not live up to the test in the Bedford decision. I practise in a law firm of over 950 lawyers, and there are 14,000 lawyers practising in the city of Toronto, if my memory serves me correctly. I think there are plenty of lawyers who agree with the constitutionality of this bill, and I am one of them.

The bill was crafted to directly respond to what was requested by the three litigants in the Bedford case. They asked for the right to carry on their trade from a fixed indoor location where they could adequately screen their clients and protect themselves, and Bill C-36 provides exactly for that. It allows them to get off the streets, to do it in a fixed indoor location, a safe place which has a receptionist and bodyguard, paid for on reasonable commercial terms which are not exploitive.

I believe those things, coupled with the statement of the purpose of the bill, which is to reduce prostitution and the harm done to both society and communities by prostitution, would ensure that the bill is found constitutional by the Supreme Court if it is ever tested in the future.

I want to say one further thing. Criminal lawyers know that if they cannot defend their clients on the facts, they always challenge the constitutionality of a bill. That is just common law practice.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act October 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is pretty clear I think to everyone, to the courts, that sexual services means the sexual gratification of the other person. There are many cases heard on the definition of that particular phrase, and I would suggest to my hon. friend that she take a look at some of those cases.

We need to take this opportunity, which was presented to us by the Supreme Court, to finally address this terrible trade that is enslaving far too many people in our country.

The hon. member asked why we would want to review the law in five years rather than two. The reason is that we need time to see how the law is being enforced and to have evidence come forward. Two years is a very narrow amount of time for that evidence to become available, but in five years we think it will be sufficient time. That was why I was pleased to support her suggestion for a mandatory review of the bill going forward, and with that small amendment to make it a five-year review as opposed to two.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act October 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the third reading debate on Bill C-36, the protection of communities and exploited persons act.

Bill C-36 is the government's response to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in December 2013 in the Bedford case, a decision that will result in the decriminalization of most adult prostitution related activities if this bill is not enforced before expiry of the court's one-year suspension, on December 20 of this year.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights studied the bill in July 2014 and a Senate committee on legal and constitutional affairs pre-studied it in early September. Both committees heard from many witnesses, reflecting a wide range of views. That evidence also included consideration of the available research evaluating different approaches to prostitution taken in different jurisdictions.

The government has always maintained that failing to respond to the Bedford decision is not an option and that the testimony before these two committees reaffirms this position.

At committee, the Hon. Andrew Swan, minister of justice and attorney general for the Government of Manitoba, stated the following:

The Manitoba government does not support the legalization of prostitution, it does not support the full decriminalization of prostitution or a de facto decriminalization of prostitution, which would occur if there was no response to the Bedford decision. All those options would continue to allow the purchase of others for sex, devalue human life, and enable tragedies associated with prostitution to continue to occur.

I acknowledge that there are some individuals who will say that they have freely chosen to sell their sexual services. The two committees heard from some witnesses who wanted the law to recognize a profession that they called “sex work”, who wanted the law to help them earn a living selling their own sexual services. They wanted the law to allow them to run commercial enterprises in which sexual services would be sold so they could capitalize on the prostitution of others.

These witnesses told the committees that existing laws prohibiting assault, sexual assault, forceable confinement and human trafficking provided them with sufficient protection and that they were not victims, that they freely chose what they referred to as “sex work” and that the state had no right to tell them that they could not earn a living doing what they chose to do.

Conversely, so many of the witnesses who appeared before the two committees spoke of their tragic stories of pain, suffering and victimization, stories of johns who had abused and degraded them for their own sexual pleasure and pimps who had harmed and exploited them to maximize their own profits.

These stories are also supported by statistics that clearly show that prostitution targets the marginalized, the disenfranchised and the vulnerable, including those who suffer disadvantages because of gender, poverty, race, youth and a history of abuse for addiction. We do not accept that this group should have to wait until a violent offence is committed against them to avail themselves of the law's protection. Make no mistake about it, Bill C-36 is for them.

Even if in some cases prostitution involves some who identify themselves as consenting adults, that does not detract from the validity of Bill C-36 objectives. Some times it is necessary to prohibit conduct that produces harm or risk of harm to individuals or society, even if not in every case. The courts have recognized that the liberty of some to engage in certain conduct can be constrained to protect others who are vulnerable to the harms associated with that conduct. This includes polygamy, incest, possession and trafficking of drugs and the trade in human organs and tissues. These are practices that so often involve a power imbalance between the participants. That imbalance often results in the more powerful party taking advantage of the less powerful party.

The criminal law has an important role to play in protecting the less powerful and the vulnerable. Even if in some cases a power imbalance is not present, the elevated risk that the vulnerable could be targeted, that the vulnerable could suffer if the activity is allowed to persist, warrants prohibition of the activity itself because harm results to everyone when a practice that targets the vulnerable is allowed to flourish.

Prostitution is a case in point. We know that women are disproportionately and negatively impacted by prostitution. We know that indicators of socio-economic disadvantage are risk factors for entry into and remaining subjected to prostitution. We know that involvement in prostitution results in the experience of high levels of violence, both physical and sexual, and emotional trauma, regardless of venue or legal regime. The individual and societal risks of validating this activity are simply too high.

Simply put, we cannot condone this so-called industry for the benefit of those individuals who claim to freely choose it, because doing so would exacerbate the harm experienced by that vulnerable group who are most at risk of subjection to prostitution, and importantly, do not choose it. Facilitating this industry would also harm communities, including through proliferation of associated criminality such as drug-related offences and human trafficking, as well as society at large by reinforcing gender inequalities and normalizing the treatment of primarily women's bodies as bought and sold.

Make no mistake, this is not a business like any other. It is not an industry like any other, or work like any other. It is exploitation of our most vulnerable and our law must say no, this is not acceptable. If that means that some who would like to profit from the trade in sexual services can no longer do so, then that result is necessary to prevent the ongoing and future victimization of others.

I have focused thus far on the vulnerability of so many of those who sell their own sexual services, but what about those who purchase those same services? Some have asked why Bill C-36 would label this group “exploiters” when some are not.

We must take into account a variety of societal factors when determining whether the criminal law should apply to certain conduct, including when that conduct can be engaged in consensually. If allowing that conduct results in a reasonable apprehension of harm to some, particularly the vulnerable, the application of the criminal law is justified.

Bill C-36 recognizes that the act of purchasing sexual services, regardless of the circumstances, contributes to a serious societal problem that implicates the equality of rights of marginalized and vulnerable groups. That practice must be stopped to protect the dignity and equality of those vulnerable groups and indeed every member of our society. This approach reflects one of the fundamental roles of criminal law, which is to protect the vulnerable.

These are the reasons Bill C-36 proposes a fundamental paradigm shift toward treatment of prostitution as sexual exploitation. These are the reasons Bill C-36 proposes to continue to criminalize those who capitalize upon the exploitation of the prostitution of others. These are the reasons Bill C-36 proposes to criminalize those who fuel the demand for prostitution.

I would like to recap. The important objectives of Bill C-36 are to reduce the incidence of prostitution, a practice that targets the vulnerable; to discourage entry into it; to deter participation in it; and ultimately, to abolish it to the greatest extent possible.

For the first time in Canadian criminal law, Bill C-36 would make the purchase of sexual services a criminal offence. Although the sale of sexual services would not be prohibited, criminalizing the demand for sexual services in fact makes prostitution an illegal activity.

Some have said that an approach involving asymmetrical criminalization of a consensual activity is unprecedented, but the purchasing offence is almost identical to the existing offence that prohibits the purchase of sexual services from minors. That offence has been on the books for years and is the basis for widespread agreement on the fact that our existing law makes child prostitution illegal.

Here we see the very same power imbalance to which I have already alluded, and Bill C-36 recognizes that this power imbalance does not cease to exist simply when a person turns 18 years old. The law also treats sexual activity with minors asymmetrically. The consent of persons under the age of 16 to such activity is not valid. In several instances, the criminal law applies asymmetrically to ensure that the person who has less power, who is considered to be vulnerable, is not held criminally liable for engaging in illegal activities.

I come to the critical question that seems to have caused a great deal of confusion. How does Bill C-36 make prostitution illegal?

The Supreme Court of Canada has defined prostitution as the exchange of sexual services of one person in return for payment by another. Criminalizing the purchase of sexual services invalidates the entire prostitution transaction.

This is no different from the criminal law's approach to child prostitution, and research shows that there is good reason to treat child prostitution and adult prostitution as activities that exist along the same continuum rather than separate activities, warranting suppression in one case and facilitation in the other. In far too many cases, there is no practical difference in warranting differential treatment by the law.

Professor Benedet's testimony before the Senate committee drives this point home. Although long, I would like to quote her fully.

She said:

It is a crime to buy a young person for sex, and no one seems to be disputing the continued existence of that provision or questioning its constitutionality. No one is going to come to you and ask you to repeal that provision because it makes kids unsafe by pushing prostitution underground, even though exactly the same argument ought to apply.

The reason they will not argue it is that it is generally accepted that buying a young person is exploitation because of the inequality of power based on age, even if the kid says yes.

She goes on to say:

Of course, there are usually many other inequalities at work, including some combination of gender, colonialism, poverty and addiction. Yet, when the inequality of age is no longer present, people refuse to see any of the other inequalities that are so prevalent in the prostitution industry, even when that prostitute, now an adult, started as a child, which was true of many of the witnesses in the Bedford case.

I submit that it is time to stop ignoring those inequalities and that Bill C-36 does something very important in recognizing that there are other inequalities beyond age that make the prostitution industry exploitative and worthy of the criminal law's attention.

That is the end of the quote.

As I have said, Bill C-36 does not propose to criminalize the sale of sexual services, instead it proposes to immunize sellers from prosecution for the part they play in the illegal prostitution transaction.

This immunity does not, however, make that transaction legal. The approach does not in any way allow, authorize, facilitate or condone the selling of sexual services. Rather, it recognizes the power imbalance that so often manifests itself in this transaction.

The solution is to assist, not punish, the less powerful party to that transaction. I stress that so many sellers, some who courageously appeared before the two committees, rarely freely choose prostitution. For many, their choices were constrained, whether by the brute force of those who would profit from their exploitation or by the lack of meaningful options from which to choose.

This is the reason the bill proposes to immunize them from prosecution for the part that they play in the illegal prostitution transaction.

It is also why the government has dedicated $20 million in addition to other existing federal initiatives to assist sellers in leaving prostitution. Protecting those who are so vulnerable to the dangers and risks posed by prostitution involve preventing entry into it, helping those involved leave it, and directing the full force of the criminal law at those who fuel this trade, as well as those who capitalize on it.

I want to read to the House the words of a very courageous woman who appeared before the House of Commons justice committee in July this year. Her name is Bridget Perrier and I have to say that I was moved by her testimony. I think all who hear it will be equally moved. I want people to hear this. I think it is important that my colleagues here in the House hear it and that Canadians across the country hear it. She said:

I was lured and debased into prostitution at the age of 12 from a child welfare-run group home. I remained enslaved for 10 years in prostitution. I was sold to men who felt privileged to steal my innocence and invade my body. I was paraded like cattle in front of men who were able to purchase me, and the acts that I did were something no little girl should ever have to endure here in Canada, the land of the free.

Because of the men, I cannot have a child normally, because of trauma towards my cervix. Also, still to this day I have nightmares, and sometimes I sleep with the lights on. My trauma is deep, and I sometimes feel as though I'm frozen—or even worse, I feel damaged and not worthy.

I was traded in legal establishments, street corners, and strip clubs. I even had a few trips across the Great Lakes servicing shipmen at the age of 13. The scariest thing that happened to me was being held captive for a period of 43 hours and raped and tortured repeatedly at 14 years of age by a sexual predator who preyed on exploited girls.

My exploiters made a lot of money and tried to break me, but I fought for my life. My first pimp was a woman who owned a legal brothel, where I was groomed to say that I was her daughter's friend, if the police ever asked. My second pimp was introduced to me when I was in Toronto. I had to prostitute for money. He was supposed to be a bodyguard, but that turned out to be one big lie.

Both are out there still, doing the same thing to more little girls somewhere here in Canada.

In my view, if there is one more little girl like Bridget Perrier anywhere in Canada, we need to do something about it. We cannot stand idly by.

The Supreme Court said it is for us as parliamentarians to do something about this. It is within our jurisdiction to do something about this. She did not talk about legalizing brothels and bringing in municipal bylaws to regulate their hours of operation. She talked about using the laws for which Parliament is responsible, the criminal laws, to bring in a new way of responding to what is a horrible practice in our country.

We must aspire to a society free from the exploitive practices that target our most vulnerable members, a society that prioritizes dignity and equality of all. For Bridget Perrier, for Timea Nagy, for Katarina MacLeod, and for the dozens and hundreds of others out there, we must do this.

I hope my colleagues on the other side of the House, especially the Liberals, who do not seem to be able to make up their minds, will choose to support Bill C-36. Do the right thing and recognize the women who are trapped in this business as victims and help them to bring an end to this awful practice that has enslaved far too many in our society.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act October 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member has just mentioned that the government did not present any witnesses who were, outside of government, legal experts who would support the constitutionality of Bill C-36. I am happy to have the opportunity to stand and correct him.

The member said that he watched the House of Commons proceedings in the summer. I hope he had a chance to hear the testimony of Professor Benedet of the University of British Columbia, not a government lawyer, at both the House of Commons and the Senate committee hearings.

I would like to read for him the transcript from Professor Benedet's appearance before the Senate proceedings where she was asked a question by Senator Plett.

Senator Plett said:

My question is whether you believe that this proposed law is, in fact, in accordance with the Bedford ruling. If so, how? Do you believe that, in fact, it will stand the test of a challenge to the Supreme Court?

Professor Benedet answered:

Yes, I do. I do believe both that the law is a genuine attempt to respond to the restrictions put on Parliament by the decision in Bedford, and it does seem to me, that the law is crafted in a way that it meets the demands of the Charter.

She further went on to say:

Overall, I see here a bill that is largely attuned to the concerns that the court raised. If the argument that is being made is that criminalizing the purchase of sex is inherently unconstitutional, we have to recognize what is being asserted then is that there is a constitutional right to buy women in prostitution. My reading of the Charter of Rights, particularly in light of the equality provisions, doesn't support that conclusion.

Could the member comment on Professor Benedet's analysis and at least acknowledge that in fact there are legal experts who support the constitutionality of this bill?

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act October 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my honourable friend talked about the courage of convictions of parties with respect to the issue of prostitution and referred to the Supreme Court decision in the Bedford case. She will know that the Chief Justice said that it will be for Parliament, should it choose to do so, to devise a new approach reflecting different elements of the existing regime.

Our government is taking a courageous stand. For the first time in Canadian history, we are saying that prostitution victimizes people. It victimizes vulnerable women and girls and young men, it drives the demand for human trafficking, and for the first time, we are making the purchase of the sexual services of another person illegal. That is a courageous stand.

When that hon. member last stood in this House to speak to Bill C-36, I asked her very specifically what the NDP would do if the NDP were in our shoes and had the opportunity to bring in a bill in response to the Bedford decision. How would it address the Chief Justice's request that Parliament do something that is within its purview? How would New Democrats be courageous in helping to reduce the scourge of prostitution that victimizes people in our country?

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act October 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned the concept of splitting the bill. We have heard a lot about this, and we heard about it in committee.

I do not know if he has had an opportunity to read the testimony from the justice committee's hearings on this bill. He would note that the committee studied it for 10 days. It heard from more than 40 witnesses, and there was extensive discussion about the investigative powers provisions of the bill. I fail to understand what more could be added if a separate study of all that was done again, with the same witnesses coming before the committee again.

The member probably heard Mr. Canning's comments when he said that we need this bill and that the police need these tools to prevent another tragedy such as the one that befell his daughter, Rehtaeh Parsons.

I would like to read the comments of Mr. Allan Hubley, who is the father of Jamie Hubley, who was bullied right here in Ottawa. He said:

Bill C-13 in my view is meant to help reduce cyberbullying and help police obtain the evidence needed to punish those among us who prey on our beautiful children. Our children need you to use your power as parliamentarians to protect them. Parents across Canada are watching and hoping you will do something to help them.

Remember the words of Churchill and please ensure change is progress by passing this bill and giving law enforcement the tools needed.

I wonder if the member could comment on that and tell us if he still thinks that this bill needs to be delayed and split and studied another time.

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act October 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I join with the Liberal justice critic in complimenting the member for his experience as a police officer and how that helps the committee do its work.

In respect of that, I thought he made a good speech about what was meant by the term “transmission data recorder”. A lot of comment has been made in the House and elsewhere about the difference between the standard of reasonable grounds to believe versus reasonable grounds to suspect.

As a police officer, could he tell us what is necessary to prepare that kind of warrant application before the court, how much more time is required to prepare a warrant under the threshold of reason to believe and how would that delay an investigation in a matter where a young person was being harassed over the Internet?

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act October 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister had an opportunity to hear the words of Mr. Glen Canning, the father of Rehtaeh Parsons, when he testified before the House of Commons justice committee in May this year. He said:

I do believe, if properly enforced... Bill C-13 would have made a difference to Rehtaeh. I will never know if the police had the power and ability to stop that photo from spreading. If they had, it's quite possible l'd be looking at my daughter's picture in a yearbook instead of a newspaper article.

He went on to say:

I respect privacy as much as any Canadian does; however, I believe Bill C-13 is not about an invasion of privacy. It's about allowing police officers to effectively address the many challenges of instant mass communication and abuse. Technology has changed our lives dramatically, and we need to provide new tools so police officers can hold accountable those who use this technology to hurt and torment others.

I wonder if the minister could tell us how he interprets Mr. Canning's comments in respect to the need to pass the bill quickly.

Business of Supply September 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening intently to this debate the whole day and the NDP put the motion it says in good faith with bona fides to try to make this place a better place for debate, yet I just heard the member call the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister a lackey. It does not sound like parliamentary language to me. It is not the kind of thing that is going to promote collegiality in this place. I would ask him to apologize for that remark.

Business of Supply September 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for her speech. I know that she has answered many questions in the House during question period, both as a minister and previously as a parliamentary secretary.

I have noticed in the question periods that I have witnessed in the six or so years that I have been here is that there is often a lot of repetition from the other side of the House. We will get the same question asked over and over, even when the minister gives a full answer, which perhaps refutes the accuracy of the question being asked. The next person will read the same talking points and ask the question again. It is like they do not even listen to the answer that the minister has given.

The motion of the NDP, to me, seems one-sided. It does not say anything about the repetition or relevance of the questions being asked. It just talks about the responses. I wonder if the minister could give us her thoughts on that.