Our meeting will come to order.
I want to welcome all of you here to our committee today as we begin consideration of .
I want to welcome a new member from the Bloc party, Mr. St.-Cyr, who is taking the place of . Welcome.
I think we should instruct our clerk to write a letter of thanks to for the great contribution she's made to the committee over the years. She has been an invaluable member of the committee, so I think we should do that.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
The Chair: So, Mr. St-Cyr, you have big shoes to fill.
I want to welcome two panels today.
Our first panel will be officials from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, Mr. Les Linklater, director general of the immigration branch; Maia Welbourne, director of temporary resident policy and programs development, immigration branch; and Mr. Eric Stevens.
Welcome to all of you as we begin consideration of . Thank you for coming today.
We have a new analyst at the table as well; Laura Barnett is from the law and government division. Laura will be helping us with our consideration of .
We will begin immediately.
I will pass it over to you to make some opening statements if you so wish.
My name is Les Linklater and I'm the Director General of the Immigration Branch of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. I would like to thank the committee for inviting me to speak to you today on Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the IRPA.
When the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration appeared before the committee in November, you heard about the government's commitment to improve its immigration programming, including numerous improvements to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
But any improvements in efficiency must be accompanied by better controls and protection for vulnerable workers in order to encourage the legal movement of Temporary Foreign Workers into Canada.
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and its regulations allow officers to refuse work permits based on concerns such as prior criminal convictions or medical conditions. Bill would go further. It would allow officers to prevent prospective temporary foreign workers from entering Canada when doing so would subject them to the risk of exploitation and abuse.
It is well known that Canada has always extended the same protections to temporary foreign workers that Canadians are afforded. Unfortunately, as the committee knows, temporary foreign workers who have weak official language skills, an absence of friends or family in Canada, and little money, perhaps, given a fear of police and/or government, sometimes need more protection than Canadian workers need. Their lack of support networks in Canada leaves them vulnerable to unscrupulous employers or job brokers. Bill is one of a series of steps the government is taking to reduce this risk of exploitation.
Bill begins by seeking to change the objectives set out in paragraph 3(1)(h) of IRPA from protecting the health and safety of Canadians to protecting public health and safety of any person who is in Canada legally, including temporary entrants. The government's obligation to protect health and safety should embrace any person who is in Canada legally, whether they are a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, or a temporary resident.
Bill then goes on to provide that, on instructions issued by the minister, immigration officers would be allowed to refuse work permits to foreign nationals who otherwise qualify but who officers believe would be at risk of humiliating or degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation, once they are admitted to Canada.
You will note the emphasis on “officers”, Mr. Chair, because under the legislation, applicants cannot be refused work permits based on ministerial instructions without the concurrence of two immigration officers. This provision reduces the likelihood of an instruction being applied inappropriately or incorrectly.
It is important to note that the legislation itself does not provide any instructions. It merely establishes the authority for the minister to issue instructions. Such instructions will only be issued where there is objective evidence that concerns for the safety of some temporary foreign worker applicants are serious and well-founded. This may cover exotic dancers as well as other potential victims of human trafficking or other abuse or exploitation, but the research and analysis to support any such instructions has not yet been completed.
Each decision involving any future instructions would be made by immigration officers on a case-by-case basis. Each application for a work permit would be assessed on its own merits.
Instructions must be published in the Canada Gazette to become effective. Being the federal government's publication of record, the Canada Gazette is regularly reviewed by the media, the immigration bar, and any other interested parties.
Furthermore, any instructions issued during each year must be reported in the Minister's Annual Report to Parliament. This degree of transparency is essential, given the discretionary nature of the authority.
Mr. Chair, the committee knows this discretionary authority is similar to powers found in the laws of Australia and the United Kingdom. It is also similar to a provision that currently exists within IRPA that allows the minister to exercise positive discretion, that is, to waive inadmissibility based on public policy considerations.
Bill is one of many steps CIC is taking along with our colleagues at Human Resources and Social Development Canada/Service Canada to make the temporary foreign worker program better for employers and better for foreign and Canadian workers.
Following a series of administrative measures announced since November 2006, including improved employer outreach and streamlined processes, Budget 2007 provided new funding for CIC and HRSDC to deal with increased volumes more efficiently, to fill gaps in current programming, and to establish a more effective monitoring and compliance framework for the temporary foreign worker program.
We are aware of the need to improve the program to ensure employers are meeting their commitments to workers, and that workers have the tools to raise awareness of their rights and responsibilities.
Provinces and territories, which are largely responsible for monitoring of employment standards and occupational health and safety, are also actively engaging on this file.
The recently signed Canada-Alberta and Canada-Nova Scotia agreements on immigration contain provisions to negotiate an annex on temporary foreign workers in the coming months, including recognition of the need to protect the interests of workers.
We are also working to help temporary foreign workers in Ontario by making workers aware of eligibility requirements for health insurance, benefits, pension plans, and other protections under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Employment Standards Act, and the Labour Relations Act. Along with Bill , these and other measures will help to maintain the integrity of Canada's immigration program.
Citizenship and Immigration will continue to address the issue of protecting vulnerable workers temporarily in Canada in coordination with many other federal departments that aim to address these challenges.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I welcome your questions.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
First, let me just put this in context. A lot of this is driven by the former minister, Judy Sgro, and what was referred to as Strippergate, if you will. The reality was that a person, who happened to be a stripper and who was no longer a stripper, married a Canadian national and asked the minister for a permit so she could remain in the country while her case was being handled. That's essentially what the case was about. It happened because the department refused to grant this permit. They passed regulations and they put it on the minister. So they set up the minister. The minister lost her job. Nobody in the department lost anything. That's one.
The other issue is that I think Mr. Karygiannis raised a very important issue. I want to see stats and I want to see how they apply.
Mr. Jim Karygiannis That would be .0006.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi: I want to see a breakdown. In some ways, when we're talking about those skilled workers, which the government is going to ramp up in letting into the country, we want to make sure they are not exploited. I know there are problems with farm workers and what have you. But let's deal with the reality of the bill. Anyway, I want to see those statistics.
My problem is that the parliamentary secretary talks about a tool box approach. The reality is that officials overseas have virtually unlimited powers to turn people down on visas.
I will refer to a particular case in P.E.I., your part of the world, Mr. Chair, which I read about in the media. One of the fish plants applied for foreign workers; they were approved. They happened to be from Russia and the visa officer turned them down. I don't know what happened with the fish plant, if it closed or did not close.
Mr. Jim Karygiannis: What fish plant? There's no fishing.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi I would like to get some answer to it.
The other thing, and what this committee knows is happening, is that there is a huge area of exploitation, and it pertains to undocumented workers. These folks are really open to huge abuse. The government's answer is to try to get these folks deported, while we have thousands of criminals whom we should be deporting but we cannot because they can get a hearing before the Immigration Appeal Division.
I want to put those things in perspective, and I really want to make sure we get the stats.
In terms of vulnerable workers, we have laws that should protect all vulnerable workers. Whether or not an immigration official is able to do this in an overseas post, I am not sure. I want to be very careful with this particular legislation. But we cannot deal with this separately from the undocumented worker question. If we want to talk about exploitation, the undocumented workers, who number in the hundreds of thousands in this country, are helping to build this economy. We've got a huge worker shortage in your part of the world. In northern Canada, Sudbury, if you want to do some construction, it takes you two years before anything is going to get done. It's the same thing on the west coast. So we have a huge problem. I just don't see how this in particular has a priority over that. Notwithstanding that, I would like to have statistics in front of us.
The other issue is that immigration officials have huge powers in denying people entry into this country. Trying to appeal those decisions is unbelievable. So to give more unfettered powers to front-line officers to say no causes me a great deal of concern. I see it in my office day after day after day when we can't get legitimate visa applications approved because an officer overseas turns them down. I do happen to believe that if you happen to be a Canadian citizen born elsewhere, a naturalized Canadian citizen, you should not be denied being able to see your relatives in your new country because of the discretion these officials have.
I really worry about giving more powers to the visa officers to be turning people down.
Mr. Chair, when I'm speaking to people from Immigration, it's very frustrating. I always feel like it's them and us, and it shouldn't feel that way. It's not my fault.
First of all, in order to do what you're proposing, you don't have the capacity to do it. We don't have the capacity to do security checks in foreign countries right now. We have long waiting lists. We do not have the manpower to do what you are suggesting.
When you talk about objective evidence, you're not talking about objective evidence, especially when it's from a third world country, you're talking about gossip. We see in Immigration that so many people are denied entrance into this country because some jealous neighbour or some jealous relative has called the embassy and everything is put on hold. That is not objective evidence.
I really do view this bill, overall, as something that merely gives the bureaucracy more power. You make the regulations. Regulations are not an act of Parliament; regulations are drawn up by the bureaucracy.
I'm sorry that I'm ranting. When you talk about two members, we have two members, oftentimes, in Immigration now refusing visitor's visas or...the one who signs no and the other one who rubber-stamps it.
We're in a position where we've not put enough money into Immigration. We are outsourcing so much of our work in third world countries. We know they don't exactly do business the same way we do. We know that a few rupees will get you a bigger place in line.
We already don't have the staff. It's like the doctor situation in Canada. We don't have the staff to handle all of these in a fair, impartial way.
It's not really you against us, even though I feel it is often. You don't have the resources to implement this. You just don't have the resources. What kinds of resources are being put or will be put in place to enact this new legislation? And we don't care about exploiting Canadians. Canadians are being exploited all the time.
Good. Thank you, Mr. St-Cyr.
You're aware, of course, that we have a meeting tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock.
Now I want to call to the table our second panel of witnesses.
By the way, I want to ask if everyone has had the opportunity to pick up a briefing book on the bill. They're up here at the table. There's some very good information in there. Of course, the work that was done by Ms. Barnett on this bill is available as well. I trust you have that.
I want to call to the table our second panel of witnesses. Leslie Ann Jeffrey is an associate professor in the department of history and politics, University of New Brunswick, Saint John. She has written extensively on the relationship between trafficking in persons and immigration.
From the Canadian Council of Refugees we have Francisco Rico-Martinez here today, former president of that group.
We have, from the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness, Mr. John Muise. We have Janet Dench here as well.
You know the drill, of course. You will give us an opening statement, and then we will go to our committee members, who will have questions.
Who has the statements? Do you have a statement to make to the committee? Please proceed in whatever order you might want to proceed.
We'll just go across the table then.
Thank you for having me here today.
I'm a professor of international relations and politics, and I work on human rights, gender, and trafficking in women.
What I'd like to say today is that this bill will not address the problem of trafficking. It will in fact contribute to it. It's an example of the kind of anti-trafficking measures now being strongly criticized by a variety of groups around the world, including the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights office, and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. This bill limits women's rights, rather than enhancing them, and therefore creates the conditions for increased trafficking.
Because trafficking differs from smuggling in that traffickers maintain control over migrant workers in the new country in order to exploit their labour, trafficking thrives in conditions where there are, one, barriers to workers' migration, and two, poor working conditions. This bill both increases the barriers and fails to address exploitative work conditions and becomes part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
There are several possible impacts of this bill. One is discriminatory gender impacts. The great danger is that migrant women, particularly poor migrant women, are going to be directly targeted by this law, which will reduce their opportunities for safe and legal migration and circumscribe their right to migrate and seek work abroad. This is because of the general bias against women as independent migrants, the general assumptions about women's vulnerability, and the view of exotic dance as inherently exploitative. Therefore, immigration officers are very likely to target women through this law.
Second, there is an increased risk of trafficking. By targeting women “for their own good”, the bill will drive poor female migrants seeking work in Canada, including work in exotic dance, to find other, more precarious and more dangerous ways to enter the country. This may include turning to migration agents who can then charge higher fees and take advantage of them in the workplace.
Third is the failure to address working conditions. It is very problematic that Canada would choose to address the issue of potential exploitation of migrant labourers by attempting to stop their legal migration rather than addressing the conditions of work. Trafficking most often occurs in precarious forms of labour that are unprotected by labour laws, government oversight, and union organization. In exotic dance, for example, exploitation that occurs is a product of the failure to enforce labour, health, and safety laws that we already have, the contract status of dancers, and the lack of knowledge among employers and dancers of the rights and responsibilities of the workplace. Migrant workers in particular have very little information about Canada's laws and practices around exotic dance, and this leaves them open to exploitation.
Fourth, this bill potentially ignores other forms of forced labour and trafficking. The bill's rationale, and therefore very likely the minister's instructions, reflect a problematic focus on the exotic dance industry alone while ignoring the very similar issues in other industries that can and must be addressed. The United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Jorge Bustamante, has received many complaints on the treatment of migrant workers in Canada and has in fact asked, I believe, for an official visit to Canada. This bill ignores this wider context of migrant labour exploitation in Canada and does nothing to address it.
Finally, there are more effective responses to trafficking available that do not involve circumscribing the human rights of migrants and therefore meet our international legal requirements as laid out by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights concerning anti-trafficking measures, that they must not adversely impact the rights and dignity of migrants, and the human rights committee that oversees the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which we are party, that says these measures must be proportionate and the least intrusive.
The measures the government could undertake are, first, to give temporary foreign workers the ability to change employers so they can leave exploitative employers without having to leave Canada.
Second, require employers to meet certain labour standards, not just demonstrate a need for workers, in order to be given the ability to hire migrant workers. These employers should then be monitored, again, as required by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, their contracts legally inspected, and labour laws enforced.
Third, ensure that there is support for worker organizations that can monitor workplaces for exploitation of migrant workers, inform migrant workers of their rights, and offer methods of redress to exploited workers. This includes, importantly, in the exotic dance industry, support for peer organizations, which is particularly important in highly stigmatized industries.
Fourth, ensure that migrant workers, including exotic dancers, have access to and information about laws, bylaws, legal and social services in their own language so they know how to proceed if their rights are violated or threatened.
Finally, make Canada a party to the United Nations International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which lays out measures to protect migrant workers from exploitation within a human rights framework, as called for by the current United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify before the immigration committee.
Just by way of introduction, I'm a retired 30-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service. I retired last year and have been the director of public safety at the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness on a more or less full-time basis for almost two years and as a volunteer for several years previous to that.
I've been to Ottawa on a number of occasions testifying on a number of criminal justice bills, but this is my first time before this committee, so thank you for the invitation and the opportunity.
Since 1993, the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness, an organization that survives solely through charitable donations, has raised awareness about the true cost of neglect through its support of victims of child abuse. Based in Newmarket, Ontario, north of Toronto, the CCAA is powered by a committed group of staff and volunteers who provide support to 70 partner agencies—we have a little warehouse, and we give stuff out to them, among a number of other things. Whether it's fulfilling a child's dream wish, assisting crime victims, developing abuse prevention programs and resources, or advocating publicly for legislative change—that's what I do—CCAA is committed to ending abuse.
In 2004, the CCAA went around the province of Ontario and spoke to 150 front-line criminal justice professionals, crime victims, survivors, and other interested parties, and from their voices we wrote a report called the Martin's Hope report, named in memory of Martin Kruze. Some of you will know that name. He was the survivor of the Maple Leaf Gardens child sexual abuse, who courageously disclosed publicly, and then subsequently, four days after his offender received two years less a day in prison—I guess it was the last straw for him—he jumped off the Danforth Viaduct.
The report lists 60 recommendations, 40 for legislative reform, directed at the federal government. We released the report in 2004, and we continue our work to try to get the recommendations instituted. Many of them relate to children in the sex trade, sex tourism, and similar ancillary matters.
With respect to the bill today, that human trafficking is an issue of significant worldwide concern there can be no doubt. Trafficking in women and children is a global issue that results in untold agony and suffering for hundreds of thousands of individuals and families. Source countries are most often third world and/or developing, where poverty is widespread, the rule of law is at best a fleeting mirage, and corruption is endemic. A number of government and NGO publications have and continue to detail this trade, and few, if any, commentators refute it.
Although Canada is not considered a source country, it is a destination and transit country for women and children trafficked into the commercial sex trade. Countries in Asia and eastern Europe are the principal sources, in addition to a number of other locations around the world. Asian victims often arrive in Vancouver and western Canada, and eastern European victims come to Toronto and other eastern Canadian urban centres.
That we are a destination should come as no surprise. With economic opportunity, the rule of law, little or no government corruption, and absence of civil strife and violence—quite frankly an embarrassment of riches—is it any wonder that we would have a flood of immigrants hoping for a new and wonderful life here in Canada? Whatever the reason or intention of the person arriving, the expectation is of a life improved, not impoverished.
The commercial and illegal sex trade is alive, living, and well in this country, from strip clubs or exotic dance clubs to the street corner, massage parlours, Internet child abuse, escort agencies, bawdy houses, telephone and Internet dating, and so-called holistic centres to name but a few. Anyone who has browsed the back pages of any urban independent daily, like the Toronto-based NOW magazine, or Eye Weekly, will find it all up front and centre for anybody to see, and much of it focuses on ethnicity and age. I'm talking about the fact of age being young, not old.
It's not so secret, a commercial and illegal sex trade. Page after page of adult classifieds offering all varieties of sexual services for a fee are on display, and many of the classified ads focus on the ethnicity of the provider. The sex trade is out in the open and booming, and it's clear what's being offered.
We don't believe that individuals wake up one day and decide, “Yes, I think I'd like to give a career in the commercial sex trade a try.” Although personal choice is usually a precursor--unless false pretenses or force are used--it is almost always as a result of life circumstances, including poverty, abuse, and other negative social circumstances that they may be escaping here in this country or from abroad. Even if some make the choice of their own free will, the majority are later subjected to emotional and physical abuse, forced drug use and concurrent addiction, and theft of income. As a result, many end up as indentured sex slaves.
These are the circumstances that confront a Canadian who ends up in the sex trade. The vulnerability and risk for a foreign national on a temporary visa would be increased significantly.
The CCAA raises all of this not because we are here looking for this committee to eradicate the sex trade. That won't ever happen. There has always been a sex trade and that will never change. Our concern is for the vulnerable and at-risk, people who the CCAA sees--and, we believe, society increasingly sees--as crime victims. Make no mistake about it, the people plying their trade in the back pages of these urban dailies and many others like them are the victims of serious crimes. Some have been victimized through human trafficking.
Our focus is on how we as a society can best ameliorate the risk to those vulnerable at the hands of these sex entrepreneurs and predators. We see the response happening across a number of fronts, including prosecution, prevention, and education. Before I finish today, I will briefly touch on some of those.
I was also happy to see Ms. Chow, Mr. Komarnicki, Mr. Carrier, and Mr. Batters all speak to some of the things that need to be done concurrently or post this legislation.
As all of you know, the amendment in Bill , previously Bill , proposes to protect from exploitation and abuse the potentially vulnerable foreign nationals who come to work in Canada. Doing so would allow--with concurrence from a second and presumably supervisory officer--an immigration officer or visa officer to refuse entry by a foreign national to work in Canada, where a person is “at risk of being subjected to humiliating or degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation”. That's what the legislation says. The guidelines or regulations governing this policy would require posting in the very public Canada Gazette.
We understand that current government policy decisions all but disallow entry to anyone who applies for work in the exotic dancer category. We salute the effort on that front to reduce sexual exploitation. We believe the proposed legislation takes these good policy intentions to the next level by providing statutory clarity. In other words, it would be carved in stone, and the policy underpinnings of the statutory requirement can be amended as necessary in real time for inclusion in the weekly Canada Gazette for all citizens to see. This approach, we would contend, is open and transparent, and we support it.
I know that some of you have wondered why this might be necessary when government policy already functionally does this in relation to those who attempt to enter as exotic dancers. In the same way the tap was recently turned off for exotic dancers, future governments could turn it back on. With this legislation, if an attempt is made to do that, presumably we'd find out as a result of the altered public policy published in the public Canada Gazette.
In addition, it should be noted that the language used in the enabling amendment in Bill would make it difficult to do this in any radical way. We believe there's a good way to conduct government business and enhance public safety and the prevention of crime at the same time.
Though we support this proposed amendment, we would be remiss if we didn't point out the necessity of responding to the issue of human trafficking on a number of fronts. Some of you participated in, or are certainly aware of, the work done by the Status of Women committee on human trafficking. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were unable to attend and present, but we had made a number of recommendations for legislative and policy reform in relation to the sex trade. We've included them in our Martin's Hope report. They can also be viewed on our home page, at www.ccfaa.com. I'll provide this to the clerk later.
In any event, as you continue this essential work, these priority areas require more attention, in addition to this proposed legislation, if we are to protect those most vulnerable. The three areas that we think need significant help include working with all provinces to encourage passage of provincial legislation that will allow intervention to rescue children lost in the sex trade, and also, as a component of that legislation, providing enhanced licensing mechanisms to allow unfettered entry, padlocking, asset forfeiture, and prosecution of sex entrepreneur predators. These are the premises where we will find those who have been trafficked into the sex trade. Some of these premises are here in this magazine.
We should work with the provinces to provide the resources necessary to local and provincial law enforcement to create specialized units dedicated to the fight against human trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation. We applaud the first step of creation of the national coordinating unit and the support provided to victims of human trafficking, including the extension of work visas and the protection of people who actually come forward.
The reality is that to track this problem in a substantive rather than accidental way, which is how most trafficking investigations are commenced now, we need boots on the ground locally and provincially. Organizations like the Ontario Provincial Police and the Toronto Police Service need to be able to do this.
The last one is to ensure appropriate training for immigration officers--I know Ms. Chow spoke to this in a certain fashion--to best recognize those at the highest risk for being trafficked into the sex trade and to ensure entry is denied where the risk is high. In addition, we should ensure appropriate government manpower is available to provide follow-up investigations in this country where certain temporary workers might have an increased possibility of risk for sexual exploitation. These are some of the things that Mr. Carrier, Mr. Batters, and Mr. Komarnicki spoke of.
This committee may want to consider a request to the interdepartmental working group to consider and develop these three recommendations.
Finally, we'd like to thank the committee for the opportunity to weigh in on this most important public safety matter. If there is anything that CCAA can do in relation to the human trafficking file or as it relates to the points immediately above, we stand ready to help.
Thank you very much.
I am going to split the time I am allowed with my colleague Mr. Rico-Martinez.
The Canadian Council for Refugees is an umbrella organization with about 170 member organizations across Canada. This year, we are celebrating 30 years of work on behalf of refugees and immigrants. Our mandate is the protection of refugees in Canada and around the world, and the settlement of refugees and immigrants in Canada. We are active on a wide range of issues and we have had the privilege of appearing before this committee on a number of these issues in the past.
Our members have been concerned about the question of trafficking in persons for several years. With support from the federal government, we held a series of consultations locally and nationally in 2003, in order to promote awareness and develop recommendations. Through the consultations we identified two priorities: first, a need for increased awareness of the reality of trafficking in Canada, and second, the need for measures of protection for victims of trafficking.
Since then, we have continued our work on trafficking issues, coordinated through a subcommittee of the CCR which brings together representatives from various cities in Canada, in order to promote networking of anti-trafficking activists across the country.
With respect to our reaction to , when the earlier version of the bill was tabled as Bill we put out a press release giving our response. You should have a copy of that release before you.
We oppose Bill . Not only does it fail to protect the rights of trafficked persons already here in Canada, but furthermore its approach is condescending and moralistic. It empowers visa officers to decide which women should be kept out of Canada for their own good.
We find Bill C-17 problematic in a number of ways. First, the bill fails to address the root problem with the existence in Canada of jobs that humiliate and degrade workers. Work permits can only be issued by visa officers after the employer's job offer has been validated by Human Resources and Social Development Canada. Why is such work available in Canada if it humiliates and degrades workers?
Second, only a handful of work permits have been issued to exotic dancers in recent years. Parliamentary time would be better used to address the broader problem of the exploitation of non-citizens in Canada.
Third, the bill proposes to address the problem of exploitation by excluding people, mostly women, from Canada. It is demeaning for women to have a visa officer decide that they should be kept out of Canada for their own protection.
The bill also fails to address the situation of the most vulnerable of exploited non-citizens, those who have no valid work permit. In fact, closing the door on valid work permits may expose women to greater vulnerability, by forcing them underground.
The government's focus on strippers betrays a moralistic approach. Instead of passing moral judgment, the government should work on ensuring that non-citizens' rights are protected and that they have the freedom to make informed choices about their own lives.
We also note that where there is a suspicion of trafficking, it is wrong to simply refuse a work permit to a woman without referring her to the appropriate local institutions or authorities for her protection and for the prosecution of the criminals involved. This is a clear violation of our international obligation under the UN protocol.
Because we oppose the bill, we have a proposal to make and you have a copy of the proposal.
As mentioned earlier, one of our areas of priority is focusing on the need for protection for trafficked persons in Canada. We have been advocating for this for many, many years. In 2006, we welcomed Minister Solberg's introduction of guidelines for temporary resident permits as a step in the right direction. However, our monitoring of the experience with these guidelines has convinced us the guidelines are not sufficient to protect trafficked persons.
We decided it is necessary to amend the law to ensure there is a clear and permanent policy of offering protection to trafficked persons. Since measures to prosecute traffickers are in the law, it is appropriate that measures to protect victims are also in the law. Guidelines can only go so far. We know that. They do not have the force of law and may be changed as easily as they are adopted, and we know that as well.
We decided it would be helpful to develop a complete proposal outlining what we see as necessary. We present it to you, and we are going to read the key elements of the proposal.
The main objective of the anti-trafficking legislation must be to protect the human rights of trafficked persons. This bill doesn't.
Canada should follow the definition of trafficking found in the UN protocol. This bill doesn't.
Protection must be offered to trafficked persons without conditions. This bill doesn't.
Immediate temporary protection is to be offered if there are any reasons to suspect the person is a victim of trafficking. This bill doesn't.
There is a possibility of permanent status in certain cases after the trafficked person has had the time to make her own decisions. This bill doesn't.
We must remove from the regulations the provision that makes a risk of trafficking a factor in favour of detention, including of children. Trafficked persons should be treated as the victims of crime, not as criminals.
In conclusion, I have a few extra points. This bill needs a gender analysis. Traffickers exploit people's vulnerabilities and women and children tend, globally, to be more vulnerable than men in this particular area. Trafficking deprives those trafficked of control over their lives. It is therefore extremely important to approach the issue in a way that gives back to trafficked persons full control of their life. Bill takes exactly the opposite approach, closing off options, rather than giving greater power.
Consider the reports from Eastern Europe that a few years ago, in response to instances of trafficking in women, border officials trying to reduce trafficking refused admission to women trying to cross the border. Perhaps it made it more difficult to traffic women, but this also led to discrimination against women who were simply trying to cross the border to go about their own business.
About children, this bill thoroughly left out children. Children are among those who are trafficked. Bill fails to protect them because the bill only refers to temporary workers, which legally means persons over 18 years of age, and not children.
Non-status people in Canada are among those who are also exploited. Bill fails to protect them because they are already in Canada.
We encourage you to study our proposal and take action to have the principles turned into law. Thank you very much.
I think the Canadian Council for Refugees wanted to respond to what the parliamentary secretary had to say, Mr. Chair, and they never had their opportunity.
Dr. Jeffrey, I very much appreciated your input, and the same goes for the Canadian Council.
In the last couple of weeks there was a write-up in the paper--and maybe you can help. I was thinking to myself where it might be, because I'd love to follow up on that case. It was a case in which, in Toronto, some trafficked persons of Russian origin were being exploited, and they ended up going to the police and they ended up getting an operation busted.
Now, it seems to me that if you want to deal with breaking up those rings, you let the people know that if they come forward, they're going to have some kind of an amnesty.
I'm going to do something here. I'm going very quickly give you an example of an undocumented worker who was sexually assaulted. She phoned up and got the police involved. She looked really young, and the pedophile was taken off the street. Then Immigration turns around and wants to deport her for being an undocumented worker in Canada.
I'm going to say something nice about Mr. MacKay and , because I got them involved, and we stopped the deportation of this woman in less than 24 hours. She has since been landed.
The big policy question, as I put it to them, was whether they wanted to send a message to all these undocumented workers that if they came forward and put somebody behind bars, we were going to deport them because they're undocumented. Those two folks managed to give a permit and let this woman stay, and this woman has stayed. I think those are the kinds of messages we should be sending out.
John, I think you'd agree with that as well. Those are the very realistic approaches we can take if we want to deal with the problem.
The problem with this piece of legislation--and it really bothers me--is that from the bureaucratic perspective, I'd say, hey, we have more powers to turn people down and we get more money to do it. From the political viewpoint, I'd say--and I can see it already going in the next election--we passed legislation to stop strippers coming into Canada.
These two, one as a political consideration and one as a bureaucratic consideration, are an unholy alliance that ends up producing bad legislation. There's no way we're going to deal with this. There's no way we're going to be passing any of this kind of legislation.
In the meantime, we have lost Canadians--second generation born abroad--who are losing their citizenship every day that we put off passing new legislation. The government said that this was a priority and nothing is happening on this. We're going on a wild goose chase on legislation that's going to go absolutely nowhere, except the government would love to posture and say, “Hey, we stopped this”. It ends up serving no one's interest.
John, because you said you kind of approve of this stuff, $50 million going out, educating people, investigating trafficking--because Canadians get trafficked as well--don't you think that would be a better way of spending those resources to have a better impact?
I will ask all three of you to very quickly answer.