Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Standing Committee on Status of Women presented on Thursday, November 29, 2007, be concurred in.
As we all know, having heard consistently from NGOs and witnesses to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, human trafficking in Canada and in the Vancouver area in particular is a problem that governmental and non-governmental authorities are only beginning to confront. Profound concerns have been raised that the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver will present an opportunity for the trafficking of human beings, for the enslavement of young women and children, and I know the government is very concerned and is interested in hearing this important debate today.
On May 29, 2007, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women recommended:
|| That the government, in collaboration with provincial and municipal counterparts as well as experts from the police, international organizations and NGOs, develop and implement a plan prior to the opening of the 2010 Olympics to curtail the trafficking of women and girls for sexual purposes during the games and after.
As we know, big sporting events such as the Olympics or the World Cup of soccer are known to generate an increase in prostitution, which in turn leads to a rise in human trafficking.
A recent report by the Future Group, an anti-human-trafficking NGO, said that during the 2006 World Cup in Germany authorities implemented a wide range of actions to combat human trafficking during the event, with some success. The result was that, while there was an increase in prostitution, authorities did not detect a rise in human trafficking.
However, when Greece hosted the Olympics in 2004, the measures adopted were not as extensive as those in Germany and a 95% increase in human trafficking was recorded for that year. That is cause for profound concern among Canadians, particularly those in the Vancouver area.
Human trafficking is the biggest money-spinner for organized crime, after drugs and firearms, and it has been steadily increasing. We know what the effects of illicit activity are in terms of the impact on our communities, our way of life and our sense of safety, so human trafficking is right up there with drugs and firearms. It is clearly cause for concern.
It is estimated that the number of people being trafficked to or through Canada each year could be as high as 16,000. We are not sure because the traffickers are very careful and clever in the ways they keep these numbers secret and of course one of those ways is through violence, through abuse and coercion of victims.
Traffickers tell victims that the police will never believe them or that they cannot get away. They threaten them with personal violence and violence against their families, with death and the death of family members. Therefore, many women are compelled to remain silent. However, at this point, we know that at least 16,000 people are trafficked. That is an exorbitant and incredible number.
In the international human trafficking trade, Canada serves as both a destination country and a transit country. It is a source country as well, with young aboriginal women, mainly from the Winnipeg area, being the most likely victims. We know about the stolen sisters, the 500 missing women, the 500 daughters and young mothers. We do not know where they are. Their families do not know where they are. This has caused incredible pain and disruption in a community that is already suffering as a result of racism and poverty.
Let us imagine losing a child or a sister and not knowing what happened to her, never hearing from her again and never knowing the outcome of that disappearance. Women from reserves are being taken away and trafficked, either within the country or across the borders. Again, they are our sisters, our daughters and our children, never to be seen again.
Globally and nationally, the majority of trafficked persons are women and children. That includes boys. Many are forced into the sex trade. It is estimated that up to 4 million are sold worldwide into prostitution, slavery or forced marriages.
These are the people suffering the effects of poverty, military disruption or civil war. They are lured by promises of safety, of a job, of a better life and the ability to transfer their families to a country where they can be safe. Unfortunately, these lures and promises are a trap and a deception. These young victims end up in slavery and despair.
Vancouver was singled out in the U.S. state department's “2007 Trafficking in Persons Report” as a destination city for trafficked persons from Asia. The report also stated that a “significant number” of victims, particularly South Korean females, transit Canada before being trafficked into the United States.
Clearly Vancouver is already a point of concern. The Olympics of 2010 will exacerbate that. According to the Future Group, undercover police investigations have revealed the use of student or visitor visas to spirit young women from Asia into the sex trade in Vancouver and then on to other cities, including Calgary.
In 2005 the federal government made human trafficking a criminal offence. Legislation was introduced to prevent work visas from being used to traffic women and measures were recommended by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women to provide victims with temporary residence, medical care and support. I hope we are serious about making sure that the recommendations of the committee are firmly in place. They would go a long way in terms of addressing this problem, which is of profound concern.
As I said earlier, we have learned some lessons with regard to international sporting events. What we have learned is that there are two main ways that international sporting events may affect human trafficking in the host country. The first is by contributing to a short term increase in demand for prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation in and around the locale of the event. The second is by facilitating entry of trafficked persons as visitors before they are transited to other countries and cities and exploited in those locations.
There is relatively little research on the impact of international sporting events on human trafficking, but what is clear is that the countries that have hosted recent international sporting events have had to take the threat seriously, as will those countries that will be hosting upcoming international sporting events. We simply must take this threat seriously.
For example, London metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair has appointed a new assistant commissioner specifically to act as head of security for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England, with a mandate to deal with terrorism threats, human trafficking, illegal construction workers and counterfeit operations.
The 2006 German FIFA World Cup provides lessons on the importance of preventative efforts to reduce the attractiveness of such events to traffickers. There is evidence that human trafficking increased during the year of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, where preventative measures were not as extensive as those taken in 2006 in Germany.
In 2006 in Germany about 3.36 million people attended that sporting event. After widespread international concern about the threat of an upsurge in human trafficking in connection with FIFA, German authorities, together with local and international non-governmental organizations, pursued a wide range of activities aimed at preventing the possible exploitation of this major international event by human traffickers.
When we invite the world to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, we are going to want the world to see what a progressive, safe, remarkable country we have here. We would never want that impression to be blemished by the activities of human traffickers.
Therefore, the Germans adopted a range of measures and these have been relatively successful, or at least were relatively successful. Germany coordinated state and federal police forces before and during the World Cup through the FIFA 2006 World Cup national security strategy and the framework strategy by the federal and state police forces for the World Cup.
These frameworks provided for uniform standards on the investigation and prevention of human trafficking, among other matters. They were intended to build and improve upon existing efforts to combat forced prostitution and human trafficking.
Federal and state police in Germany also worked with special counselling services, NGOs, host cities, churches, sporting associations, and others to identify stakeholders that could assist with public education campaigns, prevention activities, identifying potential victims and providing services to rescued victims.
It is absolutely key to provide services and ensuring that these young women are rescued and have a safe haven where the effects and the realities of human trafficking can be addressed.
Non-governmental organizations and special counselling organizations conducted a range of activities aimed at preventing forced prostitution and human trafficking both during and after the World Cup in Germany. These activities included public events, discussions, press conferences, interviews, information desks, posters and leaflets to let people know and understand the extent and the severity of the problem. They conducted mailing campaigns, education and information forms via radio and television.
Telephone hotlines were set up. These are very important because the one thing that has become very clear in our research is that these young women and girls are completely cut off. They are isolated. They are robbed of their travel documents, their money, and their ability to communicate what is happening to them. These telephone hotlines were very important.
There were websites so that people could access information, and of course information about the assistance available at shelters. I would hope that Vancouver is going to be diligent about making sure that these kinds of measures are in place and that the shelters and the NGOs have the ability to provide aid.
One of the leading campaigns supported by the German federal government was designed by the National Council of German Women's Organizations and called “Final Whistle--Stop Forced Prostitution”. Another preventative campaign involved the International Organization for Migration and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
These organizations joined forces in a prevention campaign to raise awareness among fans that women would likely be trafficked into Germany in response to an expected increase in demand for prostitution. It included a provocative television ad, a website, and information about a hotline to anonymously report information of suspected human trafficking or forced prostitution to the German authorities.
This makes absolute sense. Most of the people attending that sporting event were there to see the best and the finest in athletic participation. To have that event sullied by human trafficking, by sexual slavery, I am sure was abhorrent to most people.
However, we know that because of the incredible amounts of money that can be coerced and appropriated by forced prostitution and trafficking, there will always be that temptation. Having the fans on the alert was a very important step.
Federal and state police focused their investigative activities related to forced prostitution and human trafficking in and around the host cities because it is not just in one place. It is in the region.
These measures included: a greater police presence, both uniformed and plainclothes, at high risk venues; raids conducted in known areas involving the sex trade; temporary reinstatement of border controls at federal borders; formation of new and strengthening existing specialist police task forces; contact with police informers in relevant high risk areas; increasing awareness among hotel and accommodation staff; coordinating with authorities and event sites; and liaising with the social service agencies and special counselling services.
What is clear, as a result of the evidence taken at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, is that an expectation of increased demand for prostitution did in fact take place. However, as a result of the extensive immigration law enforcement measures and the plan that I have just outlined taken by the German government, the majority of the prostitutes were not likely international victims of human trafficking, but from the existing domestic supply of prostitutes from elsewhere in Germany where prostitution is legalized. Accordingly, while prostitution increased as a result of the 2006 World Cup, the number of reported human trafficking cases likely did not increase substantively.
Conversely, or by way of comparison, in Athens in 2004 there was a huge number of people present, over 10,000 athletes, 45,000 volunteers, 21,000 media representatives and over one million tourists at the gates. Efforts taken to address the possibility of human trafficking were not as extensive. The end result was that there was far more trafficking into the 2004 Olympic Games than in the 2006 World Cup.
These, of course, were victims from Eastern Europe and we know who they are. They are young women who live in poverty. They are young women perhaps with small children who do not know how they are going to provide for them. They are young women looking for something more than that very impoverished lifestyle that they lead and are therefore easily seduced by those who would do them harm and do harm them.
I have some recommendations here that I think are very important. I would like to read them into the record because they provide that possibility and hopefully the framework that we could adopt to make sure that the travesty experienced at some sporting events is not repeated here.
Effective action to combat human trafficking involves a three-pronged approach: first, prevention of human trafficking by working with source countries to address root causes, including deterring the demand side of the industry; second, protection of trafficking victims includes rescue, rehabilitation and, when appropriate, repatriation and reintegration back into the home country; and third, prosecution of traffickers and commercial sex users in criminal proceedings.
Countries that have been most effective in combating human trafficking have a adopted a clear legal framework to protect victims and prosecute offenders. They have devoted sufficient financial resources to enforce their laws and support victim recovery. They have demonstrated a high degree of cooperation between law enforcement, government agencies and non-government sectors, and coordinated their international development efforts to deal with root causes of poverty and corruption in source countries. I would say that we would do well to address the root causes of poverty in our own country.
These countries show their success with a steadily increasing number of trafficking victims protected and traffickers prosecuted. The government of Canada has begun to take several steps toward combating human trafficking such as making human trafficking a Criminal Code offence, adopting measures to provide victims with temporary residence and medical care, and introducing legislation to prevent work visas from being used to traffic women.
The B.C. government has recently created the B.C. Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons. All of these measures are laudable, but they are only the first step. The key is proper implementation and funding, and it is less clear that is taking place. That is my concern and the impetus of this debate.
To date not a single person has been successfully prosecuted for the offence of trafficking in persons under the Criminal Code and only a handful of victims are known to have received protection until the recent 2006 citizenship and immigration guidelines on human trafficking. We must be more aggressive. We must do what we can. We must pursue the kind of remedies that were pursued in Germany for the sake of all women, here and abroad.
Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from for once again bringing this motion on the issue of human trafficking to the House.
Human trafficking has become a big issue in Canada. After two attempts to get this issue to the status of women committee, I finally got it there. I must commend my colleague for being a part of that committee and getting on the human trafficking issue.
The Government of Canada takes this issue seriously and is taking real action to address this horrendous crime. Several initiatives have already taken place. It is hard to get a hold on the crime of human trafficking. Things need to be put in place quickly to help the victims and our government has done just that. We have taken quick action to implement laws and programs that are helpful to the victims.
In 2007, the announced changes to the guidelines for immigration officers to help victims escape the influence of traffickers. The new guidelines extend the length of the temporary resident permit, or TRP, for which victims are eligible from 120 days to 180 days. In individual cases it can be extended beyond that.
With respect to our actions on improving the guidelines to help victims of human trafficking, the president of the Canadian Council for Refugees said:
|| These measures mean that the government will begin to treat trafficked persons, often women and children, as victims of a crime, rather than as people who should be detained and deported. Like many other organizations, the CCR has been calling for this policy change for several years – we are very pleased....
I must commend members on all sides of this House who have worked hard with our government to ensure that action was taken very quickly.
We have also introduced legislation to help prevent the potential exploitation and abuse of foreign nationals seeking to work in Canada. Bill , which is in committee right now, would help prevent the sexual exploitation and abuse of foreign nationals seeking to work in Canada. It would also address an important gap that currently exists in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
The proposed amendments in Bill would give the the authority to instruct immigration officers to deny work permits to individuals who might be at risk of exploitation or abuse should they enter Canada.
Why is that so important? It is important because our law enforcement and NGOs are beginning to understand how easily it is for innocent victims to be trafficked into Canada. As the member for said, traffickers become friendly with girls travelling alone. They will convince her that she can have a new life in Canada. They show her how she can get through customs and often the perpetrator is going through customs at the very same time.
The training video for RCMP officers on the human trafficking issue shows how this happens. I was at an event last night where the RCMP video was shown. People need to understand the nature of human trafficking and what happens to these women. Border guards need to be trained and alert. They need to wonder why a girl is travelling alone. They need to ask her questions and listen very carefully to her answers.
Bill would provide a window for protecting the most vulnerable young men and women. People think it is only women but it is not. Without the authority in Bill C-17, our immigration officers are not able to deny a work permit to someone meeting all the requirements to enter the country, even if they believe there is a strong possibility of exploitation and abuse.
The fact is that a gap exists where people can supposedly meet all the requirements but red flags should go up all over the place when a girl is alone. One must wonder why she cannot answer the questions in quite the way she should.
With respect to Bill , we have strong support from various stakeholders because they have experience working with trafficked people and they know the gap was there, which was frustrating.
Sabrina Sullivan of The Future Group said:
||[The] Immigration Minister... has taken an important step to protect women from sexual exploitation and end a program that made Canada complicit in human trafficking. It is clear that [the] Prime Minister’s... government is serious about combating human trafficking.
I would dare say that members on both sides of the House are very concerned about this issue and are very aware that it is a growing issue. They have made a number of recommendations as outlined in the report from the Status of Women to ensure that this human trafficking issue is stopped.
The Salvation Army has worked very extensively with trafficked women and children. Christine MacMillan, the territorial commander for the Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda, said:
|| This announcement is an excellent advancement towards the protection of women from sexual exploitation. It is another positive step in the fight against human trafficking, and we are encouraged by the leadership shown by the Federal Government.
As was John Muise, director of public safety for the Canadian Centre of Abuse Awareness, said, “Bill C-17 is part of the response that needs to occur in protecting women and children in the country”.
It goes on and on.
The member for mentioned another important point. She talked about the 2010 Olympics. As is well-known, sporting arenas or any big events that occur in any country are often magnets for human traffickers to set up shop and to make as much money as they can off the backs of innocent victims.
I know ministers throughout our government have met, continue to meet and are taking specific action across all ministries to ensure the educational component is in so the public is aware of human trafficking. They are also in the process of implementing initiatives. As the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, I have been very concerned about the 2010 Olympics. It is something that we on the committee for the Status of Women talked about. I dare say that it is something our government is extremely concerned about and is taking concrete action to ensure vulnerable citizens and people from inside and outside of our country are protected.
Also, Bill , which is sitting in the Senate right now, addresses a myriad of crime issues. It would help to put laws in place in Canada to suppress criminals who exploit children, the age of consent being one of those laws. This side of the House has been trying for a long time to raise the age of consent and the bill is still sitting in the Senate. I hear, to my dismay, that about 59 witnesses have been lined up. I am really suspect of the number of witnesses required to get this very important bill through. The age of consent has been in the House for such a long time and was finally put into Bill C-2 and now it is being held up in the Senate.
When we talk in the House about stopping the crimes against vulnerable victims, this is the concrete kind of action that needs to be taken. We need to pass Bill to ensure the laws of the land are in place to protect our most vulnerable citizens. We need to ensure that Bill is passed and in place, so border guards and patrols, NGOs and people who work at the borders can spot these vulnerable citizens who come through. We need a tool to use to ensure we can do something in a concrete way and protect these people.
We know human trafficking occurs in Canada. We have studied it and we know about the severity of the situation.
I commend the ministers in our government who have taken this issue extremely seriously. I also commend the members in the House who take this issue very seriously as well.
I caution that we should work together and support this. We can stand in the House and say that we need tougher laws, but when Bill is stopped in the Senate, we cannot get age of consent on the books as a law of Canada. It means that what is said in the House is not carried through.
We need to ensure that everything is done. Bill needs to be passed. The age of consent has to be raised. It helps innocent victims, not only the ones who are being trafficked but the young girls who are being sexually exploited. They go to court and because they are a certain age, they are up against older adults who can intimidate them. There is no law in Canada that raises the age of consent. If they are 14 right now and if a lawyer is skilful enough, he can prove it is was consensual sex.
We can do some very concrete things right now. Every one in the House of Commons can support the kinds of things that need to be done by allowing the things to go through in a timely manner and to ensure we also work together for additional support for our most vulnerable citizens, our youth.
The educational component of human trafficking is of paramount importance. If we can as Parliament stand up for the right laws, work together and ensure that Bills and are passed, that is a good start.
The educational component for the Olympics is already being talked about as well as other things.
I call on all members in the House to work together. I think we are all on the right page in many respects. We have to put our partisan differences aside and we have to work together.
I commend the member for for her interest, her support and for what she has brought forward this morning. However, I caution that the partisan issues need to be set aside. We need to get Bills and passed as laws in Canada. Then we have to continue to work, as we all are right now, on the human trafficking issue. It is very serious.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased this morning to rise to speak to this motion. I presented the first report on behalf of the committee on November 26, 2007. I presented it based on a motion that I and my colleagues put forward in committee, so I am happy to have the opportunity to discuss the issue of human trafficking as it relates to the 2010 Olympics.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for .
I had the opportunity recently to visit Vancouver and meet with a number of groups there concerning this very important issue. We have heard from members opposite that trafficking is indeed a modern day form of slavery. It involves the recruitment, transportation and harbouring of victims for the purpose of sexual exploitation and often for other purposes. What we have not focused on as much is the importance of addressing the trafficking of women within our own country, and I will speak to that a little further on.
Typically we know that the victims are deceived or coerced into the sex industry, often for reasons of their existing lifestyle and poverty, and the opportunity, as they see it, for a way out.
The UN estimates that over 700,000 people, mostly women and children, are trafficked annually. The estimates vary but we are told that it is a value of somewhere between $10 billion to $12 billion U.S. annually. It is a very substantial business for some very ruthless individuals.
Before I speak to the existing issues, I want to put on the record the amendments that were made by the previous government to the Criminal Code, which provided the underpinning for some of the issues and initiatives that are going on today.
There were a number of Criminal Code amendments where we identified trafficking in persons which would prohibit anyone from engaging in specified acts for the purpose of exploitation or facilitation, and would carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment when they involved kidnapping, aggravated assault or sexual assault.
A second offence would prohibit anyone from receiving financial or other material benefit from the commission of a trafficking offence. It would be punishable by a penalty of 10 years of imprisonment.
A third offence would prohibit the withholding or destroying of documents, such as identification or travel documents, for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of a trafficking offence. This would carry a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment.
It was an important step by the previous attorney general, my colleague from , in laying the underpinning in addressing the issue of trafficking. To combat trafficking requires an ongoing government commitment. I want to put on the record a number of the initiatives that were taken by the previous government and which have subsequently been built upon by the current government.
We developed a website on the trafficking of persons. We developed an anti-trafficking pamphlet which was available in at least 14 languages and a poster in over 17 languages. Round tables were held in British Columbia and elsewhere to address the issue. Training seminars were held for police, prosecutors, immigration and customs officials and consular officials. The Department of Justice was a co-host. A community forum on trafficking in persons was held by the Canadian Ethnocultural Council in conjunction with the Department of Justice and Status of Women Canada.
There are four major components in terms of dealing with the issue of trafficking of individuals, particularly as we look at the 2010 Olympics. There is the whole issue of awareness, prevention, sensitization and commitment, and protection. As we heard earlier, a comprehensive legislative strategy is required.
I sat on the status of women committee when we looked at the trafficking of women. I was shocked, perhaps naively, when I heard the Vancouver police department indicate that Vancouver was known across the country as a sex destination city. Coupled with that, the lead-up to the 2010 Olympics makes the issue even more pressing.
I want to take a moment to note the work of some of the people in my own community. At my last International Women's Day breakfast, I was fortunate to have a speaker, a lovely articulate woman who has been involved in the modelling industry, Liz Crawford. She talked about the hazards of models who model internationally. That was an important session in terms of increasing the awareness of those who were in attendance.
The Sisters of the Holy Names in Winnipeg have taken on this issue with great energy and commitment to advance their concerns and to get government officials to speak out on it. I particularly want to note the young women of St. Mary's Academy who have taken on this matter. They developed a very moving play, which I had the privilege of watching not too many months ago. They have taken this issue on in terms of awareness and sensitization of the community. It is an important issue.
We have heard other members speak about the importance of protection, the role of the police officers, the sensitization of police officers, the role of immigration and border security officials and I will not repeat those remarks. A comprehensive legislative strategy certainly is required. We on this side will work with all parties to ensure that such a strategy is put in place.
While there is much emphasis on the international trafficking of women and children, we often turn a blind eye to the trafficking of women and children that goes on in our country. I can assure the House that unless there is an aggressive attempt to deal with that, the 2010 Olympics will become a focal point, a hub of activity for many of the young women who are in a kind of enslavement, certainly in my city and other cities across the country, to those who use the bodies of young women for their own purposes.
Frequently we see that young aboriginal women are the victims of real poverty in their own communities. They come to the cities and see this as a last resort and an opportunity for what might be, in their minds, a better life. When the government looks at developing strategies to address the whole matter of the trafficking of women leading up to the 2010 Olympics, it is important to address the issue of the internal trafficking of women with a particular focus on the internal trafficking of young aboriginal women largely from western Canada.
Members have heard me speak many times on the systemic issues facing young aboriginal people in their communities. That must be addressed with a long term solution by the federal government and other governments in this country. There have to be very definitive strategies developed in the short term to ensure that the trafficking of young women inside this country is curtailed substantially.
Mr. Speaker, I propose to organize my remarks around two themes: first, an appreciation of the nature, scope and pernicious effects of the evil of trafficking that we are seeking to combat; and second, as my colleague referred to it, to affirm and reaffirm a proposal for a comprehensive strategy to combat trafficking, one that is anchored in the proposal I first offered the House when I was the justice minister.
May I begin with an understanding and awareness of the scope and pernicious consequences of this evil which we need to combat, this scourge of human trafficking, this pernicious, pervasive and persistent assault on human rights, what can be referred to as a commodification in human beings, where human beings are treated as cattle to be bonded and bartered.
What we are dealing with in effect is the enslavement of human beings, what I first called in the House when I presented legislation in this regard, as a global slave trade, treating human beings as goods to be bought and sold and forced to work, usually in the sex trade, but also in agricultural labour or in sweat shops for little or no money.
Through the dedicated efforts of people like Professor Harold Koh, the dean of Yale Law School, and Radhika Coomaraswamy, the former UNHCR rapporteur with respect to violence against women, we now have a comprehensive understanding of the scope of this global sex trade.
We know that this grotesque trade in human beings now generates upward of more than $12 billion a year. In other words, human trafficking is so profitable that it is now the world's fastest growing international crime. We know that the majority of victims who are trafficked are women and children, girls under the age of 25, and that many trafficking victims also include children.
We know that the victims of trafficking are desperate to secure the necessities of life. As a result of that, their lives are mired in exploitation, rooted in the greed of those who prey upon them. In fact, exploitation is at the core of the crime and evil of trafficking.
UNICEF has estimated that 1.2 million children are trafficked globally each year. The International Labour Organization estimates that 2.5 million children are currently in situations of forced labour as a result of being trafficked. As I have said before in the House, and as my daughter has always counselled me, she said, “Dad, if you want to know what the real test of human rights is, then always ask yourself at any time, in any situation, in any part of the world, is what is happening good for children?” That is the real test of human rights, and what is happening with respect to trafficking is an assault, the most fundamental of assaults on the most vulnerable of all, namely, children.
We know that no matter for what purpose they are trafficked, all trafficked persons suffer deprivation of liberty, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, including threats of violence and actual harm to themselves and their family members.
If we are to develop a comprehensive strategy, as my colleague spoke of, in order to combat trafficking, we need to stop thinking in terms of abstract silos, of thinking of human trafficking as an abstract or faceless problem, of thinking of it as a criminal law problem, or a law enforcement problem, or an immigration problem, or a public health problem or an economic problem. It is each and all of these, and more.
Simply put, transborder trafficking is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that challenges law enforcement people, that flouts our immigration laws, that threatens to spread global disease, and constitutes an assault on each of our fundamental rights.
Most important, behind each and all of these problems is a human face, a human being who is being trafficked, and that trafficking constitutes an assault on our common humanity. Accordingly, it must be seen first and foremost as a generic human rights assault with a human face as its victim and as being the very antithesis of the rights in the universal declaration of human rights.
The question is, what then can be done?
I am going to briefly outline a comprehensive strategy, speaking telegraphically, of which the first component must be a strategy of prevention: to prevent the trafficking to begin with; to raise awareness of this new global slave trade and of the urgency to take immediate action against it; to appreciate that by raising our voices in domestic and international fora, by making it clear that this is a priority for all of us, then this trafficking can be prevented if we mobilize this constituency of conscience, both domestically and internationally.
This motion today can serve as a call to action to ensure that Canadians across the country realize that this modern global slave trade is not something out there that does not touch us. It is not something out there that has no relevance for us, but it is something that touches all of us and that is present here in Canada as well. It is something that exists here and is part of an international connecting link, an assault for which we will need this comprehensive strategy of cross-commitment.
This leads me to the second element in that strategy, which is the protection strategy, respecting the victims of trafficking. This involves a number of elements, including the residency protection, protecting against ill-considered detention and deportation such that the victims of trafficking are re-victimized a second time. At the same time they are re-traumatized a second time, where they are sometimes detained as illegal immigrants facing criminal charges rather than trafficking victims who are deserving of protection.
There is also the need for support services. We find the need for shelter, health, counselling and the like, that must be provided to the victims of trafficking. These are services that are very often within provincial jurisdiction and so we need a coordinated effort, a coordinated federal-provincial-territorial effort, with respect to the delivery of services in the context of the protection of victims because the services very often end up having to be delivered by NGOs who themselves become burdened in the process when it is a service that is in effect an obligation of our governments to deliver and provide protection for the victims.
These victims also need protective support in the form of witness protection with respect to those who may wish to testify against those who have in effect assaulted them.
This brings me to the third component, the comprehensive legislative component. We have an Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. We previously enacted criminal law legislation in this regard. We have an international law framework that we have domesticated. What we need to do is to invoke, apply and enforce this comprehensive legislative framework.
Fourth, we need a focal point for our work. We need a focal point in terms of an interdepartmental working group that would be co-chaired by justice, foreign affairs and the like because one can only address this in terms of a comprehensive coordinated governmental strategy.
Fifth, we need to intensify the work of the RCMP, both domestically and internationally.
Sixth, we need to engage our federal, provincial and territorial counterparts. This must be a partnership of all governments in that regard.
Seventh, we need to work with our international counterparts to enhance existing legislative tools and combat trafficking across national borders.
Finally, I will conclude by saying that addressing and redressing this most profound of human rights assaults, this profound assault on human dignity, requires this comprehensive strategy of cross-commitment that is organized fundamentally around the four Ps: to prevent the trafficking to begin with, to protect the victims, to prosecute and pursue the perpetrators of the trafficking, and to engage in partnerships in that regard, both domestically and internationally.
We have a common cause and by working together we can create the critical mass of advocacy on behalf of this common cause and protect the most vulnerable of the vulnerable from this most evil of the evils.
Mr. Speaker, it does not give me much pleasure to speak to this issue because such issues are never fun to talk about. Nor am I very enthusiastic about it, despite the enthusiasm I typically exhibit, as our Conservative opponents have often pointed out. However, we do have to talk about this issue, and time is of the essence.
The Olympic Games to be held in Vancouver in 2010 will offer many people an opportunity to visit a very beautiful part of Canada for the first time. British Columbia is certainly a beautiful place. However, we know there have been a number of cases of human trafficking all over Canada and Quebec. Human trafficking, which also victimizes children, happens on every continent, whether it is in Thailand, the Dominican Republic or even Tanga, a small kingdom that I had the opportunity to visit recently.
Elected officials in various countries are worried about this issue because the number of human trafficking cases is growing. Children and women are being treated like livestock and stripped of their rights. They are often taken under vile conditions to countries they do not know and from which they will probably never return.
It is easy to see how this can lead to a sense of paranoia. As parents, as fathers and mothers, we all worry about our children. I am sure that this goes for parents in the countries that victims of human trafficking come from too. All parents want their children to take advantage of the freedom and rights they enjoy so that they can explore their childhood and develop their personalities with no fear for their safety.
Unfortunately, that is not what is happening. When a child is taken from its parents or a woman from her family under false pretenses, and that person is then taken to another country to be subjected to the base instincts of another, that is a very serious crime. We have to put a stop to this criminal activity. We have to put an end to the sad fate of the more than 2.5 million victims who are taken from one country to another every year to be used for sexual purposes and menial work—in short, for slavery. We have to put an end to this.
The staging of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver provides an excellent opportunity to establish measures to eradicate this scourge. I would remind the House that the World Cup in Germany was the setting of a number of incidents involving human trafficking. We do not want the same thing to happen in Vancouver, British Columbia, just as we would not want it to happen in Quebec.
We have already heard reports of certain municipal bodies in British Columbia that would like to develop areas where people who practice non traditional professions, such as prostitution, can ply their trade in relative security. We can already detect an undercurrent of sexuality associated with the games. This undercurrent must be inhibited in order to prevent any undue influence on the practice of human trafficking any more than in other situations.
Any time a large number of people travel to a specific location, naturally, the temptation for human traffickers is even greater.
Certainly, people who engage in human trafficking, those who benefit and make money from it, are more tempted to go to places like Vancouver during the Olympic Games because they know there is a great deal of money to be made there. There can be no victims without a victimizer. Unfortunately, that is another problem that needs to be addressed.
As my colleague was saying earlier, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration already implemented some measures in 2006, when we joined the Palermo protocol. The Government of Canada, through the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, promised that victims of human trafficking would benefit from the protocol and that they would be taken care of. That constitutes the most important aspect of our action. In fact, if we really want to be able to eliminate human trafficking, we must ensure that the women and children who are victims, the ones who are found and who denounce their aggressor and the people who exploited them for trafficking purposes, are adequately protected.
I know that at present, these victims are allowed to stay here for 120 days to decide what they are going to do with their lives. I know that they can have their case reviewed to determine whether they qualify for political asylum. I know that all that is done and that the victims receive medical care as well.
But we must not forget that women and children who are used for months or even years are in a very fragile mental state. I hope that the medical care they receive includes psychological and psychiatric treatment.
I also hope that when these people have to face Canadian citizenship and immigration officials, they can take advantage of the refugee appeal division. But this poses a problem, however: the refugee appeal division is not yet in place in Canada. It is all well and good to say that people can claim refugee status, but that does not mean much if there is no one to rule on refugee claims.
I am also aware that the problem of human trafficking has existed for a number of years. In Quebec, however, we were not as aware of this problem, even though there were cases of child abduction and rape, because we knew that there were people who willingly worked as exotic or erotic entertainers, for example, without being forced. It is not the same situation when children are abducted.
We did not really know that human trafficking was so widespread. The advent of the Internet has opened our eyes to the fact that now, crime and organized crime have no borders or boundaries. This means that from now on, we must be increasingly aware of these situations and concern ourselves with the fate of women and children in other countries.
In recent months, two Canadians have been arrested in Thailand for purchasing the sexual services of children. We cannot escape this reality. We can never escape this reality. Sexual abuse and human trafficking have no borders and so we have to educate anyone who may come into contact with the victims. This must be carried out not only at the local, municipal and provincial level, but also at the national and international level.
It is important to remember that awareness and information are the most important tools we have to put an end to this trafficking. If we do not take action now, if we do not immediately take steps to ensure that, in 2010, Vancouver will be a good place to be, a place that people will choose to go to and where they will have the necessary security to enjoy the Olympic Games, we will find ourselves in a situation where there will be many victims. It is best to take action now. It is best to ensure right now that we have taken all the necessary measures and that we have all the tools at our disposal to eradicate human trafficking.
I will have to stop, as I can no longer speak. I regret that very much.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this fundamentally important issue, which is the concurrence report from the Standing Committee on the Status of Women calling for the government to put in place a plan prior to the opening of the 2010 Olympics to curtail the trafficking of women and children for sexual purposes during and after the duration of the games.
This is a fundamental issue. There is absolutely no doubt about it, because this is, I would suggest, one of the great scourges of our time. This is an epidemic that has occurred over the last few decades, developing around the world. It has a lot to do with economic conditions deteriorating for most people on our planet, but I will come back to that in a moment.
Fundamentally, we are talking about a crime that creates, estimates show, about two and a half million victims each and every year. We are talking about women and children who are coerced or threatened and forced into prostitution. Through coercion, through violence, these victims, half of them children, half of them women, are put in the most abominable circumstances imaginable. We are talking about literally an epidemic that has not been dealt with effectively around the world and that we need to deal with effectively.
The report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women calls very clearly for governmental measures. I will come back to that in a moment. That results from the work of a number of organizations and a report that I will cite a little bit later on, but we need to start from the first primary point, which is that poverty and the worldwide economic degradation of most humans on this planet is the fundamental cause of human trafficking.
The U.S. state department estimates that between 600,000 and 800,000 humans are trafficked each year across international boundaries. As I mentioned earlier, we are talking about 2.5 million victims of forced prostitution.
The criminal gangs that are embarking on this trafficking are taking advantage of people who are fundamentally vulnerable because of poverty and a variety of circumstances. However, it is economic inequality that creates the conditions by which human trafficking, human slavery, let us call it what it is, the slavery of two and a half million human beings each and every year, takes place. Economic conditions cause this reality.
We have seen figures about how wealth on our planet is increasingly concentrated. Even in our own country, wealth is increasingly concentrated. It is estimated that the 400 wealthiest billionaires on this planet have more wealth than two billion of the planet's inhabitants.
We have billions of people on this planet who are living on $1 to $2 a day. Thirty thousand children will die in this 24-hour period, this very day, Thursday, January 31, from midnight to midnight, of starvation and preventable diseases on this planet. This is not unique to this particular day. Tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday, another 30,000 children will die, not because we do not have the resources on this planet to provide them with health care, housing, food and clean water, but because the resources go to a very few people on this planet. That is a unique social democratic perspective that the NDP brings to the House.
Recent opinion polls said that there was virtually no difference between Conservatives and Liberals, and I am sure you would share that observation, Mr. Speaker, essentially that the Conservatives and Liberals take the same economic approach, laissez-faire, that things are just fine the way they are. However, they are certainly not when 30,000 children die each and every day on our planet. That is a fundamental crisis that we as human beings who are part of this global sphere that we inhabit, need to deal with as parliamentarians.
The economic inequality around the world is, as well, very present in North America. In the United States, it has been estimated that economic inequality now has reached the same level as it was in 1928, prior to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt new deal, prior to the rate of social legislation that built up the United States of America. Now we have turned the clock back, through laissez-faire economics, to 1928, prior to all of the social legislation that was put in place, creating, as I mentioned, the same conditions in the United States that we have seen globally, where the living standards and quality of life of most people are deteriorating.
In Canada we have seen the very same thing. Since 1989, we have seen the real income of most Canadian families go down, not up. We have now seen that half of the nation's income goes to the wealthiest 20%. The elites in Canada are doing better than ever but most Canadian families have actually seen a deterioration of their incomes. At the same time, it explains why debt levels have doubled. Most Canadian families are finding it hard to make ends meet.
When we talk about these global issues, we can translate them right back to our communities. This degradation in living standards that we are seeing around the globe, we also see in Canada and the United States. This global degradation of economic conditions, except for the very narrow economic elite, the jet-setters who are doing better than ever, is something that translates directly into these fundamental problems, such as that of human trafficking.
We cannot isolate the human trafficking issue, the fact that women, children and their families are put in desperate situations that allow them to be exploited by criminal gangs, those who have no conscience, no humanity and no ability to see that the abuse of a fellow human being is entirely unacceptable.
I now come back to the report that was issued which addresses the fundamental issue of why it is so important that the government take action prior to the Olympics, not during the Olympics nor to simply put together a press conference, but to take the kinds of actions that are necessary to prevent human trafficking coming to our shores.
The apprehensions that were raised by the member for this morning when she moved the motion for concurrence of the report by the House of Commons are quite legitimate. Her concerns are based on the fact that the Athens Olympics contributed to nearly a 100% increase in human trafficking victims. We saw that during the Olympics held in Greece in 2004. In Germany there was a substantial increase in human trafficking victims during the World Cup in 2006.
We see a pattern that has developed due to the economic degradation of most inhabitants of this planet, leading directly to when the resources of the planet are allocated to these Olympics. We do not seem to be able to find the resources to provide health care, homes, food and clean drinking water for the world's inhabitants, even though, compared to the world's military budgets, it is a microscopic budget.
Essentially, we have the resources now to eliminate those economic conditions that cause human trafficking and allow people to be exploited. We certainly have a lot of money for military acquisition budgets around the world, including the American military and other military forces from both democratic and undemocratic countries. We certainly seem to have resources for sporting events, such as the World Cup and the Olympics. As a result of that, because of the cash that is around at those events, that then attracts criminal gangs to apply human trafficking, to abuse victims and to profit from the money being available for the Olympic Games or the World Cup.
The report issued, which is extremely important, is called “Faster, Higher, Stronger: Preventing Human Trafficking at the 2010 Olympics”.
The Saint John Telegraph-Journal had an excellent article on the report. I will quote a few of sentences from the article before I go on to the recommendations contained within it. The headline reads “Warnings issued for 2010 Olympics; Report says event could be used by human trafficking and sex trades”. The Future Group, which published the report, states:
|| “There is a real risk that traffickers will seek to profit from the 2010 Olympics”, said Sabrina Sullivan, managing director of the non-partisan, non-governmental organization. She goes on to say:
|| This event could create an increased demand for prostitution, and also give an easy cover story for victims to be presented as 'visitors' by traffickers.
It goes on to interview RCMP assistant commissioner, Bud Mercer, who is responsible for security. It states:
||—the head of security for the 2010 Olympics said earlier this week that the issue of human trafficking during the Games hasn't hit his radar.
|| “For me, not, not yet,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Bud Mercer said in an interview Monday with The Canadian Press.
|| “I've never seen anything that's come across my desk, but keep in mind it's Day 2”.
The report in the Telegram then goes on to cite the Athens Olympics and the increase there, a 95% increase in human trafficking, and the significant increase that took place in Germany as well. It states:
|| While numerous factors come into play, a certain correlation between the Olympics and an increase in human trafficking cannot be discounted, the report stated.
|| “Canada is playing catch-up since authorities have yet to convict a single person for the offence of human trafficking,” said Benjamin Perrin, the lead author of the report and an assistant professor in the faculty of law at the University of British Columbia.
The article in the Telegram is an effective resume of the comments of the Future Group's report on the importance of ensuring that human trafficking is not part and parcel of the 2010 Olympics, not part and parcel of the social fall-out that could well occur if we do not pay particular attention to the social aspect of the Olympic Games.
As my colleague from mentioned earlier, the facilities seem to be coming along well, but at the same time there is real concern that we are not addressing environmental factors around the Olympics, and we are certainly not addressing social factors.
This is a primary concern of those of us from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. We have concerns about the displacement of those who are marginally housed in the downtown east side for example, possible gentrification or those individuals who are extremely vulnerable being displaced. We saw similar concerns raised with Expo 86. We certainly have not seen, from VANOC or from governmental authorities, measures being put into place to address legitimate concerns around exploitation in the Olympics and the use of human trafficking.
What recommendations does the report, “Faster, Higher, Stronger: Preventing Human Trafficking at the 2010 Olympics”, bring forth? They are recommendations that are extremely important for the House of Commons to take into account. It mentions three very clear elements.
The first element is the prevention of human trafficking. It uses the word “prevention”. It uses the word “protection” of trafficking victims. It also uses the word “prostitution” of traffickers and commercial sex users in criminal proceedings.
A number of other organizations are concerned about human trafficking. One notable reference is humantrafficking.org, which I suggest to members of the House. It says very clearly that another element is reintegration of the human trafficking victims once they are uncovered and liberated from the gangs that have preyed on them. Reintegration is a fundamental approach that has to be taken into consideration as well. Those organizations that are fighting against this worldwide calamity, which is human trafficking and human slavery, are suggesting very clearly that it has to be taken into consideration.
Let us get back to the three elements that are contained within the report specific to the 2010 Olympics. It talks about the prevention of human trafficking by working with source countries to address root causes.
I mentioned earlier about the whole fundamental issue of the economic degradation of most of the planet. While elites are doing better than ever, most people on this planet are striving to survive for the day. Billions of people are living literally hand to mouth in the midst of so much opulence, wealth and luxury that is available to so few inhabitants of the planet.
I mentioned earlier that we see economic degradation in the United States. Those in charge of economic levers have turned the clock back to 1928 in the United States and similar levels of inequality here in Canada. The poorest of Canadians have lost about a month and a half of income on average for each and every year since the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was implemented in 1989. That economic degradation since 1989 has been constant and appalling.
That economic degradation since 1989 has been constant and appalling. Imagine, back in 1989, those who worked 12 months a year were paid for 12 months. Now they are working 12 months a year and only getting paid for ten and a half months of real income, which explains the massive increase in debt load for average Canadians. Therefore, prevention of human trafficking to address root causes is a fundamental approach that has to be taken into consideration.
The second element is the protection of trafficking victims, which includes rescue, rehabilitation and, as I mentioned earlier, reintegration and repatriation, then prosecution of traffickers and commercial sex users in criminal proceedings.
What is suggested in the report is that we deter traffickers and these potential sex tourists through effective public awareness campaigns before, during and after the 2010 Olympics. We have to start well before to make it very clear that the Lower Mainland of B.C., Vancouver and Whistler, is a human trafficking free zone. The Canadian public and those visiting Canada need to be advised of laws against sexual exploitation and human trafficking. This is important given the fact that no one in Canada has been prosecuted for human trafficking. We have to ensure that the public education campaign is wide, vast and deep in nature.
We have to disrupt the trafficking networks and prosecute traffickers through a coordinated and proactive law enforcement response at the local, provincial and federal levels, ensuring that we are identifying and disrupting both domestic and international trafficking networks.
There is no doubt that it will take more resources. What we have seen from the government is an obsession with corporate tax cuts, with $14 billion handed out last fall. However, these are the kinds of resources that Canadians are calling upon the government to allocate. We have been talking about the meltdown in the manufacturing and forestry sectors and the government is delaying implementation of what is, compared to the $14 billion given away to the most profitable corporations in the country, a very modest aid program. It has said that it cannot implement it for weeks or perhaps months. At the same time, we need resources here.
The $14 billion corporate tax giveaway makes no sense, given resources that need to be allocated to our police officers at the municipal, provincial and federal levels to combat human trafficking.
The third element is preventing human trafficking and enhancing border integrity. This means border controls that are much more effective.
The final element is protecting trafficked persons by ensuring that arrangements are made to provide them with safe and appropriate housing, counselling, legal aid, temporary residence status, translation and medical assistance while they recover from their ordeal.
These are all the elements that need to be put into place. The government needs to start acting now. This is why I find it so important that the member for has brought forward the motion of concurrence. We need the House of Commons to tell the government, today, that it needs to apply the resources and put in place a plan so we can ensure the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics in 2010 are completely a human trafficking free zone.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House this afternoon to lend my voice to this very important issue.
I would like to thank the hon. member for having brought this matter to the attention of the House because trafficking in persons is a vile criminal act. It strips individuals of their freedom and basic humanity, and leads ultimately to a life of exploitation, usually in the sex industry or forced labour. These individuals are coerced into such a life, often through violent assault or threats to their families.
I also rise at this time to remind opposition members that they do not have the monopoly on care and compassion for Canadians. Our government takes this matter very seriously and we have taken a number of measures to deal with this issue.
I would like to take the time to explain the role that our public safety agencies are playing in combating this crime in Canada and abroad, led by the hon. .
The Government of Canada is taking a collaborative approach to dealing with trafficking in persons. The government has made the interdepartmental working group on trafficking in persons the focal point for all federal anti-trafficking efforts. This working group brings together 16 departments and agencies, and serves as the central depository of federal expertise. It works to strengthen federal responses through the development of government policy on human trafficking, information exchange and the facilitation of international and national cooperation.
We are also working collaboratively with the provinces and territories to respond to this issue. For example, we are utilizing various federal, provincial and territorial networks, including FPT ministers responsible for justice, the FPT heads of prosecutions, the coordinating committee of senior officials, and criminal justice and FPT victims issues.
The federal government's strategy for dealing with this heinous crime is consistent with other international approaches. This reflects the unanimous agreement for the need for a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral response.
In essence, the government is addressing this issue through a variety of responses aimed at prevention, protection of victims and bringing perpetrators to justice. The government is committed to fighting this crime within its own borders and abroad.
Victims may be exploited within Canada or transported through Canada for final destinations in the United States. This is a challenging issue, but fortunately our public safety agencies are working diligently to crack down on this crime.
Both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Border Services Agency play a crucial role in combating trafficking in persons. For instance, the RCMP has established the human trafficking national coordination centre to coordinate the federal government's law enforcement efforts to combat human trafficking and provide training.
This includes offering specialized training for law enforcement; producing awareness-raising material for municipal, provincial, federal and international law enforcement officers to help identify a potential victim and traffickers through, for example, a new awareness video; building an extensive network of partnerships with domestic and international agencies; and gathering, sharing relevant domestic and international information and intelligence through a team of analysts across the country to help law enforcement at home and abroad coordinate their approach.
For its part, the CBSA is contributing greatly to the fight against human trafficking by providing enforcement at various ports of entry, but more than that, the CBSA works to screen and intercept inadmissible individuals before they arrive in Canada. It has been proactive by doing research and making sure checks and balances are in place as much as possible before these individuals arrive into the country.
The CBSA monitors regular migration to Canada and publishes regular intelligence analysis which identify trends and patterns in irregular migration and migration-related crimes, including trafficking in persons.
The CBSA also performs a number of functions to help shut out the flow of victims by preventing their transport to Canada as well as to deter trafficking organizations from using Canada as a destination country or a transit country.
CBSA's network of migration integrity officers works overseas with airline security and local authorities in 39 countries around the world to prevent irregular migration, including migrant smuggling, by taking measures to intercept individuals before they arrive in Canada.
CBSA intelligence officers also work with Canadian and U.S. partners and integrated border enforcement teams, known as IBETs, that bring a harmonized, specialized approach to cross-border criminal activity. IBETs are strategically placed at our shared borders to detect and apprehend individuals who commit illegal activities, including migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons.
Integrated border intelligence teams also support IBETs and partner agencies by collecting, analyzing and disseminating tactical, investigative and strategic intelligence information pertaining to cross-border crime between Canada and the United States. This intelligence is shared with participating agencies to target international, national and criminal organizations, once again an example of an integrated, coordinated, unified approach.
To effectively combat trafficking in persons, the government is providing additional resources and encouraging training for law enforcement agencies. One of the most horrible aspects of human trafficking is the fact that young children get caught up in this exploitation.
As we have heard from various speakers today, it is truly the ultimate when children are being victimized. Consequently, in budget 2007 our government allocated an additional $6 million to strengthen current activities to combat child sexual exploitation and trafficking.
Initiatives related specifically to human trafficking include: reinforcing law enforcement capacity to combat trafficking in persons; providing for public education, awareness and outreach to combat trafficking in persons; and working with the Canadian Crime Stoppers Association to launch a national campaign on human trafficking and provide for a central point to report potential cases of trafficking in persons.
The central Okanagan and the area that I represent, Kelowna—Lake Country, have incredible crime stoppers organizations that have been recognized internationally for their efforts. I would like to applaud them as well for their coordinated work in helping to reduce human trafficking and identifying those involved in human trafficking in British Columbia, Canada and around the world.
Coming from British Columbia, I am very concerned. It will be two years next Wednesday that the countdown will start to the Olympics. We are doing all we can to ensure that we can stop the trafficking of humans, not only in 2010 but from today forward.
There are initiatives to conduct research to assess the impact of trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children and the impact on aboriginal and visible minorities communities, as well as help communities and individuals whose social economic status affect their prosperity and allow them to be victimized.
Funding is one thing, but promoting training to ensure our people are well equipped to deal with this crime is all the more crucial. That is why, for example, in November 2007 officials from the RCMP, Justice Canada, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the CBSA provided four one-day intensive workshops on trafficking in persons to RCMP officers, municipal police, border services and immigration officers, as well as to victim service providers in Alberta. These workshops were built on previous ones organized in Toronto and elsewhere.
I had the privilege of attending a workshop in my own riding that involved a variety of organizations throughout my riding and the province that are very concerned about human trafficking. It was hosted by a member of the RCMP. It was well attended and was an excellent education forum, an example of how we are trying to continue to raise the awareness and education for all Canadians of this heinous crime that is taking place.
The RCMP and CBSA continue to provide training for their officials on this issue, supported by a range of resource materials, including computer-based learning modules, videos, toolkits and reference cards.
I would like to say in conclusion that trafficking in persons is a horrible crime. We are taking a multifaceted approach to fight it and it is providing results. Back in mid-January, for example, Toronto police arrested four individuals allegedly involved in a human trafficking ring. Such arrests give hope to law enforcement agencies that this difficult crime can be thwarted.
From speaking to RCMP members, they find it very discouraging. They go through the exercise, but when they go to court, the accused persons often get off on a technicality. The government and all elected officials need to stand and give the tools to the men and women who are providing the safety in our communities, so they can bring justice where it is required, in this case arresting these individuals involved in human trafficking and making sure justice prevails.
More important, it gives hope to victims that someone is working to end their ordeal. It gives hope to our RCMP officers, hope to those agencies that are working in the communities to support and encourage the elimination of human trafficking. It gives hope to our children, who are our future.
As the hon. member for Kelowna--Lake Country, I thank the member for bringing this issue to the House. My concern is that our government has been working diligently and cooperatively with all these agencies, as I mentioned, and we are trying to bring forward legislation such as Bill , which is being delayed in the Senate right now. We would like to see some cooperation from the opposition parties, specifically the Liberals, to get their members in the other house to pass that legislation. One item that is on the agenda for today that is being delayed because of this concurrence motion is Bill , which deals with security certificates.
Hopefully we can all agree that we need to work more cooperatively and get action from both houses so we can make Canada a stronger, safer, better country.
Mr. Speaker, anyone who has read the book The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade
by Victor Malarek is probably horrified by the amount of sex trafficking and sex slavery occurring right now in the world.
We often talk about sex slaves and trafficking, but somehow our country treats these individuals as criminals rather than people in need of protection. The only provisions in the current law relating to trafficking serve to criminalize trafficking and to favour the detention of trafficked persons. There is nothing in the law to protect the human rights of trafficked persons.
It was mentioned today that women and children are trafficked most often, although trafficking is not kept strictly to women and children. Children are most in need of protection. We need special measures to reflect their vulnerabilities and needs.
We know that persons involved in the sex trade often feel a real sense of shame. They have not been given any choice in this. They often need some time in a secure environment to recover and reflect on what they are going to do next. That is why a proposal must include a provision for immediate temporary protection, which cannot be discretionary.
Certainly some people choose to return to their home country. However, for some trafficked persons, returning home would involve significant hardship. They may feel stigmatized in their home country, especially if they were involved in sex work. They may fear retribution from the traffickers, who may still be in their village. They may be at risk of being forced into a new trafficking situation. Because they have been trafficked, they may have lost their ability to make choices about their lives. That is why asking them to make a choice in a very short period of time is difficult.
The only place in the present Immigration and Refugee Protection Act where trafficked people are mentioned in is in the regulation which includes having been trafficked as a factor in favour of detention, including children. There is nothing in the law to specifically protect the rights of trafficked persons.
With the recent change in 2006, there is a temporary protection permit. This permit can be extended to 180 days, but the problem with this process is that the individual is not allowed to apply in Canada in a permanent way. People need to have an alternative presented to them. They need to know that they have the choice to remain as permanent residents. We need to find ways to protect these people. Why? We need to protect them because they are at their most vulnerable.
There are factors that need to be taken into account when deciding whether there are reasonable grounds for people who have been trafficked to stay in Canada. We need to look at their allegations. We need to look at the facts about their arrival in Canada. Perhaps we could look at representations from credible non-governmental organizations that believe these people have been trafficked. We need to offer protection, alternatives, choice and hope for these people.
In the case of a child, the immigration officer should be responsible for making sure that the child is placed immediately under the protection of child protection services and has access to necessary services, including counselling. That is critically important. These children have to recover. If they do not get counselling, they are often at a loss in regard to what to do. The counselling component is extremely important. The temporary permit should be extended to six months. Or if the circumstances warrant it, they should be allowed to stay in Canada.
When the enforcement officers are interviewing these women or children, I think it is important that we have guidelines to make sure these officers do the interviews in the most sensitive manner. Hopefully we could also include the guideline that people can be accompanied by a representative of a non-governmental organization so there is an advocate working for these people if they so wish, so there is a helping hand, a person they can lean on and who knows and understands what they are going through. Therefore, training is important and having an advocate is also very important.
The other aspect is permanent protection, which is done so these people will not be at risk of being re-trafficked. In Mr. Malarek's book, we find situations where people are returned to their home village or country only to be scooped up again by people who are preying on the most vulnerable in those villages or small towns, and thus they again end up in the sex trade.
There needs to be psychological support, as I have said. As well, we need to make sure that a safe house, for example, will be made available to them. We know they need to have housing support. That is an aspect that has to be developed, expanded and funded.
The people who have been trafficked should be exempt from all fees, not just the application fees but also the right of permanent residence fees. They could be seen as protected persons. That law also has to be changed, because right now this is not the case. Women who have suffered from violence still have to pay the application and landing fees, but often these people are totally destitute and do not have the financial means. They are also very fearful.
We have to change the family reunification class so that trafficked persons will have the right to include family members, both inside and outside Canada, as protected persons, so if they have children they may be able to bring the children into the country.
In terms of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, we also need to amend section 133 to protect trafficked persons from prosecution for offences related to entry into Canada. If we do not do so, they would be too fearful to come forward, and any laws we put in place would defeat their own purpose. Currently we allow refugees to stay in Canada even though they may have an offence related to the way they came into the country. This amendment is critically important.
There is also an important amendment to the regulations, part 245 in the immigration act, which is flight risk, and also one to part 249, “Special considerations for minor children” to remove reference to a trafficking connection as a factor in favour of detention.
If we do not do those kinds of things and if we do not amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, we will have just what we are seeing now. We had an instance of this in the summer of 2007. Because all the rules and regulations that were changed in May 2006 are discretionary, they are sometimes not offered to a trafficked person. They impose an unreasonable burden of proof on that person. The mandatory involvement of law enforcement agencies ends up deterring some of these victims from applying.
Despite the introduction of the guidelines, we heard in summer 2007 about a woman who was apprehended at the U.S.-Canada border despite being identified by Canadian officials as a victim of trafficking. She was never offered a temporary resident permit. She was held in detention and was deported before she was able to meet with a lawyer. This was an instance where we could have helped that person, but we lost that opportunity because we had not made the proper amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
The only bill that is front of the immigration committee right now is . Bill C-17 does not offer all of those changes. It does not deal with the problems that have been identified. We absolutely have to make those changes right now. It needs to be seen as a priority so we can send a clear signal that a permanent policy is in place to offer protection to trafficked persons.
Also, with regard to overseas, an immigration operations manual has been in the works for two years and is still not finished. It is called IP9 and what it actually does is go after the so-called consultants. Really, they are the recruiters. They are the people who are bringing women and children across the border into the sex trade in an illegal manner. They need to be punished. They need to be charged, but right now there is no operations manual to instruct the immigration officer to be on the lookout for such recruiters and unscrupulous consultants.
On average, each year we have 110,000 foreign workers coming into the country. Some are recruited by these unscrupulous consultants and yet the Canadian Immigration Center has one secretariat and one part time person who has no power because that person is under the Canadian immigration department rather than the Canada Border Services Agency. So far we have not seen one person charged, convicted or jailed as a person involved in trafficking.
Therefore, the message we are sending is not very clear. We talk about punishing those who are involved in trafficking, yet our overseas officers do not have enough instruction and there is not enough training for them. In Canada, there is no coordination. It is not clear whether it is the immigration department, RCMP, CSIS or CBSA that is really in charge. That small secretariat with one part time person cannot do all the jobs that need to be done. There is no clear line of reporting. Of all the cases filed and all the complaints, hardly any have gone to court so far, and there have been no convictions whatsoever.
In looking at this situation, not only do we need to protect the people who are in Canada, but we also have to deal with the overseas immigration offices and the embassies to stop this at the source. We need to make sure the immigration officers know to whom to report. We need to make sure that charges are laid so there will be clear convictions.
I talked briefly about the need for safe houses and secure housing. We have heard of situations where women want to leave an exploitive situation but cannot find a safe haven. They do not have access to advocates who can support them because a lot of sexual assault units are not properly funded.
In downtown Toronto, for example, there are agencies helping young street people and yet they have no permanent funding. It goes from year to year. They do not have enough funds to provide the counselling, the advocacy for these sex slave victims.
Members of Parliament who are interested in knowing more about this issue can go to the website, trafficking.ca, which was put forward by the Canadian Council of Refugees. It contains a lot of information. It gives a definition of trafficking and provides recommendations. Round table discussions have been held across the country. There are very specific legislative bills that we can act on right now that could remedy the situation. I hope that we can take immediate action and not necessarily wait until the Olympics come to Canada.