I call the meeting to order.
This is meeting number 27 of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Today is Monday, June 1, 2009.
You have today's agenda before you. We have three items to deal with.
During the first hour, by order of reference of Monday, April 20, 2009, we will be considering, clause-by-clause, Bill .
During the second hour, also by order of reference of Wednesday, April 22, 2009, we'll be hearing witnesses on the private member's bill, Bill .
After our regular meeting, we'll be meeting with a delegation of MPs from the Parliament of the Czech Republic. This will be an informal meeting with dinner, after we've adjourned the main meeting.
I want to remind you that this meeting is televised.
We'll move on to clause-by-clause on Bill .
We'll postpone clause 1, which is the title, I believe, Madam Clerk, and move on to clause 2.
(On clause 2)
The Chair: Monsieur Ménard.
With respect to Mr. Ménard's first question, one of the things we wanted to capture is related to one of the elements of the bill and one of the government's platform commitments going back to the 2006 election. If one of the reasons the justice of the peace, or justice, declined to allow the accused to serve his time in the community was because of his record, we needed to capture that reason.
The problem is that in busy bail courts, the JPs--or justices in some provinces--rarely give detailed reasons. If they do, it's often only to refer to the grounds for judicial interim release in the Criminal Code, section 515. We felt we had to capture that so we could build a record going forward. If this was a primary reason for denying bail, then we had to get the justices to make a note of that, to indicate that. That's the reason for clause 2.
I should say that we've had some discussions with the provinces. I chair a federal-provincial working group on sentencing. I think provincial jurisdictions, where this would mostly play out, will recognize that they will need to do a bit of training of justices of the peace.
I'm assuming other people got this letter from the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, from Mr. Trudell, seeking from this committee a decision not to proceed with at this time. I'm not expecting that to happen, given the government's political engagement in the bill. But what it does highlight and what I would like to highlight is that this bill was prepared in circumstances where clearly--it's clear to me anyway--the government did not understand the implications of the bill.
We saw that most clearly put forward in terms of its implications, still with a number of unresolved issues to my mind, but very clearly from the evidence we heard from Professor Doob, that in fact it had all sorts of anomalous consequences, and that chart he prepared showed various examples. I believe most members of this committee certainly did not understand that. And I say that in all humility because I didn't fully understand them until I heard that presentation.
As well, I think this bill was prepared on the basis that defence counsel regularly advise, and the accused regularly accept the advice, that it is better to run out pretrial custody, by way of adjournments, so that you end up with a shorter sentence at the end. Again, both from the evidence we had from Professor Doob and from the lawyers, that clearly is not the case. In fact, the government could not point to any empirical study to show that that in fact was happening. It's a myth, quite frankly, that this is the reality. It's simply not happening. But the government didn't seem to appreciate that. And I say that in light of understanding that I believe most of the attorneys general and solicitors general from the provinces also believe that. But there isn't one empirical study that shows that, in fact, that is happening.
We also know--and we heard it from one of the prosecutors--that in fact the system is controlled by the judges. So adjournments are not given lightly. In most cases, the adjournments are being given around disclosure problems, not around defence lawyers trying to prolong pretrial custodial periods.
It's one of these bills that have come forward, and I don't believe it should be here. But I don't expect this committee to adjourn without proceeding with it, so I've brought these amendments forward because I think it at least resolves some of the major glaring problems with the bill as it's presently composed.
It was quite clear from Professor Doob's evidence--and we also heard it from Mr. Head from Correctional Service Canada--about the impact this will have on increased time in the federal prisons. We have no estimate. We don't know that and nobody on this committee knows it, but the reality is that the impact at the provincial level is going to be even more severe. But it was fairly clear from Mr. Head's evidence that at the federal level we are going to see an approximate 10% increase in the level of incarceration on an annual basis.
We do not have the ability to cope with that. We are way oversubscribed in terms of residential settings in the federal prison system. If that's a problem with the federal system, we can only imagine how much worse it's going to be at the provincial level if this bill goes through as presented.
What I'm proposing in the first amendment, which is to proposed subsection 719(3.1), is that the one day, being the standard that we're now going to impose with minor exceptions--which come in the next section--be increased to one and a half days. That would then become the standard.
I think Professor Doob was being as honest as he could with regard to this, and I think we've just heard it again from Mr. Daubney, that this is closer to what the reality is on average in the country, that it's closer to one and a half days for each day in pre-sentencing custody. So I think we need to bring that in line with the reality of what happens in most cases, and that's what the first NDP amendment would do.
All right. On this amendment, I have just this brief comment.
I think Canadians, the public, want to know that one means one, and I think when a judge sees that and orders that, that's what they want the judge to say. There's a lot of talk around here about judges and their accountability and their discretion, and there are different points of view on that. However, this is a very clear message to judges that one shall mean one. The only footnote I would put to it--I'm not sure I'm supporting these amendments--is that the evidence appears to be that in all sentences given, close to all, over 98% of sentences, whether in remand facilities, provincial or federal facilities, the statistics seems to be that two-thirds of that time in all of those sentences is served.
It would be a bit disturbing to me as a lawmaker, as this rolls out, which is why I think the Department of Justice and the government must monitor this bill carefully, that the person on remand would possibly, if one equalled one, serve more time at the end of a sentence if he or she were remanded for almost the entirety of that sentence, as given, than a person who, on the first day available, pled guilty and would receive, according to the statistics, two-thirds of the time.
Mr. Daubney, I don't know if you have any evidence to counter what Dr. Doob presented last time by way of that analogy, but the glaring inconsistency of having someone on remand serve more time than a person normally convicted of an offence troubles me. Do you have anything to offer on that?
This is on both what we heard from Mr. Daubney but specifically from Mr. Norlock.
We are supposed to be here from a dispassionate point of view. But I have to say that if you want to take that into account, think about what's going to happen as the judges look at this legislation, see their discretion curtailed, and still see all the problems of people being in pretrial custody in situations that are inhumane. Think about the number of cases we're going to have in which people are not going to be sentenced to any time at all once the conviction is entered and the sentence is given--because the court is, and the judges are, in fact, I believe, going to look at this. They understand both the provincial law and the federal law about remission and eligibility for parole. They understand the comparative between somebody who has been remanded into custody and somebody who has been out on bail. And they're going to take that into account. They're going to, in effect, work their way around this legislation. But then what is going to happen is that I'm going to have constituents, and Mr. Norlock is going to have constituents, and all of you are going to have constituents, who are going to say, “How could this possibly happen? How could this person, committing that offence, not get any jail time at all?”
That's how they're going to see it. That's going to be the consequence. I think that's the way our judges will work it out. Both provincial court judges and superior court judges will work it out that way. It does not leave us, as policy-makers, as lawmakers, or as representatives of our people, in any better position to answer the question of how that could have happened.
This one, in addition to increasing with the current amendment, within the judge's discretion, up to 1.5 to one, increases it to two to one. It also removes the provision that is contained on page 2 of the bill. It was “detained in custody under subsection 524(4) or (8)”. It's removing that provision as well.
We again heard evidence, on the final day that we had testimony, of the fairly substantial grossly unfair results if that provision were left in. In situations where a person was in custody, pretrial, was charged again, but then got acquitted of the first offence, it was going to have a very negative impact. It just wasn't logical. Again, it's the kind of thing that I believe should be in the discretion of the judiciary as to whether they're going to take into account the subsequent charge. That will vary, depending on whether the person is convicted of the first one, how relevant it is, all sorts of considerations. It's not the kind of thing that we as legislators can do with any kind of certainty that we will have justice coming out of it. That's really one of the areas we have to leave to judicial discretion. That's why my amendment removes that particular provision.
The second part goes back to the same arguments I made on amendment NDP-1, the consequences of not allowing this discretion. Again, I recognize that I am putting limits on it so we'll no longer see the 2.5- or three-to-one ratios being granted. We're closing the door on that by this amendment if it were to pass, but it's still necessary for the courts to have that extra discretion. I put in here, as does not exist in the code at this point and didn't exist in the amendment that the government brought forward, that the negative impact on the person as a result of the detention in custody is one of the considerations, and any other considerations that are relevant—again giving the judge the discretion to look at issues.
Because of that, I would expect that some of the jurisprudence we already have would be looked at again, but we may see clearer jurisprudence evolve over the next number of years if this were to go through. Courts, appeal courts in particular, would be setting out clearer criteria that the trial judges should be taking into account when they're making a determination as to whether these circumstances justify extending the two to one to the particular accused.
Maybe how this thing got off the rails is that subsection 719(3) as it was didn't have any reasons required. Other parts of the code do. Justices must give reasons for doing certain things.
This bill, in proposed subsection 719(3.2), says, “The court shall give reasons for any credit granted”, and I think Mr. Comartin is right. In time, whatever happens, there'll be jurisprudence set out as to why judges are granting whatever credit they are.
What concerns me is the word “benchmark”. I think we know now that the benchmark might be one. If we go with Mr. Comartin's amendment, it can be no more than two. I'm struck by what Mr. Daubney said as well. I doubt that the judgeometer would automatically go up to two. I think they'll reserve that with their discretion and calibrate what's going on in the institutions, the impact on the individual, and all that sort of thing, somewhere between one and two.
My concern in voting against Mr. Comartin's first amendment is, frankly, that the starting point becomes 1.5 days, if you legislate it. So I'm a little more amenable to the two days, but I'll ask Mr.Comartin if he thinks he has covered everything that's in proposed subclause 719(3.1). That talks about 1.5 days relating to individuals detained, stated under subsection 515(9.1), or detained in custody under subsections 524(4) or 524(8). Is this covered in your proposed subsection 719(3.1)?
It creates a window, or I should really say a door—quite an open, wide door—for judicial discretion. I am concerned that it doesn't cover the long record of the person or the breach of conditions, something that the government would like to retain, for sure. And frankly, I have some technical problems with it.
I think in part, Mr. Comartin, what you're trying to do here is expand upon the words that we chose to use in drafting the bill: “if the circumstances justify”. As you know, the more common expression in the Criminal Code is “in exceptional circumstances”, but we deliberately didn't use that here because the circumstances won't be that exceptional; they'll be fairly common and, in the case of the parole loss and the remission loss, will be universal.
I'm just not sure that trying to expand on this works, because you have conditions specified in the order for the person's detention, so the decision the JP makes isn't necessarily going to speak to conditions, other than that he'll be sending him to the remand centre or to a remand centre in his community.
The second element you have is “any negative impact on the person as a result of that detention”. Well, obviously for everyone detention has a negative impact. Also, you are making it personal to each individual offender. That's going to eat up a lot of court time. You're going to have to hear some kind of evidence as to what that impact was and whether it disproportionately affected a particular offender.
Then you have the basket clause, which is fine.
I can't really go further than that. It's really a policy decision.
I will be voting against this amendment. The purpose of Bill C-25, the Truth in Sentencing Act, is to set the benchmark for pretrial custody, from what we understand to be a standard two to one in most cases and in exceptional cases three to one--to reduce that standard or, to use my friend Mr. Murphy's terminology, benchmark to one to one.
There is still discretion left to the judiciary to satisfy Mr. Comartin's concern, in that in exceptional circumstances—if the sentencing judge believes the pretrial conditions were exceptionally overcrowded, or for some other extraordinary reason—the judiciary still has the discretion to grant a ratio of 1.5 to one. But the purpose of this bill is to reduce the in-practice standard, which we heard many times was two for one, to one for one.
So with all due respect to Mr. Comartin, I think this amendment, if it were to pass, would completely eviscerate the bill and its purposes. Certainly judges who are not deferential to Parliament's attempt to curtail their discretion would continue to routinely grant the“two for one, which they would legally be able to do if Mr. Comartin's amendment were to carry. So I will be voting against it.
Thank you. I will do so in the future.
I really want to respond to some of the points Mr. Daubney raised.
Certainly, having spent time with the person who helped draft this, I don't have any intention of changing the criteria. The government used the terms, “if the circumstances justify it”, and I put it as “if it is justified by the circumstances”. My intent is the same as the government's.
Flowing from that, and in terms of that intent, my reading of the proposed subsection, as it is, was that it was in fact going to impose on prosecutors a much greater burden to call evidence. Again, I don't see my wording as changing that.
If the amendment presented by the government passes, courts are going to have to take more evidence in order to justify that the circumstances exist to move it up to something close to or at 1.5. I don't think that's going to change.
On the final point about my personalizing this, it's part of the basic principles of sentencing that all criminal sentencing has to be done on a personal basis. So I'm not changing anything in terms of standard sentencing principles in this regard.
I want to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for allowing me to make this presentation. Indeed, it's an honour for me to be here in front of you people.
The trafficking of a person, ladies and gentlemen, is a horrific abuse of human rights. The trafficking of a child is even more severe. Canada remains one of the few developed countries that does not have enhanced penalties for the trafficking of children. Bill was drafted with one goal, to ensure the sentences of the traffickers of children reflect the gravity of the crime.
The first two sentences involving child trafficking in Canada resulted in approximately one and two years served after credited pretrial time served was factored in. As such, traffickers are currently able to continue making hundreds of thousands of dollars from the exploitation and rape of children without much threat of serious sanction.
I have put forward Bill C-268 to amend the Criminal Code to address the critical legal aspect of child trafficking and to bring parity between Canada's legislation and that of many other countries. I have commended the previous Liberal government for bringing the initial human trafficking legislation under section 279.01 of the Criminal Code. This legislation has provided important tools for our police officers, prosecutors, and judges. Yet this legislation, while allowing for sentences of up to 14 years, and life in some cases, also has a minimum of zero years. One would assume that for such a horrific crime as human trafficking, lenient sentences would not be an issue. However, Imani Nakpamgi, who was the first person in Canada convicted of human trafficking involving a minor--and I must commend the member of Parliament Rick Norlock for mentioning this in his previous presentation at this committee--received a three-year sentence for the trafficking of a 15-year-old girl but was credited 13 months for pretrial custody. He made over $350,000 sexually exploiting her over two years before she was able to escape. Essentially, he will spend less time in jail for this offence than he did exploiting her, and if you ever had a chance to read her impact statement, it's absolutely heart-rending.
Last year, Montreal resident Michael Lennox Mark received a two-year sentence, but with a two-for-one credit for the year served before his trial, the man who horrifically victimized a 17-year-old girl spent only a week in jail after his conviction. With precedent-setting convictions like these, one wonders what a trafficker would have to do to get 14 years or life.
Most recently, a third conviction has been obtained for trafficking involving minors. Last month a Gatineau women was given seven years for trafficking three girls from Ottawa to Gatineau.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is 10 minutes from Parliament Hill, the seat of government for Canada. They were drugged, beaten, raped, and tethered to objects during their captivity. Two of these girls were subjected to this for six months, and one for a whole year, before their rescue. What this conviction shows is that there is at least one judge who understands that serious crimes against minors require serious sentences, but this standard must be consistent all across Canada.
The courageous officers in the Peel Regional Police Department have taken human trafficking head-on since the implementation of Canada's human trafficking legislation. They were responsible for Canada's first trafficking conviction and are currently investigating almost a dozen cases involving minors. I have to say you can read the letter that the chief of the Peel Regional Police Department wrote to me in support of this bill. The chief of the Peel Regional Police has said, and I quote:
||Efforts by police officers across Canada to enforce this law are impressive, yet they are overshadowed by the disturbing number of occurrences that involve victims under the age of 18.
||Establishing minimum sentences, as proposed by Bill C-268 would raise the law's deterrent goal, and highlight society's abhorrence of crimes that involve child victims.
That is from the chief of Peel Regional Police.
Allow me to point to Canada's international legal obligations. In 2005 Canada ratified the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Article 3, subsection (3), states:
||Each State Party shall make such offences punishable by appropriate penalties that take into account their grave nature.
As I have noted, the sentences so far in Canada have not been consistent with this protocol.
Further, Dr. Mohamed Mattar, executive director of the Protection Project at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, points out:
||Many states have specific provisions in their antitrafficking legislation or criminal codes guaranteeing enhanced penalties in cases of trafficking in persons committed under aggravated circumstances, including a crime committed against a child victim...
That is the purpose of this bill, ladies and gentlemen. Canada must have enhanced provisions for trafficking of persons when the victim is a minor.
In the U.S., the minimum is 15 years if the victim is under 14 years of age, and 10 years if the victim is under 18 years of age but over 14 years. In Thailand they have a minimum of five years for child trafficking. In the Dominican Republic, five years is added to the minimum of 15 to 20 years if the victim is a child.
The international community has also called for Canada to enact mandatory minimums for child trafficking. Last October the Report of the Canada-United States Consultation in Preparation for World Congress III Against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents urged that Canada enact a mandatory minimum penalty for child trafficking.
Also, the former director of the U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and current executive director of the Polaris Project, Ambassador Mark Lagon, has said,
||Protection requires both providing necessary support and assistance to these children and removing the most dangerous predators from the street for a very long time.
will ensure that the sentencing process consistently recognizes the gravity of this violent crime.
I do appreciate the strong support I have received across party lines for this bill. Human trafficking must remain a non-partisan issue. This bill is jointly seconded by members from three parties and, as you know, during the vote on April 22 received near unanimous support from the Conservative, Liberal, and NDP parties. This support is encouraging. When it comes to the protection of our children, nothing should unite us more.
I am disappointed that the Bloc, with one honourable exception, has chosen to stand against this important legislation. They are the sole organization and entity in Canada that has voiced opposition to legislation that upholds our commitments to the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. This legislation has received strong support from all across Canada, from law enforcement, victims' service organizations, NGOs, and first nations. Strong support for this has especially come from Quebec, and as you know, a detective from Quebec presented to MPs and talked about the issue of human trafficking in Quebec, particularly around Montreal.
I also want to note that I am proposing an amendment to the bill. It was pointed out by the Bloc during second reading that there is no minimum sentence for aggravated offences under proposed paragraph 279.011(1)(a) in my bill. This paragraph provides for an individual to be sentenced to life imprisonment, which means that he or she would only be eligible for parole after seven years. I have had an amendment drafted that is within the scope of the bill, which would amend section 279.011, subsection 1(a), to ensure there is no question that this paragraph also provides for a minimum sentence of five years. It is my intention that this amendment be moved during the clause-by-clause review by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which I understand and hope will be on Wednesday of this week.
Thank you again for allowing me to speak about . It is my hope that members of all parties will support this important legislation and soundly denounce the trafficking of children. We know as members of Parliament that we have the power to move this bill forward or stall it. We are nearing the end of the session, and this bill must be returned to the House as quickly as possible. I intend to seek unanimous consent of the House to move the bill quickly through third reading if I feel it is possible that we have agreement on this committee.
With the upcoming Olympics and the uncertainty of a minority government, it is imperative that this amendment be successful. Canadians and the international community will take note whether Canada is unified against the exploitation of its children. Those who oppose it will not be forgotten.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide the committee with some general information on the existing criminal law addressing trafficking of persons as well as the implication of , which proposes to impose a mandatory minimum penalty of five years for the offence of trafficking in children.
By way of background, and as the sponsor has already pointed out, trafficking in persons or human trafficking is often described as a modern-day form of slavery. It involves the recruitment, transportation, and/or harbouring of persons for the purpose of exploitation—generally sexual exploitation or forced labour. Traffickers use various methods to maintain control over their victims, including force, sexual assault, and threats of violence. Victims are forced to provide their services or labour in circumstances where they believe that their safety or the safety of a person known to them would be threatened if they failed to provide that labour or service. Victims suffer physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, including threats of violence or actual harm, which is compounded by their living and working conditions. Trafficking in persons may occur across or within borders and often involves extensive organized crime networks. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking and are by far its primary victims.
In 2005, three trafficking-specific indictable offences were added to the Criminal Code. Section 279.01 specifically prohibits trafficking in persons and imposes a maximum penalty of life imprisonment where kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault, or death to the victim is involved, and 14 years in all other cases. Section 279.02 prohibits receiving a financial or other material benefit from the commission of the trafficking offence. This offence imposes a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. Finally, section 279.03 prohibits the withholding or destroying of identity documents for the purpose of committing or facilitating the trafficking of a person. This offence imposes a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.
In addition, numerous Criminal Code offences have always applied to trafficking cases, such as extortion, assault, sexual assault, forcible confinement, kidnapping, and prostitution-related offences, depending on the facts of the case in hand.
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act also prohibits trafficking of persons into Canada.
As a result, today police and crown prosecutors can choose from a wide range of offences, as they deem appropriate in each case. They may choose to charge or prosecute under the new trafficking-specific offences and/or they may choose to use other trafficking-related offences that I've already mentioned. In fact, in most of the recent cases, we are seeing charges under both trafficking-specific and trafficking-related offences.
Regarding, its proposed reforms would create a new offence of trafficking in children that would mirror the existing main trafficking in persons offence in the code, that is, section 279.01. There is one exception: where the victim is under the age of 18, it would impose a mandatory minimum penalty of five years for the branch of the offence that carries a maximum penalty of 14 years, but not where the maximum penalty is life. The sponsor has already dealt with that and indicated what she proposes to do about it. The bill also proposes consequential amendments to ensure that, along with the main trafficking in persons offence, the proposed offence of trafficking in children is referenced in the provisions that deal with interception of communications, exclusion of the public from the court, publication bans, DNA, the sex offender registry, and dangerous offenders.
The effect of these proposed reforms would therefore include, first, treating the trafficking of any person under 18 years distinctly from the trafficking of an adult, in that the mandatory minimum penalty would not apply to the trafficking of an adult but would apply to the trafficking of a child; second, where the trafficking of the young person is for the purpose of sexual exploitation, for example, in the sex trade, the imposition of a mandatory minimum penalty would make the penalties for child trafficking more like the existing penalties that apply to the procurement of a person under the age of 18, which currently impose mandatory minimum penalties in three different circumstances.
First, the offence of living on the avails of child prostitution imposes a mandatory minimum penalty of two years and a maximum penalty of 14 years of imprisonment under subsection 212(2) of the Criminal Code.
Second is the offence of living on the avails of child prostitution where aggravating factors are present, such as violence, intimidation, and coercion. This offence imposes a mandatory minimum penalty of five years and a maximum penalty of 14 years of imprisonment under subsection 212(2.1).
Finally, there is the offence of obtaining, for consideration, the sexual services of a child or communicating for that purpose. This offence imposes a mandatory minimum penalty of six months and a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment under subsection 212(4).
That brings us to Bill C-268 and its imposition of the mandatory minimum penalty for the lesser offence. As has been pointed out, this differs from the Criminal Code's usual approach to mandatory minimum penalties in two ways. First we'll take section 273, which is the aggravated sexual assault provision. It imposes a four-year mandatory minimum penalty when a firearm is used, and the maximum penalty is life. In a case where a firearm is not used, the maximum penalty is life and there is no mandatory minimum penalty.
In the case I just went over of a child prostitution offence, the more serious aggravated offence imposes a mandatory minimum penalty of five years, and a less serious offence imposes a lesser mandatory minimum penalty of two years. Police and the crown will still have the discretion to proceed under the charge or charges that are most appropriate to the facts of a given case, whether it be under trafficking-specific offences, including this new child trafficking offence, or others that I've already mentioned: child prostitution, forcible confinement, extortion, etc.
Recent cases have already been raised in the previous session and this one. The Gatineau case involved a woman who was charged with a specific trafficking in persons offence, assault, procuring, and living on the avails of prostitution, because as the sponsor has indicated, she forced three victims into prostitution, one of whom was under the age of 18. She pleaded guilty and received a global sentence of seven years.
The recent Nakpamgi case has already been referred to. It involved a man charged with a specific trafficking in persons offence, as well as living on the avails of the prostitution of a person under the age of 18. He pleaded guilty and received a sentence of five years: three years for trafficking in persons and two years for child prostitution, to be served consecutively.
I would like to thank you very much for taking the time to listen and for allowing me the opportunity to provide my comments.
REAL Women of Canada is a national organization of women from all walks of life, occupations, and social and economic backgrounds. We recognize the family as the most important unit of Canadian society. We see the fragmentation of the family as one of the major causes of disorder in society today. We are cognizant of data that demonstrate that the stable family, especially within marriage, is the best environment for men, women, and children in terms of reducing poverty, fulfilling the social, health, and educational potential of children, and reducing crime and violence. We affirm the family as society's most important unit.
We promote the equality, advancement, and well-being of women. We support government and social policies that strengthen family life.
Considering human trafficking, which is unacceptable to Canadian families, we would like to add our support to . Human trafficking, which involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring--
We would like to add our support to . Human trafficking, which involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of individuals for sexual or labour exploitation, is in our opinion modern-day slavery. The offence of human trafficking is one of the three most lucrative enterprises carried out worldwide by organized crime, outranked only by the trade in weapons and drugs.
According to the RCMP, 600 individuals annually are victims of human traffickers for sexual purposes in Canada; 800 individuals are victims for drug trafficking purposes, forced marriage, or domestic labour; and between 1,500 and 2,000 are transported across Canada for purposes of exploitation in other destinations, mostly the United States. The domestic trafficking of aboriginal and other women and youth from within Canada is a concern equal to that of the importation of individuals from abroad for the purposes of human trafficking.
Canada has made international commitments to oppose human trafficking. In the year 2000, Canada signed the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The state parties to the protocol state that they are “Gravely concerned at the significant and increasing international traffic of children for the purpose of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography”. The state parties believe the elimination of the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography will be facilitated by addressing, among other things, poverty, dysfunctioning families, and the trafficking of children.
I quote again from the protocol. States parties are “Taking due account of the importance of traditions and cultural values of each people for the protection and harmonious development of the child”. As stated previously, the optional protocol, which Canada has signed, provides in article 3, section 3: “Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties that take into account their grave nature”.
In October 2008, the report of the Canada-U.S. consultation in preparation for the World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents recommended that Canada “amend the Criminal Code to provide the mandatory minimum penalty for child trafficking and strengthen the sex offender registry”.
In April 2009, the declaration of One is Too Many: A Citizens' Summit on Human Trafficking at the 2010 Olympics and Beyond called for “the effective prosecution of human traffickers, the protection of human trafficking victims, and the prevention of human trafficking in every instance”. Summit participants advocated that Canada's Criminal Code reflect the fact that the crime of human trafficking should carry meaningful penalties. It is therefore urgent that Bill C-268 be enacted in order to be ready to offer protection in time for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Canada is a signatory to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, General Assembly resolution 55/25 of November 2000. This protocol approaches human trafficking in three specific areas: preventing trafficking, protecting the victims of trafficking, and prosecuting trafficking offenders.
As an NGO in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, REAL Women of Canada is strongly supportive of Bill C-268, which would amend section 279.01 to provide for a minimum penalty. We support this for three main reasons.
First, we believe that a minimum sentence for trafficking will act to dissuade men and women from engaging in the exploitation and abuse of children. This would help to achieve the law's deterrent goals.
Second, the minimum sentence of five years for such a grave crime as trafficking of children will send a strong message that trafficking is not acceptable to Canadians. It will highlight society's abhorrence of this crime. This will help set standards of behaviour in keeping with our society's values of respect toward vulnerable children. And children are the future of Canada.
Third, without minimum standards and with wide-open discretion, sentencing often takes the form of a mild rebuke, which is out of proportion to the gravity of the offence and the horrendous suffering of the victims. This also fails to deter continued exploitation of the most vulnerable, who should receive our protection and not suffer from our neglect. We believe minimum sentencing should be even broader, to include all victims of trafficking regardless of age.
Regardless of political affiliation, we should do the right thing and join those around the world who are working to make a better world by preventing human trafficking, protecting victims, and effectively prosecuting those who would exploit and abuse children. This is a rare opportunity to protect vulnerable children, and Canadians across Canada, it seems to us, would want their legislators to adhere to the above protocols and build on past efforts at global consultations to reduce these atrocious crimes in Canada and throughout the world. It's a privilege for us to defend the most vulnerable members of our society.
We thank you for inviting us to present our views to the committee.
Thank you so very much for your questions, and thank you for your support and your good work on this human trafficking issue here in Canada.
First of all, I must state very clearly that I never recommended one single witness to come today. I never did any of that. I thought I was going to be the only one here. I was hoping I was going to be the only one here, because I really wanted this to pass. And I referred not to the committee holding up my bill, but to the Bloc's not voting for my bill at second reading. That is why I brought out the detective from Montreal and invited everybody to come and listen to the human trafficking issue in Quebec, to try to persuade them that this is something that needed to be done.
So thank you for your comments about trying to be fair. I think I am very fair; I just cannot understand why anybody wouldn't support mandatory minimums for traffickers of children 18 years and under. Let's just get that cleared up.
The thing you asked about was national strategy. My motion number 153 was about the national strategy, calling for a national strategy. Ever since I came to Parliament, my wish and my hope and what I have worked toward is to make this non-partisan, so that all of us would work together to protect victims.
Those are very good questions. Speaking of police officers, my own son is RCMP, and it's more about training police officers. Many police officers don't understand what human trafficking is about, because they've never had special training. If you get trained in an ICE unit.... It's like being a teacher: if you're trained in math, you know math; if you're trained in language arts, you know language arts; if you were trained in French, you know French. You're expert in that area.
ICE units, or integrated child exploitation units, are made up of specially trained police officers, and that training is something that I think is mandatory. You always need more resources; the resources never end. I've always been a proponent of more resources because, my own son being a police officer, I see the wonderful work they do, the long hours, and some of these police officers are very disillusioned. When you're talking about child pornography and about the victims of human trafficking, it's the most heinous crime.
I want to make sure that I address all your questions. I'm hoping that has addressed some of them, Mr. Murphy.
Point of order. I suggest that you gently remind the witness that, in mid-May, you submitted a report to this committee, and in that report, we were asked to consider Ms. Smith's bill on June 1.
To say, in front of television cameras, that the committee spent time on this matter is not an accurate reflection of the truth. Mr. Storseth's motion was deferred so that yours could be heard first. I just wanted to set the record straight in terms of the sequence of events.
That being said, Mr. Chair, I voted in the House—as did the Bloc Québécois—in favour of Bill C-49, which the Liberals introduced and which does not include any minimum sentences. The Bloc Québécois is consistent in its actions. We do not support minimum sentences. I would like you to submit to this committee studies showing that minimum sentences are effective.
I will ask both you and the Department of Justice whether it is true that, to date, there have been only two convictions under section 279 of the Criminal Code. The opinion that sentences are not severe enough needs to be qualified. In fact, this section did not get much use. Perhaps they were not severe enough, but in those cases, an appeal should be filed. That is not a justification for minimum sentences.
Out of respect for the work you have done, on Tuesday, I will propose a motion asking the government to suspend all consideration of the bill. We will immediately try to take a balanced look at the briefs you submitted. We are talking about 15,000 victims of human trafficking in Canada, that is 2,000 people a year. I am a lot more worried by the fact that out of those 15,000 trafficking cases in Canada, there were only two convictions.
As parliamentarians, we will try to not play politics, but to understand why there were only two convictions. We will propose a motion to suspend all other consideration of the bill.
How do you explain the fact that there were only two trials and two convictions? That question is also for your colleague from the Department of Justice.
Good afternoon, Ms. Smith, Ms. Watts and Ms. Levman.
Allow me to introduce myself. I am Daniel Petit, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles in Quebec. I want you to know that not all Quebeckers oppose this bill. I have read it. I have been a lawyer for some 30 years. I have four children, who are all of full age, of course.
The issue you are raising has been a problem for a very long time, not only in Quebec and in Canada, but also worldwide. The trafficking of young girls and boys has been the focus of numerous movies and news stories. I can assure you that Quebeckers in the Conservative party support your bill.
We have had the chance to meet, as we sit on the same side of the House. I have followed your motion's progress. Way back when, you proposed a motion, and, if memory serves me correctly, we voted almost unanimously in favour of it.
The question I want to ask Ms. Levman is this. Very often, the general public does not distinguish between procuring and the trafficking of children for sexual or other purposes. In the Criminal Code, it says that if someone is found guilty of procuring, the minimum sentence is two years' imprisonment, and up to five years in the case of a more serious offence. We are talking about prostitution and procuring.
I read Ms. Mourani's book; she is a Bloc Québécois member who, in fact, voted in our favour. In her book, she writes that certain highly organized street gangs in Montreal sell one another young women, whom they then use. As one city of Montreal official told us during a presentation on human trafficking in the Montreal area, it is more profitable for a gang to have girls than drugs, because they have to buy more drugs once they sell the drugs they had, but a girl can be used over and over again, which brings in more money.
Ms. Levman, since people are watching us now, could you please explain the difference between section 212 and the new section that Ms. Smith is proposing with respect to minimum sentences for procuring and trafficking offences. Most people think that procuring is human trafficking. But they are not necessarily the same thing. Can you explain the difference from a legal perspective?