Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I would like to greet all my colleagues and thank them for allowing me to speak on this very important bill.
My presentation is divided into two main sections. During the first one I will explain what led to the bill. Mainly, I want to tell you about the thought process for the bill. In the second part, I will focus on the various clauses.
First, this bill was created in three main steps over a year and a half. It took a long time to develop. My objective when I began was to understand the perspective of the people on the ground. The first step was therefore to meet with specialists on the ground who were in direct contact with victims of the trafficking and procuring of persons and with traffickers and pimps. This meant groups working with victims and police.
My objective in collecting this data was to understand legislative needs. Of course, there are other needs, such as awareness campaigns, resources for police investigations and resources for victims. In fact, there are very few shelters. We are in desperate need of shelters in Quebec. However, I was also interested in the legal aspect of this issue. Our efforts led to some very interesting points, which I will present later.
The second step after data collection was to translate these needs into a bill. I worked with our legislative drafters here at the House and we submitted a draft bill.
Finally, I went back to the partners we had consulted to show them the first version of the bill and see if there was anything to improve, change and so on. The bill was then presented to other groups that were not necessarily involved in its creation and development. We wanted to know what they thought to see whether there were any problems with the bill on the legal front, for example. I therefore met with members of the Quebec Bar. I do not remember the exact number of criminologists who were at the meeting, but there were a number of them. If I remember correctly, the consultation was in 2010. I presented the bill and it was very well received.
Bill was then tabled on December 15, 2010. It went through second reading on March 24, 2011, but unfortunately died on the order paper because of the election.
After the election, I again tabled the bill after making a few adjustments. It was sent back to the legislative drafters because, of course, my colleague Joy Smith had tabled her own bill on this topic. Her bill contained some provisions that were also in my bill. For example, extraterritoriality was removed from Bill even though it had been part of my original bill.
So the bill was sent back to the legislative drafters and a new version of it was produced with a few changes. I would say that about 95% of Bill is still there. The bill was tabled on October 16, 2012, and passed second reading in March. I believe it is important to mention the groups that worked on this bill because this is their bill. I am simply their spokesperson. The Conseil du statut de la femme requested to appear before the committee and also submitted a document on this topic.
I consulted police experts at the SPVM. Their work on the bill involved the moral aspect and the sexual exploitation of children aspect. I also consulted the Comité d'action contre la traite humaine interne et internationale; the Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale, better known as AFEAS; the Regroupement québécois des centres d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel; the Regroupement québécois des CALACS; Concertation-Femme; the Concertation des luttes contre l'exploitation sexuelle, which I believe will also be appearing before you; the Association québécoise Plaidoyer-victimes; the Collectif de l'Outaouais contre l'exploitation sexuelle, which is with us today; the diocèse de l'Outaouais de la condition des femmes; Maison de Marthe; and, of course, the YMCA of Quebec.
These groups have asked to be heard during the committee's proceedings. I really want to thank them for the work they have done for over a year and a half. They continue to promote this bill. I want to give a big thank you to all of these groups.
I do not know how much time I have left, Mr. Chair. I have many things to say.
One of the interesting things that came out of my consultations is that prosecutors, and sometimes even police officers, often tended to believe that human trafficking was international. When women cross the border to come to Canada, that was treated as trafficking, but when girls from Montreal ended up in Quebec City or even in Niagara, that was considered procuring. For trafficking, it depended on the prosecutor and the police officer.
To make things clear for everyone, I added the following specifications to subsection 279.01(1): whether it is in a domestic or international context, as soon as someone recruits, transports and so on, it becomes a matter of trafficking. Police officers will be appearing on this later. We know that trafficking is very widespread within Canada. In my opinion, it is much more widespread than international trafficking.
Girls from Quebec unfortunately find themselves in Niagara, in strip clubs or brothels. Girls from Montreal end up in Quebec City, and vice versa. Girls from Chicoutimi end up in Montreal and girls from British Columbia end up in Toronto or elsewhere. Human trafficking happens within the country and it concerns all of us, whatever the provinces concerned. There are no borders.
Another very important point that was often raised during discussions that I held with these people is, of course, the definition of exploitation. Section 279.04 of the Criminal Code concerns exploitation. There are provisions on organ trafficking and forced labour, but trafficking for sexual exploitation is not clearly defined. I therefore introduced a specific provision on sexual exploitation. It is subsection (1.1), following subsection (1), which concerns offering or providing labour, etc.
This definition was prepared very carefully to respond to all situations that could arise. Furthermore, it is practically taken verbatim from the Palermo Protocol, which targets human trafficking and transnational crime, and which Canada ratified on May 13, 2002. I think that with this addition, we clarify things and all of the dimensions of the term “exploitation”.
Forfeiture of the proceeds of crime is another very important point that was raised. People who work in policing and prosecutors spoke to me about it a lot. Trafficking is a very profitable crime because it is extremely difficult to prove under the current code. In addition, it involves very few risks. With drug trafficking, the drugs have to be bought and so there is the risk of being caught. But for this type of trafficking, the guys just have to recruit girls. To do so, they can use manipulation or seduction. In fact, what is called “grooming” is not done right away. It can be slow or fast, depending on the traffickers. Then, these girls are raped. They are gang raped. They are tortured and their family is threatened. After that, they make their appointments on their own. They are so terrorized that they do not even have to be forced to do so.
A girl can bring in a lot of money, depending on her looks and her age. The younger she is, the more she brings in. I have met, unfortunately, girls who had started doing that at age 12. A girl can bring in about $280,000 per year. Twenty girls bring in $6,552,000 per year, and 40 girls $13,100,000 per year. These are figures from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
Here, I am not just talking to you about low-level street prostitution. I am talking about a group of things, notably strip clubs. What's more, the SQ estimates that 80% of strip clubs in its jurisdiction belong to organized crime, under front men. We are also talking about massage parlours, which are popping up like mushrooms just about everywhere. I do not know if that is the case everywhere in Canada, but I can tell you that it is in Montreal. In my riding, they are already popping up like mushrooms.
There are also escort agencies and bawdy houses that are too numerous to count.
Paradoxically, confiscating the proceeds of crime is done through drug offences and any offence associated with organized crime. If we do it for drugs, it is high time we did it for human beings, because that is even worse. Slavery is worse than drug trafficking. In fact, all of that is described. Clearly, selling drugs is bad, but selling human beings and treating them like merchandise is repugnant. It is high time for this to stop being lucrative for pimps because at this time, it is quite lucrative. If we seize their big cars and big houses, they may think about it twice.
You said I had two minutes left, so I will be able to tell you more during questions.
The other issue is presumption. Presumption is a fundamental aspect. This bill contains two important elements: presumption or what is known as “reversal of proof” and “consecutive sentences”. That is fundamental for victims. In fact, it was one of the most important issues raised by victims' groups and the police. It was discussed a great deal.
Currently, the Criminal Code is drafted in such a way that the burden of proof rests entirely on victims. Indeed, we know that without their testimony, it is extremely difficult to bring someone to trial. When we are dealing with adults rather than minors, it is even worse. You should know that trafficking victims are quite reluctant to testify. These women have been through hell. They are experiencing major post-traumatic stress. The fact of seeing their attackers again, talking about everything that happened and retelling their horror stories prevents them from testifying, since, quite often, they are afraid their attackers will get out of prison. They wonder what they will do to them. It is extremely difficult to send someone, whoever it may be, to testify after having been victimized by one of these networks.
In closing, I would like to say something about the reversal of the burden of proof. If my colleagues wish, I can tell you more about consecutive sentences a bit later. Several victims' groups asked me to stop imposing the burden of proof on victims as is currently the case for procuring. In fact, presumption, in cases of procuring, does exist in the Criminal Code as we speak. So let us do so, not only to help the police and provide them with tools, but also to relieve victims and give them justice.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. If you wish, I will tell you about consecutive sentences later on.
Absolutely. I am sorry. My legal side got carried away. I will wear my criminologist hat now.
I will tell you about what I know best because I have seen it on a daily basis and I have met with them, in other words street gangs. For a long time, they have been recruiting young girls. Today, street gangs are not only recruiters, they are high-level pimps. In other words, they transfer young girls from one area to another. For instance, there are groups in Niagara. I am referring specifically to that area because they have close links with Montreal-based groups.
Recruiting usually starts with seduction. At first, men will seduce the young girls. Make no mistake; this does not mean these young girls are necessarily poor, there are also middle class girls who end up ensnared by these guys.
At first, a young girl may believe she loves this man and that he is her boyfriend. So, there is deceit and manipulation. He will have her experience all sorts of things. He will take her out and buy her gifts. However, at some point, he starts telling her that she has to pay off the debt.
A great deal of disinhibition occurs. Young girls are sent to parties and, I am sorry, but I will be using crude terms, they are brought there so that they will sleep with everyone and take part in orgies. The men start to do this type of thing and when the girls start saying no, that is when they take these girls by force and stick them in apartments. They do not even know where they are and groups of men rape them. This is what they call a gangbang. Sometimes they will be raped by 15 guys in a row.
We heard testimony from a victim who said 40 guys had raped her in the course of one evening. She could not remember when it started or when it ended. This case is currently before the courts.
Afterwards, the young girls are completely isolated. Their families are threatened, their little brothers or little sisters. They are told that they will not be getting it but their little brother or their little sister may. They absolutely terrorize these young girls. They take away all of their ID. The only thing these girls will be allowed to do is put on makeup. They will be given clothes and have to deal with 10, 20 or 30 johns per day.
Thank you very much for the question.
You are completely right in saying that recruiting is very important. These groups thrive on the recruiting of young girls. In the 1980s and 1990s, street gangs were a lot less enterprising, but they have become expert recruiters and they now specialize in juvenile prostitution. It is their specialty.
Unfortunately they recruit vulnerable girls who end up in youth centres for example. I worked in these centres and I remember that we had to really keep an eye on our girls because sometimes the houses were connected. The recruiters go to places where the girls are the most vulnerable. This is well known. Sometimes girls recruit on their behalf. This does not happen often but we are seeing it more and more. These are girls who have been victims themselves and who live in constant fear. They say they have no other choice but to recruit other girls if they do not want to be the one that is beaten up or tortured.
Even if you are an MP, you cannot really renounce your past roles. These girls still come to see me, even though I am an MP. As long as I live, I will never forget this girl of about 19 whom I met not that long ago. She told me that her most painful experience occurred when she was 15 years old. She was in the back seat of a car that was taking her from Montreal to Quebec City, along with other girls, to be sexually exploited in a duplex. There was a 12-year-old girl there and she was crying.
This is a substantial problem. Street gangs are recruiting nonstop. The police officers I know tell me that as soon as these guys get out of jail, they grab their cell phones and start up again. I am talking about gang members, but let's not forget the Russian mafia, the Asian mafia or triads, in places like Vancouver, and criminal organizations. There is a lot of talk about street gangs, but transnational criminal organizations are very involved in human trafficking, whether it be international or national.
Our children are recruited at a very young age. Our young girls are exposed to certain images. They are constantly told that in order to be someone, they must walk around half naked and be beautiful. Messages like this are constantly circulating, whether it be in ads or at school, they contribute to making our girls more vulnerable. They are approached by guys who are very nice and handsome, who tell them they will give them all the love that they have been deprived of. That is how they get them mixed up in these kinds of systems. No one can even say how many young female minors are currently involved in these prostitution networks.
Mothers send me emails or call me to tell me that their daughters are in the Niagara region, for example, and they beg me to help them get them out of there. These young girls believe these guys are their boyfriends. I asked one woman how old her daughter was and she said 17. When I asked her how old her daughter was when all of this started, she said 14.
I can tell you one thing: we don't need to go all the way to Thailand to see situations like this involving children. We can continue to fight and fill the gaps in the Criminal Code as much as we can, but as long as there is no real legislation on prostitution, we will never be able to tighten up all the loopholes.
For me, that is a serious crime. I think that for all of us, around this table, that is a serious crime that deserves a harsh sentence. After having spoken with prosecutors and even police officers, I wanted to observe the following principle, which is that the judge can determine the sentence as he or she sees fit, whatever the offence concerned, be it forced labour or sexual exploitation. But as legislators, we must make it clear that these crimes are considered serious enough to call for consecutive sentences.
As for consecutive sentences, beyond the fact that the sentence must be severe enough for the crimes committed, there is the following situation, which is very important. When the victim sees that the man who assaulted her for weeks, for months, even for years, is charged and found guilty of trafficking, pimping and aggravated assault, but he only gets a three-year sentence because only the trafficking sentence is taken into account, she does not understand. This man raped her, tortured her, and she has the impression that she is nothing. She tries to reconstruct her humanity, and yet this man is only sentenced to three years in prison. There are many cases like this one.
To my knowledge, the longest sentence imposed was seven years. It was for atrocious crimes involving several victims. The victims do not understand why these men, who were charged with these crimes, are not serving an appropriate sentence. During their healing process, the victims have the impression that society is inflicting yet another injustice upon them.
It is very important not to forget that this bill is intended to give police officers and prosecutors tools, but also to give victims real justice. They are told that it is not up to them to carry the burden of proof. These men committed atrocious crimes and they will pay for them. Furthermore, if they are found guilty, the proceeds of their crimes will be taken from them. Whether it happened in Canada, between Montreal and Quebec, between Niagara Falls and Toronto, or on the way from Russia, it is all the same.
I have just been given the name of
Aboriginal Women's Action Network.
Thank you very much. The people who created this group have officially established that they want prostitution abolished, in order to protect the young girls and adult women in their communities.
Yes, you are right: the sentences that are imposed must serve as an example and the proceeds of crime must be confiscated. Victims must not be victimized yet again.
I think that the current Criminal Code will allow us to accomplish great things. I truly hope that during third reading, all of my colleagues will vote to support this bill, just as they did during second reading.
Good afternoon. I'm honoured to be here today representing the Winnipeg Police Service, and I'm very pleased to speak with you on such an important issue.
Not unlike other urban centres in Canada, Winnipeg struggles with crimes of exploitation, procuring, luring, prostitution, and related criminal behaviour. Exploitation is not limited to cities or any one segment of our population. It's truly a community issue for all Canadians. Many of these crimes have their genesis in, or a connection to, human trafficking. I applaud the government for bringing into law specific sections of the Criminal Code to address these terrible events and give police real ability and methods to improve the lives of victims and stabilize those at risk. Legislation like this brings meaningful change to our communities and helps create a culture of safety.
The specific amendments in Bill including presumption of evidence for exploited persons, specific reference to a domestic context when speaking about trafficking, forfeiture provisions, and consecutive sentences are tangible items that both police and prosecutors have needed. Combatting exploitation requires a broad range of commitments on many fronts, and all the practices police and our partners employ come together when the laws are comprehensive.
Not unlike a puzzle, when pieces are put together you find strength and you can see the entire picture. To that end, I want to share with you some of our strategies and programs and methods as they relate directly to the current legislation and the amendments contained within Bill .
The initiatives, strategies, and work practices of the Winnipeg Police Service have developed over a considerable time, always with a view to maximizing our resources, skill, knowledge, and abilities to address victim, community, or offender processes. For example, since 1990, officers of our sex crime unit have been part of a board that includes medical staff, a community outreach program called Klinic, victim service workers, and the RCMP. The goal of this group is to ensure that the practices and processes that are in place for sexual assault examination, interviews, and evidence gathering serve the interests of justice and the wellness, care, and dignity of victims.
Many victims these teams deal with are from exploited populations and we open doors for programming and longer-term care, and help make life changes.
Inside our service, we conduct yearly in-depth training on exploitation, sexual assault victim protocols, cycles of violence, and how to offer assistance. This training is mandatory for recruits and forms part of specialist training for all detectives.
In 2012 the child abuse unit partnered and helped found the Winnipeg Children's Advocacy Centre. This corporation is a child victims' centre governed by a board that includes police, justice, health, social service agencies, and victim services. The mission of this stand-alone centre is to facilitate multi-system collaboration and foster best practices in child exploitation investigations. Also, the centre ensures that victims receive sensitive and immediate support in a setting that puts their needs first. This set-up reduces system-induced stress faced by children who are victims of sexual or serious physical abuse.
The Winnipeg Police Service is also an active participant and contributor to the violent crime linkage system. More than two years ago, we changed our workflow internally and have a nearly 100% compliance rating for submissions and analysis. This has benefited local investigations and identified leads on cases that had run cold. These new leads have increased tenfold because of our changes in workflow and communication.
Since 2005, our integrated high-risk offender unit has been operating in partnership with the RCMP corrections and community groups. This unit aggressively monitors offenders for conditional order breaches and conducts surveillance operations on persons designated as a high risk to reoffend. They also facilitate Criminal Code section 810 order applications and public information notices.
Our missing persons unit was restructured in 2009. Currently, the unit manages approximately 6,600 missing person cases a year, many of which are chronic runaway children who need our help. We have developed a high-risk victim protocol strategy that aims to prevent the exploitation of youth and bring about stabilization in their lives. We do this by pairing a police officer and social worker together, shoulder to shoulder, to plan, manage, evaluate risk, and help each child as an individual. This program works. It brings a stable lifestyle to many and provides a real mechanism for police to identify those who prey on children in our malls, parks, and streets.
Finding missing kids is only the first part. We now probe further in these cases, and if we can bring charges of luring and of abduction of a child under 14 within the parameters of harbouring or concealing their whereabouts, we do so. Our vice unit is also involved in a number of tactics that focus on exploitation, prevention, and communication.
Deter and identify sex-trade consumer reports, or DISC reports, have formed part of our records management system since 2002. These reports often begin with front-line police officers conducting traffic stops. The information is automatically forwarded to the vice unit for analysis, and information such as behaviour, risk to the community, suspicious practices, or comments are noted and compared with ongoing cases.
Where children are potentially at risk, this information is shared with children's services, which have the ability under the provincial legislation to take proactive steps against the potential or actual offenders. The vice unit monitors known sex-trade websites and Internet advertisements daily. Undercover operations are conducted based on this information or these ads, and particular attention is given to exploitation, human trafficking, and child prostitution-styled ads. This has occurred for approximately five years.
The vice unit has regularly developed relationships with the Salvation Army; New Directions for Children, Youth, Adults & Families; Rossbrook House; Sage House; and the Native Women's Transition Centre Inc. These relationships have identified people who prey on the vulnerable for the purpose of forced entry into the sex trade. Vice investigations, human trafficking, cycles of exploitation and drug dependency, and techniques for helping sex trade workers are taught at recruit training and senior investigator levels.
In 2011, the Winnipeg Police Service assisted in the redevelopment of the curriculum for the province's core competency training course for understanding and working with sexually exploited youth. This exploitation training program is the only formal program in North America and is attended by social service workers, police, foster parents, health professionals, teachers, and corrections officers.
We also conduct programs to help both victims and offenders. Our prostitution offender program for johns began in 2002, and continues today. Approximately 50 to 70 offenders participate in this program each year. Conversely, our prostitution diversion program for sex-trade workers began in 2003, and also continues. Approximately 35 to 50 women complete multi-day, overnight programming each year. Police officers participate in all aspects of the program with social service workers, justice partners, and community specialists. Relationship building, trust, education, and change are our focus.
Our public campaign that is focused on exploitation, a sex trade reality check, has used public ads to raise awareness and to date has distributed more than 9,000 posters.
Another quarterly event is Project Return. This protocol includes social workers, both government and non-government, working with police during undercover police operations to assist with juvenile prostitution, treatment plans, and placement in safe, nurturing environments.
We have sponsored human trafficking training events in Winnipeg for police, crowns, and our partners to raise awareness and action. The Winnipeg Police Service has partnered on this subject with the University of Winnipeg and the University of Saskatchewan, by assisting doctoral students studying the dynamics of human trafficking and exploitation.
All of our practices have been looked at holistically in great detail over the last two years, and we recently realigned our missing persons unit and vice units within one division. All the units I spoke about previously are now contained in that division. This new division I speak of has been renamed the Specialized Investigations Division. This speaks to our commitment to victim-centred services, along with robust investigations that will bring those responsible for exploitation to account under the law.
In fact, Winnipeg police investigators just last year had a case where the specific human trafficking charges fell apart due to a number of factors, most of which were out of our control. Thankfully, investigators were able to regroup, continue the investigation on this gang associate, and bring about charges that resulted in a conviction and appropriate penitentiary term. This case had a procuring element, and it would have been both prudent and advantageous to continue the investigation from a forfeiture perspective.
Bill will provide opportunities and further accountability for those who offend. I can say with confidence that police are well versed in forfeiture investigation and presumption of evidence processes due to similar parallels and experiences in proceeds of crime law. The amendments in Bill C-452 will enhance our ability to remove the profit from exploitation crime. I know from my own experience as an organized crime investigator, that forfeiture and consecutive sentences work. Deterrence and breaking the cycle of profitability can change behaviour and prevent others from entering that offending cycle of behaviour, greed, and disrespect for others.
I do not have any direct recommendations today, but I do wish to express my hope that the resolve of legislators will not wane when it comes to human trafficking, exploitation, and improving the lives of all people within our borders.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.
Good afternoon. I would like to thank you for having invited me here today.
I have been working as a police officer at the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, or SPVM, for 19 years, and have spent almost 15 of those years on sexual exploitation investigations. Today I have decided to speak to you about what is happening on the ground, to give you an overview of how human trafficking works and what tools Bill could provide to us.
What we have to understand is that victims of human trafficking do not come to the police. What is of note in this type of situation is that we have to conduct proactive investigations to find victims of human trafficking. That has to be our main concern. The section on human trafficking and Bill C-452 do not limit these victims' freedoms. Quite the opposite; they give police the tools they need to be proactive and save these victims. These people are victims of serious crimes that often are similar to torture.
It's very clear that people who have been raped, held captive, abducted and burned are afraid for their safety and for their lives. The victims are unanimous: when they finally agree to come to see us, they are terrified of dying. What they are most concerned about is not whether the individual who did this to them will be arrested; they want to be assured they will be protected if they speak out. The first reflex people have when they have lived through such atrocities for so long is not to go to the police. Instead, it is to try to get away, to try anything, but not to speak out.
This explains why, in 80% of the cases we handle, we go and meet the victims, but they refuse to speak to us or to provide a statement. The statement never happens because they are terrorized, or, from another perspective, because they don't consider themselves to be victims, based on the cycle. It is a long cycle, it was mentioned earlier that victims are manipulated, desensitized and seduced until they meet with the more violent aspects of human trafficking.
It is extremely interesting to note that the bill provides for presumption. I want to assure you that presumption does exist in investigation on the procuring of persons. It is already there but it does not give carte blanche to the police. It does not free us from having to produce proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Here is an example of what presumption would allow us to do on the ground. Let's say that a trafficker controls six girls at the same time but that one of them manages to escape and does in fact agree to file a complaint. The other five will be terrorized, or not consider themselves to be victims, and will not want to do so. However, if there is presumption, we can use it and the testimony from the first victim as well as other investigation techniques to press charges regarding the other five victims. This is the kind of tool presumption would give us.
In other cases, we know that a trafficker controls a young woman. I could tell you about this kind of case all afternoon. If the young woman refuses to work, she will be locked up in the trunk of a car for an entire day or be made to kneel on an open rice bag in a living room somewhere all afternoon. We have the information; we know the woman works as a prostitute every day to bring in money, but we cannot build a case if she does not speak to us. However, with presumption and various investigation techniques, we would be able to press charges.
Human trafficking is a crime perpetrated over a long period, day after day, and it is often associated with other serious crimes such as kidnapping, forcible confinement, sexual assault, assault and death threats.
When human trafficking charges are laid, the charges that I have just described apply to 80% of the cases. Without making light of the seriousness of any crime of any type, we are not talking about a bank holdup. We are talking about predators who plan the exploitation of individuals, treat them as merchandise day after day, and take every possible step to make as much profit as they can, using these people.
Indeed, consecutive sentences for such serious crimes that have gone on for so long are clearly a deterrent. If you will recall the first part of my statement, when I mentioned that 80% of the victims will never come to see us, and when you think of the five- or six-year sentences that are given, and the fact that the victims want to be protected, you will understand that this will be extremely useful. I should also tell you that nearly all of the victims who finally agree to talk to us want to withdraw their testimony at some point in the process. Once again, it is for the same reasons; it is because they are afraid, scared, etc.
In one of the most recent cases where an individual was found guilty of human trafficking, the victim had to go back to court 15 times to be cross-examined by the defence in a way that defies description.
I apologize, I am somewhat emotional, but that is what I wanted to tell you. As for the rest, I would be happy to answer your questions.
I would like to thank both of you for coming here.
It is always moving but also more practical for me to hear from those people who work on these files daily.
An incident occurred in my region not so long ago. On April 24, the Le Droit newspaper ran an article about a young 17-year-old girl who had been tricked into prostitution. We talk a great deal about procuring now, about human trafficking, prostitution, etc., but the people involved are getting younger and younger. In this case, the article was about the trial of three young teenage girls charged with procuring. Unbelievable!
When we talk about crime networks now, we do not just talk about adults and organized crime, but street gangs too. And we are no longer just looking at the stereotypical white male of such and such an age. We are talking about young people who, through a social network, attracted this young 17-year-old girl and subjected her to what Mr. Monchamp was talking about. She was so afraid.
Some people could say that she should have got a grip, gone to see her parents and that would have been the end of the story. They put her in compromising situations, took photos and played on her fear. I have no doubt that this matter will wind its way through the normal course of justice. It would be more practical to provide you with tools.
However, with respect to presumption, I am not sure that that will apply in the case of trafficking minors. I am wondering whether we are setting something aside with respect to this presumption, but perhaps you are not in the best position to answer these questions. We will be hearing from some legal experts and they may be able to answer these questions.
You work in the field and this is part of your daily life. I asked Ms. Mourani this question. Sometimes, I have a bit of difficulty when I read the bill and sections 212 and 279 of the Criminal Code. This deals with procuring and human trafficking in this country. My problem may stem from the fact that I am not an expert in criminal law. I have worked in the labour law sector all my life, but it seems to me that there are many similarities. I am wondering whether we should be merging all of this. Perhaps you can guide me with respect to these questions.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I didn't have an opportunity to ask a question on the first round so I would like to begin by saying that I think this is a very interesting bill. It's important to talk about it because so few people in Canada really know what human trafficking is. We need to talk about it because it's happening here. I have always thought it's a bit unfortunate that we only talk about the sexual exploitation aspect because human trafficking is a much larger issue.
I do a lot of work with the organization called PINAY, in Montreal, which works towards the prevention of trafficking in caregivers. I think we often forget to talk about that aspect of human trafficking.
Mr. Monchamp, because your area of expertise is mainly sexual exploitation, that is what I will focus my questions on.
Two or three weeks ago, I went to the CATHII conference and I listened to your lecture. There is an image that stayed with me. I am therefore going to repeat what you said, and that is that in Montreal, you can order a woman like you can order pizza. You can choose their weight, their measurements, their age, the colour of their hair and the colour of their eyes. I was very struck by that. What is so unfortunate is that you are right.
Having read the bill, I have a better understanding of the kinds of tools it will give you, such as reverse onus and consecutive sentences. I do wonder though how that will prevent human trafficking. Of course it will deter some individuals. However, as you said, there are so few women who are willing to testify. Furthermore, even those who do testify often withdraw their testimony.
Given that we are talking about this, I would like to take the opportunity to ask you some more questions.
Are there other tools that we could have given you to better help you find victims and have them testify? My question is also for you, Mr. Perrier.
Are there any other amendments that could be made to this bill in order to help you in your investigations?
First of all, I would like to emphasize that this bill is useful because, as I said, the main concern of victims is their safety. As a matter of fact, in the vast majority of cases, when the victims testify 5, 6 or 15 times in court and it all ends with a 5-year prison sentence—which is a stiff sentence, by the way, for human trafficking—if you ask them if they would do it again, they say they would not. They would not do it all over again. That shows that there needs to be courtroom support. The first form of support for victims has to be before the courts.
Beyond that, and I don't know whether this can be dealt with through legislation, but in order to support the victims, there needs to be awareness-raising. We have been quite successful with that. My colleague talked about what they have done. These initiatives enable us to reach out to victims by raising awareness among our police officers, other workers and the general public. There is a desperate need for a national plan similar to what we have seen in Quebec around the issue of domestic violence, for example.
Fifty years ago, when there was domestic violence, the police did not get involved. It was not considered a crime, it was seen as a private dispute and we did not get involved in private disputes. Today, if a woman is assaulted on the street, 25 people are going to call 911 because they find that unacceptable. This evolution did not happen all by itself. It occurred as a result of campaigns to educate police officers and, above all, the general public.
The same thing goes for drunk driving. It used to be that when you were out drinking and driving, you could say cheers to other drunk drivers and it was perfectly acceptable. Nowadays, I dare anyone to try that, because people would call 911 or make a citizen's arrest.
So we need to educate people on human trafficking. It is not right that this is still going on in Montreal.
We have to look to the education of our children. That is what will enable us to connect with the victims. That will make them understand that we are there to help them, not to arrest them. As it is, they think they are committing a crime.