Folks, I am going to call this meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to order as we continue, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), our study of human trafficking in Canada.
I'd like to welcome Mr. Falk back to the committee. We missed you while you were away.
I would also like to welcome Mr. Picard to the committee today.
We had some votes, so I'm sorry we're a little bit late.
We're going to go through each of the witness groups, and then we'll have questions for you. We'll go in the order on the agenda.
We'll start with the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform. We're joined by Ms. Kara Gillies and Ms. Lanna Perrin.
Then we'll hear from the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, Ms. Lori Anne Thomas.
Next will be Persons Against Non-State Torture, Ms. Linda MacDonald and Ms. Jeanne Sarson.
We will then go to Sextrade101, with Ms. Natasha Falle and Ms. Bridget Perrier.
The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform, the floor is yours.
Good afternoon, and thank you for the opportunity to address you today.
My name is Kara Gillies. I have 30 years' experience in multiple areas of the sex trade.
Today I am representing the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform, a coalition of organizations across Canada working for law reform that supports the rights and safety of people who sell or trade sex, including safety from exploitation and trafficking.
Our members' experiences and both anecdotal and academic evidence lead us to conclude that the anti-sex work laws and the application of anti-trafficking measures harm all of us in the sex trade, whether we are there because it is our first choice, because of coercion or, as is the case for most of us, because we are simply looking for a viable way to support ourselves and our families.
Far from being protective, the anti-sex work laws and the end-demand model they represent actually facilitate trafficking by pushing people away from police and social services and into a clandestine underground.
In addition, the laws against managerial involvement in sex work divest sex workers of protective services such as screening and safe workspaces, the charter right to which was recognized by the Supreme Court in the Bedford decision. These same laws prevent sex workers from ensuring that our safety and rights are upheld when we do work for other people, because they exclude us from labour and human rights protections. These laws are also significant barriers to trafficking prevention. People who work with sex workers are well placed to detect and report trafficking, but simply don't do so because of fear of criminal prosecution.
The end-demand model and consequent criminalization of purchasing sexual services has had an equally terrible impact on trafficking prevention. Before PCEPA, clients were one of the best sources of information about abuse of sex workers. As opposed to other industries where trafficked people can be held in complete isolation, sex work by its nature requires private contact with people, i.e., clients, outside the inner circle. However, clients are no longer coming forward because they fear criminalization.
The argument that the demand for paid consensual sex fuels trafficking in the sex trade is akin to saying that the demand for better infrastructure, fresh produce, or new clothing fuels the trafficking that exists in the construction, agriculture, and garment industries. This is untrue. Trafficking is not caused by a demand for a service or product. It is caused by systemic, including legal, conditions that permit exploitation to occur in various labour and social environments.
The alliance does not oppose the current Criminal Code definition of trafficking and believes that a fear for one's safety or that of others is a reasonable measure of exploitation. It is our assessment that the low conviction rate is a reflection of the broad misapplication of the law to any abusive third party involvement in sex work, including those that simply don't meet the legal or conceptual standard of trafficking, and should not be addressed as such.
We are opposed to amending the definition of exploitation to include the concept of vulnerability, because we know that the ideological stance that labels all of us as inherently abused will make us targets of harmful anti-trafficking initiatives. To that point, the application of anti-trafficking laws and related measures actually harms the very people that they aim to protect. The heightened policing of sex workers that has become a routine part of anti-trafficking pushes us yet further underground, especially when we know that those around us are at risk of prosecution under anti-sex work laws.
Workers, our workspaces, and our ads are routinely surveilled, and we are subject to invasive investigation techniques, such as those of Operation Northern Spotlight. These leave us shaken. They interfere with our livelihood, and they foster further distrust in the police.
It is true that a small number of genuine trafficking cases are identified through these means, but I ask, at what cost? Imagine for a moment if these same techniques were used in relation to women experiencing intimate partner violence, which we know is a tremendous problem in this country. I have no doubt that if four or five uniformed police officers knocked on the doors of married women's homes, demanded to see identification, ran women's names through police databases, asked a series of deeply personal questions about their relationships, and then asked multiple times if they were being abused., chances are that some abuse would be uncovered, and some women would escape domestic violence. But at what cost would that be to all those women whose privacy, sense of security, and rights were violated, including the privacy and rights of those who were experiencing abuse? It would never be accepted, and we should not accept it as treatment of women who happen to be in the sex trade, even in the important fight against human trafficking.
Certain communities of sex workers are disproportionately targeted and impacted by anti-trafficking campaigns. Asian workers face racial profiling. Migrant workers are subjected to raids, detention, and deportation. Indigenous women continue to be over-policed and under-protected by law enforcement that remains racist and colonial in its practices.
Currently, pretty much any abuse of indigenous, migrant, or youth sex workers is uncritically addressed as trafficking. Not only is this generally untrue, but it is ineffective at preventing abuse because it ignores the differing structural contexts that inform why and how specific communities sell or trade sex and then experience violence. Instead, we need to address systemic issues like poverty and inequality, as well as the impacts of colonization on indigenous women, restrictive immigration policies on migrant women, and failed youth protection systems on young people, as key examples.
Overall, the harms of the anti-sex work laws and the anti-trafficking laws are the result of a singular ideological positioning that sex work is inherently a form of exploitation. The PCEPA explicitly reflects this opinion. This opinion has led to the current state where all sex work can be, and often is, considered trafficking. This conflation of sex work and trafficking means that any of us working in the sex trade can be the target of harmful anti-trafficking initiatives at any time. Also, when sex work is considered itself a form of violence, when actual violence occurs it's considered expected and is sadly condoned. Further, the conflation of sex work and trafficking creates confusion about what exactly we're discussing when we attempt to address trafficking, and then it leads to ineffective policies and practices.
Regardless of differing philosophies on the nature and value of prostitution, women's lives and safety should not be jeopardized through harmful laws. Laws should be based on evidence, not ideology, and they must uphold charter rights. Thus, all criminal provisions against sex work should be repealed as part of a genuine effective battle against trafficking. At the same time, state and societal resources should be directed toward anti-poverty, anti-colonization, and gender and racial equality measures.
I'm now going to turn it over to my colleague Lanna to provide some more insight.
[Witness speaks in Algonquin]
My name is Lanna Perrin and I'm here representing Maggie's indigenous drum group, a part of Maggie's, which is also a part of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform.
I have been doing sex work since I was 16 years old, and I believe there are three reasons why people get into the sex trade: choice, circumstance, and coercion. Speaking for myself and knowing my stories and those of a lot of my indigenous sisters and brothers, most of the reasons we get into sex work are primarily circumstantial. Under the desperate decisions are things like these: we want to pay our bills, we want to pay our rent, we want to take a trip, I want to buy a $200 pair of Jordan running shoes for my son who is being bullied for being poor and for being brown.
I must appeal to your wallet, as a single mother with less than a college education. I could work a minimum-wage job at 40 hours a week at a place where I'm not valued, where I'm not happy, and where I can barely make ends meet. For five hours a week I could be happy, my client could be happy, and I could buy my son his $200 pair of Jordan running shoes and send my daughter on a nice grade 8 grad trip.
The laws that are in place right now isolate sex workers. Escort agencies, massage parlours, and sites like craigslist have been shut down, forcing sex workers to work alone in secrecy and in more isolation, going to street-level sex work where we are more vulnerable and likely to become trafficked and exploited.
Even with all this anti-trafficking money that is being poured into agencies right now, a place where once a sex worker was able to go and access services is turning her away unless she signs a paper and becomes a stat saying that she's willing to exit. If she does not want to exit, she's turned away. If she does want to exit, she's not offered housing, training, or education. The only thing she is offered is a support group once a week.
Being a sex worker has given me financial independence and allows me to travel and enjoy my life and raise my children in dignity. Sex workers are anti-trafficking and need labour rights to keep us safe. As a sex worker and an indigenous woman, I know that not a lot of sex workers or indigenous people will call the police, because the police are the foot soldiers of the laws that have oppressed and victimized us.
It is my true belief that decriminalizing sex work will allow people to work safely and securely, and we will be able to call the police and be taken seriously and not treated like hookers.
I thank you, Chair, and members of the committee. It is an honour to speak on behalf of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers.
I want to let the committee know that I speak not only as a defence lawyer but also as somebody who has represented, in human-trafficking cases, both sex workers and men traditionally known as pimps. I do come to this committee with a different experience.
I echo the comments of what witnesses said previously, as well as the comments in the PACE Society brief that highlights the various levels of consent and voluntariness in sex work. I also echo the concerns expressed regarding anti-trafficking initiatives that may hurt victims or sex workers who are not necessarily the target of this legislation.
Criminal provisions for human trafficking capture those who are victims of both psychological and physical exploitation. I would submit, however, that what they miss are those we would define as “victim offenders”. These are people who have been psychologically exploited for a significant amount of time so that they now are objectively looked at as being in a position of making their own choice. In fact, if you were to delve in and talk to them, they probably are not in that position, and they probably would not be able to say why they choose to do what they do.
That's a lot different from somebody who continues, as Ms. Perrin said, to be in the sex work industry by choice. This is somebody who is giving their money away to somebody else, who is living out of hotels, and yet is now used as an intermediary to essentially get other sex workers. In other words, the person who's the real target of the legislation uses a middle person who is a sex worker and who has already been a victim to perpetrate their crime with another new person. What that means is that the middle person, the sex worker who was a victim and is now in an assisting role to the human trafficker, is captured by criminal legislation.
That becomes a problem because somebody charged with human trafficking faces a minimum sentence of four years. So you're talking about somebody who has not had the ability to speak to the police, has not had the ability to have other options, and now is finally maybe freed from the person who has victimized them—their pimp—but now is in a situation where they can barely defend themselves because they're looking at four years of further imprisonment where they have even less control than they did before.
In one of the cases that came out of the Ontario Court of Justice, that of Natasha Robitaille, Sage Finestone, and Nicholas Faria, Justice Mara Greene talks about an offender who had pleaded to prostitution-related charges. The main person, the male, did plead to human trafficking. What frequently happens, though, is that human trafficking generally gets charged, but it doesn't necessarily result in convictions because of the high standard of proof.
What it gets used for is to ensure that people plead guilty to something lesser to avoid the four-year minimum. In other words, these “victim offenders”, as Justice Green has defined them, will now plead guilty despite the fact that their culpability may be significantly less. Now they maybe have some jail time, and they may also have fewer options than they had when they started the sex work, because now they have a criminal record as a sex offender. They have no ability to travel or do anything else.
When looking at that, one of the things to consider is that there's usually an option for anyone who's been forced psychologically or physically to do something to use the defence of duress. That's not available generally for sex workers, some of whom are working for pimps, because they often have an opportunity to change their situation.
As indicated, they're in rooms alone with clients. They have time when they can contact the police, and therefore they have options to get out of that work. However, that would require them to have that psychological desire to have that time to reflect on what's going on, to reflect on whether they're being victimized or not. Some may not see that as victimization right away. They may see that in time, when they've had some space and some introspection into looking into what has actually occurred to them.
One of the stories I want to let you know of is about someone who I represented who was a female sex worker in this role. She's given me permission to speak of her story.
She had no other options. She started dancing. She had somebody who didn't use physical violence on her, but did use violence on who I would say was a sex co-worker, another woman who was working for him. She gave all her money, and at one point, over some months, she was able to come and go in the hotels as she pleased. In other words, she wasn't under physical constraints, but she always had a level of fear of not obeying her pimp. She was charged with human trafficking, and as usual, the crown withdrew those charges partway through to request her to plead to the prostitution, the procuring charges. She ultimately did not, but it took three years for her to be able to even say her pimp's name. She was so protective of him throughout our time together that she would not say his name. It wasn't until about three years later she was able to not only say his name, but testify to his full legal name in court to help show the court that she was under psychological use. While she's supposedly procuring a woman to be in this work under the guise of human trafficking, she personally wasn't really a party. But it takes years to have someone have that reflection.
When you have legislation that doesn't take into account the vulnerabilities of those who have been victims, and then continue to assist people who they think are the only people on their side, what you end up doing is, as my other friends here have pointed out, taking in people who are more vulnerable to state action, so those who are indigenous, those who are non-white people. In reality, it does seem that when the police intervene they see people who are white as more likely to be victims and those who are not white to be less likely to be victims and more offenders or co-workers of the real human trafficker.
I don't know how I am doing for time, but I will just indicate that the Supreme Court as well has looked at this, but in an immigration sense. It's something to consider, and it's in R. v. Appulonappa where it talked about section 117 being overly broad and about those who are assisting, in other words those who have a different goal. When you're thinking of what to do, the top concern should be who is vulnerable, and how do we protect those who are actually vulnerable and victims of human trafficking, even if they're later in the game and not as recent as who the police may think at the time.
Mr. Chair, we have dedicated the past 25 years exposing organized crime, family-based, non-state torture and human trafficking in Canada and internationally. We are published authors. Our latest co-authored chapter is titled “How Non-State Torture is Gendered and Invisibilized: Canada’s Non-Compliance with the Committee Against Torture's Recommendations”. It is in the book titled Gender Perspectives on Torture: Law and Practice
, which was launched at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March of this year.
The human trafficking victimized population we specifically refer to are girls, daughters, and spouses who were born into family-based, non-state torturers who trafficked them, and adults who were tortured and trafficked within the context of intimate relationships. They were harboured, held, controlled, and transported for exploitation to like-minded individuals, rings, or groups whose pleasures were sadistic, sexualized torture, which is never consented to. This specific group must be identified as existing in Canada, contributing to organized crime.
Human trafficking descriptions must be understood as involving organized, family-based typologies that can include in-home torture gatherings coded as parties, transportation to like-minded others within their communities or further afield, exploitation into pornographic and prostitution victimization, and now, online trafficking.
The age of human trafficking exploitation can begin with newborn infants, recognizing the pleasures of some perpetrators or buyers who harm them. This truth-telling is evidence collected by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection and reported to the .
Our first recommendation is naming and making visible non-state torture, terrorization, and horrification inflicted by family-based, organized, criminal, human traffickers or buyers. For example, in a web research questionnaire we conducted in 2009 in which 128 people responded, 57, or 37%, said that guns, pornography, and snuff images were used to terrorize and horrify them. For decades women speaking about snuff films were disbelieved. This denial must end.
Torture and its accompanying terrorization must be named and codified to uphold a trafficked person's ability to invoke the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, or CAT, in Canadian courts, and be included in their victim impact statement versus being redacted.
The ability to denounce criminal, family-based, non-state torturers and traffickers is necessary to educate society; to develop investigative and preventive interventions; and to ensure the tortured person's telling, which can help uphold the credibility and reliability of persons so tortured and trafficked and contribute to their victimization-traumatization recovery.
Safe, immediate access to housing is necessary for exploited women and girls to heal and it is required that police concentrate on arresting the traffickers and buyers.
There needs to be a shift in social attitude about human trafficking. It is not sex. It is not solely about poverty. It is the intentional and purposeful criminal abuse of vulnerabilities and positions of power, and violence perpetrated by traffickers and buyers against another human being.
The sustainable development goals that Canada has committed to achieving have the imperative of leaving no one behind. It is a human right not to be subjected to torture by human traffickers, buyers, or any person regardless of their status. Target 16.2 is to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children. Target 5.1 is to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls everywhere. Target 5.2 is to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in public and private spheres. Target 10 is to eliminate discriminatory laws, policies, and practices by promoting appropriate legislation, policies, and actions in this regard.
I will do recommendation two.
Criminalizing non-state torture must occur, given that human traffickers could also be non-state torturers.
Our rationale for this recommendation is that the RCMP and police reports identify that human traffickers and buyers commit torture. This recommendation would provide a legal tool for them.
Canada has been asked twice by the UN Committee Against Torture—in 2012 and 2017—to incorporate torture by non-state actors into Canada's law.
In 1994-95, the UN resolution titled “1994/45 Question of integrating the rights of women into human rights mechanisms of the United Nations and the elimination of violence against women” started global recognition that women's rights are human rights and they suffer extensive forms of violence simply because they are women or girls.
In 2008, the Human Rights Council resolution 8/8 on CAT asked the special rapporteur on torture and state parties—Canada—to integrate a legal gender perspective that included torture perpetrated by non-state actors.
In 2010, the General Assembly resolution 65/205 called upon states—on Canada—to adopt a gender-sensitive framework in relation to the CAT, so all acts of torture are specifically criminalized “under domestic law”.
In 2012, the UN committee explained, in conversation with the Canadian governmental delegation, that it was essential to remove the discriminatory treatment of women or men who suffered non-state torture.
Criminalizing non-state torture occurs in many countries, or states within a country, such as Queensland, Australia; Michigan and California, USA; Belgium; and Rwanda, to name a few. This is based on the human right principle that it is not the status of the person that defines who a torturer is, but is defined by the acts they commit.
In closing, the UN Committee Against Torture makes the distinction that forms of human trafficking can amount to torture. It is our opinion that political perspectives that dismiss torture by non-state actors, such as human traffickers and buyers, are institutional betrayal and express attitudes of structural cruelty. Thus, we close with this quote from our chapter in Gender Perspectives on Torture: Law and Practice:
Canada's actions to legally misname non-State torture as another crime, such as aggravated assault, to reject [the] United Nations resolutions that encourage the Committee against Torture to practice human rights non-discrimination by becoming inclusive of gender-sensitive manifestations of violence that amounts to torture, to ignore that soft law sets standards of conduct not completely lacking in legal significance, and to refuse to consider evolving international law standards that address due diligence in a gender-sensitive manner mean that Canada is no longer a human rights global leader working to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
We end by asking this committee to take responsibility to change Canada's future human rights treatment of all persons who have suffered non-state torture and human trafficking by naming and criminalizing non-state torture.
. I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to be here, to be the voice for indigenous survivors of human trafficking across Canada. I'd like to acknowledge that I'm standing here on the traditional territories of the Algonquin Anishinabe nation.
My name is Wasa quay. My English name is Bridget Perrier. I was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where I was given up for adoption and adopted by a non-native family.
Nothing in our Ojibwa language describes the act of selling sex, and if it's not in our dialect, it's not for our women and girls. My focus for the next four minutes will be on sex trafficking as an indigenous survivor and from a front-line perspective.
At 12 years of age, I was lured and debased into prostitution from a child welfare-run group home. I was sold to men who felt privileged to buy sex from a child. Most times they would never ask about the bruises and welts that my traffickers inflicted on my body. I can remember one time servicing a sex buyer who complained to my trafficker that I was slow and disobedient. This was because of my injuries, which prevented me from having sex the way the sex buyer wanted. I was black and blue with a dislocated shoulder after a beating by my pimp, who still forced me to service men when I was tired, hungry, strung out, and very vulnerable.
Whether it was outdoors or in an escort service, especially when I was with an agency, the threat of violence was constant, from the person arranging the sale to the driver who brought me to the call and then to the sex buyer who felt that he owned me for the hour that I was there.
I spent 12 years in the sex trade, between the ages of 12 and 24. Upon exiting, it took me about four years to even speak about it and eight years of intense therapy to begin to heal. Still to this day I suffer the effects physically. I have trauma womb and reproductive issues, and nerve pain from the physical abuse and torture. Emotionally, I still suffer and sleep with the lights on, and I can't be startled or surprised. I'm still afraid of the basement, which is where the laundry machines are. I don't go in the basement unless I have my dog with me. I'm full of anxiety when certain types of men are around. I lost my innocence and my teen years due to men needing sexual access to my body.
Please, do not offend us as survivors today by referring to sexual exploitation as sex work. We were prostituted and exploited. What we endured was neither sex nor work.
In Canada, trafficking disproportionately impacts indigenous women and girls. Several studies have shown that, of women and girls who have been sex trafficked or sexually exploited in prostitution, 52% were indigenous. The average age of entry is 12 to 15 years, and in some cases, as young as nine.
Girls from northern communities are at risk, and control by the trafficker can take on many forms. He poses as a boyfriend, a drug dealer, an older man supplying them with drugs and a place to stay. He poses as an uncle, a father figure, maybe their daddy. They are coerced to perform sex acts, as many as six to 10 times a day, seven days a week, and hand over money or bring back the equivalent in drugs.
Survivors have described their experience as multiple incidents of paid rape. Who is the demand? It is many men, not just a few. Traffickers are also diverse. While some gangs are involved, it's still small networks of men. Unlike a drug, which you can sell only once and it's gone, traffickers sell women and girls over and over again. Missing and murdered indigenous women and girls are linked to human trafficking. We must look at who's doing the killing. It is the buyers and sellers. There are no screening tools that can screen for violence and murder.
The most harmful impacts are on indigenous women and girls. We need the laws to benefit us, not perpetuate racism and create further harm. We have to make the laws work for indigenous women and girls rather than making it easier for perpetrators to victimize.
A Canadian government led by a self-identified feminist and women's equality rights needs to start listening to survivors and all Canadians and not just those with the most money and loudest voices.
I speak for the 400 girls who I've helped exit prostitution. Some of the girls that I work with are the same age as my daughters. We're watching them get pulverized in the sex industry. With this, I'd like to pass on to my partner, Natasha Falle.
Thank you for the invitation to speak today. I'm going to briefly tell you a little bit of my background.
I am a survivor of both independent prostitution and forced prostitution. For seven years of my 12-year stint I was trafficked by a known pimp and felt pressured by the sex industry to gain his protection due to the amount of violence I dealt with on a daily basis by entitled and often abusive men. I was then abused not only by sex buyers, but by my pimp as well. Once he was shot twice by a pimp whose intention was to shoot me. He stabbed another man seven times for assaulting me. We were taught not to go to the police. We were taught to deal with violence with our own hands in the sex industry. Involving the police brought bad attention to their establishment. He would often tell me that I owe him my life for what he did and no one would love me the way he did. It's now been two decades and he is still a pimp, promoting himself as a stag manager with a website he probably built for free and a business licence he probably paid $120 for.
I'm going to talk a little bit about our coalition.
We are Canada's leading survivor activists regarding the sex trade industry and organized pimp violence. We offer public awareness and education on all aspects of the sex trade in order to eradicate myths and stereotypes about prostitution by replacing them with facts and true stories for women who have been enslaved by this dark and lucrative industry.
We are a group of very diverse and unique Canadian women. Our backgrounds and our stories are quite different. The common thread is prostitution. We have come together under the organization Sextrade101: Public Awareness and Education, to promote ourselves as sex trade experts, front-line workers, speakers, teachers, advocates, and activists for the rights of sex trafficking victims and prostitution survivors. Our reasons for this unity are personal to us. Our main goal is to offer a deeper insight into what the sex trade really consists of. Our stories differ one from the next. Some of us have horror stories, heartbreaking stories, stories that will make your jaw drop, and likewise powerless stories.
Aside from the sensationalism that surrounds prostitution, we want to be bold about telling you the truths within the trade. We have been collectively afraid, raped, beaten, sold, and discarded. Most of us were also children who were forgotten, neglected, abused, used, led astray, abandoned, and not protected. We believe every one should be shown a viable way out of the sex trade, not encouraged to stay in it. We believe in helping people understand the full picture of life in prostitution before they get involved and in helping women get out alive, with their minds, bodies and lives intact.
We are ready for a dialogue, for sensible, healthy communication with others who believe as we do. It's going to take a collective effort for us to abolish the world's oldest oppression. We offer first-hand knowledge of the barriers people face when trying to get out, and stay out, and we create opportunities for positive change for those enslaved by the sex trade and/or sex trafficking.
One of the items up for discussion today is the human trafficking strategy to combat human trafficking. This strategy is divided into four parts: the prevention of human trafficking, the protection of victims, the prosecution of offenders, and working in partnership with others both domestically and internationally. The only major comment we have about the human trafficking strategy is about prevention. These are the steps that were to be implemented for the goal fo prevention: promote training for front-line services, support and develop human trafficking awareness campaigns within sex trafficking, provide assistance to communities to identify places and people most at risk, and strengthen child protection systems within the Canadian International Development Agency's programs targeting children and youth.
That's all good, but there has been no coordinated effort do defund the sex industry. Reducing the money that fuels the sex industry requires that men be discouraged from purchasing sexual services. This is the only way we can expect to see a reduction in sex trafficking.
Some will say that traffickers are really bad and sex buyers aren't doing anything wrong, so we must go after the bad guys, the traffickers. Traffickers do it for two reasons, mainly for the money and secondarily for the notoriety. Therefore, if the market demand is high, if the money is available for the taking, trafficking will happen. Police enforcement against trafficking does not reduce human trafficking rates because being pursued by law enforcement, and even going to prison, helps the traffickers achieve the same notoriety as a gangster. Contrast that with police enforcement against buying sex; sex buyers are much less likely to buy sex if they know being arrested is a realistic possibility.
Sadly, john sweeps have been greatly reduced since the Bedford challenge to the prostitution law. Even with the new prostitution legislation, Bill , purchasers of sex are supposed to be criminalized, yet very few are.
Academic studies do not support the notion that normalizing and regulating prostitution reduces human trafficking. However, there are many academic studies from around the world that indicate that enforcement against the purchase of sexual services does achieve that goal. Information to the contrary, used by the pro-prostitution lobby, is merely anecdotal. It is not credible and must therefore be disregarded.
Prostitution is violence, sexual violence, and discrimination at the hands of sex buyers for the profits of the sex trade, including pimps and brothel owners. Prostitution is gendered and preys on the most vulnerable women and girls. Of the 40 million to 42 million prostituted individuals in the world, 80% are female, and three-quarters are between the ages of 13 and 25.
Prostitution in many countries, and in Canada, under the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, is seen as incompatible with women's equality and human rights.
The PCEPA already decriminalizes prostituted women in almost every situation, so why would the Liberal Party want to decriminalize pimping?
With no debate or information provided, the Liberal Party voted in favour of a resolution calling for the decriminalization of pimping and the repeal of Bill , despite the fact that both the Conservative and Liberal parties had legal experts review Bill C-36 and found it to be unconstitutional.
We are survivors, and very few of us have been asked for our input at the tables. Also, we are extremely disturbed that you would refer to exploited women and girls as sex workers. Sex work and sex worker are terms that were invented by the sex trade to normalize exploitation and mask the harm of prostitution.
We are asking why the government is being influenced by the pro-decriminalization, pro-pimping lobby, in violation of Canadian and international law.
All women and children have a right to equality before and under the law, as well as the right to dignity and the right to live free of prostitution and violence in all its forms. We have the right to be protected from men who proposition us for sex and think their money can buy all women and girls.
You must understand the relationship between prostitution and sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is the engine that pimps and traffickers use to bring their victims to prostitution. Without a vibrant sex trade, there would be no sex trafficking. It is the male demand for prostitution that fuels sex trafficking.
You already have the tools to decrease—
I'm going to start with Ms. Falle and Ms. Perrier.
First, I want to clarify your comments regarding the Liberal Party convention. The resolutions of the convention are not government policy and they're not binding in any way on the government.
You seem to be quite opposed to the position of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform. I believe the alliance wants us to decriminalize all sex-related work or services so that we can focus more clearly on human trafficking, violence, coercion, and so forth. You, however, want us to go the other way to more heavily enforce anti-sex work or anti-sex service, whatever you want to call it, and, by that means, stop human trafficking. These seem to be opposite approaches.
Do you see any value at all in decoupling the sex trade, if you will, from the human trafficking circumstances?
In fact, I know first-hand that sex worker-led organizations that promote prostitution as a viable job option put victims of human trafficking at a greater risk. It is detrimental to their health, their safety, and their well-being. They are exposed to pimps in their organization, pimps who they have aligned with and who they refer to as bodyguards and managers. I believe that without prostitution we would not have sex trafficking.
I'm surprised to see them on this panel today because, for the most part, they deny the magnitude of the issue of human trafficking in this country. I am triggered by their content. Much of it sounds like the conditioning and the brainwash that I received by the other women who were being sold by the pimps, whether they be the escort agency pimps, the strip club owner pimps, gang pimps, or solo pimps. It's all the same game.
In that industry we are led to believe that we should not trust the police, when in fact, many of us have had very positive experiences working with the police. By throwing them all in that same bracket, it undermines our good experiences. It's almost like a silencing tactic that we are used to.
We're often bullied by sex worker organizations on Twitter. You can go on our pages and see it for yourselves. We're often bullied. We have been told that we have rape fantasies by sex worker-led organizations.
I think it's quite clear that we take very divergent, even opposing positions on this issue. We all have very different lived experiences, and even when we have some shared or similar experiences, we interpret those very differently.
It is indeed the case that the trading and selling of sex exists along a whole spectrum of experiences and contexts, with trafficking being at one end and people more freely selecting sex work at the other. Most of us are somewhere in the middle, where we make decisions that seem best for us, often within a series of very constrained circumstances.
That said, there is definitely exploitation and abuse within the sex trade outside of actual trafficking, and that's very similar to the exploitation and abuse that we see in other informal and precarious labour sectors. For example, there is a big difference between working in a sweatshop, where there are no labour protections, and working in a well-established, labour-oriented industry. However, it doesn't mean that if, for example, the industry is the garment industry, we'll say we are going to eliminate the whole garment industry because there are areas of abuse within it.
I have to say that I feel truly bad for my colleagues at the end of the table. I can hear that they have suffered extreme trauma and are still suffering that trauma, and I really wish that collectively we could move forward with a solution. I do, however, believe that the solution is differentiating between types of abuse and allowing people who continue—like me—to work in the sex trade to do so with safety and dignity, which is currently being denied.
I do not want me or somebody close to me to end up in a horrific situation, and I think that the laws, as they are currently positioned, put us at risk in exactly that manner.
As I said, there are definitely people who are absolute victims, and that can't be lost. Certainly the criminal justice system needs to intervene when that comes into play.
My concern is when it overreaches and takes people who are victims, who then seem to be assisting the real true human trafficking offenders. When you have that, you have women who have now been exploited, as Ms. Perrier has said. You don't necessarily realize the control that you're under at the time, so you may be participating unwillingly in trafficking other human beings. That's my concern when the criminal justice system intervenes.
I will say that is similar to my client, who actually tried many times throughout the last year and a half of her proceedings to speak to the police and said, “I will assist you if you will ask the prosecution to end.” She was out of the sex work. She still offered an open invitation to the police to speak to them and let them know who she felt were people who were trafficking other human beings, and that offer was never taken. In fact, instead, she was questioned on the stand whether she was of lesser value because she was a woman of colour compared to the actual considered victim, who was white.
That is my concern, that you have someone who I have to explain to that the criminal justice system doesn't always seem just. She was very lucky. She was acquitted, but she still had to endure with paying, at times, for her own defence, dealing with bail conditions, and dealing with the stigma. I will say that she almost committed suicide while waiting for her criminal charges to come to an end, and this was after she was out of this industry.
My concern is going to be for the people who are truly vulnerable and for who the criminal justice system doesn't see as vulnerable, until they take time to actually investigate what is actually going on with those people.
All right, I understand that. I appreciate what you're saying, and your desire to cut the demand, as you put it, from the buyers, to discourage men from buying sex. Whether that's realistic or not is for others to decide.
I want now to talk to you, Ms. Gillies and Ms. Perrin, because you came at this from a very different place.
I gather from your materials that you are against the Nordic model, if I can call it that. You're in favour of decriminalization. You want to remove the sex-work specific criminalization. You want to enforce the laws that exist to address violence, exploitation, and trafficking, because those laws are already in place.
As I heard you say earlier in your analogy to sweatshops, you want to apply a labour framework to legislation and use health and safety laws to deal with this issue. It sounds like Ms. Thomas is somewhere with you on that to some degree as well.
I'm only trying to summarize. I think you would say that sex work can be voluntary, can be a profession, and you're concerned, if I can summarize, about conflating human trafficking with legitimate sex work.
Do I have your position?
Looking just at the human trafficking as distinct from the prostitution, I think it is fine the way it is, because for one thing, the case law has also indicated that in terms of the offence itself there is a big difference between the application of human trafficking and, in contrast, procuring without the aggravating factors that are generally present with human trafficking. In that way, I think it's fine.
The only thing I would add is an exception to remove the mandatory minimum, because I think the mandatory minimum prevents those who are less culpable from having sentences that are more aligned with their actual culpability. Also, there should be one to allow a defence of duress when there is some psychological harm, but not in the same way as is currently stated in the criminal law, which requires that if there is an opportunity for the person to call the police, than the person is no longer able to afford themselves the application of a duress defence. I think there should be a consideration for those who may be under a psychological duress which still means that they may not call the police even though there's an opportunity to call the police or to seek protection.
There are people who plead guilty to human trafficking just to get the minimum, but those who go to trial can easily, if there are the aggravating circumstances that have been defined by the criminal law and by the code and if those are presented...I can let you know that those people will be convicted.
That is why plea bargaining sometimes works in getting to the lesser offence, because sometimes you'll have the victim testifying at preliminary hearings and asserting things. If the victim is consistent and looks to be holding up well under any cross-examination, that is something that probably won't go to trial in the superior court, because the evidence is enough to convince somebody that we have a very strong witness here and you're not going to be successful at trial.
One of the things I can't understand is why we're focused on trying to find ways to help women supposedly stay safe on the street instead of looking at the young people who are unsafe on the street now and providing them viable, safe options to get off the street. That's one of the problems we're grappling with in our province of Nova Scotia.
I'm part of a task force on human trafficking in Nova Scotia. The young kids come and talk about the trafficking, and there's no real safe place for them. If we had safe places, we would get the data there, and they wouldn't have to be forced to make choices on whether they want to stay on the street or not. They could get an education and develop a life that's not based on whether they want to be exploited or not. Whether or not someone wants to recognize the term, it's exploitation. When someone is buying your body, I don't know what other term we can use.
I think it's very unfair to our youth in this country to be moving away from the law that we've already developed against prostitution and exploitation. We obviously can't separate human trafficking and prostitution. A lot of this conversation today has been about prostitution. I'm fine with that, but I thought I was coming to a panel on human trafficking.
I'll give you the example of talking to the police in Sweden about going to Germany and visiting the German brothels. One of them presented a panel for us in Nova Scotia. Many activists came and viewed his talk. He showed us images of men who went to a legitimate brothel, some masked and some not, and wanted to gangbang a pregnant woman. That was what they bought. She was eight months pregnant. Some had their masks on. Some were happy to show their faces.
That's the way we move if we start to say that it's okay to exploit women and girls. That's a dangerous place, in my opinion. I think we're being co-opted by the sexualized exploitation industry to change our thinking away from where we started. We have seven countries now that have moved to the Nordic model. They're moving that way. If Canada moves backwards, to me it's a sad statement for our youth.