Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for South Surrey—White Rock.
It is with heavy hearts that we come here to speak today. At the beginning of January, Marylène Levesque was an innocent young woman alive in Canada. A few weeks later, on January 22, Marylène was brutally murdered by a convicted murderer out on parole.
To say that this should never have happened is a significant understatement. Marylène should be alive today. She should never have met with Eustachio Gallese. Her death is tragic and utterly senseless. It is one more example of the preventable violence that women and girls face across Canada by men who view them as nothing more than objects and commodities to be bought and sold. Canadians are outraged. They have every right to be. They want answers.
The public safety minister told the House that a full investigation would take place and would be conducted by the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada and the chair of the Parole Board of Canada. It is an investigation that will try to answer why this senseless murder took place, and how to prevent others.
We already know the Parole Board of Canada allowed a man with a history of domestic violence against women out on day parole. He had already brutally murdered his own wife in 2004. Prior to that, he committed violence against an earlier partner in 1997. However, despite his clear history of repeated violence, the Parole Board and Gallese's parole officer made the shameful decision to sanction more violence by condoning and encouraging his perceived right to buy sex, thus signing the death warrant of Marylène. This is appalling. They should not have encouraged him to break the law.
In 2014, Parliament expressed grave concerns about the exploitation and violence inherent in prostitution through Bill C-36. Through this bill, the buying of sex was made illegal because of the harm and violence created by the demand for prostitution.
The goal of Parliament was to protect human dignity and the equality of all Canadians by discouraging prostitution, which has a disproportionate impact on women and children, particularly indigenous women and girls. The bill did not seek to reduce the harm of prostitution, but to eliminate prostitution altogether because of the violence and exploitation inherent in it.
Prostitution creates an environment of violence and inequality for women and girls, perpetuates sexual commodification and turns the most vulnerable in our society into objects to be bought and sold. That is why Bill C-36 sought to eliminate the demand by prohibiting the purchase of sex.
Countries around the world that have legalized prostitution have seen the violence against, and the murder of, those who work in prostitution. They have seen sex trafficking increase, especially among youth. This has happened in Germany, New Zealand and the Netherlands. The legitimization of prostitution normalizes attitudes of violence, misogyny and the objectification of women and girls.
Men do not have the right to buy sex, or to buy women and girls for pleasure. However, in this country, I dare say in this chamber, there are those who believe that prostitution should be legalized and that men should be entitled to buy sex and treat women and girls as commodities.
This line of thinking is heinous. It is evil, and a brazen attack on equality and the safety of all women and girls in Canada. This insidious rationale was on full display in the Parole Board's last written decision with respect to Gallese where it states, although he is single and cannot say whether he is ready to enter into a serious relationship with a woman:
...you are able to efficiently evaluate your needs and expectations towards women.... During the hearing, your parole officer underlined a strategy that was developed with the goals that would allow you to meet women in order to meet your sexual needs.
In other words, while the Parole Board acknowledged that intimate relationships with some women were inappropriate as they would be unsafe, it explicitly acknowledged his sexual needs and affirmed his perceived right to buy sex from those trapped in prostitution. In their minds, the Parole Board members were protecting some women that they deemed more valuable, while sending a convicted murderer to prey upon those who were the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.
As this tragic case demonstrates, it perpetuates the idea that there should be a class of women who are able to be purchased for sex by men who believe they have to the right to objectify and harm those who are for sale. That is what we are talking about with this case today.
The Liberal-appointed Parole Board members thought so little of those in prostitution that they were willing to knowingly put these women's lives in grave danger, women like Marylène. How else can we explain their words and actions, other than that they believed buying sex should be legal and therefore condoned Gallese's perceived right to sex as if it was legal? In their minds, Gallese's perceived right to buy sex was more important than the law.
If Parole Board members had followed the law, they would not have granted Gallese's parole for this purpose. If they had followed the law, they would have recognized the exploitation and violence inherent in prostitution instead of supporting Gallese's sexual needs. However, the Parole Board's attitudes toward women and prostitution reflect what we have seen from the Liberal government over the past few years: a clear pattern of always putting the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of victims and those at risk.
We know indigenous women and girls are the most represented victim group in sex trafficking and prostitution in Canada. They make up only 4% of Canada's population, yet make up more than 50% of the victims in Canada.
Last year the government reduced some of the human trafficking offences to summary offences, which will significantly increase the likelihood that a human trafficking offence against indigenous women will proceed as a summary conviction offence, further denying them justice. The government also eliminated the consecutive sentences for human trafficking that were adopted under the previous government. The loss of consecutive sentencing leaves victims with a continued reluctance to come forward and report a crime due to their immense fear and the psychological control that traffickers have over their victims.
In the days following this horrific case of injustice, many survivors of sex trafficking and prostitution spoke out. They are outraged and want justice for Marylène and others. I want to share with this House a few of these voices.
Trisha Baptie of B.C., a survivor of sex trafficking, stated:
[In my 15 years of involvement in the sex industry] it was never the laws that beat and raped and killed me and my friends, it was men. It was never the location we were in that was unsafe, it was the men we were in that location with who made it unsafe.
Baptie further stated that our laws must always focus on ending the demand for paid sex.
Casandra Diamond, a survivor of sex trafficking in massage parlours in Toronto, said the following:
...commodifying a woman's body is dangerous, always. It sends a message that buying someone is acceptable, enshrining the power imbalance where people from average to above-average socioeconomic status purchase other humans, mainly women and girls who have below-average socioeconomic status and power.
Timea Nagy, a survivor who was trafficked from Hungary to Canada and sold in legal strip clubs and massage parlours in the GTA, stated:
To think and promote sex work as “normal work” must come to an end. The Liberal government is completely blinded and refuses to hear our side of the story. How many more deaths will it take them to listen? 10? 20? 30?
I strongly condemn the Parole Board of Canada's decision to allow a convicted murderer to buy sex and I hope the government will also condemn this decision.
I also call on this government to stop allowing prostitution to be legitimized. Legitimizing prostitution and downplaying the seriousness of sex trafficking will lead to more violence against women and increased discrimination toward those most at risk in our country. Legitimizing prostitution creates two classes of people, those who can be commodified and sold and those who should not be.
There are some things in Canada that are just not for sale. For example, my vote is not for sale. Democracy is not for sale. People should never be for sale. Women and girls in Canada deserve better.