Interventions in Committee
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View Rhéal Fortin Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak here today.
As you can imagine, this issue — which we have often addressed in the House — concerns us very much in Quebec. The issues seem quite well defined. The solutions also seem quite well defined, but for reasons I do not understand, the government does not seem to want to move forward, which concerns us greatly. I will explain what I mean.
In Quebec, the problem of prostitution is especially concerning for young girls of 18 years of age or less. Our Montreal youth centres have become recruitment points for prostitution. There have in fact been numerous interventions over the past few years. As a member of Parliament, and as a lawyer in my previous life, I had the opportunity of meeting with many of the workers who work with these organizations, who say that they are concerned, and have been for years.
Before the 2011 election, Bloc Québécois MP Maria Mourani presented Bill C-612 on this topic, but the bill died on the Order Paper following the 2011 elections. It was presented again in 2013. In 2015, Ms. Mourani's Bill C-452 was adopted unanimously by the House of Commons. It was then passed by the Senate and received royal assent on June 18, 2015.
What did this bill say? First, it created a presumption that an individual living in the same apartment as a person practising prostitution is reputed to be living from the avails of prostitution, and reputed to be a pimp. This reversed the burden of proof, which meant that these young girls, often very young, as my Senate colleagues have said — young girls who were sometimes 12, 13, 15 or 16 — could avoid having to testify about the guilt of a pimp, who scared them and controlled them. This made it very hard for them to give this kind of evidence. And so the burden of proof was reversed.
The bill also made it possible to seize goods acquired from the avails of prostitution. There was an issue of consistency, and also the matter of consecutive sentences, which seemed to us to be an important deterrent in the fight against prostitution.
Bill C-452, which dealt with these important issues, received royal assent in June 2015. Everyone had hoped that during the summer, it would be enacted, and we could finally tell young girls that we would provide some effective protection. Unfortunately an election was called at the end of the summer, and when the new government took power in October 2015, Bill C-452 was shelved and forgotten about for a time.
Subsequenty, as you know, considerable pressure was applied by my party and its members, and by civil society, and finally the current government decided to introduce another bill, C-38, on February 9, 2017. Bill C-38's only objective was to bring Bill C-452 into effect. It did nothing else. It indicated that we were in agreement with Bill C-452 and that its clauses 1, 2 and 4 would be adopted immediately; as for clause 3 regarding consecutive sentences, that was not certain. People felt that this clause would not survive a constitutional challenge. So the coming into force of consecutive sentences was postponed to a later date.
In February 2017, everyone hoped that the bill would be tabled and that it would be passed quickly. Unfortunately, today, in May 2018, a year and several months later, nothing has yet been done, and moreover, another way of doing nothing is to simply push things forward. And so Bill C-75 was introduced, a mammoth bill, as you know. Bill C-38was included in it, and it will be dealt with at some point.
Since 2011, we have not dealt with this seriously. I am embarrassed to say that I am sitting in a Parliament that is not taking this issue more seriously. We keep postponing it. There were bills C-612, C-452, C-38 and C-75.
Are we in agreement or aren't we? We adopted a bill unanimously, it received royal assent, and then we let things go. Personally, I think it is indecent and embarrassing that these young girls who are counting on us are still having to deal with pimps. People don't just depend on us to extend apologies and say that what happened to them 100, 50 or 200 years ago was very sad. They are counting on us to help eliminate daily, current problems they are facing.
Sometimes there is no solution. It happens. In certain cases, solutions are complicated and take time. However, we are talking here about a problem to which there is a solution we agreed on and had adopted.
Can this order be issued?
That is what I had to say today, Mr. Chair. I'll stop here. I think my message is clear.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
As far as I'm concerned, there is no problem.
According to what I understood, the government detected a potential problem following advice received from the Canadian Bar Association. The Barreau du Québec had provided positive advice according to which all of Bill C-452 could be brought into effect. For its part, the Canadian Bar Association said that there was no problem except for clause 3 regarding consecutive sentences. It said that this clause could run counter to the Charter and be considered as... I don't remember the term but it doesn't matter. The Canadian Bar Association thought there could be a problem with the Charter.
That is the pretext or the reason invoked by the government to justify its decision to withdraw clause 3 to be able to study it in committee and bring it in later after making sure that it was properly worded. As for clauses 1, 2 and 4, it said that they could come into effect immediately. That is what the government said in February 2017.
All I am saying is that if we agree that clauses 1, 2 and 4 do not pose a problem, I don't understand why they have not been brought into effect. At a minimum, this would reverse the burden of proof, the presumption. This seems important to fight against pimping and the prostitution of young girls.
My colleagues know this as well as I do, and people spoke to us about this in the House on many occasions; there were press conferences and all of that. We agree that this is urgent. In 2011, we were saying this was urgent. We are now in 2018. We recognize that this is urgent since we keep adopting bills that say the same thing. Let's stop saying the same thing and bring the law into effect.
I don't claim to be an expert on constitutional law, but I don't think there is any problem regarding the consecutive sentences. If the government thinks there is one, let's work on that, but let's do it now because this is urgent.
Every day we wait counts. Last year, some 900 young girls had prostitution-related issues. We all have young girls in our families, whether they are our daughters, granddaughters or nieces. Would we like to see them caught up in this type of situation? We mustn't think that we are immune. We are not. That is why it is urgent that we act.
View Monique Pauzé Profile
View Monique Pauzé Profile
2018-05-22 12:02
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Our proposed amendment adds, after line 42 on page 39, some elements to consider when making decisions.
If you agree, I will introduce amendments GPQ-2 and GPQ-1 at the same time. In fact, amendment GPQ-2 has to do with approving those elements, but, before being approved, they will have to be assessed.
View Monique Pauzé Profile
View Monique Pauzé Profile
2018-05-22 12:03
Okay. Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Let's refer back to April 14, when Jean-Marc Fournier, the Quebec minister responsible for Canadian relations, sent a letter with a very eloquent title: Le fédéral doit respecter les lois provinciales. I have copies of the letter here, if anyone is interested in reading it.
On our end, we confirm that there is consensus on that. Quebec has the best assessment process in North America. We are of the opinion that it is important to listen to Quebec when it asks that the process be followed. My amendments are along those lines. They have been submitted by the Centre québécois du droit de l'environnement (CQDE), the only organization that was invited to give a presentation here.
Our laws and regulations reflect the will of the people. At a previous meeting, Mr. Fast said that Canadians expected the legislation passed to be enforced. The same applies to provincial legislation, including that of Quebec. We feel that, instead of increasing Ottawa's powers, they should be brought closer to the people, since they are the ones who will deal with the environmental impacts or the impacts of the proposed bills.
Environmentally speaking, that's an advantage. Because bills must comply with both federal and provincial legislation, protection is increased. This is the highest standard that would apply. In Quebec, we have the best laws. Setting them aside to enforce federal laws would reduce environmental protection.
In conclusion, some members here are representing Quebec, and I would be very disappointed to see them vote against my amendments. That really would mean that they are acting against their own people.
I therefore invite the members from Quebec and all voting members to vote in favour of my two amendments.
View Monique Pauzé Profile
View Monique Pauzé Profile
2018-05-03 12:59
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I would like to return to clause 63 of the bill.
The Centre québécois du droit de l'environnement warned us about this clause, if I may put it that way. The centre proposed an amendment that would ensure that the process complies with provincial law and municipal regulations.
Have you studied this amendment? If so, where are you at with it?
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2018-05-03 12:39
That’s excellent.
We talked about the situation, its management, and the facts related to it, but we haven’t talked much about its causes.
Could you tell me, in point form, its three main causes?
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2018-05-03 12:41
To solve a problem, we must clearly establish its causes.
I take from your answer that the main cause of the problem is that people who lived in the United States or had a visa for this country started to be scared and showed up on Roxham Road. That’s what you said.
Mr. MacDonald, this question is for Ms. Benzvy Miller rather than for you.
The Immigration and Refugee Board produces charts, in particular on the asylum claims and interceptions by the RCMP at air and land borders.
We want to understand and follow the situation as acutely as possible, especially with respect to the judgment.
In Quebec, at land borders — so at border crossings — there were 1,486 interceptions and 185 asylum claims in February. That’s an 8 to 1 ratio. This means that 80% of people go through Roxham Road.
I want to understand something. In Quebec, there were 1,884 interceptions made by the RCMP and 1,610 asylum claims at land borders in March. We’re really under the impression that the situation is deteriorating, but we might think that it’s now half and half and that we’ve improved the situation by at least 30%.
I would like to understand how you make your calculations and why you’ve changed your method.
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2018-05-03 12:44
Who prepared that chart on interceptions and land borders? Can someone answer my question? I want to know why the number of asylum claims at land borders in Quebec went from 185 in February to 1,610 in March, while RCMP interceptions went from 1,486 to 1,884 during the same period. You indicated earlier that we could expect a rise in April.
What will we do to understand the percentage of entries by Roxham Road compared to those at regular ports of entry? Have you changed your method of calculation?
View Monique Pauzé Profile
View Monique Pauzé Profile
2018-04-26 12:42
Thank you very much, Ms. Duncan.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I thank all of the witnesses for their very interesting testimony.
I would, of course, also like to thank Ms. Péloffy for having begun her presentation by reminding us that the need to act to support biodiversity has never been as urgent as it is now.
Mr. Doelle, you spoke about public interest and social licence. One of the representatives of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities also said that too often, what we want to protect is not taken into account.
I would like to ask Ms. Péloffy if her amendment to clause 63 of the bill fills in the gaps that have been so well defined.
View Monique Pauzé Profile
View Monique Pauzé Profile
2018-04-26 12:44
You also spoke about Louis-Gilles Francoeur, an exceptional environmental journalist who also was a commissioner of the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement. Among other things, you said that he suggested that we translate “sustainability” by “durabilité”. There must be reasons for that but you did not have time to explain. I'd like to hear you do so.
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