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Results: 1 - 15 of 54
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I thank the committee for allowing me to present amendments and to speak to them.
I didn't present a lot, since I chose to focus on the aspects that I felt could help this bill pass the constitutional test.
I think it's very important for us to define prostitution in the bill, because if we don't, the justice system will use the common definition of prostitution, which is to provide sexual services for payment. However, this bill also addresses the purchasing of prostitution or sexual services.
I think it's very important that we show the Supreme Court and the justice system that the legislator's intention is to criminalize the purchase of sexual services. With a clear definition, we'll send a message to the justice system to consider that definition and not to consider the common definition found in dictionaries.
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
I really wanted to provide a definition for “prostitution”. I didn't specify the notion of “sexual services” because I thought that should be left to jurisprudence. There is already quite a bit of jurisprudence on this matter. There have been a number of cases dealing with prostitution.
My definition is rather broad. I would include almost everything, whether or not it refers to full sex, whether it happens in strip clubs or somewhere else. My definition could be quite broad. In this specific case, I chose not to focus on this issue and to give the justice system as much latitude as possible and to leave room for jurisprudence. That's why I didn't want to do that.
However, I did want to give an overall definition of prostitution. I wanted to tell the justice system directly that, even if the dictionary defines prostitution as providing sexual services for payment, the legislator wants the justice system to take into account another participant—the john—who is purchasing the service. The john is part of the system and helps keep it going. That's why I wanted to include this.
If we don't, judges, prosecutors and lawyers will have all kinds of leeway to use the common definition of prostitution, which is what happens now. What's different about this bill is that it introduces a new player in this game in a more direct manner. Johns were covered a bit by the former law. However, this bill is clear and there are sentences associated with that crime.
I think it's important to have that definition, to ensure that the justice system is even more clear about the intent.
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The purpose of this amendment is quite simple. When we look at the bill in its current form, we see that some exceptions are being made when prostitutes are working for themselves. They are then allowed to have a driver or a body guard, for example. These people would not be prosecuted because they are indirectly living off the avails of prostitution.
I agree up to that point.
However, the problem is that the same thing is being done with regard to child prostitution. Yet, the prostitution of children and adolescents can be nothing other than sexual exploitation. No exceptions can be made for individuals who act as body guards, drivers or in any other capacity related to child prostitution.
Without exception, every case of child prostitution constitutes exploitation and the government's goal is to protect children and adolescents who are being sexually exploited. We cannot imagine that children would prostitute themselves nor can we accept it because the government is responsible for protecting children and youth. The government can therefore not make exceptions for anyone connected with this type of prostitution because those individuals have a duty to speak out against such prostitution, not make a living from it.
There is therefore a lack of consistency between the need to protect children from prostitution and exploitation and making exceptions for those who would live off the avails of prostitution.
Thank you.
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I must admit that I am very surprised. I thought the Minister of Justice was very clear. The government's long-term goal was to abolish prostitution. The government also wanted to prohibit the purchase of sexual services, pimping, and so on. The whole point of my amendments is to clarify the government's true intention for its bill.
Since the members are rejecting my amendments, I am now sure that this bill will be struck down by the Supreme Court. I am very sure of that and I will tell you why.
In its Bedford decision, the Supreme Court worked from the premise that prostitution is legal in Canada. This means that, as legislators, we don't have the right to prohibit and criminalize the practice of a legal activity because that practice endangers those involved in it.
However, the Supreme Court never forbade us, as legislators, to change the framework of that activity. What does “change the framework” mean? It means to clearly establish that prostitution is illegal in Canada—that the government prohibits and denounces the practice of prostitution. Starting from that premise, we can criminalize the purchase of sexual services, pimping and all practices surrounding prostitution.
I am now convinced that this bill will be challenged—that much is obvious—and that it will not pass the test of the Supreme Court because you took up the same principle. You did not prohibit prostitution, but you did criminalize related practices. So we are going back to the beginning, and that's too bad because criminalizing the purchase of sexual services was a very good step. I'm sure that we will be having this same discussion here, in this House of Commons, in a few years.
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
I want to start by thanking all of my colleagues for letting me be here today to discuss the proposed amendments. I could have commented more, but unfortunately, I did not receive them until this morning.
I fully appreciate my colleague Mr. Goguen's position. But what is being added here does not have to do with extraterritorial jurisdiction. It addresses a point that was repeatedly brought to my attention: as things stand now, be it prosecutors or the police, when deciding whether the offence constitutes human trafficking or not, they do so more or less as they see fit.
When it involves foreigners coming to Canada, the trafficking is truly considered international, but when we're talking about domestic trafficking, between cities or provinces, for example, there is a subjective element there. In some cases, it's considered trafficking and in others, it's seen as procuring, if there's sexual exploitation involved. So this doesn't pertain to extraterritorial jurisdiction, which is already dealt with in the Criminal Code. It was Ms. Smith who introduced the measure, for that matter. The purpose is merely to clarify that, in cases where individuals are moved from one city to another or from one province to another, the offence constitutes trafficking and isn't necessarily just a matter of procuring.
The witnesses we heard from today said that, because of the technicality, the Criminal Code could be interpreted differently in some cases, depending on the individuals involved. All this does, then, is make things clear.
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank my colleague for that amendment. I think it provided more teeth. In the French version, however, if possible, I would like to add the word “et” after “exploitée” so that it reads “qui n'est pas exploitée et vit”. That reads better than “qui n'est pas exploitée vit avec une personne”, which sounds a bit funny to me.
In addition, I'd like to ask Ms. Levman a question about adding “proof that the person exercises control, direction or influence over the movements of that person for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation”. Won't that makes things harder for the police who have to collect the proof, even though the onus is reversed? Under the original clause, as soon as a person who is not exploited lives with a person who is exploited, that person is deemed to be exploiting the person being exploited, in the absence of evidence to the contrary. That is very broad, making the police's job much easier in terms of proving the offence beyond a shadow of a doubt using other methods of investigation.
So doesn't adding the words “control”, “direction” and “influence” create obstacles for police, who have to prove the offence? With the amendment, won't they have to first prove the person exercised control, direction or influence before the reverse onus can be applied?
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
Thank you very much. That's a good point.
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
As I understand it, point (a) of the amendment is intended to remove the redrafted version of subsection 279.04(1) of the Criminal Code, from clause 3.
Perhaps Ms. Levman could confirm this for us, but currently, the English version of subsection 279.04(1) reads “to provide, or offer to provide”. But the French doesn't have that nuance. It says “à fournir son travail”, and not “à fournir son travail, ou à offrir de fournir son travail”. There's an inconsistency between the English and French versions.
This provision is supposed to correct that inconsistency. Is that correct?
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
I would point out to my colleague that, by stating “par substitution, à la ligne 7, page 2” in amendment G-3, it actually reintroduces the old subclause in French, which is not the same as it is in English. So we're back to square one.
As it stands now, subsection 279.04(1) of the Criminal Code doesn't contain the same nuance that the English does. By doing this replacement, we're likely to end up back at square one. That's the first point I wanted to make about the amendment.
I'll let you respond to that, Mr. Goguen.
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
By correction, then, you're referring to adding the words “ou à offrir de fournir”. Is that what you're saying? You say you're supporting the correction, but I can't see that. Forgive me.
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
I am indeed a visual learner. Go ahead.
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
I see. That's fine.
But there's another point I want to raise concerning the amendment.
An hon. member: The government is here to help.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Ms. Maria Mourani: The other thing the amendment is doing is deleting subsection (1.1), which was added to refer specifically to sexual exploitation. It was added because, as the Criminal Code currently stands, labour is defined as follows: “For the purposes of sections 279.01 to 279.03, a person exploits another person if they cause them to provide, or offer to provide, labour or a service [...]”. Prostitution and sexual exploitation aren't, however, services. We have to be careful here.
Every women's group I consulted with is asking that, under the Criminal Code, prostitution cease to be considered labour or a service. It is neither. It's sexual exploitation.
Actually, nothing in subsection 279.04(1) is changing. We're merely adding a subsection (1.1) to set out as clear of a definition as possible of all the methods that procurers can use to trap victims and exploit them. We're proposing this new subsection, in the context of sexual exploitation, to try to provide for all possibilities, whether it's providing, or offering to provide, sexual services by the use or threat of force, by fraud, deception, manipulation, by obtaining the consent of a person or by whatever means it may be. We tried to provide for all possibilities because I was even told that, in some cases, procurers were able to argue that they had never given the money to the victims. That's why we added the idea of the promise even without the acceptance of payments. It's so comprehensive that it covers, to the extent possible, all the cases I was told about.
So I urge my government colleagues to rethink their amendment. I believe it's paramount that we distinguish between sexual exploitation, services and all the details that go along with that.
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
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 C-612 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 C-452 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 C-612 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.
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
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.
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
The answer is yes, because that was one of the first questions we asked ourselves. We wanted to know if it was constitutional.
As to the legislative drafters, I received no such warning. As you know, if one is drafting a bill that may contravene the Constitution, one is told.
Furthermore, the Quebec Bar's criminal lawyers also examined the issue. They advised us that this already existed for procuring. However, there are pending cases before the court, we cannot disregard that. Anything can be challenged, by the way. Anything that is found in the Criminal Code can be challenged. We've seen that in the Bedford case which is now before the Supreme Court and which deals with several provisions.
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