Statement made on 15 May 2012 by Senator Mobina Jaffer
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer:
Honourable senators, I rise today to speak at second reading of Bill C-310, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons).
Before I begin, I would like to thank MP Joy Smith for introducing this private member's bill and drawing attention to this very important issue. I have been working with Ms. Smith for several years now and have always admired her commitment to issues of trafficking of persons, especially women and children.
Honourable senators, according to the United Nations Palermo Protocol, "human trafficking" is defined as follows:
The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
Honourable senators, 2.5 million people are in forced labour as a result of being trafficked. The majority of the trafficking victims are between 18 and 24 years of age. Furthermore, 43 per cent of victims are used for forced commercial exploitation; 98 per cent of those victims are women and girls. In 2006, for every 800 people trafficked, only 1 person was convicted. Every year this trade generates upwards of $12 billion.
Honourable senators, I am confident that regardless of our political affiliations we can all come together and agree that the issue of human trafficking is one that urgently demands our attention. Bill C-310 is an important step toward combatting human trafficking.
Having worked on this issue for a number of years, I have heard countless stories of Canadian men who have travelled abroad to countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Kenya and Romania where they have committed barbaric acts, sexually exploited girls as young as four and have not been punished or held accountable for their actions.
I have met girls in Mombasa, Kenya, who have been brought from Ethiopia and Somalia by Canadian men to be trafficked to the Middle East. The girls were promised a better life and were led to believe they were going to be working and studying. Instead, they were subjected to an incredibly unfortunate fate and were exploited and treated as slaves.
This is because, under the current law, a Canadian national who recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds and controls victims abroad does not fall within Canadian jurisdiction and, therefore, cannot face charges on Canadian soil. Bill C-310 acknowledges this injustice and helps to ensure that this is no longer the case as it extends Canadian extraterritorial jurisdiction to the offence of human trafficking.
There are three primary reasons why we must designate the trafficking of persons as an extraterritorial offence. First, an extraterritorial human trafficking offence would allow Canada to arrest Canadians who have left the country to engage in human trafficking in an effort to avoid punishment. Second, an extraterritorial trafficking offence would ensure justice in cases where the offence was committed in a country without strong anti-human trafficking laws or strong judicial systems. Finally, an extraterritorial human trafficking offence would clearly demonstrate that Canada will not tolerate its own citizens engaging in human trafficking, inside or outside of Canada.
By passing this piece of legislation, Canada will be joining countries like the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Cambodia, all of whom have already extended extraterritorial jurisdiction.
In terms of the law, the bill introduces three important changes to the Criminal Code. First, Bill C-310 adds the current trafficking in persons offences, namely, sections 279.01 and 279.011, to the list of offences, which, if committed outside Canada by a Canadian or permanent resident, can be prosecuted in Canada. Section 279.01 deals with trafficking in persons, while section 279.011 deals specifically with trafficking in children; that is, minors under the age of 18.
Second, after being amended in the House Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Bill C-310 now includes two other sections of the Criminal Code. Dealing with human trafficking could also result in criminal prosecution in Canada, even if the acts are committed abroad. These are sections 279.02 and 279.03. Section 279.02 refers to cases in which a person receives a financial or other material benefit knowing that it results from a human trafficking offence. Section 279.03 refers to cases in which a person conceals, removes, withholds or destroys any travel document, such as a passport, that establishes another person's citizenship.
Third, Bill C-310 will amend the definitions of "exploitation" and "human trafficking" to include an interpretive tool for the courts when determining whether or not a person suffers from human trafficking. This change will also help the definition of human trafficking in the Criminal Code to complement the definition used in the Palermo Protocol which I referred to earlier.
Honourable senators, for many years I have been working on the issue of human trafficking. In 2005, I had the honour of sponsoring Bill C49, the very first bill ever introduced in Parliament which dealt with human trafficking. While preparing for this bill, I had the opportunity to visit Nigeria. When I was in Abuja the High Commissioner, David Angel, arranged for me to visit a detention facility where they were holding a group of 12 young Nigerian girls from Kaduna, which is located in northern Nigeria. The youngest was nine years old and the oldest was 13. These girls were about to be trafficked into Europe, but were intercepted at the airport. They had been told that they were going to receive an education and a better life. Their real destination was a brothel in Europe.
These brothels thrive on human trafficking, constantly bringing in young girls to subject them to rape and exploitation. It was truly sad to look into the innocent eyes of these young girls who were now left with nowhere to go but a detention facility. Their lives were left in limbo as a result of the lies they had been told. These girls were lucky, though. For every one of those girls, thousands elude the notice of authorities.
Honourable senators, at the beginning of my speech, I shared some extremely troubling statistics. The difficulty is that when we hear numbers in the millions, we often have difficulty remembering that each one represents a child's life. Who are these trafficking victims? They are the marginalized, the disenfranchised and the vulnerable persons in our society. Let me share a story of one of those victims with you.
I am proud to represent my province of British Columbia in the Senate. When the Winter Olympics were taking place in my province, the other five senators from my province were just as proud as I was. In fact, Senator Nancy Greene Raine had a special role in the games, and we are all proud of her hard work. As you know, whenever there is a big sports event, women are trafficked into a host city as the market demand for sexual labourers increases. In fact, when Germany hosted the World Cup of soccer, thousands of girls were trafficked into Germany. The women's movement, with the help of Scandinavian governments, was able to stop many of those girls being trafficked into Germany at the time of the games.
In British Columbia, we did not even want one girl trafficked into our province. I am very pleased to report to you that the federal, provincial and municipal authorities worked very hard with women's groups, and we did succeed in implementing a zero- tolerance policy for people being trafficked into our country. While we all witnessed the coming together of British Columbians, Canadians and the international community, many evenings I would walk on the east side of our city to see first-hand if we had succeeded in stopping women from all over the world from being trafficked into our province.
Unfortunately, I was very sad to see that although we had made great progress, trafficking was still a sad reality of the Olympic Winter Games. While most of us, when thinking of trafficking, picture young girls and women from exotic places like Thailand and Cambodia, we do not realize that many of the women who are being trafficked live right in our backyard. Human trafficking is not something that happens only in brothels in Thailand or slums in Africa. Human trafficking is an issue that is prevalent in our country, in our provinces and in our communities.
One night, during the Olympics, I met Grace, an Aboriginal girl. She was 12 years old. She had a very innocent, childlike face, so I approached her. She was just a child. She told me she had been brought to Vancouver. She was not a Canadian but was born not too far from our border. A Canadian boyfriend in the United States had run out of the money, so she was helping him out. He told her that she could make money fast at the Olympics and then return to him. Just then, a car stopped for her, and she ran away before I could say another word. Her childlike, innocent face will always stay with me. Whenever I walk in that area, I look for her. That young girl was robbed of not only her innocence but also her childhood.
That is what Bill C-310 wants to change — to stop Canadian people from trafficking people, mostly women and children, around the world. The purpose of this bill is to help girls like Grace, innocent children whose lives are destroyed by traffickers. The reality is that this crime disproportionately affects women and children. They are the ones who routinely face the greatest legal, social, economic and political inequality around the world. Human trafficking is very much a crime that exploits inequity and inequality.
Although the majority of human trafficking is closely linked with sexual exploitation, we must remember that forced labour is also considered a form of trafficking, one that is occurring in our own backyard. For example, in October 2010, the RCMP arrested 10 people who were running what was referred to as a Hungarian slavery ring. The RCMP in Hamilton, Ontario, described the case as follows:
The allegations were that the individuals were recruited from their home in Hungary to work. These victims were generally poor and unemployed in their home country. They were brought to Canada and promised steady work, good pay and a better life. However they quickly became aware of their fate. The traffickers controlled their victims, including who they spoke with, where they lived and even what they ate. The victims typically lived in the basement of their traffickers and were sometimes fed scraps and leftovers, often only once a day. The victims further alleged that they were taken to construction work sites daily and made to work long hours without pay.
Unfortunately, according to current Canadian law, a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident could set up shop abroad in a country like Hungary and traffic individuals onto Canadian soil with little threat of prosecution. Bill C-310 would ensure that this is no longer the case.
Mr. Robert Hooper, the Chairperson for Walk with Me, when appearing before the House of Commons Committee on Justice and Human Rights, shared with the members a testimony offered by a police officer at a bail review regarding the case of the Hungarian labour trafficking. He stated:
Well, place yourself in their shoes. They come to a country . . . they don't speak the language. They've lost contact with their families. You have an individual who has offered them a better life. They are grasping at that. They are hopeful of getting a better life in this country. And someone graciously pays their way here only to find out that they are here to be used, that the money they are promised they will never receive. They come from a country where the relationship with the police is not particularly good; as a matter of fact they are very fearful of the police back in Hungary. And they come here, not speaking the language, and all of a sudden they are embroiled in this horrendous drama.
Honourable senators, this is but one of the many examples of the harsh realities many individuals are facing right in our country. I am very sad to say that, in my own province, many Mexican labourers face very harsh working conditions. Every summer I spend time with them, talking to them to find out how we can change their harsh conditions. When I go to the Fraser Valley and speak to these migrant workers, I am very ashamed that in my province of British Columbia, a wealthy province, workers are treated so shabbily. They work hard to provide British Columbians with fresh fruit and vegetables, but they face such harsh working conditions. Mexican-Canadians, such as Raúl Gatica, the agriculture support centres and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union are trying to stop these shameful practices. I believe this is also a form of trafficking. This should never happen on our Canadian soil.
Although I strongly stand behind this bill in principle, I also believe that this is a feel-good bill. I applaud Joy Smith for introducing this bill. However, I would like to point out to all parliamentarians that unless proper resources are allotted to the implementation and enforcement of this bill, it will fail to serve its purpose.
As I mentioned earlier, a number of countries have strong anti- human trafficking laws in place, and one of the countries that I have the greatest respect for on this issue is the United States of America. Unlike Canadian laws, American laws take into account the rights of victims. Even in the event that Bill C-310 is passed, the victims of trafficking are neglected as our approach is based around perpetrators. In contrast, American law states that trafficking victims must be housed, provided with legal assistance and given proper medical treatment. In addition, American law gives foreign trafficking victims the right to stay lawfully in the country with protection. These are the kinds of revisions we need in Canada to protect victims and not force them to be deported and leave our great country.
Professor Amir Attaran, who appeared before the House Committee on Justice and Human Rights, shed light on this issue when he gave the following example:
Put yourself in the shoes of those trafficked. When you're on your back being sexually exploited, you are probably hoping for someone in uniform to kick in the door and slip handcuffs on your trafficker. Now, imagine how easily that can turn into a nightmare when it happens because the men and women in uniform come into the room and slip handcuffs on you. Why? Because the trafficker tore up your passport and you don't have a valid visa to be in Canada.
Honourable senators, I believe that we can all agree that this legislation is important as it will help address the very urgent and prevalent issue of human trafficking. However, this legislation has to be worth more than the paper it is written on. In order to really tackle this issue and to protect vulnerable men, women and children in Canada and abroad against this grave offence, resources must be put in place to ensure that these laws are properly enforced.
For example, every year over 1 million children are exploited in the global sex trade. Unfortunately, every year many Canadians travel outside Canada and engage in sex acts with children. In response to this, in 1996 Bill C-27, which dealt with child sex tourism, passed both houses. The bill, which is similar to the one before us today, made all sex crimes against children extraterritorial. Although Bill C-27 received an abundance of support and was strong in principle, it unfortunately has not been effective.
In 15 years, there have been five successful prosecutions in Canada of child sex tourists, most of which were by happenstance and not because of our investigative work. One of the five successful prosecutions was of Mr. Kenneth Klassen, an art dealer from Burnaby, British Columbia. A mere 48 hours after landing in Cambodia, Mr. Klassen had assaulted and videotaped almost a dozen young girls, the youngest of whom was eight years old. After unsuccessfully making the claim that Canada's sex tourism laws were unconstitutional, Mr. Klassen pleaded guilty and received the same charge he would have received had he assaulted and exploited a Canadian girl.
Unfortunately, there are many men like Mr. Klassen who are not held accountable for their actions. The fact there have been only five prosecutions in one and half decades demonstrates this. This is largely due to the fact that proper resources have not been put in place to enforce the legislation.
Honourable senators, if we are really going to take a stand against the trafficking of persons, we must put forward an honest effort to ensure that this bill is accompanied by the necessary resources.
Another example of legislation that was honourable in principle but lacked the resources to be effective was the one that criminalized female genital mutilation. In 1995, in the Second Session of the Thirty-fifth Parliament, Bill C-27 was passed making female genital mutilation a criminal act; therefore, in Canada this practice is considered a criminal offence. Those who perform this procedure can be charged under the Criminal Code of Canada. Unfortunately, over the past 17 years not one conviction has been made, even though there is evidence indicating that this practice still takes place in Canada.
We have learned from the child sex tourism legislation and the legislation criminalizing female genital mutilation that we must be ready to put forward resources to ensure that the legislation is enforced and that vulnerable men, women and children are no longer robbed of their basic human rights and dignity. Until this is done, this legislation will be no more than words on a piece of paper.
Bill C-310 is about making sure that Canadians can be stopped from trafficking children from around the world. It is a very good first step, and now we need the will to provide the resources to really stop trafficking so that 12-year-old Grace's childhood will not be robbed from her by Canadian nationals.
I know that most honourable senators will support this bill. I encourage honourable senators to support Senator Boisvenu, sponsor of the bill in the Senate. This is the first step in stopping human trafficking. We must provide the resources so that the victims can find refuge after they report the trafficking.