Statement made on 22 June 2012 by Senator Mobina Jaffer
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer:
Honourable senators, I rise to speak at third reading of Bill S-310, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons).
Bill C-310 makes three important amendments to the Criminal Code. First, it 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 affects 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 bill was passed unanimously by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, as all committee members were in agreement that this is yet another tool to stop trafficking of people, both for sexual purposes and for servitude labour.
I want to thank Senator Boisvenu, as the sponsor of this bill, and Senator Runciman and Senator Fraser of the Legal Committee for the work they did in guiding the committee on this bill. I am confident that honourable senators will also support this bill and recognize the way in which it protects some of the most vulnerable populations of the world.
Before I proceed, I would like to once again thank Member of Parliament Joy Smith for introducing this private member's bill and drawing attention to this very important issue. I have been working with Joy for several years now and have always admired her commitment to issues of trafficking.
During our committee's study of Bill C-310, we had the pleasure of hearing from Ms. Shirley Cuillierrier of Immigration and Passports from the RCMP. During her testimony, she provided two useful definitions that I would like to share with honourable senators. She stated:
Human smuggling involves the illegal movement of people across international borders with their consent in exchange for payment. More often than not, once they have paid their smuggling fee, smuggled people are set free when they arrive at their destination.
She also defined for the committee "human trafficking." She said:
Human trafficking is a very different crime that involves recruiting, transporting or harbouring people against their will for the purpose of exploiting them, typically in the sex trade or as forced labour.
Furthermore, Mr. Irwin Cotler stated that human trafficking constitutes an assault on our common humanity, being the very emphasis of what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is all about.
Honourable senators, we are all aware that human traffickers prey on the most vulnerable populations. Throughout our committee meetings, we learned from several witnesses that many Canadians who exploit individuals abroad are not prosecuted, as Canadian law currently does not have jurisdiction to convict these perpetrators in Canada.
Bill C-310 changes this. Bill C-310 assures that Canadians who exploit people in Canada and abroad are brought to justice.
Today, we have the opportunity, as legislators, to create laws that will help to protect the most vulnerable members of our society and that will ensure that no Canadian can exploit another person, whether inside or outside Canada.
Honourable senators, unfortunately, many victims of trafficking are not provided with a voice to express their experiences and their sorrow and are instead forced to suffer in silence.
For my third reading speech today, I will draw from the testimony offered by witnesses who appeared before our committee, as this will not only shed light on the great work many individuals do on this issue, but it will also provide honourable senators with insight into the harsh realities that many victims of trafficking are forced to face and give a voice to victims who are often silenced.
My goal today, honourable senators, is to help others break the silence by sharing some of their stories. No one should be forced to suffer in silence.
Honourable senators, I would like to begin by drawing from the testimony of Mr. Brian McConaghy, Founding Director of Ratanak International, whose focus is on relief and development and to eradicate the sex trade in Cambodia. Mr. McConaghy stated:
I come to this issue with 22 years of RCMP experience and 23 years of charity experience in Cambodia. In my dual roles as RCMP member and NGO Director, I have participated in the investigation of Canadian pedophiles who travel overseas targeting trafficked children.
So grave are the conditions of the children involved and so outrageous are the acts committed against them that I was compelled to leave the RCMP in order to serve these children full-time.
I appear before you today as one neither naive nor thin-skinned but rather as one conditioned by decades of exposure to violence. In that context, I wish to assure you that the issue of human trafficking is among the most grotesque and depressing I have encountered.
It is not hard to go to locations in Asia and watch the grooming of children prior to their assault. It is not uncommon for malnourished boys to "willingly" go to the apartment of a western male with promises of Disneyland videos and all—you-can-eat pizza. Some would even characterize such assaults as consensual. However, let it be clearly understood that a child will tolerate just about everything if an empty stomach is the motivating factor. Such activity whereby hunger is used as a tool of control over a child constitutes exploitation. Such are activities of Canadians known to me.
These circumstances do not even begin to describe the activities of hard-core Canadian pedophiles who shamelessly attempt brothels, placing orders for the kind of "product" — age, gender, build — they are interested in assaulting, only to have their helpless victims delivered and locked in rape cubicles to await their fate. It is clear to me that such activities which involve recruiting, transportation, etcetera, constitute human trafficking.
Societies such as post-genocide Cambodia have lost ability to protect their own children. This makes the actions of Canadian predators all the more despicable, for they travel with all the rights and privileges of a Canadian passport. They travel to escape the protective environment provided by Canadian law, medical services and supportive Canadian families. They travel the globe to hunt children that have never known the luxury of such protection.
Honourable senators, I know that after hearing the words of Mr. McConaghy, we would agree that more needs to be done to help ensure that such injustices no longer occur.
Ms. Julia Beazley, a policy analyst with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, provided our committee with further insight into this important issue when she stated:
Trafficking in persons is a serious violation of human rights and is reported by the UN to be the fastest growing form of transnational organized crime. The U.S. State Department's Trafficking in Person's Report in 2011 identifies Canada as a source of transit and destination country for men, women and children who are victims of sex trafficking and forced labour. Increasingly, Canadian women and girls are being trafficked for their use in commercial sexual exploitation across the country.
Canada is also a significant source country for child sex tourists, who travel abroad to countries like Cambodia to engage in sex acts with children. In Canada and the U.S., the average age of forced entry into prostitution is about 12 years of age; in countries like Cambodia, it is 5 or 6. This has to stop. Children should not be for sale, not here and not overseas.
Honourable senators, since 2005 we have only had 25 convictions of domestic trafficking. This is certainly not an accurate reflection of the severity of this problem in our country; rather, it is a reflection of our inability to prosecute offenders.
In 1996, Bill C-27, which dealt with child sex tourism, passed through both houses. This bill, similar to the one we have before us today, made all sex crimes against children extraterritorial. Although Bill C-27 received an abundance of support and is strong in principle, it has unfortunately not been effective. In 15 years there have been only five successful prosecutions in Canada on child sex tourists abroad.
In reviewing legislation, it is important that we consider not only the principle and intent of the bill, but also its ability to solve the problems it seeks to address. We must do better.
The House of Commons Committee on Justice and Human Rights had the opportunity to hear from Ms. Rosalind Prober, who spoke to this issue:
Creating legislation like Bill C-310 is, of course, when it comes to extraterritorial crimes, the easy part. The investigations and prosecutions of our child sex tourists in Canada have been extremely complicated, costly, and a huge investment of law enforcement and prosecutors' time.
Honourable senators, Bill C-310 will assist the police in charging Canadian traffickers who abuse children abroad, and I agree that that is the first step. We all know that charging will not be enough. We need convictions, and for that we need resources.
When our Prime Minister, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, went to Thailand just a few months ago, he gave substantial sums of money on behalf of Canada to help Thai police fight human smuggling. We need the same kind of leadership to combat human trafficking.
Toni Skarica, the Crown Attorney who handled the Hungarian labour case, said that he had to turn to NGOs to help the victims. We cannot just rely on non-governmental agencies. We need to do more.
During our committee study I asked a number of the witnesses what kinds of resources need to be in place to help ensure that this bill would be properly enforced and implemented. I was specifically interested in what types of resources would need to be established abroad to ensure that victims are able to access justice. Unfortunately, I came away from the meetings very disappointed.
In my province of British Columbia we have a few beds set aside by the Salvation Army for victims of trafficking, provided they do not suffer from any addictions. Victims will need more services in order to be able to give credible evidence that will in turn lead to convictions.
Superintendent Cuillierrier stated:
RCMP intelligence confirms that Canadians are going abroad to obtain sexual services from women and children in bawdy houses, where human trafficking victims can be found. Providing extraterritorial jurisdiction to Canadian law enforcement officers so that we may investigate these cases gives police another tool for intervening in these cases and apprehending more offenders.
Presently we have 23 liaison officers around the world who have their plates full with all kinds of issues, including drug offences. Where will the focus of the RCMP be?
It is encouraging to see that there is a national action plan in place. There will be an integrated unit that will focus on trafficking, and $25 million over four years has been set aside; however, only $500,000 will be applied to assist victims.
The reality is that we have to address the fact that the demand for sexual services will increase. As Ms. Beazley stated to the committee, "Unless more countries around the world take aim at the demand for sexual services, I expect that that number will not necessarily shrink."
Honourable senators, Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, very clearly defined what we have to do to fight trafficking. She stated:
The true test of a country's anti-trafficking efforts is not just whether government has enacted strong laws consistent with that approach, but whether these laws are being implemented broadly and effectively. In short, it's whether they deliver.
Honourable senators, 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 and is one that is occurring in our own backyards. For example, in October of 2010, the RCMP arrested 10 people who were running what was referred to as a Hungarian slavery ring. The RCMP in Hamilton, Ontario, described this case as follows:
The allegations were that the individuals were recruited from their home in Hungary to work. These victims were generally poor and out of work in their home country. They were brought to Canada with promises of steady work, good pay and a better life. However, they learned of their fate after arriving . . .
. . . 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 on a daily basis and made to work long hours without pay.
Unfortunately, according to current Canadian law, a Canadian citizen or permanent resident could set up shop abroad in a country like Hungary and traffic individuals into Canadian soil with little threat of prosecution. Bill C-310 would ensure that this is no longer the case.
Our committee had the opportunity to hear from witnesses who stated that labour trafficking is on the increase. I find this to be concerning, considering that our country is leaning toward issuing work permits at the discretion of the employer, as this may very well lead to an increase in labour trafficking.
On many occasions I have visited the Agriculture Workers Support Centre in Surrey, British Columbia, where support is provided to migrant workers who come to work in Canada under temporary work visas. Unfortunately, much like the victims of trafficking, most of these temporary migrant workers suffer in silence, which is why I am compelled to give them a voice.
Honourable senators, during one of my visits to the centre, I heard numerous stories of mistreatment by employers. One story in particular so stood out for me. The story is about a Mexican man named Benigno who works on a farm in British Columbia. He was tasked with emptying up to 10 25-kilogram sacks of pesticide powder into the hose irrigation system for almost five hours a day without any safety equipment or training. This was a job reserved for supervisors who were equipped with appropriate safety respirators and training.
This prolonged, constant and unprotected exposure to toxic chemicals had significant respiratory health implications for Benigno. When he was sent to the doctor by the employer's liaison, who also acted as a translator, he communicated that he was having difficulty breathing. Not surprisingly, the incident was filed as a private visit and completely unrelated to his work duties. He was prescribed two types of inhalers and was sent on his way.
After enduring this dangerous work for a few months, Benigno returned to Mexico and once again reported to the Mexican doctor in charge of assessing whether he was fit to return to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. The doctor informed him he could no longer work because his lungs were so compromised by the pesticide that he could not continue to meet the physical demands required of a farm worker.
Benigno had no choice; he had to continue working. He had originally come to Canada to find a way to support his family and he wanted to continue working in Canada. Benigno continued to work, and he suffered until he was not able to walk any more.
Honourable senators, hundreds and thousands of workers like Benigno come to Canada each year with temporary work visas. These workers contribute significantly to the Canadian agriculture industry. We eat better and cheaper fruits and vegetables because of their work. Although Benigno may have come to Canada on a temporary work visa, he was indeed exploited while he was here by Canadians who knew that his desperation and his longing to create a better life for his family would compel him to suffer in silence and not seek recourse.
Moving forward, we must remain mindful of the exceedingly vulnerable positions migrant workers are placed in and be proactive in ensuring that they too are not exploited.
Honourable senators, with this bill we will now have laws in place to deal with human trafficking. However, we need to address very seriously the issue of demand for sexual services. We need to very seriously study the strong stand women's organizations and parliamentarians in Sweden have taken to stop prostitution and human trafficking of women, as I believe we can learn a great deal from them.
We need to take a holistic approach to this issue and deal with the root of the problem. Let us look at this from an economics angle: this legislation deals with the supply. We should also be dealing with the demand.
On January 1, 1999, a law was introduced in Sweden that "prohibits the purchase of sexual services." This is ground breaking law as it head-on addresses the root cause of prostitution and human trafficking of people and goes further and looks at the issue of men who assume they have a right to purchase persons for prostitution and trafficking. This is an attempt by the Swedish government to create an equal society where women and girls can live lives free of all forms of male violence. The vision of the Swedish government is that full gender equality should be practised both domestically and internationally, allowing equal participation of men, women, boys and girls in all areas of society.
Honourable senators, in the past, I have worked with many Swedish women's organizations. I commend them for convincing their leaders that a Swedish society that claims to defend the principles of political, economic, legal and social equality for girls and women must absolutely reject the thought or idea that women and girls are objects that can be bought and sold.
There has been a decrease both in prostitution and human trafficking in Sweden. In 1999, it was estimated that 125,000 men bought sexual services and about 2,500 women prostituted one or more times a year. This has now been reduced by 40 to 50 per cent. The recruitment of new women has come to a halt.
The Swedish government has clearly made the policy choice that they would punish only buyers of sexual services and have found it unreasonable to punish the person who sold a sexual service. They were of the opinion that in the majority of cases, the person who sells sexual services is often a victim and should therefore not have to face punishment for having been exploited.
Another lesson we can learn from Sweden is the resources they put in place to ensure that their laws were properly enforced and were effective. They have invested resources in public education, awareness raising campaigns, victim support and enforcement, and a zero tolerance policy for prostitution and trafficking of human beings.
It is also important to note that all Swedish laws are extraterritorial. Therefore, in Sweden, one can be charged, prosecuted and convicted under Swedish laws even when having committed a crime in another country.
Honourable senators, Bill C-310 represents an important first step in our fight against human trafficking. However, this bill will simply be words on a piece of paper if the proper resources are not put in place to ensure that it is enforced and implemented.
The past 15 years have clearly shown us that legislation is not a cure-all for such a complex problem. Our government must provide resources to educate the public and support the victims.
Honourable senators, many times in this chamber I have mentioned my experience in Abuja, Nigeria, where I worked with young girls from Kaduna, which is located in Northern Nigeria. These girls were going to be trafficked to Italy but were caught by authorities before they left Nigeria. They were later placed in detention, not because of anything they had done, but rather for their protection until the Nigerian authorities could decide how to help them.
Honourable senators, I often think of this one 9-year-old girl who I found to be particularly fragile. She was so frightened that she never once made eye contact with me. I asked her what she missed the most while in detention. She said to me that what she missed the most was being able to play on the street with her 7-year-old and 5-year-old year old sisters. This child was one day playing in the streets of Kaduna with her siblings, and the next day she was being shipped to Italy to work on the streets as a sex worker.
Honourable senators, many of the people being trafficked today are often just children; children who want nothing more than to lead a normal life where they can enjoy playing with their friends and siblings and embracing their childhood.
By agreeing to pass Bill C-310, we would all be taking an important step to help ensure that young children are not exploited and robbed of their childhood. I urge all honourable senators to support this bill.