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Pana Merchant

The Hon. Pana  Merchant, B.A. Appointed to the Senate by the Rt. Honourable Jean Chrétien, Senator Pana Merchant represents the province of Saskatchewan and the Senatorial Division of Saskatchewan. She has served in the Senate of Canada since December 12, 2002.

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Third reading of Bill C-310, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons)

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Statement made on 22 June 2012 by Senator Joan Fraser

Hon. Joan Fraser:

As Senator Baker would say, I have just a few words.

Honourable senators will be glad to know that I did not realize this item was going to be called today so I have not prepared a long text, but there are three points that I want to make.

The first is to pay tribute to the MP Joy Smith, who has championed the rights of trafficked persons and particularly those trafficked for sex workers.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Fraser: I would add to that tribute Senator Jaffer, who has been working in this field for years, who knows so much about it, and who knows all the pain that human trafficking has caused.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Fraser: Human trafficking is really a polite way of referring to modern slavery. We need to take it terribly seriously because it is an immense problem.

My next two points consist basically of trying to reinforce two points that Senator Jaffer made in her excellent remarks. The first is that, as Ms. Smith herself would be the first to admit, this bill is just one tool and it will not even be as useful as it could be if resources are not put behind it. It takes money and it takes human beings assigned to this work to staunch the flow of humans who are trafficked.

Senator Jaffer referred to the comparatively small number of RCMP liaison officers. We will need more. We will not be able to finance all the work that needs to be done in countries other than Canada. However, there are NGOs out there with whom we can partner and who could put every dollar Canada gives them to good use to save human beings from being enslaved.

I urge the government to give this terrible, terrible problem a high priority in its budgetary decisions.

Finally, I would like to reinforce Senator Jaffer's point, which was first raised in our hearings by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and which is profoundly true. In the case of human trafficking for sexual purposes, as long as there is a demand, there will be a supply. Traffickers are, if you will, the merchants, but the customers are the ones who create the demand.

The Swedish system is the only one that has worked, that I am aware of. Various countries have tried simply to legalize prostitution — let everything go. It has not helped. There are still thousands, if not millions, of women and children in those countries, as elsewhere, who are essentially enslaved. The Swedish approach, which was to go after the demand, to go after the customer and to support the person who has been enslaved, does work. Senator Jaffer cited the statistics.

I do not think Canada is quite ready to take that step yet, but, in my view, we will have to one day; we will have to for the sake of all those women and children.

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