Human trafficking bill targets crimes outside Canada

  • November 2, 2011

OTTAWA - Human trafficking may soon join the list of crimes such as terrorism or child sex tourism that can be prosecuted in Canada even if the offence was committed in another country.

Conservative MP Joy Smith has multi-party support for her latest anti-human trafficking private member’s bill C-310, which had its first of two hours of debate Oct. 25. It would amend the Criminal Code to add human trafficking to the list of offences by Canadians or permanent residents that can be prosecuted here if committed abroad.

Smith told the House human trafficking is “nothing short of modern day slavery” and includes not only sexual exploitation but also forced labour.

“The focus of my bill is on combating the enslavement of individuals both in Canada and abroad,” she said. 

She described Canada as a “source, transit and destination country for human trafficking.”

“Human trafficking can often have global implications with traffickers recruiting in one country and sending victims to another country,” she said.

She gave the example of a Canadian trafficker in Romania recruiting, transporting, holding or controlling victims for exploitation in Canada or elsewhere. Bill C-310 would ensure the trafficker would be prosecuted in Canada. As it stands now, “if the trafficker were to return to Canada today without being caught or apprehended in Romania, the individual would not be guilty of an offence under Canadian law,” she said.

Smith gave three reasons for designating human trafficking a criminal offence with extraterritorial jurisdiction: it would allow Canada to arrest and prosecute people who tried to escape to Canada to avoid punishment elsewhere; it would punish human trafficking offences committed in jurisdictions where the justice system or anti-trafficking laws are weak or non-existent; and it would indicate Canada “will not tolerate its own citizens engaging in human trafficking anywhere in the world.”

Germany, Cambodia and Cyprus have also made human trafficking an extraterritorial offence, she said.

NDP MP Pierre Jacob said the bill would bring Canada in line with international commitments. He stressed the difference between human smuggling and human trafficking, noting that smugglers help facilitate illegal migration, while traffickers exploit vulnerable people and control them for work in the sex industry or forced labour. About 80 per cent of people, often children, are trafficked into the sex industry, either prostitution or the porn industry, he said.

“There is far too high a percentage of youth under the age of 10 who are being sexually exploited,” said Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux. “I think it would not only sadden but it would anger a lot of people to hear of those numbers.

“As other countries have recognized the exploitation that is out there, Canada can too,” he said. “There are things we can do that would make a difference.”

Smith was successful getting an anti-human trafficking private member’s bill passed into law during the last Parliament. Bill C-268 created mandatory minimum penalties for those trafficking minors in Canada and received royal assent in June 2010. It also had widespread support from all parties.

After its hour of debate, the bill dropped to the bottom of the agenda for private member’s business, so it will be several weeks before it comes up for its second hour of debate and a vote that will send it to committee.

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