Religious, CWL join to fight human trafficking

  • March 13, 2009

{mosimage}OTTAWA - The Canadian Religious Conference and the Catholic Women’s League are supporting MP Joy Smith’s anti-human trafficking private member’s bill.

Bill C-268 would change the Criminal Code so those convicted of trafficking children under 18 would receive a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.


“In a global context where systems of oppression threaten the sacredness for all forms of life on our planet, the CRC believes it is imperative that we call on the Canadian government to adopt Bill C-268 in order to actively fight against human trafficking in Canada,” wrote conference president Fr. Yvon Pomerleau in a Feb. 25 letter in support of Smith’s bill.

The Dominican priest said traffickers “need to be held accountable for targeting and exploiting the most vulnerable in our society.”

The CWL has also informed Smith’s office that it supports her bill. The two organizations join a long list of groups that want to see it passed, including other religious groups and charities, aboriginal, immigrant and victims groups and police organizations.

While trafficking is an international problem, Smith highlighted the trafficking of Canadian girls during the bill’s first hour of debate in the House of Commons. She cited the recent case of Imani Nakpangi who was the first to be convicted of child trafficking in Canada. He received a three-year sentence for trafficking two girls, aged 14 and 15, into prostitution. He received another two years for living off the avails of prostitution.

Nakpangi made more than $360,000 from “this innocent young victim by threatening her, beating her and forcing her to have sex with strangers,” Smith told the House.

She read into the record a portion of the girl’s victim impact statement: “I am constantly looking over my shoulder, afraid that either Imani or his friends are going to come after me for putting him in jail. I don’t feel safe at home. He knows where I live and what my family looks like and where they live. I have nightmares about him. I have low self-esteem. Feel like I am only good for one thing — sex. I don’t see why someone, a man, would be interested in me and try to get to know me because I feel unworthy, dirty, tainted, nothing.”

Liberal MP Paul Szabo spoke in favour of the bill, though he has opposed mandatory sentences in some other legislation.

Bloc MP Claude DeBellefeuille told the House minimum sentencing requirements “have negative effects and dubious value when it comes to fighting crime,” so the Bloc Quebecois will not be supporting the bill, even though the party recognizes the problems of human trafficking

NDP MP Peter Stoffer said he welcomed having the bill go to committee. 

The conference represents more than 200 religious communities, totalling more than 20,000 men and women religious in Canada. The CWL is Canada’s largest women’s organization, with more than 97,000 members.

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