Hon. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Ahuntsic for introducing this bill, for having put so much effort into creating it and for introducing it here in the House. I am very proud to have the opportunity to speak to this bill during the first hour of debate at second reading.
On behalf of my party, I would like to say right away that I intend to recommend to my caucus that we support this bill when the time comes to vote to send it to committee, with the hope that there is one some day. If this bill dies on the order paper, I hope it will be introduced again in a future Parliament, so that it may be revived and find its way before a standing committee of the House.
I will not repeat the bill's objective. I believe the hon. member for Ahuntsic described it very well, as did the parliamentary secretary, although he concluded his speech with an absurd remark. Until then, I found his speech rather interesting. I thought the points he raised in such a thoughtful, serious manner were interesting and worthy of our attention. It is unfortunate that he chose to resort to petty politics and to attack the Bloc Québécois. The Bloc has a role to play, just like the Liberal Party of Canada or the NDP, in ensuring democracy in the House of Commons, in the Parliament of Canada. Our Parliament is the pillar of democracy in Canada.
We have watched this government, this Conservative government, attack our institutions one by one, finally arriving at the last bastion, Parliament. The Conservatives arrived at its doors and attacked with contempt of Parliament. I do not wish to stray too far from my speech, but I believe this is pertinent.
It is regrettable that we have a Conservative government that has not developed a national strategy on human trafficking in Canada. It is regrettable that they have left it up to private members to try to amend the Criminal Code, address its shortcomings with respect to human trafficking in Canada and trafficking committed elsewhere by Canadian citizens or permanent residents, and ensure that perpetrators are charged, brought before the courts, prosecuted and held accountable.
It is regrettable that this Conservative government has not taken this issue seriously and that it has left it up to private members to try to address the shortcomings of our system.
I congratulate the Bloc member for Ahuntsic. I would also like to say well done to the Conservative member for Kildonan—St. Paul.
The member made an attempt as well to try to close the gaps in Canada's legislation dealing with human trafficking. It is simply unacceptable that a government, like the Conservative regime, does not take this issue seriously. It does not see it as a priority to be dealt with in order to ensure that our legislative framework, our laws, deal with this issue with the gravity, the seriousness, and the severity with which it should be dealt with. The government has left it to simple MPs to attempt, through the laborious process of private members' bills, to fix the problem.
I find it shameful that the government has done nothing on this. I find it shameful that its own member had to come up with her own national strategy on human trafficking because her own government did not act and still has yet to act on the issue. It is shameful.
There are a number of issues which are of concern, such as the issue of the reversal of the presumption of innocence. I understand provisions already exist in the Criminal Code for other criminal offences on reversal. We look forward to examining this in committee should it get to committee, which is quite doubtful.
We also have a concern that by stipulating the sentences would be served consecutively to any other sentence removes judicial discretion. We prefer to see judicial discretion and, if necessary, if we find judges are not exercising their discretion in a manner that achieves the objective intended by the law, then we amend and put in criteria that the judge has to take into account in exercising his or her discretion.
Therefore, we would afford the opportunity to look at that. We are looking forward to hearing from expert witnesses, including the Quebec Bar Association.
I would like to give a bit of history on the Liberal position.
In 2009, in Volume III of the Pink Book, the Liberal women's caucus recommended that a national strategy be developed in partnership with the provinces and territories to prevent the trafficking of girls and women. As recommended by the Liberal women's caucus, this strategy would incorporate measures related to prevention, protection and justice, and increased funding to support victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
The House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women studied the issue of human trafficking in 2007. It released a report entitled, Turning Outrage into Action to Address Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation, which could also form the basis for a comprehensive national action plan.
It is simply unacceptable that, under the Conservative government, Canada is one of the few countries that does not have a national strategy to prevent human trafficking.
The Liberal Party has been calling on the Conservative government to act for the past three years. The Standing Committee on the Status of Women has been asking for that as have the other opposition parties. I know the Conservative member for Kildonan—St. Paul has also been calling for that.
Should this Parliament continue, which I doubt, and a vote happens at second reading, I call on each and every member of the House to support sending the bill to committee.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Criminal Code