THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
OTTAWA, Monday, June 6, 2022
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met with videoconference this day at 5:02 p.m. [ET] to study Bill S-224, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons).
Senator Salma Ataullahjan (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, I am Salma Ataullahjan, senator from Toronto and chair of this committee.
Today, we are conducting a meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, and I would like to take this opportunity to introduce the members of the committee who are participating in this meeting: Senator Audette from Quebec, Senator Boyer from Ontario, Senator Gerba from Quebec, Senator Gignac from Quebec, Senator Hartling from New Brunswick, Senator Martin from British Columbia and Senator Omidvar from Ontario.
Welcome to all of you and those viewing these proceedings on senvu.ca.
Before we begin the formal part of this meeting, I will ask Senator Hartling to come forward. I am the sponsor of Bill S-224, which our committee will be considering today, and therefore I will not chair these proceedings.
Our deputy chair, Senator Bernard, is unable to attend the meeting today, so Senator Hartling has graciously agreed to assume the chair for today’s hearing.
Senator Nancy J. Hartling (Acting Chair) in the chair.
The Acting Chair: Thank you for your confidence, Senator Ataullahjan, and this is a new role for me, so bear with me.
On April 28, 2022, the Senate adopted an order of reference for the committee to examine Bill S-224, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons). Today, we begin our consideration of Bill S-224.
Before we proceed, I would like to inform the honourable senators about the proposed timing for each segment of our meeting today. It is a three-part meeting. First, we will hear from the sponsor of the bill during a 30-minute segment, question period included; followed by a panel with government officials for a 45-minute period, question period included; and another panel with other witnesses for a 45-minute segment, question period included.
For our first witness today, we have the pleasure of welcoming the sponsor of Bill S-224, the Honourable Senator Salma Ataullahjan. Senator Ataullahjan, you now have the floor.
Hon. Salma Ataullahjan, sponsor of the bill: Good evening, colleagues. I am honoured to present my Bill S-224, an Act to amend the Criminal Code, to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights.
Bill S-224 aims to facilitate the conviction of those charged with human trafficking–related offences by amending the Criminal Code’s definition of exploitation in human trafficking offences.
This amendment would mean that the Crown is no longer required to prove that a reasonable person in the victim’s circumstances would fear for their safety or the safety of someone they know. They will put the onus on the perpetrator rather than the survivors.
The current definition in the Criminal Code suggests that a person is exploited only if fear is a driving factor in the exploitation. Bill S-224 would amend the Criminal Code to reflect the international definition of trafficking in persons outlined in the Palermo Protocol, which views human trafficking as three distinct elements: the act, the means and the purpose.
Human trafficking is defined as an act of recruiting, transporting, harbouring and receiving a person by means of coercion, abuse of power or deception for the purpose of exploitation. That is not reflected in our Criminal Code.
In its current form, the Criminal Code puts the responsibility on victims or survivors to provide a compelling testimony to prove the validity of their experience.
Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery, which is on the rise worldwide, with an estimated 40 million victims. It is a practice which relies on abuse and coercion to exploit victims for sexual purposes or work.
Traffickers will approach victims by convincing them that they are a potential friend or boyfriend contacting them on social media, posting ads for jobs, or even threatening or kidnapping them. They will promise money, clothes, work, education, financial aid for their families.
Although there is a popular belief that the victims of human trafficking are brought into the country, most victims, however, are young Canadian women. Almost half of them were found to have come from another city in the same province, and 60% of all victims come from Ontario.
Among the most at-risk groups are women and girls, new immigrants, children in the welfare systems, persons living with disabilities, LGBTQ2 and migrant workers. Recruiting young Indigenous girls is so commonplace that many survivors have described men waiting at Greyhound bus stations at night and approaching them, promising a place to stay and safety. One Indigenous survivor explained that by age 16 she believed it was okay to be beaten by men.
Many survivors fear or distrust law enforcement, and it can take up to 18 attempts before permanently leaving human trafficking. Most survivors do not identify as victims as a result of manipulation and gaslighting. They must prove they fear for their life on the stand often only a few metres from their trafficker. Testimony shows that the fear-based model is the biggest issue when dealing with convictions, and that the experience is more traumatizing than being forced to work in the sex trade.
During cross-examination, it is common for the defence lawyer to twist their words and call them a liar. A Federal Court judge in Alberta asked a victim — and we all remember this — during a sexual assault trial, “Why couldn’t you keep your knees together?” This can lead to survivors recanting or simply dropping charges.
Hence, human trafficking charges are often dropped, and traffickers are charged under related crimes such as prostitution-related offences, kidnapping, assault, sexual assault and sexual exploitation. This is not justice, and this certainly is not a way to prevent, suppress and punish perpetrators of trafficking in persons.
In closing, honourable colleagues, I will never forget attending a heartbreaking court case and hope that this bill will help survivors find justice in a trauma-informed manner. Thank you.
The Acting Chair: We will now proceed to questions from the senators. I would like to inform each senator that you will have five minutes for your question and your answer, and that there will be only one round. That’s all the time we have, so four minutes each. The first one on the list is Senator Omidvar.
Senator Omidvar: Thank you, chair, and thank you, Senator Ataullahjan, for your presence as a witness today. We are used to seeing you as the chair, and now we’re getting used to seeing you as a witness on this bill.
I want to address the low conviction rate of human trafficking charges. Only 7% of charges actually result in a guilty verdict. You have explained this a bit — it’s because it’s a fear-based model, and the onus is on the victim — but I’d like you to help us understand how this new model will shift the onus on the perpetrator.
Do you believe that the conviction rate will rise as a result of this?
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you, Senator Omidvar. I think it will. What we have heard in the research that we have done — and I often ask this question — is how do you prove fear? Some people were not afraid when they were being trafficked because it was a loved one who was doing that to them. With the research we did, I remember one survivor who, when she found out she was testifying before the person who was trafficking her, asked, “Can I get my makeup?” She still wanted to look good because that was her mindset.
If we take the onus away from survivors and victims having to prove fear, it will put the onus on the perpetrators to defend themselves, and it will make it easier for the convictions. Currently, we’re seeing 7% to 8% have been prosecuted. There’s too much responsibility on the shoulders of survivors, some of whom don’t even identify as victims. We are hoping that once we pass this bill, it will help.
Senator Omidvar: Senator Ataullahjan, you also mentioned in your presentation that most human traffickers fail to be convicted of human trafficking. They are convicted of another related offence, which then likely leads to lower penalties and lower periods of incarceration, et cetera.
Do you believe that charges of human trafficking have a greater chance of sticking, therefore leading to greater chances of there being appropriate punishment on these individuals?
Senator Ataullahjan: I do. As I mentioned in my speaking notes, quite often defence attorneys turn on the survivors, on the victims, calling them liars. We have young women, and sometimes men, who are vulnerable and who cannot stand up to that questioning. Often they will recant or they will get confused or they withdraw the case.
The change is that now they don’t have to prove fear. They don’t have to worry about convincing the judges that they were afraid. They can stand there and say, “This is what happened to us.” The onus is on the perpetrator to prove what he did. The victim, the survivor, will not have to prove anything. That will definitely help.
I’m not a lawyer in my profession. I am just a senator who, when I heard this, thought how wrong this is. We are a bit behind. Elsewhere in the world, the victim doesn’t have to prove their fear. This will strengthen the hands of the law and the judiciary. I think the witnesses to follow will probably be better suited to answer the legal questions.
I am just speaking from the heart and trying to do what is right by survivors and victims.
Senator Omidvar: Thank you very much for this, Senator Ataullahjan.
Senator Boyer: Thank you, Senator Ataullahjan, for bringing this bill to us. It’s well long overdue, and I’m hoping that these changes will bring some positive effects in a very horrible situation that we see all over Canada.
I have several questions, but my main question is about the women of the North — that is, the women who are being trafficked through the corridors that we know exist throughout Canada and the women who are being shipped out on the boats.
How do you think that this will affect the Inuit women who are brought down in the corridors, say, from Iqaluit to Ottawa to Halifax? Will this have any effect on these vulnerable Indigenous women?
Senator Ataullahjan: I’m hoping it will, senator. I’m hoping that it will provide them a safety net. I’m hoping that they can go to court without fear and know that there is protection for them, that the judiciary will stand by them, and that the law enforcement agencies will stand by them now that the onus is not on them to prove fear. They just have to tell their story. They don’t have to prove anything.
Senator Boyer: Thank you. What happens when family members are trafficking their children or their family members? This will get real messy.
Senator Ataullahjan: It will, but we shouldn’t be afraid of things getting messy. Ultimately for me, and as it is for all my colleagues, it is about protection of those who are vulnerable and providing support to survivors to let them know that they are not alone, and there’s help available to them.
If a family member can stoop to trafficking one of their loved ones, then the same law should apply to them.
Senator Boyer: You often see this with residential school survivors. That’s why I say it. Thank you.
Senator Ataullahjan: Yes. Thank you, senator.
Senator Gerba: Thank you very much. To begin, I want to congratulate you on this bill. I especially wanted to point out the fact that the victims will no longer have to bear the burden of proof.
My concern is about young girls from countries in Africa or Latin America, for example, who are transported to Canada as a result of marriage proposals. The men who go to these countries marry them and bring them back to Canada as wives. These women are confined to their residences. They have no contact and no information about anything we’re discussing.
How can this bill help these women escape their prison—because they are, in fact, in prison? How can we help them?
Senator Ataullahjan: Are you talking about these women who are brought over and then they are trafficked?
Senator Gerba: Yes. They are brought here. They don’t have any contacts, they don’t have any information about what is happening.
What recourse will they have? How can we help them to use this bill?
Senator Ataullahjan: Senator, specifically we are talking about women who are trafficked. If they are being trafficked, the same help will be available for them.
Now, how do we let them know that this help is available? That in itself is a different question, because, again, when somebody comes to this country, they come and immigrate to Canada, they should be told of all the facilities that are available. Sometimes community members can come in and help because I know, as an immigrant, that sometimes especially our women don’t know about all the help that’s available to them.
There’s some work that needs to be done in that, and this might be a good question to ask the witnesses who follow me. It might be good to get input from them.
Senator Gerba: In terms of the bill itself, clause 279.04 proposes to actually change the situation and make it possible to stop this trafficking. What might be the scope and impact of this bill in this regard?
Senator Ataullahjan: The impact of this bill will be that someone who has been trafficked, who is a survivor, who has been a victim will not have to prove — because before they had to prove that they were afraid, and that’s why they were willing to be trafficked. They don’t have to prove that fear. We are removing the onus from survivors; we are removing that burden from them. Before they had to prove fear.
As I said in the beginning, how do you prove fear? There are many forms of fear. Sometimes you’re not even afraid, because if it is a family member doing it, or a loved one, or a boyfriend — we’ve seen in many cases that the boyfriend was trafficking — and they convince these women, young girls — remember, we are dealing with a lot of young minds — they are convinced that what they are doing for them is because they love them.
So the victim will have to tell their story and not prove anything else. That onus, that burden, is being removed from the victims and survivors.
Senator Gerba: Thank you.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much.
Does anybody else have questions?
Senator Audette: Thank you very much for the initiative, knowing that there are many first nations women in Ontario, in the Great Lakes region, who are struggling with these issues and tragedies like this. We know that the percentage of trafficking cases or charges in Canada is very low, both in terms of those that have been prosecuted and those where there is a guilty verdict. When you delivered your opening remarks, when you spoke passionately about your bill, you said that it would also make it possible to convict people effectively. For the benefit of all those listening to us, can you remind us or tell us why it will be effective this time? Perhaps the percentage of convictions will increase, knowing that this exists in Canada.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you, senator. As I said in my speaking notes, it’s quite common that traffickers will wait at Greyhound bus stations, and when they see young Indigenous girls getting off the bus, they will approach them with offers of help.
If you come from the northern areas, or you come from smaller communities, it can be very daunting being in larger cities. If somebody comes forward and says, “We’re willing to help you,” sometimes the young girls are very, very — one doesn’t know; you think someone’s willing to help you. Then they fall into this trap, and it’s very hard to get out of that trap because, one, they are in a new city; they don’t know people. Even if they know people, it’s hard to admit to yourself even that you’re being trafficked because here is this person who loves you, who cares for you, who offered to help you; how can they traffic you?
Then when the perpetrator is caught, instead of the burden being on him to prove himself innocent, the burden is placed on the survivors and the victims to prove that they were afraid, and we need to remove that. We need to take that element out.
I’m hoping that when we do that, it will be easier for young women and young men to come forward when they are trafficked and to face their perpetrators in court. There is no onus on them to prove anything. I’m hoping it will strengthen, like I said, the law enforcement and the judiciary and make it easier for them to convict people.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much.
That ends our first panel, and we will take a few moments to get ready for the next group of witnesses.
The Acting Chair: For our second panel of witnesses, we have from the Department of Justice Canada, Ms. Nathalie Levman, Senior Counsel, and from Public Safety Canada, Ms. Kristin Solvason, Acting Director General, Law Enforcement.
I now invite Ms. Levman to make her presentation. Thank you.
Nathalie Levman, Senior Counsel, Department of Justice Canada: Thank you, senators. I would like to begin by acknowledging that I speak to you today from the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe Nation. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak to the reforms to the Criminal Code’s trafficking-in-persons provisions, proposed by Bill S-224. I propose to provide a brief overview of the relevant international legal framework, the existing criminal law and the bill’s reforms.
Canada ratified the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children in 2002. This treaty includes a definition of trafficking in persons in Article 3, which requires, as the sponsor has already explained, three elements to be present: First, an act such as recruiting, transporting or harbouring another person; second, that act must be effected through specific means, such as coercion, abduction, deception or the abuse of a position of vulnerability; and third, that must be done for the specific purpose of exploiting a victim. Rather than defining exploitation, Article 3 gives examples of exploitative conduct, such as sexual exploitation or forced labour, which require proof of coercive practices.
In 2005, the Criminal Code was amended to include trafficking and person-specific offences. The main trafficking offence, section 279.01, requires proof of only the act and the purpose elements of trafficking in Article 3. The offence does not require proof that the act was effected through illicit means. So, the offence therefore requires proof of recruiting, transporting or harbouring another person for the purpose of exploitation, which is defined in subsection 279.04(1), as criminal provisions require clarity. Specifically, exploitation occurs where a reasonable person in the victim’s shoes would believe that their physical or psychological safety would be threatened if they fail to provide the labour or services required of them. In 2012, an interpretive provision, 279.04(2), was enacted to clarify that courts may consider a range of factors in determining whether exploitation has occurred, including whether the accused used coercion, deception or abused position of trust or authority.
Relevant Ontario Court of Appeal jurisprudence clarifies that the definition of exploitation does not require proof that the victim was actually afraid. The court also explains that exploitation is to be interpreted broadly and that it captures both physical and psychological forms. In a subsequent decision, the Court of Appeal upheld the conviction in a case that involved abuse of power but no violence or threats of violence, and found that many factors were relevant when assessing whether conduct amounts to exploitation as defined in subsection 279.04(1), including physical or psychological coercion; deception; abuse of trust, power or authority; victim vulnerability due to age or personal circumstances; isolation of the victim; the nature of the relationship between the accused and the victim; any directive behaviour, limitations on the victim’s movement; control of finances; and monitoring the victim’s communications with others. Other courts have followed the Ontario Court of Appeal’s jurisprudence, including most recently the Quebec Court of Appeal in its 2022 Chahinian decision.
Bill S-224 would repeal and replace subsection 279.04(1) with a new definition of exploitation that would apply where an accused engages in conduct that both causes the victim to provide a labour or service and involves coercion; deception; fraud; the abuse of a position of trust, power or authority; or any other similar act. The bill would also repeal subsection 279.04(2), which is the interpretive tool designed to assist courts in determining when exploitation is made out.
As with any law reform, repealing existing provisions and replacing them with new text would have impacts on the justice system, including for police and prosecutors, who would be required to learn the new laws, and the courts, who would have to interpret the new provisions.
That concludes my remarks. I welcome any questions that you may have. Thank you.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. We’ll move to questions from the senators. Each senator will have four minutes for the question and the answer.
Senator Boyer: Thank you very much for that presentation. I appreciate it. I see that there has been a number of changes to the Criminal Code over the years, and there has been some jurisprudence in the area to help guide how this is dealt with.
What roadblocks do you see right now as the Department of Justice? What is the Department of Justice facing when attempting to get prosecutions in this area? We know that it’s difficult, but what specifically? How will this bill help?
Ms. Levman: Thank you very much for that question. I want to clarify before I answer it that we don’t prosecute cases. We’re responsible for the Criminal Code, so if you would like to hear from prosecutors who actually do the prosecutions, there are specialized human trafficking prosecutors in both Ontario and Nova Scotia, so you may wish to call them.
What I can refer to is the case law. I would note that because coercive practices are an essential element of any human trafficking offence, as articulated by Article 3 of the protocol, victim testimony that speaks to the presence of those practices is often an important part of the evidence put forward by the prosecution, as borne out in reported case law. So, existing case law shows us some of the problems that prosecutors have faced. For example, victims may continue to be under the sway of their traffickers and they may recant statements that they have given to police or others. Also, corroborating evidence, which helps to bolster victim testimony, such as text messages — the accused have contested the admissibility of such kinds of evidence as a violation of section 8 of the Charter. And victim credibility has also arisen as an issue because trauma is known to cause inconsistent recollection of events.
Now, recent case law indicates that courts are, however, admitting prior inconsistent statements for the truth of their contents when recanting occurs, that text messages have been admitted as evidence and noted as providing cogent evidence of traffickers’ control over victims’ autonomy.
Some courts have recognized that inconsistencies in testimony are actually consistent with what trafficking victims have endured, so they are applying a trauma-informed approach.
Again, that’s from the case law, but any operational issues should be referred to prosecutors who deal with these cases. Thank you.
Senator Boyer: Thank you very much. However, does your office keep data on the rates of prosecutions? Surely, they must.
Ms. Levman: We monitor reported case law. We monitor all of the research, both domestic and international. We liaise with colleagues in the provinces who are doing these types of prosecutions.
Senator Boyer: Do you suspect that this bill will assist in increasing the prosecutions?
Ms. Levman: Well, as I have said, the coercive practices still need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law in order to establish a conviction. In any criminal case that is the burden. Proving coercive practices, however defined, even more subtle forms, which we know the current definition does capture, is always going to pose challenges.
Senator Boyer: So we don’t know.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you for your testimony. I would like to ask you: What type of conduct, if any, do you anticipate would be captured by the amended version of section 279.04 that are not captured by the current provision?
Ms. Levman: Thank you for that question. So, the bill would replace the existing definition with a new one that would require proof of conduct that involves the use or threatened use of force or another form of coercion, deception, fraud, abuse of a position of trust, power or authority. I would note that these means — I’ll refer to them as means — of extracting labour or services from others are very similar to the factors that the Ontario Court of Appeal has clarified are relevant to the determination of whether the existing definition of exploitation is met.
I have referred to the 2020 Sinclair decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, which clarified that courts should turn their mind to a range of factors in this inquiry, some of which focused on the conduct of the accused such as abuses of power, directive behaviour or other types of control that the accused may have over the victim. Also that the victim’s vulnerabilities are relevant, and that would include the nature of the relationship between the accused and the victim.
In short, the whole context of the offending is relevant. That’s how, from my reading of the case law, the courts have come to conclusions about the relevance of subtle forms of coercion that don’t involve violence or threats of violence. We have recent appellate cases that made strong statements in that regard from both Quebec and Ontario.
Senator Ataullahjan: To what extent would victim testimony be less critical under the proposed framework? Right now, the onus is on the victim to prove fear.
Ms. Levman: As I said, the current provisions don’t require prosecutors to prove that the victim was actually afraid. What the current provision does is require prosecutors to prove that a reasonable person, in those particular circumstances, would believe that either their physical or their psychological safety would be threatened if they failed to do what was being required of them.
As I said before too, in response to a previous question, coercive practices will always have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court to make out the human trafficking offence no matter how it is characterized, if it’s consistent with Article 3, which requires actually two elements of coercive practices: both that the act be effected through coercive means and that the purpose be exploitive, which, as I’ve explained, requires proof of an element of coercion.
That’s why I believe Statistics Canada 2021 human trafficking Juristat has noted specifically that:
Research to date has indicated that there are many challenges to prosecuting human trafficking cases including an inability to rely on victim testimony as victims are often reluctant or afraid to take action against their traffickers and as such it can be difficult to prove guilt . . . .
That’s a quote from that Juristat. I believe that that will continue to be an issue, and it’s very important to train those who are investigating and prosecuting these cases, as is currently happening, so that the scope of the provisions, however they may be framed or understood — and it’s understood that Parliament’s intention is to capture a broad range of coercive practices or exploitive behaviour, including more subtle forms — is clear to those who are enforcing the law.
Senator Omidvar: Thank you, Ms. Levman, for helping us with our study of this bill.
My question is centred around your advisory committee of formerly trafficked persons. I wonder if you can tell me whether they have responded to this bill, whether you have asked them about their opinion of these changes. In general, what are some of the key recommendations they make about the Criminal Code as it pertains to trafficking?
Ms. Levman: I believe this is a question for my colleague from Public Safety.
Senator Omidvar: Oh, sorry.
Ms. Levman: Yes.
Kristin Solvason, Acting Director General, Law Enforcement, Public Safety Canada: No worries. I can speak a little bit to what we heard through the 2018 engagement and the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking.
In 2018, there were quite extensive engagement and consultations that took place with a variety of stakeholders and partners: law enforcement, survivors, victims, other levels of government, academia, and one of the elements of the national strategy does include standing up a Survivors Advisory Committee that has not yet been put in place. But we are providing recommendations and options related to that.
For context, the strategy was launched in 2019. It is a five-year strategy, so there are some elements that have been delivered over the years. But the Survivors Advisory Committee will be put in place this year.
Senator Omidvar: I see. Thank you. That’s all.
Senator Audette: Thank you for your presentation. This is a cultural change. It’s clear, especially in light of all the commissions of inquiry involving living indigenous women and girls or those who have lost a loved one, that trust in the justice system and public safety is absent or lost. We now have an opportunity to show that good things can be done.
Have you thought about a strategy to put women and girls in a safe place so that their silence or words can become part of the evidence? One of the barriers to them contacting the police is that they are not believed. Changing a law is one thing, but what are your strategies or approaches to changing the culture of how a law is enforced?
Ms. Solvason: Perhaps I can get that kickstarted in the context of the National Strategy To Combat Human Trafficking. Thank you for the question, senator. Particularly, as we know the deep connections to the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and there are many Calls for Justice embedded therein — as I know you’re all familiar with — Calls for Justice for the federal government, for other levels of government, for the service industry and for Canadians in general.
What I might share with you today is some of the funding that has been provided since the inception of the national strategy, and through Public Safety Canada, I can speak specifically to some of the targeted programming that we have provided.
With that in mind, in 2020, Public Safety Canada launched a call for proposals for organizations working to prevent and address human trafficking and to support at-risk populations and survivors. Through this call, $8.4 million is being provided to 20 projects that work to prevent and address human trafficking and support survivors.
What I would add, specifically to your point about education, awareness and trust, is that some of that program funding is allocated to communities so they can provide supports that are responsive to the communities they serve. I might note that of the 20 projects that were supported and have been supported since 2020, 15 of those are available to Indigenous communities. Two of those are Indigenous-led. This is something we will continue to look to support. We have heard this not just through engagement in the context of the human trafficking strategy overall but also, particularly, as it related to the final report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The program funding we are providing through Public Safety Canada and through other government departments, including Women and Gender Equality Canada, for example, through their strategy to counter gender-based violence, tries to address some of those root issues of trust and provide a safe space that is culturally responsive to the communities they serve.
The Acting Chair: Thank you. We have a bit of time. We will start a second round.
Senator Gignac: I’d like to congratulate my colleague on her bill. I think it’s an important step forward.
My question is for the Department of Justice. Given that Canada has been a signatory to the Palermo protocol since 2002, are we lagging behind other countries in reversing the burden of proof or are we breaking new ground in that regard? Have any international comparisons been made in this regard?
Ms. Levman: Thank you for the question. Criminal and legal systems across the world all require proof of the essential elements of the offences beyond reasonable doubt in order to secure convictions. Although we, of course, do comparative analysis of other countries’ approaches to criminal offending, including human trafficking, I’m not aware of any country that reverses the usual burden that applies in criminal cases. I do not believe that’s what the UN protocol requires. It requires criminalization of the conduct articulated in Article 3. That’s a reading of Article 3 and 5 together. I’m not sure if that helps or is responsive.
Senator Gignac: When we break new ground—and if I understand correctly, we’re the first country to do so—we must always be careful about unintended consequences.
I want to be clear that I support the objective and it is very commendable. However, could there be situations in which an immigrant couple, where the man has married an underage woman—practices and culture being different in other countries—would be considered a forced marriage? The couple arrives here and then things change, here in Canada, and at that point, there could be situations where, obviously, this could have consequences.
Actually, it’s the statistics that interest me. You’ve had a number of cases, I think it was 500 over a few years, of which only 7% resulted in a guilty verdict—in fact, 511 incidents were reported by police. How many of these incidents involved couples who were already married when they came to Canada?
Some people may have perceptions or opinions about this, but it may be quite different in other cultures and countries. These people are settled here. Can this reversal of evidence lead to a situation where someone could be charged with human trafficking, and therefore reported under this legislation?
Actually, my question is about the unintended consequences of this reversal and change to the legislation.
Ms. Levman: If I understand the question correctly, you’re speaking to cases that might involve forced marriage or different cultural elements, and whether we have any evidence about that in particular.
We don’t have reported case law that deals with that kind of scenario. However, I would point out that the trafficking-in-persons provision is not limited to certain kinds of services or labour. It captures any kind of service or labour that is extracted through coercive practices. There is nothing in the provision that precludes its use in that context.
Senator Ataullahjan: We continue to hear of the low conviction rate, which is 7%. Could you help me understand what factors contribute to the low conviction rate for trafficking offences?
This bill defines exploitation as involving:
. . . the use or threatened use of force or another form of coercion, the use of deception or fraud, the abuse of a position of trust, power or authority, or any other similar act.
Can you tell me what other similar acts might be covered by this provision?
Ms. Levman: I would refer back to the human trafficking Juristat, which does give an overview of some of the challenges faced by prosecutors and why they exist. There are also references to scholarship in that regard. I believe you have a professor coming before you shortly who may also be able to speak to that.
I’m not 100% certain what the intention was by including language like “or a similar act.” I can only give you an impression of how I might read it. I think that, perhaps, what was intended, although you’re probably better placed to speak to that, was to capture all of the most subtle forms of coercion that may be employed by traffickers in trafficking cases.
That is, of course, also open to courts to consider in the current definition as well, as per the Ontario Court of Appeal jurisprudence I referenced and the Quebec Court of Appeal.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you.
Senator Omidvar: Thank you. I have a question for Public Safety Canada. It is about your human trafficking consultation report that was conducted in 2018 where participants were concerned that the definition of exploitation under section 279.04 was too narrow.
Can you add some background to this statement? Why did they consider it too narrow? What suggestions did they make? Are those suggestions, in some part, embraced by this bill?
Ms. Solvason: Thank you for the question. Indeed, you are correct; in the 2018 consultations, this was noted.
Amongst the many findings that came forward and the considerations that were raised in relation to survivors specifically, this is one of the comments that was made as it related to legislative considerations.
I would characterize the message as an overarching need to reinforce the legislation with the intention of having more successful prosecutions. That was the framing of much of the conversation that came forward in 2018.
Unfortunately, I can’t provide any more detail than what’s available in terms of our public-facing report. Those are the details that I have.
Essentially, what was captured, as you point out, was the need to remove the safety clause within section 279.04 of the Criminal Code, which requires proof of fear for one’s safety to support jurisprudence, which was noted throughout the 2018 consultations.
To elaborate to the extent that I’m able, in this context, participants indicated that the threshold was too limiting and narrowed the definition of human trafficking, which, in turn, impacts conviction and prosecution rates.
This is how it was characterized to us throughout the engagement sessions. I hope that helps answer the question.
Senator Omidvar: We have talked quite a lot about prosecution and convictions. This question falls outside the ambit of the bill, but I’m curious about penalties. My understanding is that penalties for such crimes are very low.
Can you help us understand — if it is within your jurisdiction to comment, because many of these could well be provincial court issues — what the average penalty for a crime of human trafficking is at this point?
Ms. Levman: I can’t answer that question in terms of averages, as a statistical question. However, I can say that recent human trafficking sentencing case law has been showing higher sentences than before.
Senator Omidvar: Thank you.
The Acting Chair: I’d like to thank the witnesses for your participation today. Your assistance with our study is very much appreciated.
I would now like to introduce our last panel of the day: Janine Benedet, Professor of Law, University of British Columbia; and Julia Drydyk, Executive Director of The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking. Welcome to our witnesses and thank you for being with us today.
Julia Drydyk, Executive Director, The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking: I’d like to thank members of the committee for having me here today.
The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking is a national charity dedicated to ending all types of human trafficking in Canada. We work to mobilize systems change by collaborating and working with various stakeholders to advance best practices, share research and eliminate duplicate efforts across Canada.
In May of 2019, we launched the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline, a confidential, multilingual service that operates 24-7 to connect victims and survivors with social services and/or law enforcement if they so choose.
The centre is supportive of Bill S-224 in removing the requirement that the element of fear is necessary to demonstrate to the courts that human trafficking is taking place. This is, in fact, a very overdue change to Canada’s existing Criminal Code definition of human trafficking.
Trafficking charges have been dismissed as recently as 2022 because the courts were unable to prove that the victim feared for their safety or the safety of someone they know, but where obvious and systematic forms of exploitation were taking place directly for the trafficker’s gain and profit. Removing the necessity to prove the element of fear from the Criminal Code definition of human trafficking is far more aligned with addressing the reality of how human trafficking is operating in Canada. It would be a small yet meaningful step in improving access to justice for victims who have experienced sex and labour trafficking in Canada. I say it’s a small step because without mandated and evidence-based training across the judiciary, it’s unlikely that we’ll see the desired outcomes that I believe we would all like to see.
Unfortunately, bias still exists within the judiciary. The stigma that is imposed on individuals in the commercial sex industry, through choice or coercion, continues to present a bias, which is contributing to these incredibly low prosecution rates for traffickers.
As many of you know, certain groups are intentionally targeted by traffickers because their social, physical, economic and basic needs are not being met. As a result, these groups have been overrepresented among those who have experienced trafficking. These groups include Indigenous, Black, racialized and LGTBQI+ communities, as well as those living in poverty and those who are under-housed or precariously housed.
These groups have also historically and are currently experiencing discrimination and abuse from the very institutions that are supposed to protect them. We know that we have work to do to ensure that systems of racism, colonialism and oppression are removed from our law enforcement and judicial institutions.
Without looking at the ways in which inequity is reproduced through our public institutions, the proposed change in law will only scratch the surface of addressing the root causes of this gross and extreme form of exploitation in Canada.
At The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, we’re currently embarking on a series of research and advocacy projects to better understand the root causes of human trafficking. I wish I could say there was a simple solution, but if we’re going to effectively end human trafficking in Canada, we need to take a multi-pronged approach. We need to explore the gaps in access to opportunity that make this type of targeted social and psychological manipulation possible. We need to examine bold new ways of levelling the playing field and providing social, economic and legal justice to all Canadians, which could include a basic income and a comprehensive overhaul of our child welfare systems. And we need to start acting with meaning and purpose towards real reconciliation and address the colonial systems that continue to oppress Indigenous communities across Canada.
I know that this can sound overwhelming, but I strongly believe that bold social changes are required to make meaningful progress to address the root causes of human trafficking in Canada. Our hope is that we see meaningful leadership to drive this long-term systems and social change, so that hopefully our next generation won’t have to learn about the signs of sexual and labour exploitation or to be there to look for resources when it’s already too late.
In conclusion, I want to emphasize that sex-trafficking survivors are often placed along a continuum of sexual- and gender-based exploitation. I would also urge the committee to consider what the impacts may be for those who are experiencing both sex and labour trafficking. There are also gender dimensions of labour trafficking, especially in home care, garments and manufacturing sectors that do require additional research.
I do want to say that we are currently working on better engaging these communities as they can be hard to reach, but the anecdotal evidence that we’re hearing from the field suggests that we’re only scratching the surface in understanding the depth and the breadth of labour trafficking in Canada.
Thank you again for the invitation to present, and I’m happy to answer whatever questions I can for members of the committee.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much. We will now have Professor Benedet, please.
Janine Benedet, Professor of Law, University of British Columbia, as an individual: Thank you so much for the invitation to appear before you today during your consideration of Bill S-224. As you know, I’m a professor of law at the University of British Columbia, where my research focuses on legal responses to sexual violence against women, including sexual assault, prostitution, pornography and sexual harassment. I’ve worked in this field for more than 25 years, and I also provide pro bono legal representation to non-profit organizations in cases involving these same issues. I’ve worked very closely for many years with women’s groups and other groups opposing the sexual exploitation of Canadians in the sex trade.
In my opening remarks, I would raise two points for your consideration. First, it would be an important advance in the fight against human trafficking in Canada to change the definition in the Criminal Code to bring it into line with Canada’s commitments in the Palermo Protocol. Human trafficking offences are under-prosecuted in this country because they are considered extremely difficult to prove in light of the vulnerability of the victims, the ways in which they can be fearful and dependent on traffickers, and the very high bar that necessarily accompanies proving a criminal offence.
So, removing the requirement to prove a reasonable apprehension of fear, as this bill does, would be helpful, both because it would address some of the challenges around getting victims to testify and also because the use of the reasonableness standard tends to allow stereotypes and myths about trafficking to enter the picture. This same formulation of a reasonable apprehension of fear is found in the stalking offence, the criminal harassment offence. It produces the same problem there, and that’s one that’s been well documented by empirical research.
I would say, however, that an even more important change would be to add the term “abuse of a condition of vulnerability” to the list of factors in the definition of exploitation. This language is found in the Palermo Protocol. It’s kind of the only piece of the definition that isn’t in Canada’s definition in the code, and it recognizes that sex traffickers target vulnerable people and that, in many cases, that pre-existing vulnerability is enough. There don’t need to be threats or coercion or deception because of the extent of those inequalities or past abuse, potentially, at the hands of others.
The second point I would make by way of introduction is to say that the consideration of criminal laws targeting trafficking cannot and must not be separated from the criminal laws regarding prostitution. Right now, the House of Commons Justice and Human Rights Committee has recently completed a review of the equality-based criminal laws enacted in 2014 to target the demand for prostitution and those who profit from the prostitution of others. The thrust of those hearings has been very much tilted towards support for the legalization of men’s sex purchase and pimping under the misleading banner of decriminalizing adult sex work.
Now, of course, it’s true that not all trafficking is prostitution. There is labour trafficking, as you’ve already heard, and not all prostitution is trafficking. Trafficking requires the involvement of a third party. A person cannot traffic themselves. But the two overlap, and normalizing and legalizing the demand for prostitution increase trafficking. This has been empirically documented, and it’s important to recognize that link.
If the existing offences of procuring, obtaining a material benefit from someone else’s prostitution and obtaining sexual services for consideration are repealed, it will become legal to buy a trafficked woman for sex in Canada, and it will be much harder to prosecute traffickers who manipulate women and girls to enter and remain in the sex trade, a practice that has a disproportionate impact on Indigenous and Asian women and girls in Canada, in particular.
What concerns me is that, too often, initiatives designed to be seen as taking trafficking seriously operate, intentionally or unintentionally, as a justification for legalizing prostitution based on the false idea that these are two completely separate and disconnected industries.
I would just conclude by saying that if you want to do something about trafficking, the amendments that are proposed in this bill are a good start, but it is even more important to oppose the repeal of the equality model offences relating to prostitution currently in the Criminal Code because we are at real risk of losing them. Thank you.
The Acting Chair: Thank you both very much.
Senator Omidvar: Thank you to both our witnesses for their help in our study of this bill.
My first question is to Ms. Drydyk. I noted that you operate a human trafficking hotline. Could you share with us any data that you have about the extent of human trafficking that is reported to you in this direct way? How does that correspond, perhaps, to the data that the government has?
Ms. Drydyk: Thank you very much for the question. I’m happy to share the data that we have. Last year, we were able to release a report on human trafficking trends in Canada, where we released data from the first full year of operating the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline. In that first full year — and again, that was our very first year of operations — we identified 415 cases of human trafficking that involved 593 individual victims and survivors.
The main reason those individuals reached out to us was that they were looking for access to services. In fact, only 7% of those people that reached out to that hotline wanted anything to do with law enforcement. While we can facilitate their connection to law enforcement, the real barriers that they are experiencing — and, again, this is coming from historical experiences of violence and mistreatment — are very significant. I can’t overestimate the amount of stigma that is also imposed on survivors of sex trafficking but also those involved voluntarily in the commercial sex industry. It really is one of the last resources that individuals are looking for when they reach out for our support.
Senator Omidvar: So it’s fair to conclude from what you’re telling us that the numbers that you have are likely the floor, as opposed to the ceiling? They are under-reported because of many, many reasons.
Ms. Drydyk: Yes. As we have matured as an organization, I can conservatively say that we have seen at least a 25% increase in call volume since the data that I just spoke to. We’re still consistently looking at updating our data and being able to share that for public decision makers.
Senator Omidvar: Thank you, Ms. Drydyk.
Professor Benedet, I noted with interest your comments about the Palermo Protocol being the bar that we should meet, that we are not as far as we should be. Can you tell me if other signatories to the Palermo Protocol, other jurisdictions, are closer to the definition? Are we the leaders here, or are we the laggards?
Ms. Benedet: That’s a good question. In a way, I feel like I would have to update my research a bit to know for sure. We’re probably somewhere in the bottom half but not right at the bottom.
Part of it has to do with the combination of removing that reference to a condition of vulnerability and then setting this very high bar of the reasonable apprehension of fear. Plus, we don’t target the buyers directly. We only target the traffickers.
When you put those three things together, those are three weaknesses, in my view, and they are not consistent with our objectives under the Palermo Protocol.
Senator Omidvar: So who is the leader? If we are in the bottom third — which should be shocking for us with our feminist policies, et cetera — who leads? Who should we be looking at as an example?
Ms. Benedet: I would say the Scandinavian countries — Sweden, Norway, Iceland — have all recognized the relationship between the demand for prostitution and the growth of that industry, at least in the field of sex trafficking in particular. They have made their countries very inhospitable to traffickers by trying to connect those realities, keep good data and enforce. It’s certainly true that victims themselves may not think of law enforcement as the first place they want to go. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have an obligation — a state obligation — to punish traffickers. If we don’t, they will just keep trafficking other people.
There needs to be some law enforcement response. Services are great, but ultimately they are not disrupting the traffickers to the extent that’s really necessary. That’s what I would say there.
Obviously, countries like the Netherlands, Germany and New Zealand are right at the bottom in being quite resistant to the idea that they have any trafficking at all and thinking that all of this is just migration for sex work, which I would say is nonsense.
Senator Omidvar: Thank you.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much.
Senator Ataullahjan: I want to thank both of you for your presentations. My first question is to you, Professor Benedet. In a 2018 submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, you suggested amending section 279.04 of the Criminal Code to define exploitation as including situations in which a person abuses another person’s position of vulnerability.
Could you tell us more about the benefits and drawbacks of expanding the definition of exploitation this way? And to what extent does Bill S-224 address your concerns about section 279.04?
Ms. Benedet: As we have said, certainly in terms of the reasonable apprehension of fear, it does address those concerns.
In terms of the inclusion of a condition of vulnerability, the way the bill is worded right now, it talks about “the abuse of a position of trust, power or authority, or any other similar act.” As I heard in the questioning with your previous witnesses, what does “any other similar act” mean? To me, it would be an improvement if it said “the abuse of a position of trust, power, authority or of a condition of vulnerability.” Essentially what this does is shift the focus from the actions of the trafficker and whether or not they were sufficiently coercive or were the one orchestrating all of this to look at the material conditions of the lives of the victims of trafficking and to say that you were selected for a reason, right? This is somebody who exploited the fact that you have come out of the child welfare system or you’ve been in the child welfare system. This is somebody who’s exploited the fact that you have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and that you are in a position of vulnerability.
It’s not so much focusing on whether the trafficker had authority over them or was in a relationship of trust. That’s not always easy to prove. We use that formulation in other sexual offences. The condition of vulnerability would allow us to look at the inequalities that the victim experiences, and how that makes them a target for the traffickers.
Senator Ataullahjan: My next question is for you, Julia Drydyk. Do you feel that this bill is a good start? Where we sit, it takes us a long time to get things moving. We start the building process, and then we continue to build on it. Do you think this is a good start?
The other thing is that you said that you’ve had a 25% increase in calls to the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline. Can you tell me what accounts for those calls, if you can? Why has there been an increase?
Ms. Drydyk: Certainly. I absolutely believe this is a good start. I think it’s overdue. I know that this is not the first time that a bill like this has been presented, and it has died on the Order Paper. We should not let perfection be the enemy of the good in this case.
However, I do really urge all members of the committee and all Canadians to think more boldly. We would be lying to ourselves if we thought this was going to be an actual solution to human trafficking, but it is a step in the right direction.
In terms of the increase in call volume to the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline, part of it is because we went from not existing as an organization to then getting out into the public domain and creating general awareness about the services that we provide. Some of this is the natural growth you would see as a program develops over a few years.
But I do want to specifically say — because we had a lot of questions about the impact of COVID and whether we’ve seen increasing rates of human trafficking — we can’t pinpoint that the increase in call volume is because of an increase of prevalence overall. I can definitively say that human trafficking has not gone down in Canada over the last several years. It remains consistent.
The vast majority of human trafficking cases and instances where people engage with us are victims and survivors. Of those human trafficking cases, about a third and the largest group are victims and survivors, followed by friends and family members and then by social service providers.
So while we do get calls from the general public to get more information, a lot of it is about people in those early stages of realizing that something is not going right and wanting to have a non-judgmental, safe space to be able to understand what the options are in their community and to access localized supports.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you.
Senator Gerba: My question is for Ms. Benedet. In your research, have you obtained data on the number of people who consent to this phenomenon? We’re talking about consent and people who have chosen this easy life. Is there any data showing that in the prostitution sector, in particular, there are people who have made this choice of an easy life, of earning easy money?
Is there any data that shows this trend among girls and young women today? It’s an awkward question, but there are girls today who choose the easy life.
Ms. Benedet: What I would say is that the data is highly contested, in part because the definition of “choice” is highly contested. Right now in Canada, obviously, we don’t recognize the possibility of consent or choice of anyone under the age of 18, but the inequalities that exist for people under 18 don’t disappear when they have a birthday. Someone who has experienced homelessness, poverty, racism and colonialism as a youth doesn’t suddenly have all those things fall away simply because they’ve had their eighteenth birthday.
I think it is important to recognize that in the definition of trafficking in the Criminal Code — and this is consistent with the Palermo Protocol as well — consent is not a defence to trafficking. We focus on the conditions under which the individual was coerced and the coercive behaviour of the trafficker — the exploitation of the trafficker. The fact that the individual might have agreed to participate or might have understood that what they were doing was prostitution — even though they don’t always frankly understand exactly what that entails — is not a defence to trafficking, right? We are putting our focus on those coercive actions.
So yes, there is lots of data out there and lots of fierce debate about how many people can truly be said to be choosing prostitution.
I would encourage you to look at the demographics of prostitution in Canada. Do we really think that Asian women and Indigenous women choose it more? They just like it more? That’s not a coincidence. It’s a function of intersecting inequalities.
Senator Gerba: Is there a reason why these cases are mostly concentrated in Ontario, because two-thirds of the cases are in Ontario?
Ms. Benedet: Sorry, is that question for me, or did you want Ms. Drydyk?
Senator Gerba: Maybe for Ms. Drydyk.
Ms. Drydyk: Thank you very much. I think part of the reason we see higher police-reported incidents in Ontario is because we have a higher population density. Although even proportionally, I think Ontario comprises about 30% of the Canadian population, and about 60% of the human trafficking charges are in Ontario.
I was actually just at the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police conference today, where we were discussing it. I also think it’s because we have higher per capita investments in law enforcement to detect it. We’re seeing higher rates because folks are putting money into law enforcement to do that exact detection.
Now, I also have to say that that is also very controversial. Not everyone believes that funnelling all of our resources through a law enforcement approach is what is going to actually end up being beneficial in the long run. Similarly, we see incredibly high per capita rates of human trafficking charges laid in Nova Scotia, and that also tended to coincide with the establishment of a provincial human trafficking task force. So really, it’s where we see population density coupled with real investments.
In law enforcement, I will also say in Ontario the provincial government has made quite historic investments in education, awareness but also services. So all of these factors combined can result in higher rates. It doesn’t actually necessarily mean that the reality is that Ontario is leading. It’s just we are seeing greater investments that are able to illuminate the realities in Ontario.
Senator Gerba: Do you think this bill will have a significant impact?
Ms. Drydyk: For those individuals who do engage with law enforcement and press charges, I think it will make a difference. But, really, that is a very small proportion of individuals who experience this form of sexual and labour exploitation in Canada. It really is the tip of the iceberg.
Senator Gerba: Thank you.
Senator Audette: I’d like to thank both witnesses for their presentations. Thank you, too, for educating us and reassuring us that small initiatives can sometimes save lives. Tshinashkumitin.
I’m looking through the documents: did you provide us with any briefs or documentation relating to your presentation? If not, could you share with us the recommendations you mentioned in your testimony? If we can improve the bill or give it a little more teeth, I would appreciate that. Thank you.
Ms. Drydyk: I would be happy to.
The Acting Chair: We have time for a second round if there are questions.
Senator Ataullahjan: I just want a bit of clarification that when we’re talking about sex work and sex trafficking, that they are two different things we’re talking about; sex work is not the same as trafficking. Or am I mistaken in understanding that? Professor, if you could help me with that?
Ms. Benedet: The position that I would take before this committee is that there is a tremendous effort to try to draw a sharp line between these two things. We’re meant to believe that there is some population of empowered, unaffected, totally equal, gender-neutral individuals who sell sex as their living, and that we need to make sure that we allow that to continue to happen, and then there is some completely different population of people who are trafficked into prostitution. But that doesn’t track the definition, and it doesn’t track reality.
It’s true: Not all prostitution is trafficking. The term “sex work” doesn’t appear anywhere in the Criminal Code or any law that I am currently aware of. So I’ll use the term that is actually legally used in Canada, which is “prostitution.” The reality is that many people who find themselves in the sex trade end up there because they are experiencing conditions of vulnerability.
So it’s true, not all of that meets the definition of trafficking. As I have said, trafficking requires a third party. There are people in prostitution who are not being trafficked, but could never be said on any definition to be engaged in consensual sex work. These are people who have responded to conditions of extreme poverty and deprivation in their own lives and are trying to get by. To label that somehow as all of it just being some completely separate and distinct industry is a myth, as far as I’m concerned.
So not all prostitution is trafficking. You need that involvement of the third party. And you need that element of coercion or exploitation, I would say, including exploitation of the condition of vulnerability. But an awful lot of the sex trade meets that definition once third parties are involved.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you, professor. Help me understand, to what extent is human trafficking under-reported to law enforcement? We have heard some of the reasons. We have heard of the fear of law enforcement, the attitudes that have existed. Are there any other reasons for this?
Ms. Benedet: You can imagine that individuals who are under the sway of their trafficker might have all kinds of reasons why they don’t want to report. Sometimes there is emotional manipulation and a sense of kind of bond with the person who has actually trafficked them. Some people are able to be quite thoroughly manipulated in those circumstances. That happens in some of the cases that we have seen.
There are also people who believe that they will be deported or will experience other kinds of immigration consequences if they report to law enforcement — correctly or incorrectly — if they don’t have legal status in the country. So that may be a reason why people decline to report.
Then, of course, it’s not easy to go through the criminal justice system. I think this proposed amendment will make it easier. There may be some cases in which it will be possible to prosecute traffickers without calling victims to testify if the evidence is good. But that doesn’t mean to discount at all the challenges that come from involvement in the criminal justice system, and to have to recount all of these things in open court before a jury of strangers is not easy. So some of those barriers are built right into our criminal justice system. But some of them are eminently fixable if we put some effort into doing that.
Senator Ataullahjan: My final question to you, professor, is if you see any unintended consequences of this bill. If so, what could those be?
Ms. Benedet: Well, the unintended consequence is really what I was alluding to when I said that this is actually quite intertwined with the push to get rid of the 2014 amendments that criminalize demand. I always worry, every time I appear on a bill, whether it’s before the House or the Senate, which aims to increase penalties for human trafficking, to make these offences easier to prosecute, to expand the definition, that that will be used as an excuse, again, based on what I think is a false line between these two things. The demand for prostitution increases human trafficking. The more demand, the more trafficking you will have.
So the unintended consequence is it gives people who want to legalize prostitution a smokescreen to say, “Well, we’re getting tough on trafficking, so now we can legalize sex work.” But those two are inextricably linked. The prostitution industry and the demand for prostitution are closely linked to human trafficking, in my view.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you.
The Acting Chair: I think that ends our questions for this evening. On that note, I would like to thank both of you for your participation today. Your assistance with our study is very much appreciated. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone as we conclude tonight’s meeting.
Senators, our next meeting will be on Monday, June 13, 2022, when we will begin our study on Islamophobia, likely do clause by clause of Bill S-224 and consider a draft report on forced and coerced sterilization. If there is no further business, this meeting is now adjourned.
(The committee adjourned.)