LETTER TO THE EDITOR: CANADA NEEDS HUMAN TRAFFICKING LAW
by Sarah Sonne
The Calgary Herald, September 1 2008
I would like to commend Parliament for its almost unanimous support of Joy Smith's human trafficking Bill, C-268, at second reading this past Wednesday. Every NDP, Conservative, and Liberal Member of Parliament (with one exception from Liberal MP Mauril Belanger) voted in favour of referring the bill to the Justice Committee, a cross-party unity that was refreshing to see.
This bill, if passed, would amend the Criminal Code to create a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years for anyone who trafficks a person under 18. Right now, there is no minimum sentence for selling a child as a sex slave, something that is much more common than Canadians would like to admit. NGOs estimate that 15,000 people in Canada have been victims of human trafficking, the majority of them women, and many of them children.
This bill is common sense and not a new concept for the Justice system: Canada currently has a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for anyone who "lives off the avails" of a child prostitute. Further, on the international scene Canada is falling far short on protecting children from trafficking - even Thailand has a minimum sentence of five years for trafficking a girl under eighteen. As human trafficking is the fastest growing crime globally, Canada needs this law (and further laws) to prevent it from becoming a haven for international child traffickers, who do not care about being rehabilitated but only with getting the most profit with the least jail time.
As slavery is now the second most illicit trade in the black market, I urge Parliamentarians to continue to work together to stop it and to make Canada a leader, not a follower, in the fight against human trafficking. To start, I would like to see minimum sentencing in place as soon as possible.