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Bill C-268, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentences for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years)

Honourable Senators,

I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-268, an act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentences for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years).

Bill C-268 was drafted with one clear intention to create a separate offence for the traffickers of children in Canada and to ensure that the penalties reflect the gravity of the crime.

I would like to once again acknowledge the member for Kildonan- St. Paul, Joy Smith, for her concerted and ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking and protect our nations most vulnerable, our children.

Human trafficking is one of the most horrific forms of abuse that exists today that requires a multifaceted long term approach. Bill C-268 is one important step in the ongoing fight against human trafficking. The passage of this bill into law, will provide our law enforcement officials and judiciary with an essential tool for combating this heinous crime, to punish those who prey upon the most vulnerable of our society, homeless and abused youth, children in protective care and aboriginal youth.

To achieve this important goal, the bill will create a separate offence for trafficking a person under the age of eighteen years, which will carry mandatory minimum penalties of six years for the aggravated offence where the maximum penalty is life imprisonment, and five years where the maximum penalty is fourteen years imprisonment.

As a society, we need to send a clear message that trafficking of children is a grave crime and severe penalties will be imposed on anyone who engages in such despicable conduct.

Human trafficking violates victims’ human rights and offends the most basic values of a free and democratic society.

Honourable Senators, let me recount once again the abhorrent details of two early human trafficking cases involving minors to underscore the need for Bill C-268.

In a town not too far from our nation’s capital, Imani Nakpangi abused a young fifteen year old girl over a period of two and a half years. Nakpangi physically assaulted and forced the young girl to have sex with strangers, and threatened to kidnap her brother and do harm to her parents should she ever escape.

For two and half years, Imani Nakpangi made in excess of $360,000 off this innocent young victim. While the young girl lived a life of terror, abuse and exploitation, Nakpangi lived a life of luxury, driving a BMW and living in a large Niagara Falls home, purchased with the revenues he earned from his crimes.

Imani Nakpangi was arrested and convicted for his crimes. On 24 June, 2008 he received a sentence of three years imprisonment, however, Nakpangi received thirteen months pre-trial credit and will therefore spend less time in jail then he spent trafficking his young victim.

In November 2008, Montréal resident Michael Lennox Mark was also convicted for the trafficking of a seventeen year old girl and selling her for sex. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment.  Mark served only a singleweek in prison after being convicted because he was given two-for-one credit for his pre-trial custody.

Honourable Senators, with these first two sentences in Canada resulting in approximately one to two years served for the trafficking of children, traffickers are currently able to continue making hundreds of thousands of dollars from the exploitation and rape of our children without much threat of serious sanction.

These convictions set an alarming precedent for all future cases involving the trafficking of children.

It is imperative that we send a clear message that trafficking of minors will not be tolerated and pass this bill.

Canada remains one of the few developed countries that do not have enhanced penalties for the trafficking of children.

In 2005, Canada ratified the United Nation’s protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography. Article 3 (1) states “each state party shall make such offences punishable by appropriate penalties that take into account their grave nature.” Current Canadian convictions do not reflect the severity of the crime or the sentences handed out to child traffickers in other countries.

Bill C-268 does not simply try to mirror other jurisdictions but rather the penalties are respectful of our Criminal Code and are consistent with other sections while upholding and fulfilling our international obligations.

The Criminal Code already recognizes that certain serious crimes involving child victims require more stringent penalties.  Section 212 (2.1) imposes a five year mandatory minimum sentence for the aggravated offense of living on the avails of prostitution of a person under the age of eighteen.

Honourable senators, Canadians from coast, to coast, to coast are making their voices heard and calling on us to protect our daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and our county’s future.

I have personally received countless letters, emails and telephone calls in support of this bill.

The member for Kildonan- St. Paul tabled over 14, 000 signatures in support of this bill in the Other Place.

Last week, the Honourable Senator Plett tabled over 8,300 signatures in support of this bill in our Chamber.

Support for the bill has come from key stakeholders in the fight against child-trafficking - all expressing the need for mandatory minimum sentences for child trafficking.

Fellow parliamentarians in the House of Commons, law enforcement officials, victim’s services representatives, First Nations’ leaders, NGOs, and every day Canadians are calling on us to act.

Honourable Senators, children across this country, in every province and territory are falling victim to human traffickers. Our children are being trafficked not just for sex but also for the purpose of child pornography, child slavery, drug distribution and other criminal activities.

The physical, emotional and psychological abuse caused by all forms of child trafficking severely impacts and harms these young victims.

Honourable Senators, it is our duty to protect the most vulnerable. It is our duty to send a clear message to those who traffic and harm our children that their crimes will not be tolerated and that Canada is not a safe haven for child traffickers.

Honourable Senators it is my sincere hope that you will all join me in supporting the passage of this bill into law.

Thank you.

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