The Hon. David Lametti
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0H8
Dear Minister Lametti,
We are writing to ask you to amend one of the provisions in Bill C-5. Although this bill deals with various areas of the Criminal Code, our focus is on the provision that relates to human trafficking.
Canada has been at the forefront of taking action to address human trafficking, both domestically and internationally. Human trafficking is a serious violation of human rights. As the Public Safety publication on the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking notes, human trafficking is a complex crime and vulnerable populations are at higher risk. It is one of the fastest-growing crimes globally and can be a low-risk, highly-profitable endeavour for traffickers. They maintain control over their victims and prey on their victims’ vulnerabilities.
In terms of the toll on victims, the Public Safety document states, “Victims often suffer physical, sexual, financial, emotional and psychological abuse, and often live and work in horrific conditions. Due to the harm and violence inflicted on victims, human trafficking is associated with substantial trauma, and recovery from its impacts can take a lifetime.”
It is essential that the gravity of human trafficking offences be consistently reflected in our laws and policies. The categorization of a criminal offence tends to indicate the degree of seriousness of the conduct covered by the offence.
Currently the Criminal Code precludes conditional sentencing for some offences, including the trafficking of persons for material benefit (section 279.02). Bill C-5 proposes to remove this provision.
We are very concerned that it sends the wrong message – to offenders and to victims - to make it possible for someone convicted of a human trafficking offence to receive conditional sentencing, commonly referred to as ‘house arrest.’ When Bill C-5 proposes to allow conditional sentencing for someone convicted of trafficking of persons for material benefit, it sends the message that this offence is of lesser concern.
Further, it is important to recognize that one of the challenges with prosecuting human trafficking offences is that victims are often afraid to testify. They fear they will face retribution from their trafficker or an associate of their trafficker, who may not be convicted, or who may do minimal time in prison before being back on the streets.
We must be able to reassure victims with their very real safety concerns that we will do all we can to ensure they remain safe. Allowing trafficking-related offences to be eligible for conditional sentences and “house arrest,” does not send this important and reassuring message to victims.
Please amend clause 14(2) of Bill C-5 so that no human trafficking-related offence is eligible for conditional sentencing.
Julia Beazley, EFC Director, Public Policy
cc. The Hon. Rob Moore
Mr. Randall Garrison
M. Rheal Eloi Fortin
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) is the national association of evangelical Christians in Canada. Established in 1964, the EFC provides a national forum for Canada’s four million Evangelicals and a constructive voice for biblical principles in life and society.
See our updated webpage on this bill at TheEFC.ca/C-5