Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 79

Tuesday, May 15, 2012
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


Sex Tourism

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I asked this question last March, and I ask it again: Every single year, 1 million children are exploited in the global sex trade. Last month, a troubling article published in the Vancouver Sun stated that Canadians are among those who travel across borders to engage in commercial sex acts with children. More specifically, this article profiled Cambodia, a country where one third of the population lives on less than $1 a day. It stated that it is Canadian men who frequent brothels and rape young girls.

In 1996, Bill C-27, which dealt with child sex tourism, passed through both houses. This bill made all sex crimes against children extraterritorial. Unfortunately, in the 15 years that this law has been in effect, only five people have been prosecuted.

I had earlier supplied my question to the leader’s office, and I will ask it again: What resources has the government invested to ensure that Bill C-27 is properly enforced?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I appreciate the notice of the question. As the honourable senator correctly stated, she did ask this question a month and a half ago, and I do not believe we have provided a written response. I will look into that.

As the honourable senator knows, since she is a lawyer, prosecution of such matters falls under provincial jurisdiction; and of course she would know that I, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate, cannot comment on specific matters before the courts or that may be at the moment the subject of police investigations.

Our criminal law allows for Canadian prosecution of Canadians who engage in any prohibited sexual activity with children while abroad. Canada’s sex tourism law, to which the senator made reference, reflects international consensus that those who sexually abuse children must be held accountable. Where the state in which the transgression has taken place does not proceed with prosecuting these individual Canadians, our own sex tourism provisions enable Canada to undertake the prosecution.

As the honourable senator knows, our efforts to protect children from sexual exploitation extend far beyond our borders, and Canada has fully endorsed and continues to support several international agreements on this issue, including the G8 Strategy to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet.

With regard to the specific question about the amount of funds allocated to this, I will ask that when we get around to providing the written response, that will be included in it.

Senator Jaffer: I thank the leader and I appreciate her giving me a detailed response.

I, of all people, know that prosecutions are provincial; however, the honourable senator and I both know that the investigation has to happen in the country where the offence is taking place, the investigation resources have to be provided by the federal government, and enforcement people have to be embedded in the foreign offices abroad.

In her search, could the leader please tell us specifically how many officers are employed in areas that we know Canadian men — and women, too — are frequenting so that we can find out what is happening?

I would also ask that the leader find out what investigative steps Canada is taking to ensure that our men who travel outside of Canada to sexually exploit children are brought to justice in the same way as if they had exploited a little girl in Canada.

Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for the question and for her ongoing interest in this very serious matter.

As she will know, at the May 2007 meeting of G8 Justice and Interior Ministers, Canada reiterated its commitment to work with other G8 countries to combat sexual exploitation, including sharing best practices related to the investigation and prosecution of child sex tourism offences. I realize that this extends far beyond G8 countries, although G8 countries do have a lot of influence in effecting changes in these countries.

I will, of course, honourable senators, ask Senator Jaffer’s specific question about where these organizations are operational and what kind of resources have been allocated to them to deal with, as she quite rightly stated, a very serious and reprehensible crime.