MP fears Senate logjam will keep child trafficking bill from passing before Olympics

OTTAWA — A Conservative backbench MP says she fears her bill to ensure traffickers of children in Canada spend at least five years in jail may not pass in time for the Vancouver Olympics.

With a number of experts predicting the Olympics will be a mecca for human traffickers, Manitoba MP Joy Smith had hoped the private member’s bill would be in place by the time the Olympic flame was lit.

But debate in the Senate has been slow and the bill won’t make it through the upper chamber before Christmas. The Senate won’t sit again until the end of January, leaving just three weeks for the bill to go through the Senate committee and third reading, receive royal assent and be proclaimed.

“It could have passed ages ago,” Smith said.

C-268 would put in place mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of trafficking kids in Canada, with at least five years for most offences and six years for offences involving aggravated circumstances such as sexual assault.

The current law imposes a maximum penalty of 14 years for human trafficking, regardless of the victim’s age, but there is no minimum. Human trafficking has been an offence in Canada for less than five years. Smith says the bill is needed because the first few convictions under the law resulted in lenient sentences.

The bill passed in the House of Commons in September, with the support of the Conservatives and most Liberal and NDP MPs. The Bloc Quebecois voted against the bill.

It has been in the Senate ever since, and Smith claims Independent Senator Anne Cools is purposely holding up debate. The bill was adjourned under her name Nov. 3 and she has yet to speak to it.

Cools couldn’t be reached for an interview Tuesday. However, Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella has ruled that Cools could not hold up debate on her own and that nothing prevents other senators from speaking to the bill.

During debate in the Senate about another bill dealing with mandatory minimum sentences, Cools said she didn’t understand what proof there was to support the idea.


Published in: on December 16, 2009 at 8:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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