June 8, 2009 / canada.com
A bill to put people who engage in the human trafficking of children behind bars for at least five years is one step closer to becoming law after passing through a parliamentary committee Monday.
A private member's bill introduced by Winnipeg Conservative MP Joy Smith will head back to the House of Commons for third and final reading now.
The legislation imposes a minimum sentence of five years for anyone convicted of human trafficking when the victim is under the age of 18.
Currently there is a sentence of up to 14 years under the law but the first few convictions resulted in lenient sentences, prompting Smith to develop the legislation.
RCMP Superintendent Michael Aubin testified before the Justice Committee on Monday that police do not have a handle on how many victims there are of this crime in Canada.
He said the RCMP are conducting a threat assessment to determine who the perpetrators generally are and how to better direct police resources to combat what is a growing crime.
Human trafficking is often referred to as the modern-day slave trade, involving as many as 600,000 to 800,000 people a year and providing traffickers upwards of $5 billion in revenue.
Most of the victims are women, about half are minors and about 70 per cent are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Once the legislation passes third reading, it has to pass the Senate before it can be given Royal Assent and become law.
With Parliament set to rise next week for summer break, that won't happen now until the fall.