OTTAWA - Manitoba MP Joy Smith chastised the Bloc Quebecois this morning for standing in the way of her private member's bill to introduce mandatory minimum sentences for human trafficking of children.
Supported by the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP, Smith’s bill passed second reading last month and is destined for the House of Commons justice committee. But all but one Bloc MP voted against the bill and Smith now says the Bloc is objecting to prioritizing the bill on the committee’s agenda.
She says if the Bloc would agree, the bill could be debated at the justice committee when it meets Wednesday.
Without Bloc support it would likely not happen until next fall. An election and the end of a parliamentary session could then force Smith to start all over again.
The Bloc object to Smith’s bill because they do not agree with the idea of mandatory minimum sentences.
Bill C-268 would impose a minimum sentence of five years for someone convicted of trafficking a minor in Canada. Right now the maximum sentence is 14 years, but there is no minimum.
The first two convictions under the offence, which is a relatively new charge in the Canadian criminal code, resulted in sentences of less than five years.
Smith was joined by Conservative MPs from Quebec, a spokesman from the Salvation Army and Liliane Kohl, co-chair of the Temple Committee Against Human Trafficking at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom in Montreal.
Kohl said there has been an escalation of trafficking in Quebec in the last few years, and said hundreds and hundreds of Quebec children and women are affected.
"We can no longer allow perpetrators of this crime to get off easy," said Kohl, who urged Bloc MPs to change their minds and vote in favour of the legislation.
Smith said she firmly believes the Bloc is not voting based on what its constituents would like and she says this is a non-partisan issue that should be given the unanimous support of all MPs.