Of course, we would have liked to have seen a unanimous vote in favour of private member's Bill C-268, minimum sentences for trafficking of children. So, why wasn't the vote unanimous?
On reading some recent media reports, it seems that there is a mistaken impression - one I think shared by some MPs - that Bill C-268 was government legislation. Bill C-268 is a private member's bill introduced by Joy Smith (Kildonan-St. Paul) which ended up receiving support of the governing Conservative Party. Mrs. Smith is a member of the Conservative Party and her crusade against human trafficking is broader than this single piece of legislation, but private member's bills are just that, a single piece of legislation.
Bill C-268 is a beneficial amendment to the human trafficking sections of the Criminal Code which were established under a Liberal Party government in 2004. Bill C-268 is a good piece of legislation to draw attention to a horrible situation that exists in our Canada at a time that highlights the now well established historic connection between an increase in trafficking of mostly women and young girls for the purpose of prostitution that occurs in venues hosting major world events, in our case the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Bill C-268 is not a government bill or the answer to Canada's child or adult trafficking problems. There is more to be done, and that more would be best facilitated by government action on this issue (Please note that when I suggest more government action, I do not minimize the important role that an engaged Christian community has to play in identifying possible trafficking situations and caring for victims. Witness the excellent work of The Salvation Army in this area.).
In light of the more that can be done, let's consider some of those who voted against Bill C-268 on third reading in the House of Commons whose names have featured prominently in some national media stories. Both individuals stood out partly because of their vote, but also because they are women in a national party.
Megan Leslie (Halifax) spoke during debate on C-268. Her reasons are best expressed in her words as recorded in Hansard, the official record of Parliament. A lot of what Ms. Leslie says in this presentation is good advice for government action to combat human trafficking. I disagree with her conclusion, voting against the Bill. I agree that this measure could have been presented as part of a better developed government strategy, but will honour the efforts of Joy Smith and others, accept the step taken in C-268 (hoping for speedy passage in the Senate), applaud the public support generated for the initiative and join Ms. Leslie and other Canadians asking for that government strategy to comprise the next steps in dealing with this modern day slavery.
In my grade 12 calculus class, this would have been worth about 75 to 85% for following the right process, having the formula thrown off by one mistake and thus arriving at the wrong conclusion.
Libby Davies (Vancouver East) has been pilloried for voting against C-268 on third reading when she represents a riding that is prime territory for the abuses of human trafficking for the sex trade. Ms. Davies has represented the riding through 5 elections beginning in 1997. For this reason, some have accused her of favouring prostitution because it has existed in increasing numbers in her riding during her tenure. Again, in her own words, Ms. Davies has denied this allegation and identified similar concerns to those of Ms. Leslie as her reason for voting against the bill.
There seems to be agreement that more action needs to be taken. The Conservatives have joined Mrs. Smith's initiative, the Liberals are historically in favour of taking the necessary steps for legal assault against traffickers and two NDP MPs have offered up some sound overall strategy. Perhaps, rather than asking why the vote wasn't unanimous we should begin to wonder how long it will be before the next steps are taken. February 12, 2010 draws nearer every day.