The Canadian House of Commons unanimously adopted an Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons) at Third Reading on April 27.
The Bill will now go to the Senate for consideration.
“I am absolutely delighted with the adoption of the bill by the House of Commons and look forward to it being adopted by the Senate in a timely manner,” said MP Joy Smith. “The bill will have a significant impact on the anti-human trafficking efforts of Canada here at home as well as abroad. This legislation will place important legal tools into the hands of prosecutors and law enforcement.”
The Bill amends the Criminal Code by adding the current trafficking in persons offences to the list of offences which, if committed outside of Canada by a Canadian or permanent resident, could be prosecuted in Canada. The Bill also adds an interpretive aid for courts to provide greater clarity of the definition of exploitation in the Criminal Code.
Under the proposed legislation, migrants who arrive on smuggling ships could be detained for up to a year and, even if accepted as refugees, they would not be allowed to become landed immigrants or sponsor relatives for five years.
The Canadian government says the tough measures will make migrants less willing to pay the fees demanded by smugglers.
The bill was introduced as a response to two smuggling ships that arrived off the British Columbia coast in 2009 and 2010 carrying almost 600 Tamil migrants who had agreed to pay smugglers tens of thousands of dollars for the journey to Canada from Thailand.
In 2009, the MV Ocean Lady brought 76 Tamil migrants to British Columbia, and the MV Sun Sea brought 492 a year later.
Meanwhile, in a latest report published in Globe and Mail said there are still thousands of Tamils in Thailand waiting to go to Canada.
The latest UNHCR figures from March, obtained through a third party by The Canadian Press, show that 275 Sri Lankan Tamils have been granted refugee status, while another 142 have not. Aid agencies say more Tamils – nobody knows how many – haven’t bothered approaching UNHCR.
Elaborating on the situation of one asylum seekers named Vishnu, a former LTTE member in Thailand, the Globe and Mail said her parents arrived in Canada as refugees about a decade ago and settled in the Toronto area after gaining their citizenship. They live on social assistance and are not eligible to sponsor her.
Vashni says she was forced to join the Tigers as a teenager because her older brother fled the country; in northern Sri Lanka, the Tigers had a rule that each family had to supply at least one member.
She says she was never trained as a fighter, and worked as a runner and intelligence gatherer. She managed to flee Sri Lanka in the 1990s. She returned a few years ago, hoping for a fresh start in the capital of Colombo.
But the army eventually caught up with her in the months following their May 2009 rout of the Tigers. She fled, eventually reaching Thailand 25 months ago.
Judging the validity of each Tamil refugee claimant is tricky, officials said.
It is true that the LTTE, have a long history of forced conscription. There was a requirement that one member of every family join the LTTE.”
But the officials says that can also be a story that an asylum seeker tells to win freedom in another country.