Sunday, February 05, 2006

B.C. man challenges human trafficking charge

A man in British Columbia who has been charged with human trafficking is challenging the law on constitutional grounds. Michael Ng is the first person to be charged with the offence created four years ago under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Ng, who ran a Vancouver massage parlour, also faces 20 other charges of prostitution and assault. He is set to stand trial next month.

But it's the crime of trafficking people, which carries a $1-million fine and life in prison, that Ng's lawyer is fighting first. When Parliament created the law against human trafficking, it became illegal to knowingly organize the entry into Canada of anyone by means of abduction, fraud, force, deception, threat of force or coercion. And it's the reference to fraud and deception that Ng's lawyer, Michael Klein, says makes the law vague and unconstitutional. Klein argued before Judge Malcolm McLean on Thursday that the law could be used to prosecute a travel agent who organized an excursion to Vancouver, after lying to vacationers about how sunny the city is in winter. Klein says what's missing from the law is any explicit reference to people being exploited as a result of the deception.

Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy rejects the argument. "This argument that somehow a travel agent could get caught is nonsense," she said. "It's very clear that any court in the country would look at intent as opposed to inadvertence."

The Crown alleges Ng deceived two women into coming to Canada and then forced them into prostitution at his massage parlour. Prosecutor Peter LaPrairie told the judge that far from being imprecise, the Canadian law mirrors the UN definition of what constitutes human trafficking. But both the UN protocol, and an identical offence created under Canada's Criminal Code last November, do include the words Ng's lawyer says are missing from the Immigration Act offence, LaPrairie said.

Source: CBC News