[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] on Monday began hearing arguments in a series of five cases challenging human smuggling laws within Canada. Section 117 [text] of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act [text], the law at issue in all five cases, criminalizes the act of knowingly assisting an undocumented individual in entering Canada. In May, the British Columbia Court of Appeal overturned [opinion] a district court ruling that found the section overly broad, holding that
Parliament intended to create a broad offence with no exceptions, directed to concerns of broader control and the particular issue of deterring and penalizing those who assist others in entering Canada illegally. While it recognized there may be difficult and sensitive cases in which prosecution under s. 117 would be unpalatable, it found these defied comprehensive definition and elected to enact centralized charge approval by the Attorney General as a means to ensure all circumstances, including motive, would be assessed before charges were laid under s. 117.
Four of the five cases before the Court, namely B306 v. Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, J.P., et al. v. Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, B010 v. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Appulonappa v. Her Majesty the Queen [official materials] involve individuals connected with the arrival of Sri Lankan migrants on the coast of British Columbia in 2009 and 2010. The fifth case, Hernandez v. Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness [official materials], concerns a Cuban man who was arrested for smuggling individuals into the US, who then made a refugee claim in Canada.
Human trafficking and smuggling have become increasingly scrutinized issues in recent years. In 2012 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] implored countries to strengthen collaborative efforts to combat human trafficking [JURIST report]. In November 2011, the UNODC and an agency dealing with aid for refugees signed a joint agreement [JURIST report] to work more closely to combat migrant smuggling and human trafficking. In June 2010 the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) issued a memorandum [text, PDF] that human trafficking is becoming a major problem in Europe [JURIST report]. Also that month, the US State Department [official website] released its annual report on human trafficking [JURIST report], concluding that the US has a “serious problem with human trafficking, both for labor and commercial sexual exploitation.”