Letter to Canadian Parliament on Illicit Trade
November 3, 2017
The Honorable William D. “Bill” Casey
House of Commons
Room 552-D Centre Block
Dear Mr. Chairman:
I write on behalf of Stop Child Predators (SCP), a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, to express our concerns over the unintended consequences of plain packaging of tobacco products that will certainly exist if Senate Bill 5—a bill that seeks to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-Smokers’ Health Act—passes as currently drafted. While we do not oppose all tobacco control, we do oppose tobacco control that may lead to increased criminality and fails to achieve the desired objective.
SCP supports a variety of measures that combat the sexual exploitation of children—many of which have been enacted in Canada—including enacting long prison sentences for convicted adult sex offenders and sex traffickers, fighting the proliferation of child pornography, passing tougher penalties for enticement and luring crimes, and embracing common-sense approaches to prosecuting cyberbullying and sexting, among other community safety issues.
It is not surprising that organized criminal gangs sell cigarettes to minors. Nor is it surprising that these same gangs use children to sell and transport illegal cigarettes. Mostly because children will not be arrested if they are caught.
What is surprising and very alarming, however, is that law enforcement often finds that illicit cigarette trading funds more serious forms of crime, including trafficking and exploitation of children. And unlike cigarettes or drugs, people can be traded over and over again.
The illicit trading of tobacco is the world’s most widely smuggled legal substance and is a multibillion-dollar business that stretches from counterfeiters in China and Russia to Indian reservations in New York and warlords in Pakistan and North Africa.
According to a Forbes report, Canada is considered a primary source for contraband cigarettes being smuggled worldwide. Coming in close behind is human trafficking and illicit migration, which according to the United Nations is one of the fastest growing criminal activities worldwide.
In the United States, an estimated one out of six endangered child runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely victims of sex trafficking. Worldwide, children are bought and sold for sex every single day. It is estimated that the industry brings in over $100 billion annually. It thrives because there is a serious demand for commercial sex with minors. There are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, with 26% of them being children, according to the International Labour Organization.
Dr. Louise Shelley, Director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime, and Corruption Center at George Mason University, is an expert in illicit trade. This past summer, Dr. Shelley testified before the U.S. Senate Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe in which she linked illicit cigarette trade to other crimes. “What [these crimes show us] is that there is a convergence of different crimes, and also that the cigarette trade often serves as what I call venture capital for other forms of serious crime, so that the money that you get from this petty trade that you can start with leads you to even higher revenue streams that can have very corrosive impact.”
Other evidence suggests that drug cartels—who also smuggle cigarettes—engage in kidnapping for ransom, extortion, human trafficking and other crimes to augment their incomes, according to a report by the Center for Strategic & International Studies.
During a hearing on the threat posed by the convergence of organized crime, drug trafficking, and terrorism before the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, investigators in Europe found that money gangs make from illegal cigarettes finances drugs, guns, and human trafficking. In one operation, law enforcement across Europe confiscated 1.5 million illegal cigarettes along with 600 kilograms of cocaine, 200 kilograms of heroin and 30 children who were being trafficked for the sex trade.
Canadian officials have also warned about profits obtained through illicit trade. According to Public Safety Canada, “The cycle of production, distribution, sale and end-user of contraband tobacco is a crime driven by greed and an opportunity for criminal enterprises to expand their reach. As such, criminals have become well networked and are involved in all aspects of the contraband tobacco cycle.”
As you are aware, human trafficking relates to a number of industries in Canada, including construction, farm labor, sex trade, service sector, and even child care, according to law enforcement agencies. The rise of human trafficking in Canada prompted the Canadian Crime Stoppers Association and Public Safety Canada to launch a program in 2010 to solicit tips to combat the problem across the country. Seven years later, the problem continues to grow.
We appreciate your efforts to standardize cigarette packaging, but are concerned that if S.B. 5 is implemented, you unwittingly help fund the black market for cigarettes which too often leads to the financing of narcotics, human trafficking, and terrorism.
It would be a pleasure to appear before your committee to discuss this matter further. Feel free to contact me if I may answer any questions regarding this issue or any other child safety matter at (202) 248-7052 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stacie D. Rumenap
President, Stop Child Predators