Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Penalty for Slave Trading in Canada?

Toronto Star Image
We've come a long way from The Underground Railroad.

This is Ferenc Domotor, a Hungarian-Canadian man who today was sentenced for having lead what was called by the CBC "The leader of what has been called the largest proven human smuggling ring in Canadian history", along with his wife and son, who helped him orchestrate the slavery of 19 Hungarian men. They were held against their will and forced for years to work for table scraps, under threat of violence to their families back home in Hungary. The family and twelve fellow gang members essentially helped ruin the lives of these men and their families for years at a time.

Domotor was given a nine-year sentence for his part in the crimes, which, less time served (and sundry other deductions) means he'll be spending another four and a half years in federal prison, which is where I come in.

Let's start with the obvious thing here: the livelihood, freedom, and mental health of 19 men is worth about nine years to the federal court system, which is roughly how long it took me to go from birth to the level at which I could tie a half-windsor properly. Granted, it's 1/10th or so of the average human life span (being generous), and enough time to do a Masters in almost any field and have time to start working on your doctorate thesis. But if he had instead taken six of the nineteen men and beaten them with a deadly weapon (but not actually killed them, of course), he would have netted no greater or lesser a sentence, and that's assuming that we changed him with all six aggravated assaults instead of just one, which we seem wont to do around here.

What we're basically saying is that a single beating is worse (by a very large factor) than being robbed of your freedom, forced to do hard labour, starved, and being made to live in your own filth. "I sleep on the floor on a mattress. I couldn't took shower for almost two weeks," said one of the surviving men. These men were lured to Canada with expectations of high pay, opportunity, and a better life. Instead, they had their passports stolen, were forced to apply for refugee status, and worked in backbreaking construction work.

What's more astounding is that each of the 19 men was made to apply for welfare, which was then fraudulently taken by members of the Domotor gang, while the men received essentially nothing. Welfare fraud is another charge in and of itself, which means that welfare fraud, plus human trafficking, plus illegal forcible confinement, is only enough to net nine years.

Perhaps Canada should be proud that it only takes 19 victims to count as the largest human smuggling ring in Canadian History. Maybe we can even be proud that it took less than two full years to put the perpetrators of that ring through the Courts. But how can we be proud when we missed it? How can we be proud when the stiffest sentence handed down was only nine years, and we gave a discount? How can we be proud when the only way the RCMP were able to break the case was for one of the 19 men to escape and bring to light what was going on in Hamilton.

Four and one-half years in a federal prison and a ten-year post-release ban on firearm ownership, is the penalty for keeping nearly 20 slaves in 21st century Canada. And you have to apologise to the court first, please and thank you. You might qualify for parole, too... the four and a half years is the MAXIMUM time the court says we can keep Domotor in jail. Most of his gang is getting even less than that. His wife, who must have had at least an appreciable knowledge of the slave situation, seeing as she helped orchestrate the welfare fraud, she gets time already served and has to pay back the money.  And nine years, the original sentence for Domotor before discounts, was a record.

We've certainly come a long way from the Underground Railroad.

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