The heightened interest in the problem comes in the wake of a recent RCMP threat assessment that reveals most recent convictions in human trafficking involve sexual exploitation victims who are either Canadian or permanent residents.
The RCMP also identified wider links of suspected traffickers to other organized crime activities such as the drug trade, fraud and the production of illegal passports and other documents.
The RCMP and Crime Stoppers recently launched a public awareness campaign against human trafficking that will encourage Canadians to recognize and report it. Smith called the $120,000 program a good first step.
Dion, however, said the Crime Stoppers campaign is not broad enough, but only encourages people to denounce possible traffickers. Most important, she said, are programs to help women get out of the sex trade and campaigns to reveal the harms of the sex trade.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has signaled his concern in a series of recent comments to journalists, most recently in meetings with his Australian counterpart.
“Migrant smuggling and human trafficking are global problems,” said Kenney, according to a release. “Canada intends to work domestically and internationally to combat the crime and fraud associated with the treacherous journey some immigrants make to Canada.”
“At the same time, we need to ensure that those in need of protection have access to it, and we look forward to working with partners such as Australia,” he said.
Reprinted, with permission, from Canadian Catholic News. All rights reserved.
National Action Plan: Joyce Smith’s national action plan to combat human trafficking is available on her website.
Liberal response: Liberal justice critic Marlene Jennings of Montreal criticized Smith’s plan in an interview published September 24 on Xtra.ca, saying that “human trafficking and prostitution are two different things.”
Smith’s rersponse: Smith responded in a news release September 28. The response included references to detailed research and noted, among other things, that “92% of human trafficking victims, mostly women and children, are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.”
Court ruling: On the same day, Ontario Superior Court justice Susan Himel ruled that three key parts of the federal prostitution law are unconstitutional – communicating for the purposes of prostitution, pimping and operating a common bawdy house. The case had been brought by Terri-Jean Bedford, a dominatrix, and two former prostitutes, Valerie Scott and Amy Lebovitch. The 131-page decision found that the law endangers prostitutes by forcing them to work on the streets. The litigants said they want prostitutes to work in legalized and regulated brothels. The Crown had argued that prostitution is equally dangerous wherever it is conducted and that prostitution is inherently degrading and unhealthy. The government has 30 days to appeal the decision.
Evangelical Fellowship of Canada comment: On September 29, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) issued a news release calling on the federal government to appeal the court ruling, arguing that the decision ignores decisions by both Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada. It added that “There is no such thing as safe prostitution” and that “It has been demonstrated in country after country where prostitution has been legalized … there are corresponding spikes in rates of human trafficking.” The EFC also called on the government to study laws governing prostitution. In April 2010, the EFC released a report entitled Selling Ourselves: Prostitution in Canada, Where are we headed? That report compared Sweden, which made it illegal to buy sex but not sell it (criminalizing johns rather than prostitutes), with the Netherlands, where prostitution has been legalized. It noted that prostitution and trafficking rates have significantly declined in Sweden and expanded in the Netherlands.
Canada Family Action comment: The court decision was also criticized by Brian Rushfeldt, President of Canada Family Action. In a news release, Rushfeldt stated, “The vast majority of street prostitutes are desperate drug addicts who are unlikely to screen their johns or set up offices, and removing consequences for men who prey on vulnerable women will make it easier for them to commit acts of violence on these women.”