Debt bondage. Sex Slavery. Forced labour. These are all forms of human trafficking, the modern day slave trade. The gravity of human trafficking has been well established with an estimated 27 million people enslaved around the world. It is a vicious crime that transcends borders, gender, age and social status.
In Canada, a 2008 Strategic Intelligence Brief by the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada says that organized crime syndicates and family based networks were recruiting girls and trafficking them inter and intra-provincially. Further, victims are often middle-class females between 12 and 25-years-old and earned between $300 to $1500 daily for their traffickers. RCMP reports also reveal that there is a high proportion of First Nation women and girls trafficked throughout Canada. There is no doubt that we must take action to end human trafficking in Canada and abroad.
In September 2010, I released a proposal for a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking called Connecting the Dots. The complex and clandestine nature of trafficking in persons and the rapidly increasing occurrence of human trafficking demands a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach that draws together the existing frameworks, stakeholders, and agencies.
Connecting the Dots has been well received across Canada by law enforcement, non-government organizations, advocacy agencies, and faith communities. In response, the Canadian government has committed to develop a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and support organizations that provide assistance to victims.
Yet there is still more to be done. The underlying principle of Connecting the Dots is that modern day slavery cannot be defeated by one organization, government, or agency. Rather, it will take a coordinated effort of many organizations and individuals.
This past summer, I was sharing Connecting the Dots with a gentleman in British Columbia. At the end of our conversation, he stood up and stated "I am proud to be a Dot." He wholeheartedly saw that each and every one of us has a critical role to plan in combating human trafficking. It is a growing movement of individuals committed to using their skills and resources to take on the slave trade.
In September, the Connecting the Dots principle was taken to a whole new level when [free-them], a Toronto based anti-human trafficking organization founded by Shae Invidiata, launched the "Proud to Be A Dot" campaign at their second Annual Freedom Walk in downtown Toronto. With over 500 people in attendance, Shae Invidiata called for each person to be a part of the solution to end human trafficking.
As a Member of Parliament and a proud Dot, I have most recently introduced a Private Members' Bill called Bill C-310, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons). Bill C-310 is a follow up to my Bill C-268 which passed in 2010 creating the first child trafficking offence in Canadian history.
Bill C-310 will amend the Criminal Code to add the current trafficking in persons offences [s.279.01 and s.279.011] to the list of offenses which, if committed outside Canada by a Canadian or permanent resident, could be prosecuted in Canada. While Canada has adopted stiff penalties for criminals who traffic victims into, through, and from Canada, it is important that we also take responsibility for Canadians who traffic or enslave vulnerable people in other countries.
The second amendment will enhance the current definition of exploitation in the trafficking in persons offense [s.279.04 of the Criminal Code]. Currently the definition does not provide specific examples of exploitive conduct. My amendment will add an evidentiary aid for the Court to provide clear examples of exploitation such as the use of threats, violence, coercion, and fraudulent means. Examples of similar evidentiary aids can be found in s.153 (1.2) and s.467.11 (3) of the Criminal Code.
Canada needs more Dots. Today you can be a Dot and take action to combat human trafficking. Here are four simple steps you can take as someone who is 'Proud to be A Dot.'
1. Educate yourself about human trafficking. Visit my website for a list of links to anti-human trafficking websites.
2. Contact my office for a free human trafficking resource kit so you can help raise awareness in your community.
3. Support Bill C-310 by writing to your Member of Parliament and asking for their commitment to support this legislation.
4. Get involved with organizations like [free-them] that educate the public and raise funds for survivor NGOs.
Will you be a Dot and help abolish modern day slavery?