For every tragic incident in the world today, there are countless more women and men humanitarians -- changemakers -- making the world a better place in their own respective capacities. Light is more potent and powerful in effacing darkness; let's each of us resolve to spread more light around us, in our communities, and throughout our world.
I want parents and teachers to know that this is a real danger to their girls. I think that if I'd known the signs that I was being groomed for sex trafficking, it might not have happened to me. Predators don't discriminate. Raising awareness and knowing the signs is our first step to ending sex trafficking in Canada.
The passage of the new prostitution law has sparked a host of reactions. Many news articles opposing the legislation have been published, and some sex workers say that criminalizing their clients makes their work unsafe. Purchasers of sex are silent on the matter, letting the industry do their bidding while hiding behind the veil of anonymity.
A recent article on Justin Trudeau highlighted the Liberal Leader's position on prostitution as favouring an 'evidence-based approach' that protects marginalized people from violence. He just won't tell you what that approach is. It's time for leaders, in all levels of government, to stop waxing eloquent about "evidence-based" approaches and finally take a stand that protects marginalized women and girls. They are not commodities to be bought and sold. Every vulnerable and marginalized person has value and dignity and Canadian leaders should seek to end their prostitution -- not support it.
Prostitution is not driven by poverty. Prostitution is driven by men who desire to purchase women and youth for sex. That is why, for the first time in Canadian history, our government has brought forward legislation that aggressively targets the pimps and johns who fuel the demand for this activity with tough penalties.
While some women would no doubt make plenty of money by running escort services or choosing a few well-paying clients, the majority of those in prostitution do not have that kind of relative bargaining power. And considering that we share a border with the U.S., not only will decriminalization lead to increased demand from Canadian citizens, but also from our southern neighbours.
I am pleased to see that bill C-36 puts the responsibly on the johns. For far too long, prostitution has been an anonymous, low-risk activity for those seeking to purchase sex. Considering that prostitution has a high degree of violence (regardless of legal context), the only way to reduce the harm on a wide, long-term scale is to reduce demand for paid sex. We applaud Minister MacKay on his courageous first step of introducing legislation that recognizes the need for addressing demand and for pledging much needed funding for frontline programs.
Canada's profoundly misguided approach to prostitution and treatment of prostitutes changed on June 4, 2014, with the introduction of Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act. By making prostitution illegal for the first time in Canadian history, the impact of the new prohibitions will be borne by those who purchase sex and persons who exploit others through prostitution rather than vulnerable individuals.
For vulnerable Canadian young people ensnared in the sex trade, this morning's Supreme Court decision to allow legal prostitution is distressing. We at Covenant House, the largest agency serving homeless, runaway and trafficked youth in the Americas, believe it could result in an escalation of child prostitution and human trafficking, as it has in other countries where the sex trade is legal. Those of us whose primary concern is the protection of the young will be closely monitoring how the government proposes to implement and regulate prostitution.
Despite this new ruling, the debate around prostitution is hardly settled. There are those who wish to legalize and normalize the industry, those who wish to criminalize all aspects of the industry, and finally those, like myself, who recognize prostitution as an industry that is inherently harmful to women and girls and therefore must be eliminated.
As my wife and I were driving home in Duncan, B.C. three years ago, we noticed a young girl hitchhiking. She was young, First Nations, and not dressed for the weather. As we stopped to pick her up, we noticed a white truck stop on the other side of the road, and two guys got out and walked towards her. We cut them off, and told her to hop in. This was just weeks after a gruesome murder. Fast-forward to last night. On our way home we noticed another young girl hitchhiking. Until people all over Canada demand better from our leaders, nothing will change, and Aboriginal girls will continue to go missing in record numbers, numbers that already concern the U.N.
Ed's daughter, Cheri, was a typical pre-teen in a supportive Christian home. But everything changed in the ninth grade. She got a boyfriend and ran away with him. The boyfriend, it turned out, was a newly-minted trafficker and he reported to a higher-up pimp in Montreal. The pimp's sister, also a working girl, taught Cheri the ropes. "He took her to Edmonton, and turned her out on the streets." The pimp moved her to Victoria along with a couple of other girls, and Cheri's phone calls stopped. A few weeks later, the police arrived at their door.
The breakthrough cases where traffickers have been sent to jail, send ripples and will continue to send ripples through the red light district in Kolkata and through the justice system in India. These ripples are starting to change attitudes and beliefs regarding the acceptability of human trafficking in India. The more traffickers we can hold to account, the more they will realize that they cannot continue trafficking within India.
When I met with the girls, it was as if I was meeting with young girls anywhere in the world. We all sat down on the floor in a circle and they would ask me questions and I in turn would ask them questions. Their questions were like questions my own daughter has asked me... about clothes, food, Bollywood movies and popular songs. I nearly forgot what these girls had been through, what they had experienced.
Teenage sex trafficking is a worldwide problem and therefore all governments need to be involved. That is why I believe I need to be involved as a law maker from Canada. I need to do my share in raising awareness of trafficking of children and being a force in changing Canadian laws so that we can help those abroad.
International Justice Mission Canada, in partnership with the U.S.-based International Justice Mission (IJM), is a human rights organization that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. More specifically, IJM focuses on forced labour, slavery, illegal property seizure, sexual violence, sex trafficking, illegal detention, and citizenship documentation. IJM does great work. Their team of lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to ensure that victims are rescued immediately, that perpetrators are persecuted, that victims have access to support and resources following a rescue, and that the public justice systems (police, courts, and laws) effectively protect the poor.
Earlier this month, NDP MP Nikki Ashton, in a post criticizing the Canadian government for its apparent lack of action on human trafficking, revealed she was shocked to learn over the summer that First Nations women were being trafficked for sex. I am hardly surprised that Ms. Ashton is oblivious to the significant work that Canada's government has done to combat human trafficking as she admitted her lack of awareness of the sex trafficking of Aboriginal women and children until just two months ago. The gaping hole in Ms. Ashton's statement is the absence of any acknowledgement of the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking that Canada developed and launched on June 6, 2012.