Though buying sex is generally frowned upon in Canada, most of the time men who use massage parlours or escort services receive a slap on the wrist or nothing at all. But if MP Joy Smith had it her way, Canada would be addressing demand for paid sex in a much more vigorous manner. Why? Because demand creates supply. In a sense, targeting demand is like repairing a hole in your sinking raft instead of merely trying to get the water out.
Addressing demand is just one of the brilliant initiatives MP Joy Smith is proposing in her fresh-off-the-press proposal for a national action plan called Connecting the Dots: A Proposal for a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. I had the privilege of attending a round table meeting in Toronto last week with a bunch of stakeholders in Ontario to discuss what our part should be as a province, and was happy to see that many of the ideas in our conversation are reflected in MP Joy Smith’s proposal. As I read the proposal I was literally squirming in my seat from excitement because a National Action Plan is most certainly the next necessary step for our country.
MP Joy Smith’s recommendations are bang on, and I found the document itself to be written in a way that is easy to understand. She has record of getting things done in Parliament, and I am thrilled to have someone like her lead us in this next phase.
Over the next little while I would like to discuss the different sections of this proposal and hear what your thoughts are. I believe that conversation is what sparks ideas and I am anxious to know yours! Maybe this will give you some ideas about how you can use your strengths to get involved. You can read the full document here.
The first section I wish to highlight is what Canada has already done (pp.9-11 of the report), because unfortunately many Canadians are unaware that our country has been making some serious efforts in the past nine years. On the global stage, Canada has signed and ratified a number of international agreements related to human trafficking, and nationally it has done the following:
- 2001: introduced the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) which addresses human trafficking and provides serious penalties with fines of up to $1 million or up to life imprisonment.
- May 2006: the first National Human Trafficking Coordination Centre was staffed with RCMP officers and a civilian analyst.
- May 2006: the Canadian government announced Temporary Residence Permits (TRPs) would be available to international victims of human trafficking. A permit would allow a victim to stay in Canada for up to 120 days and provided access to healthcare and social assistance. Victims would not be required to participate in legal proceedings or testify to receive a TRP.
- February 2007: the House of Commons unanimously adopted Motion M-153, which recommended that a comprehensive strategy to combat the trafficking of persons be adopted. This received support from
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- March 2007: the federal Finance Minister announced $6 million annually for law enforcement to assist in protecting children from online sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
- May 2007: the federal goverment announced amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to end a loophole where vulnerable foreign workers were being brought to Canada for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
- June 2007: New measures to protect victims where announced by the government, including the extension of the TRP from 120 days to 180 days, and letting international victims to apply for work and resident permits without the regular fees.
- September 2009: the Canadian government supported the passage of Bill C-268, minimum sentence of child traffickers. (Thanks to those of you who made your voice heard by writing to your MPs and Senators!)
- September 2010: Canadian government joined the RCMP to launch the Crime Stoppers Blue Blindfold Campaign to bring awareness about human trafficking to Canadian citizens and provide opportunities for Canadians to help combat human trafficking.
Wow. Good work Canada. It’s nice to know that this issue is gaining priority in our government. But as MP Joy Smith says, “there remains an urgent need for a collaborative, federally-led approach to combat human trafficking that would connect the dots among federal/provincial/territorial agencies and NGOs.” Let’s all be a part of how that happens, and start by reading the proposal.
For more on this, check out the official release and an article by Montreal Gazette.