MP Speaks on Sex Trade
Smith, Beausejour Community Church address horrors of human trafficking
By Mel Stefaniuk (originally posted in today’s Clipper Newspaper).
The Beausejour Community Church was honoured to welcome Member of Parliament Joy Smith at a recent Sunday service to speak on the horrors of human trafficking.
A teacher for 21 years, Smith began her career in politics in 1999 when she was elected as the Member of the Manitoba Legislature for Fort Garry. In 2004 she became the Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, a position she continues to hold.
As an MP, Smith has been recognized as one of Canada’s leading anti-trafficking activists. In 2007, the House of Commons unanimously passed her Private Members Motion M-153 on Human Trafficking, which called on Parliament to condemn the trafficking of women and children across international borders and to immediately adopt a comprehensive strategy to combat trafficking across the globe.
Throughout the years, she has continued to pass bills which have amended the Criminal Code of Canada to better prosecute those participating in human trafficking. “It was my son who first showed me how horrible the human trafficking issue was,” said Smith during her speech. “He was a police officer working in the Integrated Child Exploitation Unit and he seemed to change, his hair quickly turned gray and it seemed to be taking such a toll on him. I had to know what was wrong.”
According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, 3 per cent of sex trafficking victims in Canada come from Canada, not other countries. In 2013, the foundation conducted a national survey of community service providers, who reported serving a total of 2,872 trafficked girls and women in one year. They also consulted with 160 women from across Canada who identified themselves as trafficked.
Currently, incidents of sex trafficking are recorded only when they involve law enforcement or federal agencies. Like with other types of sexual or physical violence, victims rarely come forward to report being trafficked. The Canadian Women’s Foundation also claims that when trafficked women do come into contact with the law, they are often seen as criminals or consensual participants in the sex industry, not victims. “When he explained to me what was going on, how innocents were being targeted by predators, I knew I wanted to help with the issue,” Smith said of her son’s work.
Along with her political career, Smith has formed The Joy Smith Foundation, which works to ensure that every Canadian man, woman and child is safe from the manipulative and abusive forces designed to lure them into the sex trade or forced labour.
With no plans to run for re-election at the end of the year, Smith plans to shift focus on her work with the foundation once she is done with politics. “It’s grown quickly since it started so now it’s time for me to devote 100 per cent of my time to it and make sure it can continue to expand and save more lives,” explained Smith.
Throughout her career, Smith has received many accolades for her work including the Winnipeg Police Service Commendation, UN Women Canada Recognition of Achievement Award and the Victor Award presented by the Temple Committee Against Human Trafficking.
Pastor Chris Jordan of the Beausejour Community Church ended the service by encouraging churchgoers to aid in the fight against human trafficking in any way they could, whether it’s educating others, writing letters to local and provincial leaders or starting petitions to send into Parliament to ensure the human trafficking issue is not forgotten.