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Smith intends to fight human trafficking full time

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

01/28/2015

OTTAWA (CCN) — MP Joy Smith has decided not to run again in the next federal election so she can devote full time to fighting human trafficking in Canada.

“I can do more outside of Parliament,” said Smith in an interview from her Kildonan-St. Paul, Man., riding Jan. 19. Before next October’s election, she will step down to work full time for the Joy Smith Foundation. There she will raise awareness of human trafficking in Canada; explain to communities how predators operate; spearhead efforts for training police officers; and raise money for the NGOs that help victims and survivors.

Smith said the public is “relatively unaware that human trafficking is happening in Canada. New people are finding out about it every day.”

After the prostitution Bill C-36 became law last Dec. 6, Smith said she took a look at what she had accomplished in nearly 11 years as an MP. She had made Canadian history in getting two anti-trafficking private member’s bills passed, one of them during a minority Conservative Parliament. It was only the 15th private member’s bill to amend the Criminal Code since confederation, she said.

Though Bill C-36 was a government bill, Smith’s expertise on human trafficking and its links to prostitution as well as the grassroots coalition of NGOs, feminist groups and religious organizations she had developed, helped persuade the government to adopt a made-in-Canada Nordic model that, for the first time in Canada, criminalizes the purchase of sex, targeting the johns and the pimps. Prostitutes are viewed as victims and the sale of sex is decriminalized except in some specific instances where children 18 and under are likely to be present, such as in a school yard.

“I’ve always done things according to where God wanted me to be,” said Smith.

In prayer and reflection over the Christmas holidays, Smith acknowledged “there’s a huge gap on the operational side” in the areas of public awareness and training. “I still run across people who just don’t know that human trafficking happens in Canada; they don’t understand what it is.”

Nowhere was this gap more apparent than in the reaction by some premiers and the mainstream media to the prostitution law, with one premier, notably Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, indicating she may not enforce the new law and mainstream media opinion opposing criminalization.

“I pushed back on that very heavily,” Smith said. “It is up to every premier to uphold the law of the land. No premier can demand that police forces not uphold the law. It’s not an option.”

“It’s serious business when law enforcement says, oh well, we’re just going to do it the old way, laws don’t matter,” she said. “That’s anarchy. Each police officer is mandated to serve and protect according to the law of the land.”

Critics of the new prostitution law “are making it up as they go,” she said. “Research has already said this model has worked in other countries.”

Smith said the law underwent a “careful examination” before it was passed, that included hearing from victims and survivors who told their stories publicly for the first time.

The Manitoba MP has many invitations to speak but her responsibilities require her to be in Ottawa for votes and other parliamentary business. She has written a book entitled “I did not know” about human trafficking and how it happens in Canada. “It’s important that I can do a book tour,” she said.

“It’s modern-day slavery and it has to go away,” she stressed. Her foundation’s website is www.joysmithfoundation.com

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