By Lloyd Mackey
NEXT FEBRUARY’S Winter Olympics, in British Columbia, have
Winnipeg area MP Joy Smith working long hours. The objective of her labours is
the passage of her
private members’ bill calling for mandatory minimum sentences for human
Smith’s strong sense of need to combat trafficking is starting to seep
through around Ottawa. This morning (Tuesday, May 5), I attended a press
conference in which she and Steven Blaney, the chair of the governing party’s
Quebec caucus, made the case.
Two weeks ago, the House of Commons passed second reading on Bill C-268,
which takes it to the committee debate stage. For Smith, the occasion gave pause
for both happiness and apprehension. She has been involved in fighting human
trafficking for ten years, first as a Manitoba provincial legislator and, since
2004, as a Member of Parliament.
Tuesday’s press conference was, among other things, to address the urgency of
getting the bill out of committee and back for house approval before summer.
Her point is that the part of the nation’s population that attracts girls and
very young women into the sex trade are already organizing for the Olympics,
where there is substantial money to be made from this exploitative practice.
Smith says criminal elements have traditionally used major international
athletic events to attract young people to the sex trade.
She first became concerned about human trafficking when her RCMP officer son
was working with the force’s integrated child exploitation (ICE) unit. What he
saw turned his hair gray in two years, she says. And that was only the
But human trafficking, as an issue, has a low profile, given that it involves
the ‘enslavement’ of so many people worldwide. Its illicit earnings are second
only to the drug trade, for what Smith describes as its predators.
It is the organized criminal activity associated with the trade that ensnares
so many, yet also forces the issue beneath the radar of most Canadians.
* * *