Conservative MP Joy Smith Register file photo

Joy Smith’s human trafficking strategy bears fruit in National Action Plan

  • June 13, 2012

OTTAWA - The federal government’s National Action Plan (NAP) to Combat Human Trafficking announced June 6 will be a “huge help” in battling modern-day slavery, said Conservative MP Joy Smith.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Smith, who participated in the NAP’s roll-out in one of several news conferences across the country. “This adds a new step toward combatting human trafficking in Canada.

“There are so many aspects of the National Action Plan that are so good,” she said, citing the establishment of an integrated law enforcement team to hunt down traffickers and an educational and public awareness campaign to help people detect trafficking activities and identify and protect vulnerable groups at risk.  

“I really like the part of support for victims and victim support organizations,” she said. The plan provides $500,000 to help victims.

Smith has led the government’s efforts against human trafficking. Her 2007 motion calling for a national strategy passed unanimously in the House of Commons and her 2010 Connecting the Dots document fleshed out the elements of an effective plan.

The NAP, however, does not propose any changes to Canada’s prostitution laws, which are now before the courts after an Ontario judge struck down parts of the law as unconstitutional.

Smith said the NAP is not designed to tackle the legislative aspect of fighting human trafficking. She plans to continue a legislative agenda that she hopes might eventually lead to Canada’s adopting the so-called Nordic model pioneered in Sweden in 1999 that criminalizes the purchase of sex instead of its sale.

Wherever the Nordic model has been tried, levels of human trafficking fall off, she said.  

“Once you cut off the market, it’s not lucrative any more to push young people into these terrible positions.”

On June 6, Smith participated in one of several news conferences across the country announcing the NAP. In Ottawa Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Public Works and Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose jointly announced the initiative.

“Our Government is firmly committed to the global fight against human trafficking and is stepping up its efforts to address this heinous crime in Canada and abroad, whose victims tragically include young Canadian women and girls,” said Toews.

“With the launch of this National Action Plan, our Government is taking another important step to ensure the safety and security of women and girls across Canada who are being targeted for sexual exploitation by violent traffickers,” said Ambrose.

The NAP — which co-ordinates the activities of 18 federal departments — will also provide training to help those in law enforcement and social services to identify and respond to trafficking and take steps to protect vulnerable communities such as aboriginal youth. The plan will also co-ordinate domestic and international efforts to combat trafficking.

Meanwhile, Smith’s Bill C-310 is now before a Senate committee which has been conducting hearings on the issue. This bill would make human trafficking an extraterritorial offense, allowing for the prosecution of Canadian citizens and residents for trafficking offenses in other countries.

“We have Canadians who leave Canada and go to other countries, where they have weak judicial systems, and weak police forces, to set up brothels, traffic children and do despicable things to young women and children,” she said.

If Bill C-310 becomes law, Canadian citizens or residents who engage in these activities “won’t get away with it,” she said.

Her bill also expands the definition of human trafficking to include non-violent forms of coercion and deception.

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