In an interview with The Interim, Conservative MP Joy Smith (Kildonan-St. Paul) reported on her 10-year fight against human trafficking. She first became aware of trafficking in Canada when her son, an RCMP officer, was in the Integrated Child Exploitation Unit. While she served as justice critic in the Manitoba legislature, Smith started to sit in at stakeouts and become aware of the little-publicized trafficking problem.

In 2006, Smith introduced Private Member’s Motion M-153, which called on the government to adopt a comprehensive strategy to counter human trafficking. Thanks to the motion (passed unanimously) parliamentarians started to get educated about the problem of human trafficking. Smith then put the issue forward on the Status of Women Committee, which interviewed witnesses to trafficking and produced a report.

The Manitoba MP then introduced Bill C-268 which received royal assent and now mandates a minimum five-year sentence for anyone convicted of the trafficking of minors. Smith noted it was important to pass something as a first step, as more serious sentences would perhaps not have made it past the House of Commons and the Senate. Legislation for minimum sentences is crucial in avoiding cases like that of Imani Nakpangi, who was sentenced in 2008 to only five years in jail for trafficking two teenaged girls. He made $360,000 off of one them and was able to buy himself a house and BMW while threatening the girl and her family. “He spent less time in jail than he did trafficking,” reported Smith.

The biggest challenge towards the adoption of legislation combating human trafficking was that the issue was “under the public radar screen.” At first, Smith says, there was a malaise in response to trafficking, as many “didn’t understand that a lot of innocent girls were being taken advantage of.”

Smith has recently released a national action plan of recommended measures for the government to combat trafficking. It includes criminalizing prostitution as violence against the worker, more training for judges and police officers to implement trafficking laws, and tracking lone women arriving in Canada over a 6 month period to ensure they are not caught up in trafficking rings. “We can’t have children bought and sold in the country… As Christians we need to stand up very firmly for what we believe is right,” said Smith.

Smith’s recommendations to battle human trafficking

“Human trafficking is an egregious crime that reaches all corners of our nation and must not be tolerated,” says MP Joy Smith. “I am convinced that a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking is essential to address the challenges raised by human trafficking by implementing an integrated and coordinated federal response. We need a federal plan that focuses on prevention initiatives, increased prosecution, greater protection and rehabilitation for the victims, and partnerships with frontline organizations.”

– From Joy Smith’s Sept. 15 press release upon the launch of her National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. Recommendations from Joy Smith’s (C, Kildonan-Smith) National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking:

Recommendation I
Review and amend immigration regulations and policy to provide effective counter human trafficking point of entry services.

Recommendation II
Develop and implement a tailored strategy within the National Action Plan to address trafficking of First Nations women and children.

Recommendation III
Use diplomatic protocols to promote regional and international partnerships and policies to combat human trafficking and child sexual exploitation.

Recommendation IV
Develop policies and regulations to combat forced labour and child labour abroad.

Recommendation V
Limit and monitor the international travel of convicted Canadian child sex offenders.

Recommendation VI
Creation and implementation of an extensive public awareness campaign.

Recommendation VII
Provide adequate funding for NGOs to deliver care, counseling, shelter and assistance to victims.

Recommendation VIII
Develop and implement federal policy to assist international victims of human trafficking to return to their country of origin.

Recommendation IX
Develop a National Referral Mechanism to provide rapid connection to points of service.

Recommendation X
Create an independent National Rapporteur for Human Trafficking

Recommendation XI
Review and amend Canada’s solicitation legislation.

Recommendation XII
Commit to additional resources for the training and education of judges, prosecutors and law enforcement on human trafficking legislation.

Recommendation XIII
Review and implement legislation as necessary to ensure that all forms of human trafficking are denounced under Canadian law.

Recommendation XIV
Facilitate the creation of regional human trafficking taskforces.