Bill 204 - The Manitoba Human Trafficking Awareness Day Act

Second Reading Speech

I move, seconded by the Member from Kirkfield Park, that Bill 204, The Manitoba Human Trafficking Awareness Day Act; Loi sur la Journée manitobaine de sensibilisation à la traite de personnes, be now read a second time and be referred to a committee of this House.

Motion presented.

When I think of Manitoba, I think of things like quilted fields and prairie sunsets and sunflowers and canola, and beautiful beaches, waving fields of wheat, maybe some snow, sometimes a lot of snow, wide open spaces and a lot of hockey.

But I'm here today, Mr. Speaker, to talk about a different side of Manitoba and a different side of our country and the world, a darker side, a side we're not so proud of, and I think a side that many people are not even aware of: human trafficking.

Today, I speak to Bill 204. We are proposing, Mr. Speaker, that every Thursday of the second week of March be known throughout the province of Manitoba as Manitoba Human Trafficking Awareness Day. This changing date will coincide with Manitoba's annual Stop Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Week that was created in 2009 to implement awareness initiatives across the province. This proclamation, which I believe to be a truly non-partisan issue, is part of phase three of Tracia's Trust, the Province's comprehensive strategy to end sexual exploitation.

I'm sure many here recall, for example, that in 2009, Manitoba made reporting of child pornography mandatory for all its citizens. In 2012, we passed The Child Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking Act which deals with the broader issues of human trafficking and exploitation. It included a number of Canadian firsts, such as more accountability for perpetrators by allowing victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation to obtain protection orders against those who exploit them, specialized prosecution of human trafficking predators by designating two Crown attorneys to co ordinate and prosecute cases and criminal property forfeiture legislation to seize and forfeit places where exploitation occurs.

As the Justice Minister said at the time, these crimes target the most vulnerable in our in our communities. This legislation helps create both necessary protections and an opportunity for victims to take back a piece of what has been taken from them.

In Budget 2013, we announced an increase in funding to support the implementation of Manitoba's sexual exploitation strategy. As a government, we need to do all that we can to fight this heartbreaking reality. The strategy encompasses the co-ordination of services for all ages, children, youth and adults, and considers all forms of sexual exploitation, including prostitution, pornography, sex trafficking, sex tourism and Internet luring. It involves prevention, intervention, legislation, co-ordination, research and evaluation. We are working with all our service providers and non-profits to develop a more full continuum of services for victims and make offenders more accountable. And this is all good, Mr. Speaker.

To continue, however, to be a leader in North America in the fight against all forms of sexual exploitation, we need all Manitobans to stand up against human trafficking, which we know can completely devastate its victims. It is essential that people realize that human trafficking is about many things in addition to sexual exploitation. Human trafficking, Mr. Speaker, is a modern-day form of slavery. It is trading in human beings, often for the purpose of sexual slavery, servitude or forced labour.

Human trafficking, Mr. Speaker, affects every country around the world, regardless of socio-economic status, history or political structure. Human traffickers have created an international market for the trade in human beings based on high profits and demand for commercial sex and cheap labour. Trafficking affects 161 countries worldwide. An estimated 20.9 million men, women and children are trafficked for commercial sex or forced labour around the world today. Victims are trafficked both within and across international borders. Migrants, as well as internally displaced persons, are particularly vulnerable.

After drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms trade as the second largest criminal industry in the world, and it is the fastest growing, Mr. Speaker. And why? Because it is at least a $9-billion business, and in many countries around the world, human traffickers of all kinds perceive little risks or deterrents that affects their criminal operation.

People are being transported by force or deception to become enslaved. This often means between countries, but it can also occur in our own country.

Traffickers approach potential victims in many ways. They might pretend to a lonely youth that they're potentially their boyfriend or girlfriend, someone, at last, in their life who cares about them, Mr. Speaker. They might post newspaper or Internet ads for jobs and opportunities, suggesting the possibility of stardom or fame. Promises may be made of money, education, financial aid for their family or simply a better life or a future for someone who believes that they have none. They may simply threaten or kidnap them. Traffickers often use violence, intimidation and deception to make victims do as they say. Many trafficked women and children have a history of previous sexual abuse, poverty, addictions or all three.

In Canada, gangs and larger organized crime networks are significantly involved in the sale and distribution of humans for exploitation. It is organized, methodical and targeted. Traffickers may be male or female, family members or trusted associates and affluent and seemingly upstanding members of the community. Recruiters and traffickers are often women and sometimes relatives, often known and trusted by targeted victims. Traffickers use various methods, Mr. Speaker, to trap the victims and exploit vulnerable persons for profit or personal gain.

The ugliness of human trafficking, Mr. Speaker, includes that of illegal organ harvesting. In the world we live in today, innocent victims are murdered for their kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, bones, heart valves and skin. Others are tricked into believing that they will be paid. False documentation giving the impression that willing relatives have donated their organs without wanting or expecting monetary compensation is not uncommon.

As one writer said, Mr. Speaker, preying on the poor, sick and desperate has no boundaries. It is a growing international concern.

It should be no surprise, Mr. Speaker, that women are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, because in many societies the lives of women and girls continue, even in 2013, to be valued less than those of men and boys. Also at great risk are transgender individuals, migrants, internally displaced persons, refugees and ethnic minorities. A sad fact is that a disproportionate number of sexually exploited children are Aboriginal children, and Aboriginal women continue to be at a high risk for exploitation.

Many children and youth are victimized on the streets of Winnipeg, Mr. Speaker, and in private homes and drug houses located throughout the province. The reported number is about 400 children and youth, but truthfully we know that about 80 per cent of child sexual exploitation is not visible to public view. It's happening in gang houses or trick pads, so the actual number of victims is much higher. And those numbers don't speak to adults at all.

When it comes to the sex trade–and as I noted earlier, that is only one part of human trafficking–the adults involved report that their victimization began around 13 or 14 and as early as nine.

This travesty can only exist if individuals are willing to buy sex from exploited children and adults and consumers are willing to buy their products from industries that rely on forced labour to create a profit incentive for traffickers to maximize revenue with minimal production costs.

President Obama, in a speech to the American Bar Association, said: Today I want to discuss an issue that ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. Talking about the injustice, the outrage of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name: modern slavery.

Today we can do our part by supporting Bill 204.