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MP honours anti-sex-trade crusaders

Smith, activists take aim at Craigslist

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Timea Nagy was lured from Hungary at 20 and held captive in a Toronto strip club as a sex trade worker for weeks until she escaped.

Natasha Falle was a cop's daughter lured by a pimp into the sex trade as a teenager. It took her 13 years to get out of it.

Both now head organizations to rescue other victims of human trafficking in cities across Canada.

Brian McConaghy worked the Pickton file as an RCMP officer.

Now, working with the Ratanak Foundation, he rescues kids as young as six peddled as sex toys in southeast Asia.

"If they're lucky they're only raped a few hundred times. Mostly it's thousands of times," the ex-cop said of the condition in which he finds victims, mostly from Vietnam, who are traded for sex in Cambodia.

They were among five people who figured highly in Conservative MP Joy Smith's successful bid to get her private member's bill proclaimed law in June. Smith honoured them at an awards event Saturday evening.

Also being awarded are Tamara Cherry, a Toronto Sun reporter who puts names and faces to the anonymous victims of human trafficking in this country, and Ron Evans, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. He led a campaign to publicize the plight of Manitoba's missing and murdered women, mostly aboriginal, victimized by the sex industry.

The Kildonan-St. Paul MP's bill, C-268, carries mandatory minimum five-year sentences for human trafficking convictions in the sex trade, forced labour and organ-removal industries in Canada.

"This weekend I have chosen to bring these unsung heroes -- people you never hear about -- to be honoured for their work," Smith said before the first annual Honouring Heroes Award Ceremony at the Eastview Community Church on De Vries Avenue Saturday evening. "I am delighted to present awards to the leaders who make a significant difference in the lives of so many innocent victims," Smith said.

They spoke out against the erotic service ads on the Craigslist website.

"I'm personally sick to my stomach that girls like us are for sale on Craigslist and we can't get to them," Nagy said.

Nagy runs Walk with Me, an organization that works with victims rescued by police from the sex trade. Last week she held workshops for Winnipeg police officers.

Falle, who heads Sextrade 101, a similar service, says public opinion is the best weapon critics have against sex trafficking and without it, the trade will only get worse.

"One of the most appalling things is that Craigslist is not a porn site. It markets itself as a community website," the former RCMP officer said.

"It's like the community marketplace. You have your meat stall, your clothing stall, your vegetable stall and right in the middle, we have a stall buying and selling human beings. The issue is not so much tracking them down as shutting them down," McConaghy said.

A quick scan of Craigslist showed 11 sex ads posted by noon Saturday. One warned Manitoba is moving to shut the service down.

This week, Manitoba Justice Minister Andrew Swan said he'll demand the online service stop carrying ads for sex trade workers in Canada, after Smith and critics led a vigorous lobby against the online service.

Ontario and British Columbia have both demanded that Craigslist pull its erotic-services sections.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 17, 2010 A4

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