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Fighting child exploitation in Manitoba

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Earlier this year, I attended an important discussion at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Church presented by Sister Theresa Matwe on the modern slavery of children.

Whether it’s prostitution, child pornography, sex tourism, Internet luring or human sex trafficking, we must draw attention to these disabling crimes, and the available solutions. For this reason I heartily commend the efforts of Sister Matwe and St. Nicholas Ukrainian Church.
During the meeting, a concerned woman asked what our provincial politicians are doing to address these problems. That important question deserves an answer.

In my time as Attorney General and Minister of Family Services, I was profoundly disturbed by how some adults hurt children and how inadequate the tools were to protect our children from these predators.

This is why I have made crimes against children one of my main priorities as an MLA and cabinet minister. I am encouraged when national observers, such as the Canadian Women’s Foundation, recognize Manitoba’s legal regime against sexual exploitation as the strongest in Canada.

The province now dedicates $9.2 million annually to a comprehensive approach that I announced in 2008 called Tracia’s Trust. This strategy was named in honour of Tracia Owen, a girl who was a tragic victim of abuse, exploitation and suicide. It stands on four pillars: victim supports, prevention and awareness, perpetrator accountability, and strategy oversight.

In the few short years this plan has been in place, Manitoba has gone from zero to 78 prevention and transition beds for survivors of sexual exploitation. There have been 58 grads from the only known education program in the world that trains survivors of exploitation to work with youth. A total of 130 prostitution houses have been shut down and five orders have already been made under Canada’s only Child Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking Act designed to keep predators away from children, 1,700 tips about child pornography have been reported to cybertip.ca, and hundreds of websites have been shut down. Over 1,500 exploited or at-risk children have been returned home or to placement over the past three years and 57 predators have been arrested through the co-ordinated efforts of Manitoba’s unique rescue program called StreetReach.

In addition, these successes are augmented by Manitoba’s meth strategy, drug court, child welfare improvements, and the All Aboard poverty-reduction strategy.

Tracia’s Trust was developed through robust partnerships with community organizations, many in north Winnipeg, and with the invaluable contribution of strong Aboriginal women. I am deeply committed to the further strengthening of this strategy and with your encouragement we will continue the fight.

For more information on Tracia’s Trust or any of the other initiatives, please contact my office at 204-582-1550.

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