Human trafficking comes out of shadows

Documentary focuses on pain, tragedy of children lured into sex trade


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A new documentary on Canadian children being lured by human traffickers will open the eyes of adults blind to what’s become a growing problem, say experts in Winnipeg who work with sexually exploited girls and women.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/09/2017 (1950 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A new documentary on Canadian children being lured by human traffickers will open the eyes of adults blind to what’s become a growing problem, say experts in Winnipeg who work with sexually exploited girls and women.

“We’ve got to bring these things up or else what’s done in the dark will stay in the dark,” Shona Stewart said at the release of the documentary Human Trafficking: Canada’s Secret Shame.

“This will help bring some light to it,” said the survivor of human trafficking, who is now the director of Dignity House, helping sexually exploited women.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Joy Smith, founder of the Joy Smith Foundation and former Member of Parliament (centre) along with Diane Redsky, Executive Director of Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre (left) and Shona Stewart Director of Dignity House (which helps sexually exploited women), in Winnipeg after the launch of a documentary on Human Trafficking; Canada’s Secret Shame produced by the Joy Smith Foundation Monday.

The 90-minute documentary produced by the Joy Smith Foundation talks to the parent of a 12-year-old who was trafficked, survivors of trafficking, a reformed trafficker and the people trying to help the victims and survivors.

“Once people’s eyes are opened and they see the inherent violence directed towards mainly children, they want to be part of the solution,” Diane Redsky, executive director of Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, said at a press conference at RCMP headquarters. “The video is a great way to get started.”

Joy Smith, a former Kildonan-St. Paul MP, teacher and mother of six, started the foundation in 2011 after being inspired to help by her son, a police officer who worked in the Integrated Child Exploitation Unit. The foundation’s goal is to ensure every Canadian is safe from being lured to or exploited by the sex trade through educating the public and funding frontline organizations that rescue and rehabilitate survivors.

“In Canada, our youth are being targeted every day and people are seeing it as prostitution,” Smith said at the release of the documentary at RCMP headquarters in Winnipeg. “With underage kids — excuse me — it’s not prostitution. Somebody has lured them there.” In the last year, she’s visited several schools across Canada and saw just how urgent the need is for public education.

“At every single school, kids came up and said, ‘After listening to what you’re saying, I think I’m being groomed,’” Smith said in an interview.

“Then I knew it had to be out — what we’re doing. It’s giving them knowledge — ‘Here’s how the perpetrators work,’” she said.

The biggest risk factor for becoming a victim of human trafficking is being a girl, said Redsky, who led the National Task Force on the Trafficking of Women and Girls in Canada. It found the average age girls were recruited at was 13.

“Human trafficking is not getting any better — in fact it’s getting worse, but you can help stop this from happening in the first place,” Redsky said at Monday’s press conference. “It begins with educating yourself on the issues.”

Smith and Redsky applauded the Winnipeg police and the RCMP in Manitoba for being “leaders and helpers” to community organizations dealing with the problem.

“The work (police) do on this issue in our province is a rare gem that happens across the country,” Redsky said.

The internet and its anonymity remain one of the biggest challenges for police trying to stop human trafficking and the exploitation of children, Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said at the press conference.

“It’s happening right under our nose,” Smyth said.

And it’s not just happening under the nose of police, Redsky said.

Most survivors of human trafficking in the national study said they were going to school, living at home or had involvement with a child-welfare or youth-serving organization when they were lured away and recruited. The documentary released Monday may alert more adults to what’s happening under their own roofs, Redsky said.

“If you have children or grandchildren, I would strongly encourage people to watch.”

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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