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This article was published 13/5/2019 (529 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Former Member of Parliament Joy Smith, was recently honoured at the annual Catholic Foundation of Manitoba Caritas Dinner, which has recognized outstanding Manitobans for the past 40 years.
Smith is a familiar name in Winnipeg, both in the education community (she was a teacher for 23 years), and in political circles, as she served as both an MLA and MP.
But many people may not realize the passion that drives this powerhouse. Smith entered politics and used her platform to become a voice for vulnerable young victims of human trafficking. She then made it her business to end exploitation and trafficking in Canada.
The average age of girls and boys entering the sex trade is 12 to 14 years old but no demographic is immune. Right in our own backyard there are predators grooming youngsters, paying attention to them, giving them gifts and promising loving relationships. In reality, they are systematically separating the children from their families and friends. In the end, these youth are often overwhelmed by shame and fear and extorted into joining a life of exploitation.
As Smith spoke at the recent Caritas Dinner, you could hear a pin drop.
She reminded us that "education is our greatest weapon."
As with most criminal activities, human trafficking is successful when it is kept out of the spotlight. But Smith is bringing it into the light and the Joy Smith Foundation has developed teaching resources for students in grades 5 through 12. You can visit www.joysmithfoundation.com for a list of resources, testimonials and videos of human trafficking survivors telling their story.
Thanks to Smith’s work, the Canadian Criminal Code now mandates a minimum sentence for trafficking of minors here and abroad. She has brought the issue to the forefront and the rest of us must be brave enough to accept the torch.
In her speech, Smith quoted Edmund Burke:
"When good men say nothing, bad things happen."
None of us can afford to say nothing. All lives matter and we must do our part to protect the vulnerable and welcome them with open arms.
Wanda Prychitko is a community correspondent for St. James-Assiniboia. Contact email@example.com
St. James-Assiniboia community correspondent
Wanda Prychitko is a community correspondent for St. James-Assiniboia.
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