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This article was published 4/6/2018 (1155 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A former MP’s fight against human trafficking isn’t over.
Joy Smith, who formerly represented Kildonan-St. Paul in Parliament, has devoted her political life to fighting against human trafficking in Canada, and a new book serves as the continuation of her mission.
After three years of work by Paul Boge and Smith, The True Story of Canadian Human Trafficking launched at McNally Robinson on May 22. The book tells the story of Smith’s journey on Parliament Hill through the eyes of a young survivor of human trafficking.
Smith fought for laws to combat human trafficking and exploitation in Canada as the first sitting MP to amend the Criminal Code twice, both times to better protect victims of human trafficking. In 2010, Bill C-268 was passed, ensuring mandatory minimum sentencing for traffickers of children 18 years and younger in Canada’s Criminal Code. Then in 2012, Bill C-310 was passed unanimously, aimed at Canadian citizens or permanent residents who traffic or exploit others while abroad. After that, Smith developed Canada’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.
Twenty-four years ago, when her son worked in the Integrated Child and Exploitation Unit as a young police officer and was assigned to find children who were lured over the internet, Smith started giving seminars about how to protect kids on the internet. That’s when girls who were being trafficked reached out to her for help.
"They’d show me the tattoos on their arms, they’d tell me how they belonged to someone, and I was infuriated and shocked by what I saw," Smith said. "I couldn’t believe that a kid would be branded and belonged to someone like cattle. And then I found out that Canada has no laws to address these problems and I went to Parliament to change that and that’s what I did."
Boge was also shocked after he started interviewing the survivors he connected with through Smith.
"I had assumed that the guys who use girls would be coming from very low-income areas, really tough circumstances in life, but I was wrong about that. The Johns (term used to identify sex buyers)…typically are between 30 and 60 years old and they have a good job. And that caused my heart to stop because it described someone who is exactly like me," he commented. "And I thought, how in the world, are we as Canadian men, why do we think this is OK?"
When approached by Boge about the book, Smith said the story wasn’t about her, it was about the survivors. When she was in Parliament working to put laws in place to protect victims of human trafficking, Smith struggled because many didn’t believe such a thing was happening in Canada.
"Nobody knew about it, so I had to bring all the girls and everybody into Ottawa to testify at the committee," she said. "It was the survivors who broke the story."
The book revolves around Abby Summers, a fictional character whose story is based on the accounts of many real survivors. A high school student from Ontario with a special love for soccer and dreams of a great future, Abby receives a message on social media from a new guy in school named Jake. The two begin to date, but things take a dangerous turn when he convinces her to sell herself to men for one night. One night turns into many, and when Abby wants out, she discovers she is trapped. This happens while Smith is building support for a human trafficking bill to ensure that minimum sentences are given to anyone convicted of luring girls into sex slavery.
"It’s quite a journey. I’ve worked with victims for a lot of years, and that’s what drove me to go after laws because there were no (human trafficking) laws in Canada," Smith said.
After leaving Parliament 11 years later, Smith formed the Joy Smith Foundation, which she uses to bring awareness to the nation about human trafficking. The foundation has developed educational resource kits for schools to use and help the students understand how predators work so that they can protect themselves.
It took Boge a long time to finish the book, but it was a fulfilling opportunity.
"When these girls who have lived through absolutely horrific ordeals are willing to sit down and talk for sometimes eight, nine hours straight about their lives, to me it was both heartbreaking and also encouraging to know that people can be rescued from this lifestyle," he said.
"We have to educate our young girls that this is how Johns operate, this is how human traffickers operate, this is how you can be trafficked."
Smith said the book will educate the nation on the dangers of human trafficking.
"I am so gratified that Paul took the time, three years of his life, to put this book together. It’s true. I think it’s going to crack open this fight against human trafficking in Canada," Smith said. "When you start to get men and women fighting against human trafficking, I thought that was very profound."
The True Story of Canadian Human Trafficking is available at most bookstores, and for order through Castle Quay Books or the Joy Smith Foundation’s website at www.joysmithfoundation.com
Community journalist — The Times
Ligia Braidotti was the community journalist for The Times.