By Chad Ingram
Published May 23 2017
Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott is glad that victims of human trafficking in Ontario will have greater recourse after the government passed Bill 96 the Anti-Human Trafficking Act into law in Queen’s Park last week.
“On behalf of the PC caucus I want to say finally” Scott said during third-reading debate on the bill in the legislature May 17. “We’ve been waiting for legislative action for over a year.”
The new law is heavily based on a private member’s bill called the Saving the Girl Next Door Act that Scott first tabled in early 2016. Among other protections for victims the bill recommended giving them the option to sue their traffickers rather than having to go through the trauma of reliving their experience in a courtroom. It received second reading on Feb. 18 2016 but was never called to committee by the government the next step in turning a bill into a law.
After Premier Kathleen Wynne prorogued the legislature last September thereby killing any bills that had not completed the legislative process Scott reintroduced her private member’s bill later that month.
On Feb. 22 of this year the Liberal government tabled the Anti-Human Trafficking Act which borrowed much of its content from the Saving the Girl Next Door Act.
“There is much more to follow through on with respect to anti-human trafficking measures” Scott said last week.
“We need public service announcements we need education. We cannot allow human trafficking to be a normal part of our society. Collectively we have to stamp it out.
“I am putting the government on notice: I will continue to watch their actions on this file closely but I appreciate the fact that we are finally adopting anti-human trafficking legislation.”
In late 2014 Scott who is the PC party’s critic for women’s issues spearheaded the creation of an all-party standing committee on sexual violence and harassment on which she served as vice-chair.
An alarming finding in the committee’s final report which was released in 2015 was the frequency of human trafficking – typically of young girls and women for sexual purposes – occurring in Ontario.
“While human trafficking is commonly associated with foreign victims crossing international borders recent charges and convictions indicate that the vast majority of victims in Canada (over 90 per cent) are trafficked domestically (i.e. all stages of the trafficking occur within Canadian borders)” the report read.
“Human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation has been found to be the most common form of trafficking in Canada with Ontario functioning as a major ‘hub.’ In these cases traffickers force victims to provide sexual services to customers usually in exchange for money.”
Two thirds of all police-reported human trafficking cases in Canada happen in Ontario.