By Chad Ingram
Published March 2 2017
Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott is pleased the provincial government has tabled what it’s calling the Anti-Human Trafficking Act a piece of legislation which borrows heavily from the Saving the Girl Next Door Act a private member’s bill that Scott tabled in Queen’s Park last year.
“I’m very happy that they took 99 per cent of my Saving the Girl Next Door Act” Scott told the Times . “I was actually hoping they’d do it a year ago. The government put it in their own legislation.”
Scott said the important thing was that the province was taking action on the problem.
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.
Last year Scott tabled the Saving the Girl Next Door Act which among other protections for victims 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.
The Anti-Human Trafficking Act was presented by the government on Feb. 22 and along with giving victims the right to sue their traffickers borrows a number of other recommendations from Scott’s bill including allowing restraining orders to be taken out against traffickers more training for front-line workers and more public awareness including through Human Trafficking Awareness Day which would be proclaimed on Feb. 22.
Scott said it’s important for victims to have as many tools as possible to help them succeed after escaping the world of trafficking.
“If they can succeed at all” she said. “They try to re-establish themselves. They usually have no credit. Their identity has been stolen from them.”
Some provincial funding is already being allotted for the cause.
“They’re starting to do some public awareness in our area” Scott said adding that some $18000 had been awarded to Kawartha/Haliburton Victim Services. She said the long-term plan is for training not only to be done with front-line workers but also with hotel/motel operators and in schools and other places on recognizing the signs of a human trafficking situation.
Scott said she was recognized by the government for the work she’d done on the issue.
“They’ve given it a different title and that’s fine” she said. “The title is always the Saving the Girl Next Door Act to me.”