Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott is continuing her fight against human trafficking in Ontario.
Scott tabled Bill 158 the Saving the Girl Next Door Act as a private member’s bill in the provincial legislature last month.
The bill calls for restraining-order-type protection of victims as well as the right to sue their traffickers.
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 last year 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.”
Scott has been calling on the province to deal with what she calls a form of modern day slavery.
The bill is divided into three main sections.
The first part proclaims there should be a day of awareness for human trafficking as there seems to little public understanding as to the severity of the problem.
The second suggests expanding current legislation and proposes that protection orders be able to be taken out directly against traffickers. Similar to a restraining order a protection order would require a perpetrator stay away from a victim for a minimum of three years or face a penalty of $50000 two years in jail or both.
The second section of the bill also calls for a new tort to be created allowing victims to go after traffickers for damages.
“It’s the right to sue” Scott said adding that often victims are overwhelmed by the idea of taking perpetrators to criminal court.
The third part of the bill requests that the current definition of “sexual offence” be expanded.
“Ontario is far behind other provinces when it comes to combatting human trafficking and taking significant action” Scott said. “I have been calling for the set-up of a task force for nine months starting last May and have been working continuously with survivors police and victim services providers in relation to my select committee work. This bill is meant to signal the start of a long line of discussion consultation collaboration and legislation needed to combat modern day slavery in Ontario.”
The bill received its second reading in Queen’s Park on Feb. 18 but what happens to it next is up to the Liberal government.
“They have to call it” Scott said At that point her bill would be studied by a committee before coming back to the legislature for a third reading.