This July, Joy Smith, one of Canada’s leading voices against human trafficking, received the Order of Manitoba. She’s coming next week to speak at Virden Alliance Church.
Smith is an educator, having been a teacher for a number of years prior to her work as an MP.
During her years in Ottawa, she worked to protect youth from sexual exploitation. The Oct. 3, 2014 Hansard records Smith’s words in the House of Commons: “I am pleased to say that we are in third reading on Bill C-36, one of the most important bills this country has ever had in this Parliament. I will tell you why. It is because so many innocent victims are being lured into the sex trade under human trafficking.”
She started the Joy Smith Foundation to carry on the work of reaching people with information that could save the lives of youth.
Many will remember RCMP Corporal Ed Riglin, who was, until recently, stationed in Virden. Smith tells that her work was sparked by Riglin, who is her son. Prior to coming to Virden he had served with the Integrated Child Exploitation unit.
Moved by the immensity of the problem, Smith says, “I rescued survivors for almost 10 years before I went to parliament. That’s when I found out there were no laws to protect them.”
She says that before Bill C-36, and the education around human trafficking, victims were afraid to speak to the police, feeling they would be re-victimized. “Today, it’s much different. I’m so excited about that. I always emphasize, in all my presentations, ‘it’s not your fault.”
Most recently, Smith has returned from a youth conference in Red Deere, Alta. where she spoke to 6,000 young people.
“It was really gratifying to hear them talk about how they wanted to protect their families, their friends. These were young people. They were junior high, high school.”
She wants parents to know how to protect their kids, but she has found there’s a lot of power in the youth as well.
Smith created a Gr. 8 – 12 curriculum about five years ago and has also re-written a Gr. 5-8 curriculum. “It is just about to be re-launched in cartoon form. It’s gentle with the children.”
Other resources are available as well. “My documentary, Canada’s Secret Shame, is a really good way to educate families. It’s all Canadian. Police officers talk, survivors talk, parents talk. It’s a well-rounded documentary. Anything I produce, anyone can watch it.”
This week, Smith tours Brandon, Rivers Collegiate, Dauphin, and will be in Virden on Wednesday, Oct. 30.