“You CAN make a difference.”
That was the message brought to the rural audience by Joy Smith, the former Member of Parliament who created two bills to protect youth from trafficking.
Smith was invited to speak at Cross Roads Community Church by Pastor Jason Hodson, where she spoke to a Sunday morning crowd of over 70 in Kenton Hall. Smith impressed upon parents, grandparents, educators and those who serve and lead in the community that sex trafficking of children happens here, and can be prevented.
“I was pretty naïve, I thought, it doesn’t happen here in Canada. How could it possibly happen in Canada?” she explained her own initial reaction of some 20 years ago.
“It happens less than two kilometers from where all of you are sitting right now. If you think it doesn’t, you’re nothing but naïve. It DOES. And I’m going to tell you how it happens.”
Smith explained that through the Internet, predators (men and women of any age) can create a social media persona of an attractive youth, to lure children to a meeting.
This is happening to young kids, often upper middle-class children, although First Nations youth are over represented. She said, “The average age of entry that traffickers use is 12 – 14 years of age; 93 per cent of trafficked victims are Canadian born.”
Trafficking always includes coercion, fear, control and exploitation, as recently occurred to an Ontario girl who was held and recovered from a Winnipeg location, as recounted in CBC news. She was put in a deep freezer for short periods as part of the control tactics of her trafficker.
Sometime abduction and rape occurs on first meeting. In other cases, kids are wooed and won over. Part of the grooming process will include romantic attraction, dates, and gifts. The trafficker portrays law enforcement as the enemy and works to draw the victim from trusted family ties.
Smith says parents and teachers should take note of sudden changes in a child. When a young person has two cell phones, or expensive items, designer clothes, or talks of expensive outings with a new guy - this is a red flag.
The victims, be they children or older, cannot be charged and they are not to be blamed, says Smith. It is the traffickers and the johns who bear the responsibility.
In the early days, Smith witnessed the brothel scene, climbed the stairs in sketchy apartment blocks and was more directly involved in rescuing children; today her foundation focuses on education and prevention.
Recently Joy Smith was awarded the title of Honorary Chief, receiving the symbolic First Nations red blanket.
Two weeks ago, Winnipeg Police recognized the Joy Smith Foundation for the work it is doing in the city.
Sunday morning, she told a little of her own life story – a journey from a successful career in high school math/science education, to a Member of Parliament, responsible for two ground-breaking bills.
Smith felt called to action when she first heard of child sex trafficking through her son, Corporal Ed Riglin, an RCMP officer serving on the Internet Child Exploitation Unit.
After her work as an MP, which yielded two history making bills, she retired from politics and has worked for the past six years developing the Joy Smith Foundation with offices across Canada.
Resources available to the public include a book hot off the press in 2018 from Castle Quay Books. The True Story of Canadian Human Trafficking. It is endorsed by media icons, politicians, the RCMP Assistant Commissioner as well as Indigenous leader Diane Redsky (Project Director of the National Task Force on Sex Trafficking).
Most significantly, after an address at the Alberta Schools conference, Smith was asked to provide curriculum for older students. This has been developed and integrated into many schools to educate and arm students against the ploys.
Age appropriate curriculum is being developed for Gr. 5-8, as predators are targeting younger students.
More information is available at www.joysmithfoundation.comor through Canadian Crime Stoppers 1-800-222-8847.