Submitted. MP Joy Smith visited MLA Darryl Plecas’s Abbotsford South constituency office on April 25, 2014 for a two-hour round-table discussion between community members and representatives of all three levels of government.
Pictured at right: MP Joy Smith of Manitoba
Joy Smith has amended the Criminal Code twice to make it easier to combat human trafficking, through private member’s bills in the House of Commons. She founded the Joy Smith Foundation which funds NGOs which help women get off the streets in Canada. She became a champion of this issue after hearing stories of their hardships from her son, a Vice Squad member. After the Supreme Court decision in 2013 which struck down the prostitution laws in Canada, Joy Smith began a cross-Canada tour to raise awareness and hear community concerns. Darryl Plecas’ office offered to host a round-table discussion.
In attendance were: Joy Smith, MP; Darryl Plecas, MLA Abbotsford South; Abbotsford City Councilors Henry Braun and Patricia Ross; Abbotsford Chief of Police Bob Rich,; Abbotsford Community Services representatives Simone Maassen and Sheila Lumb; Salvation Army representative Deb Lowell, Kari Hackett, representative from Positive Living; Alan Cabin from Communitas; Bhag Singh Dhanoa representative of Gurdwara Baba Banda Singh Bahadar Sikh Society, Catherine Dawson from the University of the Fraser Valley, a researcher who specializes in the use of the internet in exploitation of children, luring and trafficking; Brad Vick, Mike Archer of Abbotsford Today, and Andy Sidhu of the Punjabi Patrika.
Surjit Atwal introduced the event and moderated the discussion. Each person shared a story about their experiences with this issue. People’s emotions were strong no matter what organization they represented; they were surprised how similar their experiences were. They all agreed how much bigger and more serious the problem is then people generally realize.
Joy Smith said at the end that she will remember this meeting for the rest of her life, because very rarely do so many people who are fighting this on a daily basis get together to discuss its effect on society.
The dialogue must continue; to fight this, it is important to educate people on the perils of human trafficking. The sex trade is not the “oldest profession”, it’s the “oldest oppression”.