It's really nice to be back and to see the members around the table studying this very important topic.
As you know, I spent 11 years, four months, and 59 seconds in the House of Commons and passed the two bills, Bill involving mandatory minimums for traffickers of children 18 years and under, and Bill , whereby the long arm of the Canadian law can reach into other countries when Canadian citizens or residents of Canada go abroad and exploit or traffic, and we can now bring them back to Canada to bring them to trial.
Going through the human trafficking issue in Parliament has been a process, because initially the good citizens of Canada often didn't know what human trafficking was, and that extended, Mr. Chair, right to parliamentarians. There has been a great change since the beginning of that time in people's understanding that there is human trafficking, so we've gone a long way in a very short time.
What brought me to Parliament then was working with the survivors of human trafficking, and I'm very pleased that Diane Redsky is here today. She is the executive director of Ma Mawi and is like a sister to me. She has done amazing work.
I'm so pleased to have Donald Bouchard, who was a trafficker and who now is doing much to combat human trafficking. I am the total skeptic. I never believed he was really sincere, so I had to wait for a very, very long time—many, many years—and I saw the amazing work he was doing and the voice he had to dissuade traffickers from buying and selling kids.
I want to speak first of all to the fact that I read over the blues and I read over all of the other testimony. You had department heads in here, the RCMP and others, as well as the border patrols, talking about the progress we have made. I have to commend the members here for dealing with the issue of human trafficking.
I know that even Rob Nicholson—and I guess you're not Minister Nicholson, but MP Nicholson—at one time was skeptical. I'm writing a book called I Just Didn't Know, because when people find out, they want to do something, like MP Nicholson, like all of you around the table today, because human trafficking is basically the buying and selling of mostly underage girls, as well as some boys, and in some provinces the aboriginal community is highly overrepresented on this issue.
There are many definitions that people are confused about on human trafficking, and there are many I used. There is one I used when I was doing my bills, which was very well known, but I often say that if someone is being bought and sold, that's human trafficking. I think sometimes we get too caught up in the minutiae of definitions and things like that, but really what it's about is human beings.
Many girls have their power and their dignity and everything taken away from them because they are sold to somebody and forced to service men sexually. Girls are very highly represented, no matter what community they come from. The fact of the matter is that now parliamentarians in this House have to understand that we have to take very definitive steps to stop this from happening.
The national action plan reached its limit in March 2017. We need a national action plan to combat human trafficking, because it's not only the laws that are put in: we need safe houses and we need rehabilitation of the victims of human trafficking. We need to help them restore their lives.
We found that very critical. The foundation has put together an education program for grades 8 to 12, and I'm surprised at how many young girls—I've only had two boys, and the rest of them have all been girls—have come up and said, “I think my boyfriend is grooming me.” In the school program they learn how the predators work and they learn how they gain their trust. It's just so insidious and hideous.
It's widely accepted. I think also it's very important that prostitution not be legalized in any way, because it puts more young girls at risk.
Parliamentarians can do specific things. The two that I've just mentioned, Mr. Chair, are extremely important. The national action plan to help rehabilitate the victims of human trafficking and make sure that they get the education and all the things they need to restart their lives is extremely important. As for the safe houses, I know there are places now all across this country where victims of human trafficking can go to be rehabilitated, but there aren't enough.
People call it prostitution, but I don't like to call it prostitution. I don't use that word. A young girl is lured; the trafficker gains her trust by giving her lots of praise and gifts and the vision that she'll get married some day, and then all of a sudden it all changes. They say they have to pay back all these gifts, and it becomes very hideous, very brutal. The kids are very scared. I could tell you a million stories, but I know in eight minutes I don't have time to do that. I'm trying to put a broad brush on the things that I see today in Parliament in 2018 that really need to be addressed.
How much time do I have?
I think there are many Internet web crawlers that identify victims of human trafficking over the Internet just by looking at what's on the net. We live in a different world now. It's the world of the Internet. People say that it's all underground, and I can tell you that in a way it's because of the Internet. Today kids have cellphones and traffickers have cellphones. The control they have over these young people because of the Internet is just immeasurable. Backpage is where a lot of them are sold. You can find a lot of missing girls if you look at Backpage. I don't recommend it, because the police monitor Backpage, and you don't want to be one of the people looking at Backpage.
There are other things that people are missing, and I have two that I want to mention. One, in the aboriginal community it's my firm belief that.... I don't like to hear on the news that these girls were in the sex trade and that they were sex trade workers. I think that's a lot of baloney. I think 90-some per cent of them were initially trafficked and lured into it, and then overnight they got into terrible situations. They don't even know what's going on, and then all of a sudden they become prostitutes or sex trade workers. I think we need to dig down deeper into that.
Another thing is that we have to pay huge attention to hotels. That's where it takes place. When you talk about the stroll, there's very little stroll in this country anymore. If you look in hotels and houses, that's where the predators are taking their victims.
It's a very hideous crime. Mr. Chair, I've seen things I wish I'd never seen, because those visions never go away. We have to commend the front-line workers. We have to commend the police officers and the ICE units who work so hard and see things that most of us can't see, and also the leaders of NGOs, such as Diane Redsky and Megan Walker and people like that, who have worked in the field for so many years. I think that we have to have the capacity to make sure that those front-line workers have counselling and have someone to talk to. It's been 24 years this past Christmas that I've been trying to combat human trafficking, and I think that all of these things about front-line workers have not been addressed. They can't work effectively with their victims unless they too have some safeguards and are able to have the counselling they need.
We have a lot of work to do here in Canada. I don't want to take everybody's time, because we have some very insightful people at this committee today. I would hope that each parliamentarian would look very closely, because if you think it can't happen to your own families, you would be wrong. I've worked with families of parliamentarians, thank you very much. I have worked with mayors of cities whose children were trafficked. I have worked with a great panorama of people, and unless we stop human trafficking in Canada and make sure that there are consequences there for the traffickers.... I have learned over time, too. You have before you Donald Bouchard, who was a trafficker. Back in the day when I knew him and what he was doing, I was dreaming about cement shoes, and that's not very nice, but the fact of the matter is that people do change too.
We have to all get together and combat human trafficking in a very meaningful way. I think that the testimony, and of course Mikhaela, who is studying it.... I'm ready glad that she's here.
I think today we have a great opportunity, and I look forward to the questions coming forward.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you. I'm going to do a quick time check so that I use my eight minutes wisely. I'm reading from notes that I sent in advance.
I want to thank all of you for the opportunity to be here and for accommodating the video, as well as thank Joy Smith for helping me get on this important agenda.
I'd like to begin by acknowledging the Anishinaabe territory, both in Duluth and in Ottawa, that we all have the privilege of being on.
I have broken up my presentation into three areas. I'm going to talk fast, so I feel bad for the interpreters, but I have lots to say and I'm going to use my time wisely. Those three areas are national recommendations, promising practices, and how this committee can help the front lines. My speaking notes have been provided.
The focus of my presentation on human trafficking will be on the purposes of sexual exploitation, also known as sex trafficking. There are several intersections between labour and sex trafficking, but for the purposes of this presentation I'll only be focusing in on sex trafficking from a national, front-line, and indigenous perspective.
Please keep in mind that human trafficking is based on supply and demand. There will be always be a supply as long as there is a demand for human trafficking. Girls and women will continue to be bought and sold as long as the laws allow men to buy them. Sex trafficking is rooted in greed, misogyny, racism, classism, and sexism at its very worst. Sex trafficking is a 100% preventable crime.
Before I begin, it is important for all of us to acknowledge the survivors of sex trafficking, whether they are currently being victimized or on their lifelong healing journey. Their voice is often not heard, and I strongly encourage this committee, in a trauma-informed way, to seek their input, advice, guidance and, most importantly, their support and blessings of your recommendations.
My first point is on the national recommendations. In 2014, I was part of a national task force on sex trafficking of women and girls in Canada with the best experts and leaders in Canada. This remains the most relevant report and research on the issue and can be found on the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre website. The final task force report, entitled “No More”, outlines 34 recommendations on how to end sex trafficking in Canada. There are seven recommendations that are specific to this committee, and they are about the laws.
Number one is to enforce the human trafficking and sexual exploitation laws that we currently have.
Number two is to give trafficked women and girls a reason to come forward. We need to change the Criminal Code to focus on the traffickers' actions and not the victims' beliefs, history, or behaviour. We need to increase the civil causes of action and civil forfeiture procedures to return the profits of traffickers to victims. We need to engage expert witnesses to support victim testimony and make testimonial aids available for trafficking victims.
Number three—this is important for women to rebuild their lives—is to vacate and purge records for non-violent crimes committed as a direct result of trafficking.
Number four is to increase police capacity to provide victim-centred services.
Number five, strengthen protections for migrant women and girls.
Number six, end the municipal regulatory patchwork of Canada's sex industry.
Number seven, decriminalize women and girls who sell or who have sold sex, and undercut the demand for trafficked women and girls by criminalizing those who buy sex. This is also known as the Swedish model.
The second area I'd like to focus on is promising practices. I would ask that this committee look to the Manitoba strategy, launched in 2002. It was the first strategy in Canada to address sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. The strategy is entitled Tracia's Trust, in memory of Tracia Owen. Manitoba was the only province in Canada up until 2006 to have a strategy. Now, 14 years later, Ontario has a provincial strategy to address sexual exploitation and trafficking. I ask that you look particularly to Manitoba and the comprehensive strategy that exists, which includes a combination of services, laws, and public education and prevention, as a whole strategy .
This is comprehensive. I can't get into the whole strategy, but for the purposes of today, I want to highlight that Manitoba invests $11 million in that provincial strategy to address sexual exploitation and trafficking. This is based on a population of 1.2 million. No other province even comes close to the amount of investment that Manitoba makes, and this is still not enough.
However, as a result of the provincial strategy, several unique resources have been developed. At Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, we opened up one of the first safe houses for girls 13 to 17, and we operate the only rural healing lodge in Canada for child victims of sex trafficking. That was opened in 2010. We also have specialized training programs for survivors.
Our great success in Manitoba has been because of local action led by grassroots community, by indigenous women leaders, and by an experiential advisory committee of survivors who are guiding and directing the development of service. Who best to answer the questions and give us the answers but experiential women, women with lived experience?
Manitoba also has a dedicated provincial human trafficking hotline. We also have a dedicated prosecution office that specializes in sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. Winnipeg has one of the rare policing agencies in Canada with a specialized counter–sexual exploitation unit with the best and brightest of our law enforcement officers, because we need that in order to address the demand and help women.
Most importantly, these services are developed, led, and operated by many indigenous organizations, along with survivors of sex trafficking, because of the overrepresentation of indigenous girls. I emphasize the word “girls”. These are girls who are under the age of 18 who are targeted for sex trafficking. There's a huge market for indigenous women and girls to victimize.
We have the only provincial human trafficking act, which I encourage you to look at as well. There is also collaboration with our United States partners in North Dakota. Manitoba and North Dakota have a network of agencies and law enforcement that are working together, because sex trafficking doesn't care about borders.
What we hear from our girls at Hands of Mother Earth—our rural healing lodge that we've operated since 2010 and our safe house—and what we know about the victimization of indigenous girls 13 to 17 is that their sexual exploitation started young, as young as 9. They are groomed and lured both online and in person. Girls from northern first nation communities are at particular risk.
The control by the trafficker can take on many forms. He poses as a boyfriend, a drug dealer, an uncle, a father figure, a daddy, or an older man supplying them with drugs and a place to stay. They are coerced to perform sex acts as many as six to 10 times a day, seven days a week, and hand over their money or bring the equivalent of drugs back. Survivors describe this experience as multiple incidents of paid rape.
Meth is becoming a huge factor in controlling girls. A girl is more profitable to a trafficker than an adult woman. Trauma bonding with their trafficker makes it very difficult to intervene within that relationship, and we really need to understand that power dynamic. Most are trafficked because they are children in the care of Child and Family Services, and many of them have had multiple placements in their lives.
Who makes up the demand? There are many men. It's not just a few doing lots of bad things. There are lots of men doing bad things. The traffickers are just as diverse as the demand and the men who are sexually abusing and violating our girls. Unlike drugs, which you can only sell once, human trafficking is all about recruiting and luring women and girls because one woman or girl can be sold over and over again. We don't just have a few victims in Manitoba. We have hundreds of girls in Manitoba each day.
I also have to acknowledge the power of survivors. These girls have been let down by systems and adults their entire little life. Yet, under the right kind of supportive environment—trauma-informed; indigenous-led; survivors employed as helpers, which we refer to as heart medicine work—they thrive on their healing journey, and many have become survivor leaders. In fact, our rural healing lodge and safe house currently employs several young women who were once in the program and now work for the program to help other girls.
The third part—and I've almost finished—is that I have four recommendations to this committee on how this committee can help.
One, renew the national action plan, and when you renew it, emphasize this time the funding to front-line services.
Two, data collection is critically important, but don't let that hold you back. Do that in conjunction with other policy and funding programs. We just need a coordinated way and one definition. While some are looking to answer how many trafficking victims there are, there are front-line organizations like ours, and many others on the ground, who can’t keep up with the volume of victims who are coming forward.
Three, we need a whole improvement of victim service strategy that is directly connected to lifelong healing and not contingent on being involved in the court system. We lose too many girls to suicide while they go through the court system. Women and girls need that support in order to rebuild their lives. Finally, but very importantly, to build on what Joy Smith was saying, do not repeal Bill . Please, please make sure with regard to Bill Advocates like me and many others across Canada have worked really hard to bring the voices of victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking into this conversation. Our experience has come from many years of working on the front lines with girls and women whose voices are often not heard.
Buying sex from women and girls is violence against women, period. The most harmful impacts are to indigenous women and girls. We need the laws to benefit us and not perpetuate racism and create further harm. We have to make the laws work for indigenous women and girls rather than make it easier for perpetrators to victimize. If Bill is repealed, it will completely immobilize our ability to protect women and girls from perpetrators. You will make traffickers entrepreneurs, and tie the hands of police to address the high demand. For example, Winnipeg police made 84 arrests in 2016, doubled that in 2017, and will continue to do so. We need those tools for police in order to address the demand.
It makes sense to criminalize the demand. I am hopeful that since we looked to our Swedish friends for guidance on launching Canada’s women’s equality budget, we can also continue to keep the current Canadian version of the Swedish model in Bill that criminalizes the purchase of sex while ensuring that victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking are not criminalized.
Meegwetch. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the invite. I really appreciate it.
It's not easy for me to be here today. It's humiliating, but it's important because I was there and I know how these predators think.
The only reason I'm alive today and able to tell my story is that one day I went into a chapel where I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ, and I had people around me who helped me understand the gravity of my lifestyle. They taught me how to make things right so I was able to go back across the country to every place I had trafficked, face the victims, face every criminal act I had committed, and make amends. With all this, I was able to clean up my life and go to the roots of my problem. It is very important for people to change, whether they're a victim or a trafficker. We need to address the root. Once I eradicated this root, my life changed and I became a pastor.
Today, I hear a lot of testimony from victims, how they were lured into this trade, how they were abused, and how they kept it secret. One of the biggest things traffickers use is they take away your self-esteem, your dignity, and they try very hard to make you drug dependent.
I talk to victims, and I was interviewing one yesterday morning. She was in a teen challenge program that I put her in about a year ago, and now she's coming out with flying colours. She was telling me that when she was out there, one of the guys that she was with, the gang leader, was looking outside his window by a schoolyard. He asked if she saw those girls. He said they were walking ATMs. They want to lure girls from 9 to 14 because that's the demand nowadays.
Once they fall victim to this abuse, a lot of these girls lose their self-esteem and dignity, and they suffer from Stockholm syndrome. They develop empathy for the abuser. It's a high crime in our country and it needs to be punished to the extreme.
Had I been punished in the days years ago when I was in this trade, it would have discouraged me, but the law wasn't there to punish me and it was overlooked. I'm so glad today there are people fighting against it like Joy Smith. I joined her effort to change these laws.
The more a trafficker is discouraged, the more we're going to cut down on this situation. Today I do a jail ministry. I do a lot of street ministry. I've trained about 50 people to work the streets with me, trying to reach as many people as we can. Of course, the girls aren't on the streets as they used to be, but it gives us a lot of contacts.
Not that long ago as I was ministering in a prison, one of the girls was introduced to me and said she used to do what I did. Her mother trained her how to traffic. This modern-day slavery is a big problem. The girls are now being recruited because it's easier for a girl to recruit another girl, so it's extended; it's just beyond human measure. She was trafficking, I think, five or six girls and she was only 17 years old.
I think traffickers need to be punished to the maximum. Traffickers are heartless, they're ruthless, and all they want to do is abuse the person until there's nothing left. I remember when I went back on the streets two years after my conversion to make restitution, and some of these girls that I had been with were walking skeletons, completely destroyed. When you tell them there's a better life out there, they just don't know where to turn.
I'm so happy when I see facilities like Joy Smith's, places that are made available like you have over there. A lot of these girls don't know where to go. I find a lot of resources are there for police officers to pursue drug dealers. They'll spend months tracking drug dealers, but those resources I don't think are available to track down predators like human traffickers. I think if that was to happen, we'd see a big difference; this enterprise would collapse within a short period of time. These traffickers are cowards, they're ruthless, and they don't care for human life.
I was with a partner back then who trained me. He even kidnapped girls, travelled with them, and forced them into the trade. They had no choice. The more you make them dependent...sometimes these girls have tracks all the way up their arms. All they want now is their next fix, just to kill the pain. That's how these predators take advantage of them until finally they just die of an overdose or a disease.
And then it's on to the next one. They don't care if they die. As you were saying, they're reusable. As soon as they're finished, there's nothing left for them. They're just left there on a scrap heap.
A lot of these people who buy sex have extreme fantasies about beating up the girls and abusing them sexually. These traffickers who promise protection are never there. While the girls are getting beaten up, these guys are in the bars and they're in these hotel rooms smoking crack. I find that with crystal meth, it's gotten worse now because it's affordable, so for a lot of the young girls who can't afford crack or heroin, it's much easier for them to get a $5 or $10 hit of crystal meth.
As one of the victims was telling me this week, once you're on crystal meth, it doesn't matter anymore what happens to your body, because that's all you want, and you lose your senses. This girl was living in abandoned buildings in Winnipeg, a beautiful girl. Her parents came to me and asked if I could help their daughter. Her senses were gone. I didn't think there was hope, but I'm so thankful that Teen Challenge took her and they gave her a life.
The support is so important for these girls, to get them back to thinking properly and to understanding that they don't have to identify themselves with the trauma they went through for the rest of their lives. They need support and they need care. I think we need more facilities. A lot of people I train on the streets, when they find a girl, ask where they can send her from there. There are a lot of drug addiction programs but very few for the girls who have been abused and trafficked.
I think if human trafficking or prostitution were legalized, that would give traffickers a green card and it would completely spiral out of control. I know that if I were to go back onto the streets today, which is inconceivable, that I could make $5,000 a day from human trafficking and I would face very little resistance.
I really feel that it's very important for this issue to be addressed. A lot of these girls are controlled at gunpoint. I remember one of the girls who worked for me was in the hallway at the hotel and she told my partner, “I want to quit. I can't do this anymore. Every time I turn a trick I want to vomit.” And he pulled a gun and he put it to her head. He said, “There's no quitting in here.” Luckily someone opened their hotel room and she ran in there and rescued herself. It's just the way it is. From there on, she feared for her life because she was at risk of being caught for ratting him out.
It's very important for these girls to find a place of refuge as well, when they come out of human trafficking.
Everybody is someone's child. This is my motto, so when I go out on the street, my job is to really retrieve these children who have been lured into this. I can spot them from a mile away. To me bringing back a child to his parents is vital. There's nothing that can compare to that.
When I was a human trafficker, I remember a 14-year-old girl came to me. She had been promised such glamour and she wanted me to put her on the streets. I made sure she wouldn't go out there and got her back to her father. But today it's not like that. The younger they get them.... nine to 14 years old is what they want, that's the demand, because now it's gotten to be a lot sicker than it was back then. They really prey on the most vulnerable people, and that's why it's very vital for me to put my neck out. Today I'm the father of three children, and to me children are very valuable. Even now that I'm older and I'm a businessman, I'm putting my neck out because I want to save these children and these young girls from this tragedy.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for inviting me to share with you today.
I would also like to thank the committee for launching an investigation on this important issue.
I'd also like to recognize and thank the women and girls who have shared their trafficking stories with me and the many people guiding and supporting me in this research.
I'm a master's student at York University and I'm completing my thesis on education and human trafficking.
My mother's best friend, Sarah, was sold into sex trafficking in Ontario when she was 11 years old. They reconnected a few years ago. After hearing her story, I became involved in an anti-trafficking task force that supports a potential safe house in York Region, Canada, and a home in Kolkata, India. I was shocked to learn that the trafficking of persons is a growing problem in Canada. Over 90% of people who are trafficked in Canada are born in Canada. Further investigation revealed that reintegration programs in India were developed and well known to the public. However, such programs are less prevalent in Canada. I hypothesize that because human trafficking is prevalent and openly spoken about, both in the media and in the schools, developing resources that are equally and openly discussed and well known becomes possible.
Through conducting research in West Bengal, India, I examined the role of education and vocational training in reintegrating women who have been trafficked back into society. In November 2017, I conducted a one-month qualitative study where women and girls who have been trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation were invited to share their stories. In addition, I interviewed front-line workers, who support people who have been trafficked, and an in-depth literature review was undertaken. Trafficking exploits and undervalues women and girls across borders. Both developing and developed nations are affected.
You might be asking yourself, why India?
Human trafficking in India is growing exponentially. In response, there are many programs to support people who have been trafficked in India. The stories of women who have been exploited in India can help inform best practices to support women who have been trafficked in the Canadian context.
This research study shows that education is vitally important in combatting human trafficking. First, education is needed to fight trafficking, through changing mindsets and empowering women and girls. Second, education and vocational training are needed to rehabilitate people who have been trafficked.
The findings go beyond education to show that long-term reintegration strategies must include employment and housing, but that there is a lack of reliable data.
I will speak to each of these findings and propose recommendations. This is not to undermine existing efforts and initiatives Canada has put in place, but rather, it is to enrich them through proposing a strategy of empowerment that works directly with those who have lived through trafficking.
Education is a weapon against trafficking. It can help reduce the number of people who are trafficked.
Human trafficking is a gender inequality issue. As Statistics Canada indicated in their statement on February 27, the majority of perpetrators of sex trafficking in Canada are men and the majority of people who are trafficked for sex are women. These facts are also true in the global context.
Education can combat systemic injustices, like gender inequality, which is contributing to the growth of human trafficking.
First, gender-sensitive approaches to education in schools should be considered. Girls need to be empowered to understand their value and rights. As well, we need to educate boys about how to respect and understand the value of girls. As UNESCO states, “Gender sensitivity helps to generate respect for the individual regardless of sex.”
Second, both boys and girls need to be taught about sex trafficking. We heard that girls, as young as nine years old, are being trafficked in Canada, so we need to reach the next generation, as early as grade 6.
Third, a national strategic approach to education and human trafficking should be considered to ensure that all young people are reached, as an integral preventative measure.
One of the five main risk factors that make an individual vulnerable to trafficking is a low level of education. Almost half of the people who have been trafficked have not completed high school. Poverty is also a barrier to girls completing and having access to powerful forms of education that inform them of their value and rights, thus making them vulnerable to trafficking. Due to their lack of education and financial needs, women and girls can also be re-trafficked, after they are rescued.
We need to ensure that women and girls have access to education particularly for communities identified as vulnerable. This includes creating further access to high school and especially post-secondary schooling in remote areas, for example. Funding and resources to increase access to higher education is needed.
The study reveals that education and vocational training empowered women and girls. As a result of education participants hope to contribute to society in a myriad of ways. Including helping other women who have also been trafficked. Education and training, although empowering, without a platform is limiting. Many women become re-trafficked.
One successful model of reintegration that I researched in India is freedom businesses. Freedom businesses provide dignified employment for women who have been trafficked. This concept is comparable to a social enterprise. These businesses provide the support and care needed to transition into society including a community of women with shared life experiences and counsellors. Shrishti, the Loyal Workshop and Freeset are three freedom businesses I visited in India.
Through a preliminary environmental scan, I have only been able to find one freedom business in Canada. A Canadian initiative by Huronia Transition Homes entitled Operation Grow was launched in January 2017. More freedom businesses in Canada may exist, but the point I would like to highlight is this. As a graduate student, I have an abundance of resources at my finger tips. If there are more freedom businesses and I am struggling to find them, how much more difficult would it be for someone who has been trafficked to know about them? This is a problem. There is a need for Canada to explore implementing freedom businesses across Canada, as well as to amplify existing efforts.
Housing for women who have been trafficked is an integral piece of reintegration. In India, I visited a place called Mahima Home, which has four different homes related to human trafficking. At two of the homes the women and girls receive medical care, food, clothes, counselling, life skills, legal support, education, vocational training and job placements through partnerships with freedom businesses. There are extensive reintegrations strategies. The participants in the study identified that the home empowered them and helped them prepare for their futures. Many of the women expressed hope.
The SA Foundation is an example of a Canadian organization that is currently modelling a best practice for housing and reintegrating women who have been trafficked. In Canada, more housing tailored for women who have been trafficked that provides holistic care and facilitates reintegration is needed, including stage one emergency safe houses.
Second, sustainable funding for integrated supports and housing is needed.
In Canada, the most common age of trafficked women and girls is 13 or 14 years old. We need to consider who is vulnerable to trafficking in Canada and why? Whether because of religion, the legacy of colonialism and residential schools, access to higher education, gender or poverty. This is a history that we Canadians must learn to accept and work towards redressing.
My mother's best friend was sold into trafficking in Ontario. Forty years ago, young girls were sold for commercial sexual exploitation in Canada. Today, the issue is not only ongoing but growing.
In conclusion, education is needed on multiple fronts to combat human trafficking. But a massive concern is that there is lack of reliable data in Canada. We need to look at human trafficking from an interdisciplinary lens to address its complexities. The academic community could be mobilized to support research and create evidence informed approaches. We need to analyze existing efforts to determine gaps, program effectiveness and funding needs. Researchers, educators, data analysts and scholars need to work together to combat this issue and help end this injustice.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to any questions.
No. I've worked over 2,332 files. I have them in my foundation. However, that's over many years, and anything that I know about I report immediately to the police authorities in the province where it occurs. The fact of the matter is that we need to have formal data-gathering of these cases, and we need to have partnerships between police forces and NGOs.
Right now what's happening is that a lot of not-for-profit charities deal with trafficking victims, and a lot of the trafficking victims don't like them to call the police. It makes it very difficult for the police. I think the laws coming in have helped victims speak out, the very brave ones. It's like parents. It's very hard to get a parent to speak out after their child has been trafficked, because they're embarrassed about it. I don't know why. It's not their fault; it's the predator's fault.
I think we have to be very forward-thinking in getting this data gathered. When Diane was on the Women's Foundation, they did a marvellous job of gathering data about the number of victims of human trafficking. Their number was thousands ahead of the RCMP number, and my own son is RCMP. I'm very pro-police—I'm the most pro-police person—but they're usually about four years behind because they're so busy fighting multiple crimes, including huge drug and human-trafficking crimes, that I really think it takes government and parliamentarians to help put in a data collection mechanism.
People say they're going to. In the budget I just heard about a national phone line that could be called in to, but you need more than that. You need data gathering that's on the minute, right now.
Before I came to Parliament, I had a master's degree in education in mathematics and science. When we studied statistics, we learned that there are different ways of taking statistics. When I came to Parliament, I would see one group gathering statistics this way, and NGOs gathering statistics in another way. Someone should wake up to the fact that when non-governmental organizations are finding that they're dealing with thousands of human traffickers, and then we see what police forces have, and they're going by just the actual convictions they get. They're doing better and better in their statistics now, but they need to be current, because what happened two years ago is much different from what is happening now.
When I first came to Parliament, nobody knew about human trafficking. Don't blame them, because there was nothing on paper. In Parliament, if you put a bill down, you have to prove everything you do, and it's really difficult. You know something is going on, but you have to prove it, so you have to get multiple victims to talk, and that data gathering to this day is not very accurate.
I strongly recommend that this needs to be looked at, but it's not from just one source. It has to be from non-governmental organizations, from the aboriginal community, from police forces, from border patrols, from all these different organizations. We need to work together. Our tag line for the foundation is “working together to end human trafficking”, and I don't see that togetherness coming out in a real-world way so that the end product is such that you know exactly what's going on.
I hope that has answered your question.