Program to help stop sex trafficking is welcome

Posted on January 21, 2016 in Child & Family Delivery System – Opinion/Editorials – Covenant House has launched a program to try to prevent pimps from trafficking young girls for sex.
Jan 21 2016.   Editorial

It’s heartbreaking. Thousands of girls as young as 12 are being trafficked for sex across Ontario each day. It’s one of the fastest-growing, most lucrative crimes in the province.

But even though the girls are isolated, beaten, branded, mutilated, threatened with guns and forced to have sex with up to 15 clients a day there hasn’t been a concerted effort to help them escape from what’s known as “The Game.”

That’s why a $10 million multimedia campaign aimed at prevention, early intervention, and research announced by Covenant House this week is so welcome.

The program, called Just Like a Girl You Know — to emphasize girls from any background can be lured and trapped in The Game — is aimed at:
– Educating girls on the signs that a “boyfriend” is trying to lure them into sex trafficking.
– Teaching hoteliers, condo concierges and taxi drivers how they can intervene if they come into contact with a crime in action.
– Funding a 24-hour hotline that will send out trained workers to provide trauma counselling and court support.
– Providing transitional housing for up to seven victims of human trafficking at a time to give them round-the-clock aid.

The program could not be more timely, as criminals realize each girl they traffic can bring in more than $280,000 a year and there is little chance of being caught, never mind convicted. In fact, though trafficking for forced sex was outlawed in the Criminal Code of Canada in 2005 it was only last year that the first pimp in Toronto was convicted under the law.

While Covenant House’s approach is a first step, much more action is needed. For one, Premier Kathleen Wynne could quickly follow up on a recommendation made last year by an all-party legislative committee on sexual violence to establish a police task force to fight human trafficking. Ontario lags behind other provinces in targeting resources at this dire problem. In 2011, for example, the province committed just $1.95 million over three years to combat human trafficking. That same year, Manitoba, a province with a population just one-tenth the size, invested $8 million in its anti-trafficking programs.

At the time the committee made its recommendation, Wynne pledged to do “everything we can to be part of a solution to this problem.” Now is the time for her to prove that.

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