View From the Legislature

Combatting Human Trafficking Begins with Awareness

  • Kelvin Goertzen, Author
  • Member of the Legislative Assembly, Steinbach

The issue of human trafficking has become more prominent in recent years as awareness of its reality has grown. That is important because for many years most people likely had not heard about the problem, or perhaps felt that it was something that happened somewhere else in the world but not in Canada.

Thanks to the efforts of law enforcement and advocates such as former Member of Parliament Joy Smith, founder of the Joy Smith Foundation which is dedicated to combatting human trafficking, there is a much greater understanding of the local realities of human trafficking. And with that awareness comes greater ability to identify the signs of human trafficking and support the victims.

Last year I was honoured to, as Minister of Justice, provide financial support for a national awareness campaign called “See the Trafficking Signs” to help further educate Canadians about the typical indicators of someone being trafficked. As well, I was pleased to work together with law enforcement agencies across the province to help establish an integrated missing persons unit in Manitoba, a key piece in helping those who are vulnerable to being trafficked.

For many years, Manitoba has set aside a dedicated day to help enhance awareness about human trafficking. Manitoba’s Human Trafficking Awareness Day is marked on the Thursday of the second full week in March. This awareness is critical for the public, but it is also important for those who are dedicated to ending human trafficking and to preventing young people from being lured into the sex trade.

Part of that awareness is around ensuring that there is cross border cooperation as often victims of the sex trade are moved across borders. Ensuring that law enforcement officials are able to share accurate and timely information is a key part of catching predators. As well, ensuring that there is assistance for victims is incredibly important as the demand for this type of support is significant. As an example, since its inception, The Joy Smith Foundation itself has helped more than 6,000 human trafficking survivors and their families.

Another important aspect in preventing human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children is ensuring that young people and their parents know the dangers presented by online predators., operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection in Winnipeg, provides a place for tips and education about online sexual abuse. Sadly, this is a crime that is only increasing as there has been a 150% increase in reports of sextortion to the line in just the past six months alone.

There are a number of things that are important toward the goal of reducing human trafficking in Canada and abroad. Legislation that makes it harder for predators to operate is important as is awareness campaigns that help the public identify those who may be at risk. Organizations that help victims and provide support to families is a key element as are online resources like Recently I also received notices from Inner City Women’s Ministries International that they are encouraging people throughout Manitoba to pray on Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

As we approach Human Trafficking Awareness Day lets remember that every day there are people locally, in Canada and around the world who are being trafficked. It will take a collective effort on many fronts to bring an end to this crime which is devastating the lives of many young people.