Saturday, February 27, 2010

THE DARK SIDE OF OLYMPIC GLORY

From: Joy Smith, B.Ed., M.Ed,
Member of Parliament
Kildonan - St. Paul
www.joysmith.ca

Winnipeg, MB – Over the past two weeks, we Canadians have enthusiastically cheered on our athletes as they have competed for Olympic glory on our home soil in Vancouver. I, along with countless others, was so proud to watch our men and women vying to be the best in the world, and was filled with patriotism as the Maple Leaf was hoisted over the medal podium. I extend my warmest congratulations to all our Canadian athletes as we mark the close of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

Unfortunately, there was also a dark side to the Olympic Games in Vancouver: human trafficking. Similar to many other large sporting events where the demand for paid sex spikes, young women and girls were trafficked to Vancouver from across Canada to be sexually exploited for the gratification and profit of others.

As the 2010 Games began, the Citizens Summit Against Sex Slavery issued a press release noting that front line agencies in Vancouver had witnessed an increase in underage youth being bought and sold for sex on the streets of Vancouver. Even before the Games began, pimps and traffickers were posting ads on Craigslist to anonymously sell young women for sex.

The term sexual slavery is very deliberately used to call attention to the true nature of human trafficking. The young women and girls who fall prey to human traffickers are targeted because they are vulnerable in some way. They are first befriended by traffickers to gain their trust. However they are soon beaten, raped, and set to work servicing dozens of men a day in order to make a profit for their abusers. These young women are from all walks of life, but they are all someone's daughter, sister, or friend. They should be loved and valued, not stripped of their dignity and forced into sexual servitude. We would be horrified if this happened to our own daughters, yet so many people turn a blind eye to this heinous abuse of human rights when it is someone else's daughter who is suffering. It is much more comfortable to think of these women as "happy hookers" than as victims who need our help.

For many years, I have been working to stop human trafficking in Canada. One of my more recent efforts, Private Members’ Bill C-268, has successfully passed through the House of Commons and is currently being considered by the Senate. If passed, Bill C-268 would require a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years for anyone convicted of trafficking a person under the age of 18. It is time for Canadians to join the international community in taking a stand against this egregious crime against our children. You can help Bill C-268 become law by writing to Senators to encourage them to pass the Bill as quickly as possible.

Although our chance to prevent human trafficking at the 2010 Winter Games has passed, we still have the opportunity and responsibility to stop this growing crime in Canada. As we celebrate our athletes at the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics, let us not forget about those in the background of the Games that still need our help to recover their dignity and their futures.

For more information please contact:

Joel Oosterman
Chief of Staff
Office of Joy Smith, MP
Phone: (613) 992-7148
Email: smithj8@parl.gc.ca
Website: www.joysmith.ca