Original Post – Fall 2014: In a previous entry, we learned from Western Christian, feminist and ecological theologian Sallie McFague, that we need to think differently about our bodies and the body of the world. “We face difficult issues about the well-being of bodies, especially the most vulnerable ones, confronting us everywhere that we look: experimental genetics, endangered species, AIDS, the homeless, clear-cut logging practices, affirmative action laws, taxation policies, pollution control and water rights, abortion and contraception availability, immigration laws, health insurance and care, educational costs and opportunities and the list goes on and on. The range of eco-theological issues is endless, and the view from the body, especially the needy body, changes how we see every issue. To make things more complex, the rights of some needy bodies are often in competition with the rights of other needy bodies, as in the case of the livelihood of loggers versus the lives of nearly extinct animals or the allocation of scarce funds to meals for disadvantaged school children or for the housebound elderly.”
On top of this seemingly endless list of issues that concerns the body, we must not ignore a deep evil that is lurking right under our noses and that is the evil business of human trafficking. The trafficking of bodies is a lucrative business and ranks 2nd highest in world crime. It is shocking to learn the depth of such activities a disregard of the body that some would choose ownership of another human being selling/buying and making profit from such activities, whether for sexual exploitation, forced labor, domestic servitude or organ harvesting. For years and years evidence of human trafficking was staring at me, in the workplace, while traveling, in my community and although I was acutely aware of its effects I didn’t know what it was or what to call it until very recently when I came across the work of anti-human trafficking activist Joy Smith.
Mrs. Smith was introduced to the world of human trafficking through her son, a police officer, who worked in the Integrated Child Exploitation Unit (ICE Unit), a specialized police force trained in rescuing children from online child predators. As she saw the emotional and physical toll it exacted on her son she thought about what she could do in her community to help ordinary citizens to take a stand against human trafficking.
It didn’t take long for Mrs. Smith to realize the tragedy and devastated families left from human trafficking activities. Trafficking is a huge problem in Canada and our country has become somewhat of a haven and is considered both a transit and destination country for human traffickers. This heinous crime can make between $250,000-$260,000 on average per year for the average trafficker; they may stay in the business anywhere from 4-5 years making their profit, branding these women, then sell their “herd” of young girls to the highest bidder.
Empowered by her faith and resolve to make a difference Mrs. Smith entered the political arena and became a Member of Parliament in 2004. With sheer determination and feminine force, supported by her family and colleagues she wielded her sword of justice and struck a mighty blow to the common enemy becoming the only Member of Parliament in Canadian history to have amended the Criminal Code twice as a Private Member, both times to better protect victims from Human Trafficking. In October 2012, Mrs. Smith created The Joy Smith Foundation to educate and raise awareness of what human trafficking is, what families and communities can do to protect themselves. The foundation also provides funds and support to front-line organizations that rescue and rehabilitate victims of human trafficking.
“Human Traffickers are empowered by public apathy and emboldened by despair. So let us shake off the shackles of indifference, and refuse to be complacent. Let us work together to bring an end to this injustice as we rescue the victims of Modern Day Slavery.” – Joy Smith
A mother of six and former math and science teacher, Mrs. Smith came from humble beginnings her father was a veteran of World War II returning home physically, mentally and emotionally wounded physically. Mrs. Smith grew up with five siblings living in poverty on a farm in Manitoba, the family was extremely poor sometimes having to go without food. She understands what it means to survive if the land did not offer its sustenance for the family. In the video above she jokes that she can shoot a 22, pluck chickens, plant a garden – a perfect companion if you’ve found yourself deserted on an island. Extreme poverty especially for those who rely on wild animals and resources for a significant part of their income/sustenance become perfect victims for another facet of human trafficking – forced labor.
In fact, a recent study published by University of California, Berkeley ecologists reports a connection between biodiversity loss and child labor, human trafficking and other forms of exploitation. As forests are destroyed, habitat lost and fisheries over exploited, those populations have to work harder/travel farther just to survive. Some of them turn to other sources of income, and because of their low socioeconomic status, they are extremely vulnerable to being taken advantage of. This problem is then exacerbated because hunters and fishermen themselves are turning to child labor to cover the extra costs and reduced yields associated with working in a damaged environment.
“In both Canada and the U.S., Aboriginal women and girls seem to be uniquely vulnerable to human trafficking due to the long-term impacts of:
- Colonization, including the residential schools system, where generations of children were removed from their families and communities.
- “Widespread poverty, low educational attainment, high rates of community and interpersonal violence, high rates of alcohol-related deaths and suicide, poor physical health, and corroded family and community relationships.” (Shattered Hearts)
Mrs. Smith was also acknowledged for securing federal funding to fight the trafficking of aboriginal women and children from First Nations communities from across Canada. She received the Stand Firm Award presented by First Nations Women’s Council of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs for outstanding leadership and commitment to combating exploitation of First Nations People.
- The unanimous passing by the House of Commons in 2007 of her Private Members Motion M-153 on human trafficking which called on Parliament to condemn the trafficking of women and children across international borders for the purposes of sexual exploitation and to immediately adopt a comprehensive strategy to combat the trafficking of persons worldwide.
- Secured Federal funding to fight the trafficking of aboriginal women and children from First Nations communities from across Canada.
- September 2010, Ms. Smith released a proposal for a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking called Connecting the Dots. This proposal has been strongly endorsed by law enforcement, agencies and victims groups across Canada and adopted by the Conservative election platform in recent elections.
- Introduced Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years). This Bill amended Section 279.01 of Canada’s Criminal code to create a new offence for child trafficking with a five-year mandatory penalty. Bill C-268 received broad support from stakeholders in the fight against human trafficking including law enforcement, victims’ services, First Nations representatives, and religious and secular non-governmental organizations.
- June 29, 2010, Bill C-268 was granted Royal Assent and became law. The successful passage of a Private Members Bill is rare and it is only the 15th time in the history of Canada that a Private Members Bill amended the Criminal Code.
- October 3, 2011, MP Joy Smith introduced Bill C-310, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), Bill C-310 amends the Criminal Code of Canada to make two important changes about human trafficking. First, Bill C-310 adds the current trafficking in persons offences [s.279.01, s.279.011, s.279.02 & s.279.032] to the list of offences which, if committed outside Canada by a Canadian or permanent resident, could be prosecuted in Canada. The second amendment enhances the current definition of exploitation in the trafficking in persons offence [s.279.04 of the Criminal Code].
- Bill C-310 was supported by law enforcement, NGOs, and victim service representatives. It also received unanimous support from all MPs and Senators.
- June 28, 2012, Bill C-310 received Royal Assent and became law. MP Joy Smith became the first Parliamentarian in Canadian history to pass two Private Members’ Bill that amended the Criminal Code.
More of Ms. Smith’s accomplishments:
Winnipeg YMCA-YWCA Women of Distinction Awards: Circle of Inspiration (2012) – Presented to MP Joy Smith, Dianna Bussey, and Diane Redsky on May 2, 2012 for their work to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation. These women of distinction have stood up to fight for women and children who are vulnerable and at risk.
UN Women Canada Recognition of Achievement Award (2011) – Presented to MP Joy Smith on October 3, 2011 by UN Women Canada, National Committee for her contributions to gender equality through her advocacy of anti-trafficking legislation.
Stand Firm Award & Ceremonial Shawl (2011) – Presented to MP Joy Smith on January 19, 2011 by First Nations Women’s Council of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) for her ‘outstanding leadership and commitment to combating the sexual exploitation of First Nations People.
Ratanak Wilberforce Award (2010) – Presented to MP Joy Smith by Ratanak International Founder Brian McConaghy on December 2, 2010 for her dedication to ending the practice of the modern-day slave trade. The Wilberforce Awarded is inspired by William Wilberforce, a British MP in the early 1800s, sacrificed his personal and political life to end the Atlantic Slave Trade.
i Stand Award (2010) – Presented to MP Joy Smith by [FREE-them] on October , 2010 at the Toronto Stop Child Trafficking Walk for her ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking.
Glendene and Jessie Foster Award (2010) – Presented to MP Joy Smith by Walk with me on April 15, 2010, for her relentless work to implement human trafficking related policy and legislation.
My Canada 2009 Hero Award (2009) – Presented to MP Joy Smith by My Canada on November 16, 2009 for ‘resisting the injustice of human trafficking in Canada and abroad.’
Victor Award (2008) – Presented to MP Joy Smith by the Temple Committee Against Human Trafficking on April 13, 2008. The Temple Committee presents the Victor award each year to a Canadian who has made significant contributions to combating human trafficking.