In Manitoba, this week until March 11th, is Stop Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Week. This spring, the province is expected to announce a new piece of legislation to protect children.
The Child Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking Act will increase perpetrators’ accountability by allowing victims of exploitation and trafficking to obtain protection orders against their attackers.
Family Services and Labour Minister Jennifer Howard spoke in light of the occasion. “Our children are precious and everyone has a role to play in ensuring they are protected,” she said. “Through strong legislation and by working with community organizations, Manitoba is confronting those who are sexually exploiting our children.”
According to the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, released by the US State Department annually, “Canadian women and girls, particularly from aboriginal communities, are found in conditions of commercial sexual exploitation across the country.”
Trafficked women and children of Asian descent are most common in Vancouver and Western Canada, while those of European origins are most common in central and Eastern Canada.
Among the TIP Report’s recommendations is that Canada better coordinate work between national, provincial and local authorities as well as “increase efforts to educate police, prosecutors, and judges about trafficking and how to effectively use Canadian anti-trafficking laws.”
Canada has already established a legal framework as concerns human trafficking. At the federal level, Section 279.01 of the Criminal Code prohibits all forms of human trafficking, and imposes a penalty of 14 years incarceration for perpetrators of the crime. Section 118 of the 2002 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act further prohibits transnational human trafficking, which comes with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a $1 million in fines.
A private member’s bill on child trafficking was approved in June 2010. The bill establishes a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for traffickers and a maximum life-sentence if kidnapping, aggravated assault, or aggravated sexual assault is involved.
Community groups in Chilliwack, British Columbia, are also observing Stop Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Week.
In 2007, the British Columbia government established the Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons (OCTIP), which works to coordinate the province’s strategy to combat trafficking. Through its partnerships, support to law enforcement actors and the courts, the office protects victims and prevent trafficking from taking place.