The Joy Smith Foundation unveiled a public service announcement created to help fight human trafficking at the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre on Tuesday.
The PSA, with a hashtag of #ShesNotForSale, depicts a young girl being exploited as a prostitute and is expected to hit TV screens across Canada soon.
“This PSA is designed to snap everyone into the reality faced by thousands of girls in Canada each day,” said Diane Redsky, the Centre’s executive director. “(It’s) to educate Manitobans on the crime of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
“This is critically important for a few reasons. Sex trafficking is forced prostitution and is an extreme form of violence against women and girls. The biggest risk factor is just being a girl. The most common recruitment age is 13. Traffickers can financially gain up to $280,000 a year just for trafficking one girl in Canada.”
The victims are usually the most marginalized women but can also come from upper-class homes.
“Sex trafficking exists because there is a demand to buy women and girls for sex,” Redsky said.
More boys have also been victimized lately, said former MP Joy Smith.
“The foundation’s mandate — part of it — is this educational piece: it takes a nation to stop human trafficking,” Smith said. “It’s called modern-day slavery.”
Smith helped to change local laws related to prostitution while still an MP.
“Winnipeg is one of the rare cities in Canada that does not criminalize women who are sexually exploited,” Redsky said. “Instead, they are putting their efforts into going after the demand, which is something that fuels sex trafficking.”
RCMP assistant commissioner Kevin Brosseau said convicting the profiteers is not easy.
“It’s actually quite difficult because, to gather the evidence necessary to be able to take a case to prosecution, you have to be able to get the evidence associated to it and that means a willing victim, someone that’s willing to testify in a court proceeding,” Brosseau said. “In many cases, people have been exploited, they’re vulnerable, they’ve had a very difficult life. They don’t trust the police, they don’t trust the courts, they don’t trust the system. All they want is out, or they’re having other issues.”
Yet, Smith told the story of how one victim’s testimony resulted in a Russian mob boss getting deported.
Some who have been rescued from that life by the Foundation are helping other victims, Smith said.