By Jenn Watt
Published Sept. 27, 2016
Aside from giving the provincial government a chance to press the reset button on its flagging poll numbers, the prorogation of the legislature earlier this month had another side effect: bills making their way through the legislative process died.
Which is why last week, our MPP Laurie Scott reintroduced her anti-human trafficking bill, Saving the Girl Next Door.
The bill had passed second reading when Queen’s Park shut down – and despite the Liberals announcing $72-million to enhance safeguards for those falling victim to trafficking, Scott says her legislation is still necessary.
The government’s plan increases awareness about the causes of trafficking; beefs up the justice system to better investigate and prosecute traffickers; better works with indigenous communities; and develops an Anti-Human Trafficking Co-ordination Office.
Scott’s plan would add a few other elements, namely put traffickers on the sex offenders registry; give the courts the ability to issue a protective order for youth over 15; and give victims the power to sue their trafficker.
According to the provincial government, 65 per cent of human trafficking cases in Canada come from Ontario and of those cases reported, 70 per cent are for sexual exploitation. Contrary to popular opinion, the vast majority of victims of trafficking are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
Back in February, when Scott’s legislation was making national headlines, Premier Kathleen Wynne told the Canadian Press: “I’m sure that some of the measures in the private member’s bill that the member is bringing forward will be part of the conversation as we develop the strategy, but it will only be part of it.”
Wynne promised that her government’s plan would be broader in scope than what Scott had proposed, which is true.
However, several of the mechanisms in Saving the Girl Next Door can only improve what the government laid out.
And so Scott is reintroducing her bill.
It is rare that private member’s bills make it through all of the steps to become legislation, but it does happen.
As was noted by a victims services worker in Sudbury in an interview with CBC, teenage girls are often targeted by traffickers through social platforms such as Facebook and Snapchat. Race and class do not determine who falls victim.
It’s important that we equip our police and prosecutors with the tools they need to shut down trafficking in Ontario. Scott’s bill has been endorsed by victims’ advocates, law enforcement and municipal governments across the province.
This legislation deserves to get passed. Let’s hope second time’s a charm.