As the city marks its first Stop Human Trafficking in Saskatoon day, a former MP is in town to remind residents that the crime can happen to anyone at any time.
Joy Smith will take the stage at the Broadway Theatre Monday at 7 p.m. for a free lecture on the realities of human trafficking in Canada, including Saskatoon.
“It’s the modern day slave trade,” Smith said.
A former Manitoba representative for Kildonan-St Paul, Smith successfully introduced new laws that target predators in Canada. Her Saskatoon talk will include ways to identify potential traffickers and victims, how trafficking occurs and how families and communities can spot the signs and protect themselves.
Smith said perpetrators are in it for one thing; money. She said they can earn $260,000 to $280,000 per victim.
She said traffickers often begin by earning the trust and friendship of their victims, often pretending to be boyfriends, confidants and friends.
“The red flags are when they start to separate the girls from their support systems,” Smith said, adding predators may ask to hold onto a victims ID for safety or show quick desire to marry and move away from family.
“They’re just kids and the perpetrators pick on them because they’re easy to manipulate, influence and impress,” she said.
Smith believes lack of action before now was because people believed it was prostitution. She said while some women choose to engage in sex work, she said many ignored the underage girls who were forced into selling their bodies.
“Girls need to know it’s not their fault and they are worth something,” she said, adding new laws have opened channels of dialogue and means of counseling, rehabilitation and hope.
Smith fell into the world of human trafficking by accident, but it spurred her to enter politics. Her son was a police officer with the Integrated Child Exploitation Unit and shared his stories with his mother.
Smith entered politics in 2004 to make changes, and retired in 2015 to focus on educating the public about human trafficking. She started the Joy Smith Foundation to stop human trafficking of all people through public education and support for organizations that work with victims.