Human trafficking and sexual exploitation are just a couple of the serious societal problems that have increased significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The impacts of such horrendous crimes are devastating, and, as the federal representative of Battle-River Crowfoot, I have and will continue to take steps to fight for the survivors and their families.
Trafficking individuals for sexual purposes may seem like a foreign concept in rural Alberta, and yet, the unfortunate reality is this grievous crime is far more prevalent than many realize. While there has been limited awareness in the past, various steps have been taken by organizations, law enforcement, and the government to bring the reality of human trafficking to the general population; what to watch for as traffickers seek to groom victims, and how to seek help.
This past December, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy, and Ethics launched an investigation for individuals who are being victimized and exploited through internet pornographic websites after a group of Parliamentarians called for action. One of the most alarming issues that arose during the investigation is the allegations against the Montreal-based company MindGeek, which operates the website Pornhub. I joined many of my Parliamentary colleagues in signing an open letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, calling for an investigation into MindGeek for their failure to remove illegal content including, but not limited to, child sexual abuse, sexual assault, human trafficking, and the posting of sexually explicit material without consent.
Canada has laws in place to deal with these types of matters, such as Criminal Code sections 162.1, 163.1 and an Act Respecting the Mandatory Reporting of Internet Child Pornography by Persons Who Provide an Internet Service. Yet, these laws can only protect vulnerable individuals through robust investigation and application by law enforcement. A process that is often very difficult when victims are marginalized.
The past couple of decades have seen positive steps taken in the stand against human trafficking. Bills have been passed in Parliament, penalties for perpetrators have increased, and numerous organizations have focused on advocacy for victims along with bringing awareness of trafficking and sexual exploitation to public attention. Steps continue to be made as action is also taken by the various levels of Government, such as Alberta’s Human Trafficking Task Force, to protect and empower survivors. There has even been a recent initiative to ensure staff at airports are trained to recognize the signs of someone who is being trafficked.
Together, as we grow in knowledge, we can make a difference and stop the exploitation of some of our most vulnerable.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this column, you are encouraged to write MP Kurek at 4945-50th Street, Camrose, Alberta, T4V 1P9, call 780-608-4600, text 403-575-5625, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also stay up to date with Damien by following him on social media @dckurek. If you are in need of assistance regarding a Federal Government program, or need assistance and don’t know where to turn, feel free to reach out to Damien’s office.