Joy Smith Foundation says all girls at risk of exploitation
'Human trafficking: Canada's Secret Shame' is a new documentary produced by The Joy Smith Foundation
If you're a girl, you're at risk, according to former Member of Parliament Joy Smith, who has created a new tool to keep girls safe from the lure of human traffickers.
"I've dealt with kids from all races, all statuses in their family, from really rich families to very poor families," said Smith, the founder and president of the Joy Smith Foundation.
Smith's foundation works to raise awareness about human trafficking in Canada.
This gives an opportunity to really broaden awareness.- Danny Smyth , Winnipeg Police Chief
Her latest tool is a documentary called "Human Trafficking: Canada's Secret Shame." The 90 minute film features the voices of survivors, former traffickers, parents, police and non-profit organizations who work with victims.
Smith said she was inspired to make the documentary once she had left politics.
"I got so many emails from survivors who said our voice is going to go away," said Smith. "I said no it's not, and they said you have to document some of this, so that inspired me."
The foundation has teamed up with RCMP, the Winnipeg Police Service and Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata to give the documentary a wider reach.
Smyth said human trafficking is an especially challenging issue for police because much of it happens online. He said it's important to partner with grassroots organizations who work closely with the service's counter exploitation unit.
"Not everyone trusts the police right off the bat," he said.
The RCMP already gives talks in classrooms across the province, educating children about predators and how human trafficking works, but Sgt. Tara Clelland, who is with the Missing and Exploited Person's Unit, said this video will be another tool she can use.
Clelland echoed Smyth's concern about traffickers using online tools to exploit girls. She said "social media has touched a huge part of their lives, they are on social media all the time and traffickers know that as well."
Clelland said for many students her presentation is the first time they've heard about this issue.
"[The] average age of recruitment is 13 years-old," she said. "We are now going into schools younger and younger and having these conversations with kids, way younger than what we may have in previous years."
The daughter who comes home, is never the daughter who left- Joy Smith
Smith said the conversation should be starting at 10 years-old, but said she respects that not all parents are ready to have that talk yet.
Smith said the documentary tones down details that would be too graphic for a young person, but doesn't tone down the message: "It's just plain and simple, it's authentic, it's what really happens."
The foundation will be launching a school program for grade eight to 12 in a few weeks, which teachers can use in their classrooms. Smith said a parent's handbook is also in the works so they can recognize the signs of predators and behaviours of an exploited child.