Nova Scotia

'Do something about it': Advocates welcome Tory proposal targeting human trafficking

Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservatives introduced three amendments on Thursday with the purpose of increasing support for survivors of human trafficking.

Amendments call for more education, survivor support and specialized prosecutors

Bernadette MacDonald, a member of Nova Scotians for the Prevention of Prostitution and Sexualized Human Trafficking, speaks at a news conference as Tory MLAs Steve Craig and Karla MacFarlane look on. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

It never gets any easier, but Jennifer Holleman keeps telling her daughter's story.

"My child was beaten multiple times, her jaw was broken," the Yarmouth County, N.S., woman told a news conference at Province House on Thursday.

"My child was burned with cigarettes, she was burned with lighters, her hair was set on fire. She was beaten beyond recognition. My child was sexually assaulted more than I'm sure I know."

Holleman said her daughter, Maddison, was 19 when she left home for Alberta and lured into the sex industry. She died two years later in a 2015 car crash in Edmonton. The man driving was believed to be her john.

Holleman was on hand as Tory MLA Karla MacFarlane detailed amendments to three pieces of legislation her party is proposing as a way to combat human trafficking. Those amendments include making the subject a consistent part of the curriculum for grades 7-9, establishing a specialized team of lawyers with knowledge about human trafficking and making it mandatory for a court support worker to attend court with survivors of human trafficking.

Jennifer Holleman has become a public advocate for support to combat human trafficking after the death of her daughter, who was lured into the sex industry in Alberta. (Steve Berry/CBC)

Bernadette MacDonald, a member of Nova Scotians for the Prevention of Prostitution and Sexualized Human Trafficking, called the proposed amendments "a comprehensive approach" to trying to deal with the problem.

"This will send a strong message to men and society generally that sexualized exploitation and human trafficking will not be tolerated," she told the news conference.

"This is a serious crime, it's the underbelly of society and we need to bloody well break the silence on this and do something about it."

Holleman said she's still angry that, despite two police investigations, there was "zero justice" for her daughter.

"What happened to Maddison should never happen to any young woman ever, but it's happening all over our country; it's happening in our large cities, it's happening in our small towns, in our rural communities, whether we want to believe it or not."

She said the Tory proposals are the kind of things needed to bring about change.

"And we need many more todays."

Government will review services

MacFarlane said a key aim of the proposed amendments is ensuring services are in place and people know where to go to get help. She noted that survivors often face obstacles in trying to come forward.

"We need to do better to let them know that the support services are there," she said.

"That's what these three bills today will do."

Justice Minister Mark Furey said his government has taken some steps to work on the issue, but he acknowledged more needs to be done. The government hired two specialized sexual assault prosecutors several years ago and dedicated police resources have also been put toward the issue.

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About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca