Nova Scotia adds $1.4M to anti-human trafficking fund
Nova Scotia has the highest per-capita rate of reported trafficking cases in Canada
Nova Scotia is spending an additional $1.4 million annually for the next five years to address the province's high rates of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
The funding will be split between community groups, the Public Prosecution Service and the Department of Justice. It's being added to an existing $4 million that goes to anti-trafficking initiatives each year.
Organizations receiving some of the funding applauded the announcement Thursday.
YWCA executive director Miia Suokonautio called it "groundbreaking."
"Let's be clear, this is about girls. Our province is taking a position on girls. When was the last time ... we made a multimillion dollar investment publicly in girls?" she said.
Out of the $1.4 million, the YWCA will see $375,000 to help expand its staffing and the geographical reach of its services.
The YWCA has been one of the leading organizations in the province tackling the problem of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. It offers support services to victims and survivors and training to people who work with them, including police and social workers.
Indigenous women's centre reopens
Another $150,000 will go to the Jane Paul Indigenous Women's Resource Centre in Sydney, which was forced to close last year because of a lack of funding.
The centre is operated by the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association. The association's president, Annie Bernard-Daisley, said the funding will allow the centre to reopen and hire an executive director.
"It means the world to us," she told reporters.
"The province wants to talk about reconciliation — this is it. This is where it begins."
In 2016, the last year in which Statistics Canada gathered and compared rates of police-reported human trafficking, it found Nova Scotia had the highest per-capita rate of any province or territory.
Bernard-Daisley said it's also important to consider the added vulnerability that Indigenous women and girls face.
She called Canada's record of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls "deplorable," and expressed hope that reopening the Jane Paul centre would make for a safer future for Indigenous women and girls in Cape Breton.
The funding also includes:
- $100,000 for the Association of Black Social Workers to address human trafficking and sexual exploitation in black communities.
- $285,000 for three new family and victim support navigators to work in Halifax, Cape Breton and on the South Shore.
- $300,000 for the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia for a housing support program.
- $40,000 for the Public Prosecution Service to give specialized training to Crown attorneys.
- $150,000 for the Public Prosecution Service to hire a dedicated Crown attorney for cases of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Progressive Conservative MLA Karla MacFarlane has been pressing the governing Liberals to take action on human trafficking and sexual exploitation for the past two years, and tabled a series of bills on the issue in the fall of 2019.
Two specific actions from her bills appeared in the province's announcement Thursday, a dedicated Crown prosecutor and additional support workers.
"This is great news. I am sincerely thrilled that this is coming forward," MacFarlane told reporters.
But MacFarlane had also tried in 2019 to amend the Education Act to add human trafficking and sexual exploitation curriculum starting in Grade 7, which the government has not addressed.
"What we need to do is to see consistency in our schools across the province so that we're educating our children," she said.