Human sex trafficking and sexual exploitation for the purpose of prostitution is the fastest growing crime in the world – and must be stopped.
Cathy Peters brought this message to Salmon Arm council on March 22, one group of many politicians she has spoken to over the past seven years.
The key word is exploitation, she said. “This is modern-day slavery.”
She provided statistics for B.C. She said 13 is the average age of recruitment into the sex industry, much younger for Indigenous girls as a result of systemic racism.
In Surrey and Vancouver, the targets are girls 10, 11 and 12 years old – grades four, five and six.
“COVID has made this worse. Traffickers are now very organized and sophisticated,” she warned.
Ninety-five per cent of girls in prostitution want to leave. “It is not a choice, it is not a job.”
Peters, a former inner-city high school teacher, said she has been raising the issue of child sexual exploitation and trafficking since the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act became federal law in 2014, so police would enforce it.
She outlined its three parts, the first which criminalizes the buyers of sex, a part that doesn’t happen in B.C., she said. The second part recognizes the sellers of sex as victims so they are not criminalized, which is recognized in B.C. The third part is putting exit strategies in place to get the victims out of the sex trade.
She said Vancouver and Toronto are global sex tourism hot spots.
“Canada is known as a child sex tourism destination.”
The global sex trade is fueled by the internet where most of the luring is taking place, she said. Pornography also fuels it, with men and boys the buyers of sex and the key to ending exploitation.
She listed things parents can do. They included: treating children the way you want their future partners to treat them; talking to them about sexual abuse and sex trafficking; talking to them about the dangers of social media, and paying attention to them – monitoring their social media accounts, looking for ways to meet their friends and friends’ parents, and noticing if they have acquired new items.
So what can you do in Salmon Arm? she asked city council.
Train your staff what to look for when granting business licences, she suggested, listing a variety of business types that can be used as covers for sex trafficking exploitation.
She said no community is immune and noted that before COVID-19, her presentations were only to Lower Mainland cities.
“B.C. is getting farther behind all provinces in Canada, in both enforcing the federal law and raising awareness with prevention education.”
Peters’ website is www.beamazingcampaign.org.
Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond, the chair of Salmon Arm’s social impact advisory committee, suggested Peters’ presentation be shared with the committee as a first step.
“It’s certainly a conversation that’s difficult in every community, never mind a small community where we like to believe those things aren’t happening here,” she said.
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