As Ottawa's echo-ocracy worked itself into stage five incoherence over a backbench MP's motion on sex-selection abortion, the following words quietly appeared on another MP's website:
"Help is needed to support a young girl who was recently rescued from human traffickers. She was bought and sold into the sex trade for nine years. Now she is free. She needs food, clothing, shelter, medicine, counseling, and rehabilitation. We would also like to provide her, when she is ready, funds for education courses to help her restore her life. Your generous donation, large or small, will make a huge difference in the life of this young girl."
The echo-ocracy—that gabble of politicians and pundits who overwhelm the national attention span and dominate the conversation—didn't even notice. No, in their usual mono-focus, yammer-and-hammer fashion all that mattered for 48 hours was repeating the words "abortion" and "back bench revolt" over and over and over and over and over again.
Unfazed by the incessant reverb, Manitoba MP Joy Smith simply went on with her work of fighting human trafficking in Canada, and with the immediate task of organizing a fundraising dinner for her foundation on April 11 at Winnipeg's historic Fort Garry Hotel.
"Did you know that some of the young women are branded, just like cattle?" Smith asks me during an interview. "They have the name of their 'controller' burned into their skin."
If that question alone doesn't make your skin crawl then you need to see a dermatologist, a psychiatrist, or a priest. To think that a hallmark of the two of the worst barbarisms in human history—the slave trade and Naziism—is common practice in Canada should make anyone with a head, heart, and soul want to weep.
Perhaps it's also what makes us want to look away or, even worse, to adopt the 1000-yard stare of disbelief. Since 2003, Smith has refused to do either. That's when she got involved in the fight against human trafficking.
She was motivated by the emotional toll she saw it taking on her own son, an RCMP officer assigned to the Integrated Child Exploitation unit.
"This is modern day slavery and it's happening right here in Canada," Smith says matter-of-factly. "We can't just pretend it's not."
We must, she says, disabuse ourselves of common, wrong-headed assumptions about what human trafficking is. While "98 per cent" of its victims are young women, they are not all illegal immigrants smuggled here from obscure Eurasian failed states. In fact, the vast majority of victims are Canadian-born. It's a homegrown horror perpetrated by domestic criminals, not something that can be fought by tightening border controls or scanning the horizons for suspicious container ships.
"Aboriginal women are particularly vulnerable," Smith says.
The women are traded among "controllers" in cities, towns, villages, hamlets, and rural municipalities across Canada. Even Smith, who has witnessed it all in a decade's commitment to the fight, has to pause for a moment when she talks about the case of a young woman who was rescued from the basement of a farmhouse where she had been kept for three months servicing local yokels.
"We eventually lost her again," she says softly. "Her parents gave up on her. So many parents just can't accept that their daughters have been sexually involved with so many men because they don't understand that their daughters are the victims."
Her comment illuminates two other misunderstandings about human trafficking: that it is someone else's problem, and that nothing can be done about it.
"We must understand this is not a socioeconomic issue. [The victims] come from all walks of life. Their whole sense of identity is stripped away, in most cases literally. A driver's license, a passport, anything that will give them a separate sense of identity is taken away. They become wholly dependent on the controller. They have nowhere else to go."
Or they didn't. In addition to guiding two pieces of legislation through Parliament to help combat human trafficking legally, Smith is active in a network of safe houses set up across the country to give victims a place they can go for security, shelter, food, clothing, and eventually education. Her foundation raises funds to help enable the network to keep giving and helping.
In that, Smith herself helps to disabuse a myth that transcends even the issue of human trafficking. At age 66, having enjoyed a long career as an educator, her motivation is not the political limelight. It's Christian witness. Simple, whole-hearted, Christian witness. She sees the battle as a critical part of her Christian life. And she sees Canadian Christian communities at the forefront of that fight every day.
The echo-ocracy, obsessed as it is with babbling in crude caricatures, doesn't even notice. And that, too, should make our skin crawl.
More information on Joy Smith and the Hope, Vision, Action fundraising dinner is available here.