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.