Opposition denounces federal government for lapse of $75M in sex trafficking money

Opposition party leaders sent a letter addressed to Justin Trudeau denouncing what they says is the government’s decision to let funding lapse for organizations that support human trafficking survivors.

The promise was for $75 million and the letter was signed by members of parliament from each opposition party.

The parties held a news conference Thursday to demand action.

Each voiced concerns that since the end of March, frontline organizations that support survivors and women trying to escape the sex trafficking and sex trade industry are out of money.

Atwin said these services are vital and of special interest to Indigenous populations because a large amount of women caught up in sex trafficking are Indigenous.

“The ongoing impact of residential schools combined with the racism inherent in our legal and justice systems has meant that too many Indigenous women have been trafficked and sexually exploited. Too many of those are now missing or murdered,” Atwin said.

Atwin quoted Article 22 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People which states that parties should take measures in conjunction with Indigenous Peoples to ensure that Indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.

Lindsay Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe), NDP critic for Women and Gender Equality said this failure goes along with the government’s lack of a plan to respond to the calls to action in the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“One of the calls to justice from the inquiry is to address the large number of Indigenous women who are trafficked both within Canada and across its borders,” she said. “Women and indigenous women are tired of cuts, they’re tired of excuses and tired of delays.

“We need action now.”

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett announced last week that due to the COVID 19 pandemic they will not meet their June 3 deadline for an action plan.

Bennett’s office told APTN News that a lot of the same people who were working on the action plan are now busy keeping their communities safe from COVID 19 and that the June date for the plan was “ambitious” but wasn’t a firm commitment.

Conservative MP Karen Vecchio said the Liberals announced the $75 million back in September but now without that money, organizations dedicated to supporting victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking had to close their doors.

She raised her demand to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair in the House of Commons Thursday asking, “The simple question is, where is the money?”

Karen Veccio (Elgin-Middlesex-London) holds the same critic position for the Conservatives.

She demanded to know what happened to the money that was supposed to go to trafficking.

“Last week organizations had to close their doors and end programs to help vulnerable women and girls,” she said. “So the simple question is, where is the money?”

Simple question – but Blair didn’t answer it.

“We have to ensure that we provide the supports necessary to the victims of this crime,” Blair said instead. “We have, as the member knows, launched a new national strategy to combat human trafficking.”

Vecchio said support for frontline organizations is the true measure of the Liberal government’s commitment.

“It’s great that we have a strategy, but when money’s not going to the doors of these organizations that provide these services a strategy does nothing. All talk, no action. Where is the money?”

Opposition parties called for a switch from project based funding to core funding that organizations can rely on year to year.

Reporter / Ottawa

Originally from the Cree Nation of Chisasibi on the eastern coast of James Bay, Quebec, Jamie has lived in Ottawa since 2015. Trained in journalism at Carleton University, he has worked as a freelance print journalist and as a writer/researcher for the Cree unit of CBC North out of Montreal. Jamie was hired as the reporter/correspondent for the Ottawa bureau in October 2019.