Steve Weatherbe

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Canadian Tory MP leaving politics to fight prostitution

Steve Weatherbe
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Winnipeg Conservative MP Joy Smith

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, January 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Prostitution’s staunchest foe in Parliament is stepping down as MP for the Winnipeg riding of St. Paul-Kildonan, but Joy Smith is not abandoning the cause of the thousands of young women and men trapped in prostitution.

The 67-year-old mother of six and ex-special needs teacher and businesswoman will still devote herself to the fight to stop prostitution and rehabilitate those it has enslaved, at the helm of the Joy Smith Foundation.

“I’ve always done things according to where God wanted me to be,” said Smith, who was a provincial MLA before her election to the House of Commons in 2004 and describes herself as “an evangelical Christian.”

“I pray all the time. My faith and my God are everything to me,” she said. Now, God wants her to continue to fight prostitution in Canada, but from outside Parliament.

Nobody could fault her for what she has accomplished inside it. Inspired by the work of her son, a member of a special RCMP police team aimed at stopping international  sex trafficking, she has used her time in Ottawa to get two private member’s bills passed amending the Criminal Code, the only MP in Canadian history to do so. Her first bill set a mandatory five-year sentence for trafficking children for sex; the second enabled Canadians to be prosecuted for sex offences against children committed outside Canada.

Smith next introduced a motion calling for a “national action plan” against international human trafficking, which the House of Commons unanimously endorsed. In 2012 the federal government announced its National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.

Smith was also, unsurprisingly, one of the principal promoters of the controversial new anti-prostitution law passed late last year that criminalized the buying of sexual services and third-party profiteering, but decriminalizes selling sexual favors except near schools or child care centres.

“That bill came about because the Supreme Court gave Canadians a Christmas present two Christmases ago which was to declare all existing laws on prostitution unconstitutional,” she told LifeSiteNews. “But they also gave the government a year to pass a new law.”

Smith helped assemble an unlikely coalition of church, feminist, and social justice groups to promote the so-called “Nordic” approach in Canada, and got many of them to make submissions to the government and then to the Commons and Senate justice committees.

There was opposition: some claimed the bill would make doing ‘business’ more difficult for women in prostitution; others said prostitution was a matter of a woman’s choice. Smith’s witnesses told a different story. “A very small number choose this life,” she said. “What young girl would choose to spend her night servicing one man after another and then giving all the money to a pimp?”

The typical story is that young runaways are befriended by pimps who gain their trust, then steal their identification, rape them and force them, in a state of shock, into prostitution. “They make $260,000 to $280,000 from each one,” she said.

Last year she told the House of Commons, “Prostitution exploits women, youth and vulnerable populations. It escalates gender inequalities by turning women's bodies into a commodity to be bought, sold, rented and exploited by men. In short, prostitution provides an avenue for abuse and violence.”

When the anti-prostitution bill was passed, there was an immediate reaction from civil libertarians calling on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and other premiers to negate it by ordering police and prosecutors to not enforce it. Wynne seemed sympathetic. “She misspoke,” declares Smith. “My own son in the RCMP was appalled. Politicians don’t tell the police what to prosecute.” Smith said that since then supporters of the new law have met with Wynne and, she believes, convinced her of its necessity.

But the job isn’t over. Smith says her foundation will carry on the fight in two ways: first, through public education. “When I entered Parliament nobody there knew anything about human trafficking,” she said. “Most Canadians still don’t know anything.”

Smith expects to do a lot of traveling to raise public awareness. The second function of the foundation will be to raise funds to support organizations across Canada helping women and men escape from the trade by running halfway houses, shelters, and vocational courses.

Smith’s time in Parliament belies the claims of some backbenchers that they are thwarted by the restrictions of party discipline. “If you believe in something strongly enough and are willing to work hard for it, you can accomplish a lot,” she said. Especially with prayer, she says. “I pray that no weapon formed against me shall prosper.”

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