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OTTAWA, September 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to extend the government’s 2012 “Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking” for another five years past 2016, expand help for victims, and establish special police units in four major cities.

At the same time the prime minister attacked opposition party leaders Thomas Mulcair of the New Democrats and Liberal Justin Trudeau for wrongheaded responses to the sex trade in Canada.

Harper said that trafficking is often run by criminal gangs who coerce workers into the trade or use threats and force to keep then there. This led into an attack at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who, Harper said, “voted against our legislation to criminalize the activities of pimps and johns. Justin doesn’t understand that prostitution is not a lifestyle choice, but is in almost all cases the result of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.”

As for the New Democrats, Harper claimed they were for “decriminalizing prostitution,” which was a “dangerously ideological” policy that puts the so-called “rights” of criminals ahead of those of “innocent victims.”

“I’m proud of our record to raise awareness and take action against the terrible scourge of human trafficking,” Prime Minister Harper said.  “We need to do even more to keep young women out of the hands of predatory criminal gangs and make our streets and communities safer.”

While several groups working to end the sex trade declined to comment, Diane Sowdon, executive director of the Children of the Street Society, applauded the promised expansion while wishing for more support for prevention.

“We really need these specialist police units,” she told LifeSiteNews, “because local police lack the expertise.” She also approved of expanded support for getting sex workers out of the business, but added, “I’d like to see more for prevention and education, which is what we do.”

The government’s existing program provides help for victims, increased police funding across the country, and the integration of existing police responses. The original plan also involves linking up with international efforts to crack down on sex trafficking since many sex slaves are very young, illegal female immigrants whose lack of landed status becomes a lever to keep them enslaved.

The election promise calls for the extension of the original plan for another five years, plus the establishment of new RCMP human trafficking teams in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg, the doubling of funding to help ex-sex trade workers re-integrate in society, and the proclaiming of February 22 as “National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.”

Children of the Streets’ Sowdon said community interest has grown hugely since she co-founded the  Coquitlam, B.C. organization in 1995. “Back then we couldn’t get our foot in the school door, even to talk to high school seniors. Now we present to 27,000 children a year. We are in Grade Four classrooms and we cannot meet the demand.” And that is why she wants more support for education.

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