Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod calls it “Ontario’s Dirty Little Secret.”
MacLeod, speaking at the Barrhaven Hampton Inn Fri., Oct. 20 as part of her Lunch and Learn Series, addressed the issue of sex trafficking
“It’s happening in every community across Ontario,” MacLeod said. “It’s happening in every hotel across the province of Ontario. One of the hot spots for North America is up and down the 401.
Human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes worldwide. Ontario is a hub for human trafficking, with the most police-reported incidents of human trafficking in the country, accounting for approximately 55 per cent of all police-reported incidents of human trafficking nationally.
According to the Government of Ontario, the average age of recruitment into sex trafficking is approximately 13 years old. Over 70 per cent of human trafficking victims identified by police are under the age of 25.
“This is happening to girls in our community as young as 11 years old,” MacLeod said. “They are from families like mine and yours. Girls as young as 11 are trapped into this lifestyle because she’s been groomed. They have put her into a situation where she has decided that the man or boy or other women – she trusts them. They are the voices of support.”
MacLeod became aware of Ontario’s sex trafficking problem after meeting Cynthia Bland, who spoke at the breakfast. Bland was first groomed by a neighbour who became friends with her parents at the age of five. The neighbour became sexually aggressive with her at six. Her family moved away when she was seven, but she was already an outsider filled with self doubt. She had abandonment issues when her father moved to New Zealand when she was 11. The next year, she was assaulted by five boys in the woods near Carlington Park. Two of the boys raped her.
Bland overcame a lifetime of abuse and was a victim of trafficking and turned her life around. She is a mother of four with a successful career. Bland, a sales and marketing consultant, is the founder and President of Voice Found. a non-profit organization committed to preventing child sexual abuse and supporting the healing of adult survivors. She started Voice Found because she understands firsthand the devastating effects of child sexual abuse.
MacLeod was honoured to have Bland join her, and told the crowd how important the issue was to her.
“Rowan’s Law was near and dear to my heart because it was a piece of legislation I developed right here in Barrhaven with (the family of) one of our constituents who passed away as the result of multiple concussions,” MacLeod said. “This would be right up there with that – I wouldn’t call it number two. I would call it number 1.5.
“Sex trafficking is important to me, not because I have intimate experience with it. I had the opportunity and I think the best privilege of my life to serve in cabinet and one of the most privileged positions I ever had was the minister responsible for of women’s issues.”
In 2021, the Ontario government introduced the Combatting Human Trafficking Act, new legislation and amendments to existing legislation to build upon the province’s $307 million Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy. The changes included two new acts – the Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy Act, 2021 and the Accommodation Sector Registration of Guests Act, 2021 – as well as amendments to the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 and the Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking Act, 2017.
MacLeod stressed that the victims of sex trafficking are not from marginalized families. They are from normal, middle class families where no one would suspect something was wrong. She said it happens in every hotel in the province.
“This is happening in Ottawa,” MacLeod said. “It’s happening in Nepean and it’s happening right here in Barrhaven. It’s time that we took a stand and say no.”
To learn more about human sex trafficking, visit www.voicefound.ca.
Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod hosted a Lunch and Learn Series session at the Barrhaven Hampton Inn on the topic of sex trafficking.