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The Globe and Mail

A 'family affair' to counter human trafficking

Joy Smith almost gave up on her bill for stricter sentences for human traffickers after her husband's devastating cancer diagnoses.

But the Conservative MP's family, especially her RCMP officer son, Edward, encouraged her to keep up the fight. His work in that area was Ms. Smith's inspiration for her private members' bill.

Even before she was elected to her Winnipeg-area riding in 2004, she had volunteered, working with trafficking victims. She had been disturbed and moved by their stories.

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"It had become a family affair to try to get it through," she recalled in a recent interview.

In July her bill, giving mandatory minimum prison sentences of five to six years for human traffickers, became law.

And to build on that, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced Tuesday morning a partnership with Crime Stoppers as part of a campaign - the Blue Blindfold campaign - aimed at reporting and raising awareness about human trafficking.

He paid tribute to Ms. Smith for her work at a news conference. "This crime is disturbing and uncomfortable and it needs to be stopped," Mr. Toews said, noting that Canada is not immune to human traffickers.

He said that most of the trafficking victims, who are usually forced into the sex trade, come from Asia, including South Korea, China, Taiwan and Malaysia. As well, there are victims from Eastern Europe, including Ukraine. But he noted there is very little data on the extent of human trafficking in Canada.

Part of the campaign includes a video depicting people wearing blue blindfolds as they go about their everyday activities. This is to emphasize that Canadians should not turn a blind eye to the issue.

Officials are hoping Canadians will twig to the problem and report crimes, especially given they can now do so through the anonymity of Crime Stoppers

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For Ms. Smith, however, all of this has been bittersweet. She has achieved what few backbench MPs ever achieve - she made law and made a difference to the trafficking victims, some of whom she knows and keeps in contact with. But it came amid her husband, Bart's, continuing battle against an aggressive form of lymphoma.

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