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Alaya McIvor says that, at 12, she was put on a Greyhound to Winnipeg, alone with a one-way ticket and no one waiting at the other end.

May Truong/The Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail's ongoing coverage of missing and murdered indigenous women has exposed another ghastly outcome of allowing an entire segment of the Canadian population to become lost and vulnerable: While aboriginal women make up four per cent of the population, they are believed to make up half of all women being trafficked for sexual purposes in this country.

Girls as young as 10 are being lured into situations where they are bought and sold like livestock, beaten, drugged, raped and put on the street to sell their bodies for the profit of the criminals who control them. Those that get out alive suffer post-traumatic mental health issues and physical scars. Those that die or go missing become another MMIW statistic.

Both the U.S. State Department and the United Nations have criticized Ottawa's reluctance to acknowledge the sexual exploitation of aboriginal girls and the extent of sex trafficking inside Canada. Ottawa needs to step up and own this issue.

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The Liberal government could broaden the mandate of its promised MMIW public inquiry to include victims of trafficking, since the roots of both issues are identical. More immediately, Ottawa and the provinces need to spend money on policing and on services for those being exploited and trying to escape. As one person tells The Globe, these girls and women need to be introduced to safe Canadian society the same way Syrian refugees are. Their need is as desperate.

Finally, the Liberals should seize this moment to rewrite the flawed prostitution law passed by the Conservatives, a law that pushes prostitution into the margins, where the traffickers and their ilk are waiting.

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