Across the aisle
By Chad Ingram
Published March 7, 2017
Who says being an Opposition member in a legislature controlled by a majority government means you can’t accomplish anything?
Late last month, Ontario’s Liberal government tabled a new piece of legislation entitled the Anti-Human Trafficking Act.
The province has a problem with human trafficking – typically of girls and young women for sexual purposes – that is only beginning to get the light it deserves to have shone on it.
Of police-reported cases of human trafficking in Canada, two thirds occur in Ontario.
The government’s new legislation, which it tabled in Queen’s Park Feb. 22, proposes help for victims of human trafficking.
It recommends giving victims the right to sue their traffickers, rather than having to relive their trauma in a courtroom, as well as allowing for the enforcement of protection orders against traffickers on behalf of victims.
These and many other stipulations of the bill were borrowed directly from a private member’s bill called the Saving the Girl Next Door Act. That bill was tabled by Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott more than a year ago.
And while the government never called Scott’s bill to committee – a process a bill must undergo before it is voted into law – it clearly thought enough of the cause and the ideas Scott presented to place them in its own bill on human trafficking.
Scott was recognized by the Liberals for her hard work on the file. So at least credit was given where credit is certainly due.
In late 2014, Scott, who is the PC critic for women’s issues, spearheaded the creation of an all-party standing committee on sexual violence and harassment, on which she served as vice-chair.
An alarming finding in the committee’s final report, which was released in 2015, was the frequency of human trafficking in Ontario. It was a cause a disturbed Scott decided she would champion, creating her private member’s bill.
After Premier Kathleen Wynne prorogued the legislature before MPPs resumed sitting last fall – thereby allowing her to press reset on the legislative agenda and killing any bills that were making their way through the process – Scott re-tabled the Saving the Girl Next Door Act in Queen’s Park.
“It’s clear this government is not serious about human sex trafficking legislation when they continue to drive the agenda for their own gain,” Scott said in the legislature Sept. 21, criticizing the government for failing to pass legislation following the standing committee’s report. “Frontline service providers and workers are exasperated that there is still nothing advancing the law to support them in fighting this horrific crime.”
That the government has finally introduced legislation on the issue is a victory for victims of human trafficking and their families and Scott should be commended on her persistence and dedication to the issue.
She’s demonstrated that just because one is sitting across the aisle from power in a majority government situation, doesn’t mean that person is without power to affect change.