They may not share the same views when it comes to politics, but on the issue of child slavery, these five Canadian MPs all agree: it needs to stop.
The chance to travel with World Vision coincided with the Canadian government’s launch of the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.
Wayne Easter, Russ Hiebert, Dean Allison, Wai Young and Isabelle Morin, took to the bustling streets of Phnom Penh and Bangkok, where they met slavery’s youngest victims.
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“These kids are no less smart, have no less potential, than our kids in North America,” said MP Wayne Easter from Malpeque, Prince Edward Island. “We are losing this potential to slave labour.”
Approximately, 126 million kids are trapped in 3D jobs: dirty, dangerous and degrading. Another 1.2 million are trafficked for labour or sexual exploitation, often left living on the streets.
Travelling through Cambodia and Thailand, the five MPs were able to put faces to these figures.
One child sticks out in MP Russ Hiebert’s mind. “I asked what his goal in life was,” says the MP for South Surrey, White Rock and Cloverdale, B.C., “He said, it was to live in a foster home with someone who loved him.”
To these kids love and security mean the world. Many of them also dream of going to school. Instead, they are homeless, neglected and taken advantage of.
“We’re always encouraging our kids to seek higher education. But these kids don’t have the opportunity to be educated or even to work their way out of poverty,” says Niagara-West MP, Dean Allison.
Canada Combats Trafficking
Children and adults are trafficked into Canada to work as labourers, domestic servants and sex trade workers. Last February alone, there were 46 cases of human trafficking prosecuted in Canadian courts.
Then there’s the shopper’s dilemma: did the tiny hands of an underpaid child worker help create your latest purchase?
“When we buy things, we tend to trust the brands, but I think it’s important we hold them accountable to using fair workplace initiatives. Canadians need to ask those questions,” says MP Allison.
MP Easter agrees, “I don't think anybody wants garments that have been produced as a result of conditions that are really human abuse.”
Change is Possible
And yet, the MPs still witnessed hope and joy.
At World Vision’s Bamboo Shoots Street Children Centre in Phnom Penh, the MPs shared laughs and high-fives with the kids.
The centre is part of the organization’s Street Children Transformation Project; where street youth receive food, shelter, vaccinations and schooling. And whenever possible, they are also reunited and re-integrated with their own families.
“There was a girl, about 20-years-old, who had been in the sex trade for about 18 months,” adds MP Easter, recalling a visit to World Vision’s Trauma Recovery Centre in Phnom Penh. “She had just gotten married and was showing us wedding pictures. No doubt she carried scars with her that we couldn’t see, but it showed me the resilience of the human character.”