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New NAFTA agreement could help protect children from sexual exploitation

Beyond Borders ECPAT, Air Canada Foundation

Canada’s global voice against child sexual exploitation is praising trade negotiators for trying to protect children from trafficking in the new NAFTA agreement.

According to Beyond Borders ECPAT Canada, negotiators listened to and acted on concerns about potentially troubling language in the agreement, that could have shielded sex traffickers.

READ MORE: Child sexual exploitation in Canada: survivors reveal terrifying reality

“Beyond Borders/ECPAT Canada had been concerned that the agreement might include a blanket prohibition which would prevent Canada from imposing liability on internet providers for content,” said senior legal counsel David Matas in a release.

“We are pleased to see that the agreement would allow Canada to hold internet providers liable for online sexual exploitation of children. The rights of children here, as elsewhere, has to be a primary consideration.”

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The agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico includes an exception on digital trade which allows parties to take measures to protect against child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, listing the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) as an example of an appropriate restriction.

FOSTA is a U.S. public law that allows states and survivors to fight the online sex trafficking act, making it easier for U.S. prosecutors and survivors to hold internet platforms responsible for facilitating child and sex trafficking. The new NAFTA agreement allows “measures necessary to protect public morals” which are referenced in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), according to ECPAT Canada.

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READ MORE: How a rural Manitoba lodge is healing survivors of sexual exploitation in Canada

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This Human Trafficking Hotline (toll-free) 1-844-333-2211 provides 24/7 support and counselling to anyone being trafficked or affected by trafficking.

If you know of a child that is being harmed or neglected, call the 24-hour emergency child welfare number at 1-866-345-9241

Visit the Department of Justice’s Victim Services Directory or find your local Canadian Mental Health Association office to find support services near you.

Contact the Canadian Centre for Child Protection for help finding the proper support services in your area.

The SAFoundation supports women and children who have been affected by human trafficking and exploitation. Call them toll free at 1-866-876-6SAF.