In May, Nova Scotia RCMP reported the number of suspected human trafficking cases in the province was on the rise.
In a move to support victims and protect future ones from the dangers of human trafficking, Progressive Conservative MLA Karla MacFarlane tabled three bills at parliament Thursday, in order to address what she calls a lack of support and education around the sexualization and trafficking of humans.
“This has been a hidden epidemic in Nova Scotia,” said MacFarlane, who was surprised by the statistics.
“I didn’t really know a lot about human trafficking and then I met some victims, and I met their families, their mothers and fathers, family members and friends,” she said.
“That’s why I am so very proud…to be introducing three pieces of legislation.”
The bills include amendments to the Education Act, so youth are taught the signs and dangers associated with human trafficking before they reach high school, while also boosting the Public Prosecution Act with a bill that would establish a Crown attorney team specializing in the sex trade.
The final bill deals with victim’s rights and would make it mandatory for a court support worker to be with victims at all times during hearings.
Sitting at the presentation table was Jennifer Holleman, and in a heartfelt, raw and tragic plea she shared the story of her daughter, Maddison Fraser, in order to put a face to the victims of human trafficking.
“Maddison was a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, but most importantly Maddison was a mom,” said Holleman, who fought back tears.
“Her little girl will spend the rest of her life growing up without her mom.”
At 19, Holleman says her daughter was lured into the sex trade, where she was tortured, physically and sexually abused and worse.
Fraser died in a car crash in Edmonton in 2015. She was just 21, and was a passenger in a car with a suspected john, who died as well. It’s believed alcohol and speed were a factor.
Although the story was hard to tell, the grieving mother said she doesn’t want the same to happen to anyone else.
“What happened to Maddison should never happen to any young woman ever,” said Holleman. “But it’s happening all over our country and it’s happening in our small towns.”
Holleman has been advocating and pressing the Nova Scotia government to do more, and she supported the Progressive Conservative motion and call to action on human trafficking.
The amendments were applauded by NS End Demand, an agency that looks to end prostitution.
“Women’s and children’s bodies are not for sale and we as a society are working to end the demand for prostitution,” said Bernadette MacDonald, a member of the organization.
Premier Stephen McNeil said the province will seriously look at the three bills tabled, and says he’s alarmed by the number of human trafficking cases in the province.