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Opposition MPs call for action over lapse in funding to fight human trafficking

The London Abused Women's Centre is offering online and over-the-phone counseling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The London Abused Women's Centre is offering online and over-the-phone counseling during the COVID-19 pandemic. London Abused Women's Centre Website

London NDP and Conservative MPs joined forces with other opposition parties to call for action from the Liberal government over the recently lapsed funding for organizations supporting victims of human trafficking.

On Thursday in a joint conference, Conservative MP for Elgin Middlesex London Karen Vecchio, NDP MP for London Fanshawe Lindsay Mathyssen, and Green Party MP Jenica Atwin spoke to media about the joint letter they sent to the federal government about recently lapsed funding to help sexually exploited women victims and survivors of human trafficking.

The letter, signed by members of Parliament from all four opposition parties, calls on the government to reverse its decision to allow the expiry of funding specifically dedicated to helping organizations deliver programming to help victims and survivors of human trafficking.

“These programs are vital, these programs save lives, these programs give people a second chance, and these programs are working to end human trafficking and sexual exploitation,” Vecchio.

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READ MORE: Loss of funding to fight human trafficking to impact over 600 women and girls, LAWC says

In March, after five years, the federal government ended the Measures to Address Prostitution Initiatives (MAPI) fund, which the London Abused Women Centre (LAWC) and many other organizations used to help victims of human trafficking.

LAWC executive director Megan Walker said organizations receiving funding under that program were told to apply to a new fund in October, but after months of silence, they finally learned they would not be receiving funding for April 1.

“Women who are trafficked and exploited face so much, and now when they need that stability and support from their government it can be taken away. These are not the actions of a feminist government,” Mathyssen said.

In September 2019, the federal government announced $75 million in funding to create the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking to rescue and prevent women and children from being forced into the sex trade.

When asked earlier in May when the funding would be distributed, the Office of the Minister of Justice and the Office of the Minister of Women and Gender Equality (WAGE) said in a statement that in the coming months they would be working with provinces and territories, stakeholders and experts to come up with a plan.

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READ MORE: Local donations allow LAWC to maintain human trafficking program until end of June

“Our Government is committed to combating human trafficking and to better protecting victims, who are among society’s most vulnerable. Human trafficking is a very serious criminal offence, and our government is committed to strengthening efforts to combat it through the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking,” the statement read.

While they wait for the funding, the LAWC and several other organizations have been forced to shut down their programs.

While in operation, the program helped a total of 3,107 trafficked, prostituted, sexually exploited and at-risk women and girls in London. Walker said the lack of funding would leave at least 600 women and girls without support.

“My key concern is once those amazing people who deliver those programs are let go if the funding is not available soon, those people will have to move on and find other jobs and to restart them up after so long will take time and money and you are leaving really vulnerable women and girls without a place to turn to,” Mathyssen said.

Following the announcement of the program’s financial struggles, the London community did come together to provide enough funding to keep the program running another month. However, according to the LAWC, it’s still not enough to stay in operation past June 30.

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