A Yarmouth woman whose daughter died after falling victim to human trafficking is supporting proposed Tory legislation aimed at combating what has become an epidemic in the province.
Jennifer Holleman’s daughter Maddison was killed four years ago in Alberta after her john crashed the vehicle they were driving in. He was drunk.
Maddison left Yarmouth for Edmonton when she was 18 years old in and got trapped in the sex trade.
Holleman felt obliged to show up to Province House on Thursday to support three new laws being proposed by the Tories that she believes are urgently needed. Provincial advocates have raised concerns that support services through victims services are inadequate and there’s a resistance from Crown lawyers to take on such cases.
The Tories are calling for a specialized team of Crown attorneys dedicated to human trafficking.
One of the other bills tabled by Tory MLA Karla MacFarlane include amendments to the Victims’ Rights and Service Act, making it mandatory for court support workers to attend court dates with victims of human trafficking.
Holleman is in full support.
“My daughter was trapped in this horrible network of trafficking. But she was applying for jobs. She was trying to get away from it.
"I think these bills address a real gap in the system. There needs to be more of a centred human trafficking unit in Nova Scotia. “
MacFarlane said the proposed laws are about making it easier for victims to come forward and ensuring they get justice.
“As a mother and as a MLA, I know that we have a responsibility to take action to protect our children from human trafficking,” said MacFarlane. “Victims have suffered for far too long and have endured far too much without appropriate resources. And, the results are devastating.”
The most recent Statistics Canada data shows there were 63 incidents reported in Nova Scotia over the 2009-2016 time period, of which 58 are from Halifax. Nova Scotia had the highest rate of incidents in the country at 2.1 per 100,000 people.
Bernadette MacDonald, a member of Nova Scotians for the Prevention of Prostitution and Sexualized Human Trafficking, showed up to Province House in support of the proposed legislation and said they offer a comprehensive approach to sexualized human trafficking and strengthen services for victims and families.
Justice Minister Mark Furey admitted that human trafficking is a serious problem in the province and pledged to study the proposed amendments. He pointed to the province recently adding two provincial lawyers specializing in sexual assault cases. He said there are many officers and Crown lawyers who take an interest in human trafficking matters but a large part of the problem lies in the complexity of such cases.
“We’ll look at it closely and engage public prosecution," said Furey. “I’ve talked to the head of public prosecution and I’m certainly open to exploring what opportunities we have.
MacFarlane is also looking for amendments to the Education Act, that would make human trafficking education part of the curriculum in public schools in Grades 7 to 9.
While Education Minister Zach Churchill said that curriculum already exists, MacFarlane believes it’s not comprehensive enough. But she pointed out that Churchill spoke to Holleman and MacDonald on Thursday and committed to consulting them about improving curriculum.
“It’s all that matters that we do the right thing," sad MacFarlane. The minister is listening.”