Federal government pledges $19M to support anti-human trafficking programs
Published Wednesday, July 29, 2020 3:17PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, July 30, 2020 7:38AM EDT
LONDON, ONT -- New federal funding could see the return of some programs designed to help survivors of human trafficking.
On Wednesday, the federal government announced $19-million in funding to stop human trafficking and support those impacted by the practice.
The funding is part of a four-year National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking.
Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, said it couldn’t have come at a better time, when it comes to protecting young and impressionable girls, often prime targets for sex-traffickers.
“Traffickers are very smart and so they’re luring very young girls online, especially during COVID where all kids are doing is on their computers.”
In May, the end of a five-year federal funding commitment forced the London Abused Women's Centre to end a program that had helped more than 3,100 women and girls who had been trafficked, prostituted, sexually exploited or were at risk.
Walker said they’ve been relying on the support of the community to tide the centre over.
“We are very grateful now to have the opportunity to apply. We have 650 women that we are serving. And I should say that it’s the city of London that is actually sustaining us now until the end of October.”
A former sex trade worker, who had been helped by the London, Ont. program, shared her story with CTV News in hopes of restoring the service.
Shortly afterward, two London-area MPs, Conservative Karen Vecchio and the NDP's Lindsay Mathyssen, presented an open letter to the prime minister and other MPs calling for stable funding for women's organizations that serve those who have been exploited.
While the funding is good news, any projects that are in need of support will still need to apply through either Women and Gender Equality Canada or Public Safety Canada by Sept. 4.
London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos (Lib) said applications will be decided on based on their merit.
“Londoners care a great deal about this issue. I certainly have heard over my time, five years of being a member of parliament, the importance of this.”
Walker said the London Abused Women’s Centre will request $350,000 per year from the fund for a specific program.
”What we will specifically apply for is an innovative program that we have in mind which is around ‘support to report,’ so that we have a partnership with London Police Service and other agencies in the city that will support women in reporting trafficking.”