The Manitoba and NW Ontario PAOC Women's Group (led by the amazing Jo-Ann Porterfield) recently hosted Member of Parliament, Joy Smith at their recent Fall Women's Retreat.  We believe that Joy Smith is truly a "woman you should know"!  Ruth Unger attended the retreat and has graciously agreed to share with us her thoughts...

Joy Smith speaking at the retreat

ZOE Guest Contributor: Ruth Unger

MP Joy Smith spent some time with us recently at our Fall WOMEN’s Retreat here in Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario. I came away from that encounter thinking that this is a woman that we need to hear. This is a woman we need to know. Mrs. Smith’s objective for the day was not that of a simple meet and greet. Her goal was not to impress but to educate. I came away feeling more than educated. I was challenged. Perhaps the following thoughts will explain why.

Slavery. Exploitation. Human Trafficking.

Ugly, ugly words. Difficult concepts to consider. Uncomfortable to consider as a possibility here and now, and yet for many it is their reality.

Joy Smith hasn’t always known the devastation of those words. She was introduced to this world by witnessing the impact on her son, a police officer, as he worked to rescue children from predators.

As mother and former teacher, Mrs Smith has committed herself to fight against human trafficking by raising awareness and rescuing victims. In 2004, she became a Member of Parliament, a platform that she has used to not only build more awareness but to see the Criminal Code amended and work towards seeing new laws passed.

How does this happen? How does one woman go from math teacher to law maker?

There is a progression it seems. Awareness and education that at some point becomes more than facts and figures, but faces and names. Outrage turns to action.

The majority of those trafficked in Canada are Canadian born – that means someone from your city, from your town, from your street, is either a victim or a potential victim. Exploitation happens to anybody. Exploitation happens anywhere and everywhere. Statistics presented by Mrs. Smith show human trafficking happens quite literally from coast to coast, Halifax to Vancouver, and everywhere in between.

The average age of entry into the sex trade in North America is 12 to 14 years of age…that means some are older…and some, tragically, are younger…

The facts and figures are easy to dismiss if they remain facts and figures. Mrs Smith became involved in rescuing victims – that gave human trafficking a face. The girl she found shackled to a bed could no longer be a statistic. The girl who couldn’t be reached before she was moved again by her captors could no longer be just a number. The girl now in hiding for her own protection is not a nameless victim. She says these are “all my daughters.”

William Wilberforce, when battling to see slavery abolished, said “You may choose to look the other way…but you may never again say that you did not know.”

So, you know. Now what?

One woman made aware has made a difference. You are also one woman.

As Mrs. Smith reminds us, we serve a God of miracles. We do not battle this out on our own.

Be aware. Ask God what you should do. Do that.

Joy Smith with Leader Jo-Ann Porterfield

Thank you Ruth for this challenge.  I love her words:

You are also one woman.

(Yes, you are.  You may not feel like you have anything special to offer ...but repeatedly in history, God has used ordinary people for extraordinary purposes.)

Be aware.

(What is around you?  When you look at ZOE Projects, what "captures your heart"?)

Ask God what you should do.

(What is He saying?)

Do that.

(Begin with a small step...just one.)