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Palmero Protocol important next step says MP

Viersen continues pushing for support of trafficking victims
Arnold Viersen
While MP Arnold Viersen would like to see more provincial support for victims of sex related crimes, it is up to the province, but he is continuing his fight at the federal level trying to have Canada accept the Palermo Protocol.

ATHABASCA/BARRHEAD/WESTLOCK — MP Arnold Viersen continues campaign to get aid for people who are victims of trafficking. 

The Peace River-Westlock MP is troubled by the recent article of a child sexually assaulted by a family friend, and while he wishes there was more the federal government could do, he is focusing on what can be done for victims of human trafficking by pushing to give law enforcement more latitude in arresting the traffickers. 

“The Palmero Protocol is just being able to identify somebody who's being exploited without acknowledging that they're being exploited,” he said. 

Currently, if someone is a victim human trafficking, they must say to law enforcement they’re being exploited. 

“I'd like to be able to say, ‘we can see that you're being exploited, and we can make that charge, even if you can’t say you’re being exploited,’ because oftentimes, people that are being exploited, they're being manipulated and threatened (with) ‘if you say anything to the cops your sister's gonna die,’” said Viersen. 

With the Palermo Protocol it can be up to the police to use their judgment to determine if someone is being exploited; common signs are preventing the person from having outside contact with family and friends, controlling their access to money, work and live on the same site, or are picked up and driven back and forth to work. 

It’s difficult however, because there’s various forms of human trafficking; forced labour, forced criminal activities, sexual exploitation, and removal of organs. 

“Canada is pretty much all the way there,” he said. “We have this requirement that the person acknowledge they’re living in fear, and I’d like to get that pulled out of there so we can identify them.” 

It was because of the suicide of a young woman two years after being raped at a party that Viersen took up the cause and worked to create laws around cyberbullying and online sexual exploitation, 

“The reason I pursued all of this, in 2013 ... Rehtaeh Parsons from Nova Scotia committed suicide and two years prior to that she had been raped at a party,” Viersen said. “The boys who raped her posted this video. I just remember being horrified, but also being, 'What were these guys thinking?’ It's one thing to rape a girl, it's another to take pictures and post them. How did they think that was so normal?” 

And he is grateful for the supports in Alberta for young victims of sex crimes. 

“In Grande Prairie there is the Caribou Centre, they’re specifically to deal with kids who have been sexually abused,” said Viersen. “Then in Edmonton and Calgary you have the child advocacy centres.” 

His fight helped shut down portions of Porn Hub, a Montreal-based, online erotic video site who ended up removing videos where the ages could not be verified and tightened up the process to upload homemade pornography, but the fight isn’t over. 

“Sometimes it’s a lonely fight,” he said. 

Heather Stocking

About the Author: Heather Stocking

Heather Stocking a reporter at the Athabasca Advocate, a weekly paper in Northern Alberta. Heather covers all aspects of the news in and around Athabasca and Boyle as well as other small communities.
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