Grey Cup Sex Trafficking Prevention Campaign Sparks Controversy

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Winnipeg is set to host this year’s Grey cup on November 29th. The event which may be the smallest Grey cup crowd in recent history. This year the Manitoba government has come up with a campaign to combat the possibility that the influx of sports fans will bring an increase in sex trafficking in the city. According to Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh, “It’s a sad reality that sexual exploitation and human trafficking often increase in the days leading up to major sporting events.” To combat this, the Manitoba government is using $22, 000 to fund a 24/7 human trafficking hotline. The hotline will be staffed by trained counselors in an attempt to provide a resource for the victims of sex trafficking and at risk individuals, connecting callers to emergency services, counselling, and police.

The hotline will be accompanied by a $23, 000 public awareness campaign designed to raise awareness and discourage sex trafficking in the city. The campaign which is called Buying Sex is Not a Sport will utilize taxi cabs, buses, and ads in sports bars to get their message across.

Despite government and police enthusiasm for combating this problem, some groups feel that this campaign is targeting a problem that does not exist. Winnipeg Metro news quoted representatives of the Winnipeg Working Group for Sex Workers’ Rights as stating that increases in human trafficking around large sporting events is a ‘mistaken belief.’ In their view this money would be better spent combating the things that make individuals vulnerable exploitation in the first place: poverty, addiction, lack of education, etc. The province does not have any hard data to support the idea that sex trafficking will increase with the Grey Cup later this month, however, Sgt. Cam Mackid of the Winnipeg Police counter-exploitation unit attributes the lack of evidence to the “hidden nature of the sex trade.” Winnipeg Free press writer Jen Zoratti criticized the plan as a misguided attempt to combat sex trafficking that encourages “panic and misinformation.” 

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.