MP Russ Hiebert high-fives a five-year-old math student during a visit to a World Vision facility for street kids in Cambodia.

Meeting child trafficking victims moving experience for Russ Hiebert

South Surrey-White Rock–Cloverdale MP travels to Southeast Asia to study the international problem of child exploitation



Shortly after he returned from a trip to Thailand and Cambodia to study human trafficking, South Surrey-White Rock–Cloverdale MP Russ Hiebert changed the cover photo on his Facebook page.

On Thursday, Hiebert replaced the carefully-lit and posed political portrait he was using with a snapshot of him smiling and high-fiving a five-year-old child inside the World Vision Bamboo Shoots Street Children Centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The centre takes its name from the Cambodian proverb that says “Children are the bamboo shoots who replace the bamboo stalks.”

It is part of the Street Children Transformation Project operated by World Vision, providing street youth with food, shelter, vaccinations and schooling. The project also aims to re-integrate street youth with their families, or if that is not an option, with foster families.

Hiebert and four other Canadian MPs were able to see for themselves the kind of life the estimated 2,300 street children live during a trip sponsored by the charity to raise awareness about human trafficking and the worst forms of child labour.

“We saw so much, and heard so many stories from people who had been trafficked,” Hiebert told Peace Arch News Wednesday. “It was a big learning (experience) for me.”

But as much as the trip was an eye-opener into some of the horrors facing the region, Hiebert said it was also inspiring to meet young children at the centre in Phnom Penh who were trying to better their lives.

“It was phenomenal to see how these kids were growing, despite the serious challenges from which they were coming,” he said.

“It was quite moving to see how these kids were thriving.”

He noted the June 25–29 trip was at no cost to taxpayers.

Hiebert –  a member of the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights – added that the trip was important in light of the federal government’s June 6 announcement of a plan to combat human trafficking.

“We’ve launched it, now we have to implement it,” Hiebert said. “What we saw there was the actual implementation, and that’s the critical stage we now face here in Canada. How do you actually do stuff like… the street transformation project that we saw?”

During the tour, the MPs also met with female victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation at a shelter in Bangkok, migrant workers living near the border between Thailand and Myanmar – a hotspot for trafficking – and child survivors of sexual exploitation who are staying at World Vision’s trauma recovery centre in Phnom Penh.

The visits with victims struck a chord with Hiebert as a parent.

“They just want what everyone else wants – they want to be with their family and they want to be loved,” said the MP, who has two young children.

“The human need to be loved and nurtured is the same the world over.”

For every trafficking victim forced into prostitution, nine others are forced into work in places like factories and sweatshops, World Vision estimates.

They work what are called 3D jobs – dirty, dangerous and degrading  – in any number of industries from agricultural work to fishing, mining, domestic service, and manufacturing.

The charity pointed to statistics that show approximately 1.2 million children are trafficked for labour or sexual exploitation at any given time, representing half of the over 2.4 million people trafficked worldwide.

For more information, visit worldvision.ca

 

– with files from Dan Ferguson

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Outdoor AED unit in Surrey among the first in B.C.

SaveStation cabinet is alarmed and monitored – and hasn’t been used yet

Trade sends Surrey NHLer Brenden Dillon to Washington

‘We felt it was important for us to add a player of his caliber to our defensive group,’ says Caps GM

Suspect in Surrey forcible confinement arrested in Toronto

Constable Richard Wright, of the Surrey RCMP, said William Daniels-Sey was arrested on Feb. 16

Despite evacuation, coronavirus-quarantined White Rock couple still two weeks from home

Government chartered plane to help cruising Canadians return from Japan

ZYTARUK: Trudeau needs to stop dithering and fix blockade crisis

Trudeau noted Canadians are asking themselves, “What is happening in this country?” He’s got that right

VIDEO: 7 things you need to know about the 2020 B.C. budget

Surplus of $227 million with big spending on infrastructure and capital projects

World Cup skier from Okanagan dies suddenly at 19

Kuroda, who made his World Cup debut earlier this year, passed away suddenly Monday night.

Coastal GasLink pipeline investor committed to closing deal despite protests

Developer TC Energy Corp. — formerly TransCanada Corp. — is to remain the operator of the $6.6-billion pipeline

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

What’s in a name? The story of Revelstoke’s Mt. Begbie

It’s likely the iconic peak had several Indigenous peoples’ names before settlers arrived

Budget 2020: B.C. Liberals blast ‘Netflix tax,’ lack of economic plan

ICBC rates still go up, except in election year, Shirley Bond says

Teen snowmobiler from Kelowna found after air force’s overnight search

The teen had been missing since just after 6 p.m. on Monday

Two law enforcement trucks ‘deliberately’ set on fire in northern B.C., RCMP say

Police say they have video evidence of a person in the area of the truck fires

Nanaimo man wins lotto, plans to buy $16,000 fridge

Curtis Wright a winner in Lotto 6/49 draw

Most Read