The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Re: A problem that needs your leadership, vision and action
I am writing to you to draw your attention to a local problem that may be under your radar, but which demands your leadership, creative vision, not to mention immediate and urgent action.
Last week, my organisation, MCIS Language Services successfully launched an on-line training to address human trafficking, a project completed under the auspices of the Ministry of the Attorney General for Ontario. We featured as our guest speaker a woman who has survived being trafficked. She is born and raised Canadian and contrary to the popular myth that women are trafficked from overseas for sexual exploitation, most trafficking is domestic and a significant percentage for economic gain.
Our guest’s experiences fit the elements of the Criminal Code definition for the crime. What were they, you ask? Well, her captors induced and trapped her with a range of illegal drugs and used her subsequent dependency to force her into illegal acts from which they profited, not her. However, the police apprehended and charged her. She alone suffered criminal prosecution and spent jail time. Upon her release, when she tried to resist her captors, they drugged, beat and raped her, also threatening her child’s life. After all that she had to endure, it is amazing that she is even alive to tell her story, not to mention quite intelligent and articulate.
Her sister had accompanied her to our event, and I sat chatting with them to experience a slice of Canada that was foreign to me. They are both from smaller towns west of Toronto, London and Brantford, respectively. I was deeply disturbed listening to them as I am sure you will be.
I found out that Brantford, a small town of 90.000 people has 3 methadone clinics. That it’s down town is a wasteland of people getting high. That opiates, crack cocaine, heroin, crystal meth (ice) are the drugs of choice. That the problem is so bad that the police are overwhelmed with requests to investigate drug related charges and just cannot keep up. That Children’s Aid does not remove from their homes, babies who are neglected due to their mother’s addiction issues, unless the police investigate for criminality, which they do not having become so accustomed to the cycle of people just re offending. Who can blame them? They are frustrated and don’t really see an end in sight? So enforcement is clearly not the answer?
In these societies we are talking generations of substance abuse. Both of these women spoke about the family in which they were raised. Their father and his siblings all suffered from addiction and related mental health problems. The sister told us that they lived in a society where the lure of crack cocaine exists in the space between the methadone clinic and her car. As her husband stepped out of the clinic there was a dealer waiting to get him before he could get to her car.
Isn’t it sad that young men and women are preoccupied with getting high or with their struggle to stay sober? Isn’t it tragic that our future generations are following this path with parents who tumble in and out of addiction and co- dependencies?
Our speaker, in her early forties, is graduating from a college program and entering University, obviously with a helping hand from the government. She is very bright and articulate and hopefully will make something of herself. However, this is a tough economy and I have no assurance that individuals like her can follow the course of a substance free life given the dysfunction they live amidst.
So how Mr. Harper are you going to help the town of Brantford and the hundred others like it across Canada? How are the people here going to become contributing members leveraging their intelligence and creativity to make something of themselves and of Canada? What can we do to multiply our tax dollars to get people to hope and dream big than to drown themselves in pain and despair numbing opiates?
I am most concerned about the kids. They certainly did not bargain for this life where parents and grandparents struggle with substance abuse and poverty. How can we give them a break so they come out of that vicious cycle that has trapped generations? How can we create their new normal?
I don’t have a definitive answer. However, there are many inspirational models. South of the border is the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) where Geoffrey Canada (yes that is indeed his last name and he has been featured as one of the top 50 leaders in the world in a recent issue of Fortune) it’s President and CEO has, over the past 2 decades, successfully tackled decades of similar decline from drugs and poverty with a business-like approach in Harlem, New York. The New York Times Magazine has hailed this ‘one of the greatest social experiments of our time’. Rather than have a charity do this as with HCZ, can your government and the local governments conduct an experiment even in one small community?
So not limiting it to just schools and education, it would go something like this. You would give amnesty to people for their petty drug related criminal activity, support them out of addiction, provide one on one support to the most vulnerable, set up vocational, recreational, fitness, spiritual and arts programs? Then focus on following kids on their educational path. Here you do not have to create anything new, just renew and re-engineer existing educational and social services institutions to make them more impactful, tying dollars to results? Join hands with social enterprises to set up incubators for creative business ventures and subsidize on the job training and employment opportunities offered by them to local community members. Have a business school take it on as a cause célèbre to track successes and failures to create models to be replicated in other communities. I do think creative expression and enterprise are the only answer, don’t you? When the model is replicated all over Canada, it will grow on its own momentum with less and less government support, don’t you see? And Canada will set a shining example for all the world?
As a lawyer I know this is an issue for local governments to tackle. However, given its domino effect on all matters federal, not to mention it’s impact on our country’s future, don’t you think you need to work with the other levels of government by making them accountable to deliver on your vision?
Let your government earn the reputation for laying the groundwork for a society where all achieve and thrive? Also think of all the money you will be saving and of the problems like domestic human trafficking that you will be addressing.
I would love to have an opportunity to meet to further discuss this so urgent action can be taken.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Latha Sukumar, M.A., LL.B (On), Executive Director and Lawyer
MCIS Language Services – A Non-Profit Organization
From: Prime Minister/Premier Ministre [mailto:PM@pm.gc.ca]
Sent: April-23-14 1:51 PM
To: Latha Sukumar
Subject: Office of the Prime Minister / Cabinet du Premier ministre
Dear Latha Sukumar :
Thank you for your e-mail addressed to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister Harper appreciates being informed of the views and concerns of Canadians.
You may be assured that your comments have been carefully noted. For more information on the Government’s initiatives, please visit www.pm.gc.ca.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to write.
Executive Correspondence Officer for the Prime Minister’s Office
Agent de correspondance de la haute direction pour le Cabinet du Premier ministre