The petitions presented to Oxford MP Dave MacKenzie were simple post cards. The statistics they represented were staggering.
A group of Oxford County Catholic Women's Leagues joined together in the month of June to campaign against human trafficking and pornography, collecting petitions from residents of Oxford to present to MP Dave MacKenzie on July 2, to forward to the House of Commons.
Two stats were included on the back of each post card – there are 27 million people in slavery today and the number of daily pornographic emails is estimated to be 2.5 billion, representing eight per cent of total emails.
"Our intention was to highlight the issue around pornography and human trafficking," said Fatima Cabral from the Catholic Women's League, Holy Trinity Catholic Parish in Woodstock.
"And it's happening in Canada... and off our streets," said Veronica Holly, president, CWL St. Mary's Catholic Church in Tillsonburg. "That's what people don't seem to realize."
"We're advocating for whatever supports are available for victims, and tougher laws for the convicted – the people who are actually doing this. Our campaign ran through the month of June at our churches, and culminated with the presentation of over 1,000 post cards, signed from constituents of Oxford County."
In addition to St. Mary's (Tillsonburg) and Holy Trinity (Woodstock), campaign participants included Sacred Heart in Ingersoll and Princeton, and St. Peter's in Norwich.
"I have a few that say, 'do something, stop it now,'" said Holly.
"It's very dear to the Catholic Women's League," Cabral nodded. "The preservation of life and families."
"It's an important issue. There are many victims associated with pornography and the sex trade," said MacKenzie from his Tillsonburg office on Brock Street East.
MacKenzie has a background in law enforcement, serving on the Woodstock City Police for 30 years from 1967-1997, including time as Chief of Police.
"It's important from our perspective that we start to pay far more attention to victims than has occurred in the past," said MacKenzie.
MacKenzie said the people who filled out the post cards, and the CWL representatives making the July 2 presentation, 'represent our society and everyday people.'
"They recognize the danger of pornography," said MacKenzie.
"There's so much money in it now, that's how people can get away with it," said Holly, noting the human trafficking industry is estimated to be $32 billion – annually.
"And accessibility through the Internet," said Cabral. "We have some statistics here on how many emails and websites have pornographic content."
Figures presented by Cabral show 12 per cent of all websites (4.2 billion) contain pornographic material and 2.5 billion emails daily (8 per cent) have pornographic images. Ninety per cent of children, ages 8-16, have already been exposed to pornography online while doing homework research. Between 50-60 per cent of marriage breakups have cited pornography as a casual factor.
"Our generation has the opportunity to end human trafficking and to police pornography wherever possible," said Cabral in her presentation. "Tougher laws and higher penalties for those convicted of human trafficking will send a message that we do not tolerate these crimes. Also, better support for these victims trying to escape this life will mean lives are saved and future generations have a chance at succeeding."
Cabral urged MacKenzie to take the petitions to Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
"We want our voice heard in the House of Commons loud, strong, and clear that pornography hurts our children, married couples and the victims of the industry."
"It (human trafficking) is a crime that reaches all elements of our society," said Holly in her report. "Children are being taken from our streets. Human trafficking is the fastest growing and second most lucrative criminal enterprise globally."
Holly cited stats that show 27 million people worldwide are in slavery today, noting the population of Canada is 34.1 million. She noted 80 per cent of the victims are women and children, some younger than 14, and that 70 per cent of the women and children are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. "Every minute two children, our children, are taken.
"Our generation has the opportunity to end this crime of human trafficking and to police pornography wherever possible," Holly summed up. "Each person that joins the movement to end this crime of human trafficking makes a permanent impact. You can be that person."