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Many people are shocked to discover just how close human trafficking is to where they live in Canada. Consider the story of Natasha, from a middle-class suburb of Toronto:
The family played board games, took her to soccer and so on. Then, the parents' marriage fell apart. Natasha and her mother moved to a downtown apartment. Her father gave them no money. Natasha’s new friends, like her, were all hurting. They stole cars, smoked pot. Her mother started drinking, then started bringing home strange and abusive men. Not feeling safe Natasha couch-surfed. At age 14, she met two girls her age who invited her to stay at their apartment. On the way home they bought a cucumber to show her how to stay safe using condoms. Looking back long afterward, Natasha realized they were grooming her, even as she eventually enticed her own friends into the sex trade. When Natasha had her first customer (on a dirty, stained mattress in a stuffy attic above a restaurant), that first “$100 seemed like $1 million”, having nowhere to go or eat. She ended up on the circuit - Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Kelowna. Eventually a pimp promised to marry her if she made enough money. She did and, not always the case, they got married. But as well as keeping her in the sex trade, his physical abuse never stopped.
On her 27th birthday, after years of broken arms, nose, burns, drug addiction, and even a gun to her head once, she returned home and told her story to her still addicted mother, who rocked her for hours and hours. One of the hardest things that kept her in the sex trade: “I couldn't admit that I was not there by choice. We couldn't live in our own skin if we admitted that. We needed to believe that it was our choice.” And once married, it took years to realize her husband would not change. So she eventually got out, one of the lucky ones. Her best friend was killed while still in the sex trade. Vancouver Sun, Nov13, 2012
But this occurs not simply in the major cities - the human trafficking web entangles people in communities large and small. This section is presented to clarify the current situation and to advocate for government policies (federal, provincial and local) that will help eradicate this activity and the misery it brings to people.
Human trafficking in Canada is widespread. While it primarily consists of the exploitation of females for sexual purposes males can also be trafficked. And while it is primarily for sexual purposes it can also be for domestic or manual labour. To get a better understanding of the dynamics involved, see the Details section.
Canada is far behind many other countries in addressing the issue of human trafficking, whether at federal, provincial or local levels. To see what can be done and how to be involved, see the Recommendations section.
Human trafficking in Canada can wither the soul of both the victim and perpetrator. It is largely preventable if the recommendations were fully implemented. And until such actions are taken it diminishes us all.
[Most of the facts and recommendations for this issue come from the book: Benjamin Perrin: Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking, (2010)]
Human trafficking is an affront to the dignity of humanity. It occurs within an even broader range of undesirable dynamics that may include (but can also be distinct from) human smuggling, local prostitution, drug use and their international or national networks, and sexual abuse.
While there is no uniform pattern to human trafficking, a common pattern involves the luring of vulnerable girls (who have often fled an intolerable home situation) via males (and sometime females) who offer some form of false pretense and act as friends and/or boyfriends. The victims are often intentionally isolated, and controlled by fear of violence. The victims may originate outside or inside Canada and may be trafficked within Canada or, for instance, to the U.S. Drugs are often involved in controlling the victim.
What is Human Trafficking?
In 2000, the Palermo Protocol was established to coordinate efforts at the international level to address the issue of human trafficking. Its summary definition indicates that human trafficking occurs when:
It may also be edifying to download the document of human trafficking myths (the link is on the left sidebar).
Canada and Palermo Protocol
Recommendations are required at all levels of government, as well as other levels of action, as briefly outlined below. But first we briefly outline what our Canadian church can do.
What can the “Canadian Church” do?
What can individual Congregations do?
Create an effective, well funded, and pro active national plan.
Efforts must also be made to address Canada’s failure to cooperate with International Organization for Migration, which provides assistance who return to countries.
Other Levels of Action:
A. Local Police
To understand the global picture see our World Church’s excellent Stop Trafficking site.