Category Archives: Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a global issue.

Backpage.com Investigated for Facilitating Online Trafficking

Backpage.com Investigated for Facilitating Online Trafficking

Corporate profit over ethical practices. Cowardice versus courage. Backpage.com is brought out from the shadows and we now learn just what this business is – a vehicle for human trafficking. Everything was laid out in the United States Homeland Security and Government Affairs Subcommittee Investigation and Hearing:

Backpage.com’s Knowing Facilitation of Online Sex Trafficking

There is no denying that pimps have long been using online sites such as this one to advertise their property, their human property. The key point is that such businesses have been unwilling to shut these pimps down. That type of advertising makes up a huge portion of their business and I think it has become clear that Backpage.com doesn’t mind money that flows from criminal exchanges.

Backpage.com attended this hearing but it was evident they were not interested in participating. It was also predictable that Backpage.com’s CEO Carl Ferrer, Andrew Padilla COO, former owners James Larkin and Michael Lacey along with their Attorney Elizabeth McDougall would all hide like cowards behind the First and Fifth Amendments. I found it a little funny that as each question was asked, they all had to look down at a script to invoke their rights. After saying it a few times you would think they would know the statement by memory.

After their pitiful appearance this panel was invited  to stay in order to hear from the second panel of witnesses – parents of children who have been trafficked and advertised on their pages. The entire Backpage.com gang left like only cowards do.

I’m not sure how long the video is available to the public but if it is still available…

I implore you to listen to Nacole, the mother of a 15-year-old girl who was a victim of trafficking, sold on backpage.com and forever changed by her experience. Listen to each of these parents and know that they are like all of us. They are trying to find a way to stop businesses like Backpage.com from profiting from crime and exploiting children. They are shocked by the way the Internet has facilitated the selling of human beings and in particular children.  The isolation each family feels in their fight to find their loved one, navigate the systems and access help afterwards is understood as they speak.  These are the reasons why we need to continue a discussion on how we can help.

I also encourage you to listen to this whole video, as long as it is, because there are very few opportunities to see all of these people in the same room addressing such an important issue. These people may be in the United States but as I sit here in Canada and you sit where you sit we are all impacted by this.

We are not immune. Access to your children is possible and if you listen towards the end of this video you will hear from the parents about the need for prevention and education. Resources are required and there has to be a fundamental shift in our belief that this is happening to “other people.”

We might naively believe that corporations will do the right thing if the public is made aware. We might even believe that there are lines a corporation would not cross but all too often now we see very powerful people’s dirty secrets being revealed and still they fight to suppress it. They try to deny or hide not because they are fearful or even remorseful but simply because there is too much money at stake.

I guess as consumers we have some influence but what else do you think needs to be done in order to hold a company like Backpage.com responsible and help victims of human trafficking?

Operation Northern Spotlight Strikes Again

With the cooperation of police agencies across Canada a large-scale investigation occurred which highlighted human trafficking’s presence in our communities. Operation Northern Spotlight’s investigation resulted in 334 interviews, 32 people charged with numerous offenses and 16 minors rescued from the sex trade.

Let’s assume that most, if not all of these individuals, will see the inside of a courtroom. How many cases will result in convictions or jail time?

Well, the numbers don’t appear very promising. According to Stats Canada’s report, Trafficking in persons in Canada, 2014,“Majority of human trafficking court cases result in finding of stayed or withdrawn.” The sentences for those that were found guilty ranged from custody, probation and other sentences not specified. There is no doubt it is a difficult crime to prosecute when so much evidence must come from victims who have lived with the threat of death.

It is also important to note that according to their findings “human trafficking has doubled.” Investigations like Operation Northern Spotlight, public awareness and increased reporting mechanisms likely have influenced the boost in numbers. But numbers are just numbers and we all know they only represent the tip of the iceberg.

stopviolence

We don’t need to be police officers in order to help expose the cold, hard life that is the reality for victims of this heinous trade. If we really want to be part of the solution and bring people to whatever form of justice exist today, then we must consider our role carefully.

Do you know how to identify a victim of human trafficking? This is especially important to those that come in direct contact with individuals who may be seeking immediate health care.

Are you in contact with youth and in particular youth at risk?

The Office to Combat Human Trafficking in Persons offers online training:

Human Trafficking: Canada is Not Immune

Have you come across internet images or postings that are sexual in nature and did it cause you to question the person’s age or their safety?

Did you report what you saw to your local police or human trafficking hotline?

If you want to know how to identify or help victims of human trafficking then find the resources in your area and become informed:

Chrysalis Anti-Human Trafficking Network

The National Human Trafficking Resource Centre (USA)

 

WE NEED TO HELP OUR LAW ENFORCEMENT COMMUNITY COMBAT HUMAN TRAFFICKING BECAUSE THIS IS THE ONE CRIME WHERE THE MAJORITY OF WITNESSES ARE ALSO THE PERPETRATORS.

 

 

The truth about the sex industry

This week a joint effort by police in both Canada and the United States resulted in 197 arrests for human trafficking. “Operation Northern Lights” and a similar operation south of the border called “Operation Cross Country IX” has helped to rescue sexually exploited individuals including children as young as 14 years old.

CTV News report – Cross-border human trafficking investigation leads to 197 arrests

Joint operations between police forces and continued cooperation between agencies remains a crucial component to addressing the issue of human sex trafficking. I can’t stress enough how important it is for citizens to recognize the impact this crime is having on our society. There are real people behind the headlines, likely women and children, who will need considerable support going forward.

With this in mind, I want to introduce you to a video that features three women who got out of the sex industry. A former stripper, porn star and prostitute talk about the reality of their existence and what it was like to rebuild their lives.  Many points hit home with me but especially as they described the moment they dared to dream and felt worthy enough to set goals. It was a hard road to follow in the pursuit of finding self along with work and relationships that were nurturing. Truly remarkable and inspiring!

These women are part of Treasures – an organization that provides outreach and support to women in the sex industry and sex trafficking victims. They are better equipped than I to share how difficult it is to recover, so please take the time to hear from these incredible women who survived and now thrive.  It was mentioned in the interview that Treasures helps those who are transitioning out of the industry by addressing gaps in employment which is a challenge when seeking new employment –  support is provided. Check out Part 1 – 4 of this video The Aftermath

and then…..

The following video also features Harmony Dust who is the Founder/Executive Director of Treasures and she is joined by other women and men who share the truth about the sex industry.

Sex Sells: Who Pays The Price

St. Patrick’s Link to Slavery

Who was St. Patrick? I have to confess I didn’t know. For many years I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day much like everyone else by wearing green and/or lifting a drink with friends. It wasn’t until today that I came to know the man after reading the translated version of

THE CONFESSION OF ST. PATRICK

Written in his own words the reader comes to know how a young boy was taken from his home in England only to become a slave in Ireland. As I read through his confession there was no mistaking his issues with low self-esteem and lack of worthiness. However, when it came to the relationship he developed with his God, St. Patrick was convinced of His presence and felt confident in his own role to carry the message.

With my interest in modern-day slavery I couldn’t help but be drawn to what he shared particularly as it pertained to women.

“But greatest is the suffering of those women who live in slavery. All the time they have to endure terror and threats.”

That lead me to believe that he was not only processing his own suffering but had deep empathy for those who often suffered more. My mind drifted to the many women who right now are enduring such terror and threats. In moments of great fear and pain do they pray or reach for something stronger within themselves in order to believe they will live to see another day?

“Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity, or whatever it may be; but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven.”

120px-Four-leaved_clover1I’m not religious but I found that I was quite moved by the writing of this man.

It is apparent that his belief in God saved him from both physical and mental pain — unless it was the result of such pain that he became that way. No matter what his reason for devotion the boy Patrick went on to become more than his tragic beginning.

It should be noted that slavery victims are often judged by society just as their captors but what is the hardest to endure is a survivors self-inflicted judgement. It is my hope that survivors of slavery can eventually come to find freedom and peace within themselves, however they may get there.

“And I did not realize at once the grace that was then in me; now I understand that I should have done so before.”

 

 

Canada’s New Prositution Law: Operating in the dark

There is no light strong enough to pierce the darkness of something that thrives on the death of dignity and respect.

A new prostitution law, Bill C-36, has come to pass which will criminalize the purchase of sex but decriminalize the selling. Other necessary measures for child and community protection are built into the law but as of December 6th, 2014 Canada embarks on a new path.

Like anything there is always a backlash and this time it comes from Toronto Councillors who have asked local police not to uphold the law. Member of Parliament, Joy Smith, has written an op-ed in the Huffington Post outlining how appalled she is with their actions.

TORONTO COUNCILLORS SHOULD NOT PROTECT JOHNS AND PIMPS

In Ms. Smith’s post there are links to studies that concluded that legalization of prostitution in other countries did not protect women and children. However, despite facts such as these we find ourselves with Councillors and a flurry of media outlets focusing their efforts on perpetuating myths like:

* Prostitution is a ‘profession’ that can keep its workers safe if it is out in the open

* Is not exploitative in nature and for the majority is an empowered choice

Hope for Sold has covered the topic of human sex trafficking and traveled extensively to document what is really happening with prostitution and its relationship to trafficking. Their latest blog ENSURING THE SUCCESS OF CANADA’S PROSTITUTION LAW begins the conversation about how this law is not enough and that we must look at the issue of sexual exploitation in more depth.

Depth on any topic these days is hard to find as most people tend to seek out that which already supports their position. I’ve tried to listen to those that want prostitution to be legal and those that oppose based on mostly religious grounds. I support neither. It doesn’t surprise me that the new law will be controversial or that the media will find sex workers who claim it will hurt them. The voices of those most harmed by this trade will always remain hidden from our view.

To me, prostitution operates in the dark with or without legalization. It survives based on the secrecy of its users who risks losing or endangering loved ones through their behaviour and the secrecy of individuals or gangs that profit from its existence. There is no light strong enough to pierce the darkness of something that thrives on the death of dignity and respect.

 

Bill C-36 Adopted – Next Steps

Check out this link to the video Justice and Human Rights July 10th, 2014

I encourage you to hear the speakers but in particular Michelle and Jay Brock from Hope for the Sold. (They are the second speakers) I think their presentation helped to clarify distinct points and I liked their genuineness and sense of humour. Their experience interviewing those in other countries who have dealt with the issue of prostitution and sex trafficking was also impactful.

I know it’s long, as each speaker gets 10 minutes so maybe listen in stages if you can’t spare the time.

Why watch?

1. This is democracy in action

2. While you and I go about our day, very real decisions are being made that will directly affect our communities.

3. These people are representatives and whether you agree or disagree with them, it is good to be open to hearing their experiences and opinions.

Internet search bar with phrase prostitution

 

 

 

 

Bill C-36 Prostitution Laws In Motion

If prostitution in Canada concerns you then you may want to pay attention to Bill C-36 and the House of Commons Justice Committee who will be hearing testimony from interested parties over the next four days. Live on CPAC you can see how things transpire at the hearings.

In December when the Bedford case managed to throw out existing laws, the federal government was forced to bring in new legislation. In a hard-line approach the courts gave one year to address any amendments and legislation. Here we sit awaiting our fate as a nation and the  prospect of endangering more lives not protecting them. This is an issue that has far-reaching consequences and we can only look to other countries to see where liberal prostitution laws went amiss.

Beyond the power of a small vocal minority who want to open up prostitution there is the constant misinformation that gets regurgitated in our media.  It bothers me that some media covering this story insist on tossing out the phrase “the oldest profession” which I feel intentionally diminishes the negative aspects of prostitution. Talk radio and print media bring up the argument about “consenting adults” as if that makes up the majority of those involved in prostitution but statistically that is not the case. As with most things today we are limited in our understanding and mass media has become the means in which to keep us that way.

I want to share with you my letter to the committee members which was put together rather hastily but I hope touched on some key points.

Dear Committee Member,

I’m writing to you today so that my voice will be heard as discussions begin in regards to Bill C-36 and prostitution within Canada.

Through my direct work supporting victims of human sex trafficking and women who have experienced other forms of exploitation I understand very well the physical and psychological damage inflicted upon women who have been prostituted. It is therefore important that this committee and legislation recognize that the vast majority of prostituted persons are VICTIMS. This is not a politicized word but a word that best describes the historical abuse that accompanies individuals who find themselves selling sex.

Despite worldwide attempts to legalize, decriminalize, implement so-called safety measures including allowing for the ability to sell sex indoors, prostitution remains dangerous. Many prostituted persons are  abused or killed every year and nothing has worked thus far to change that fact.  I’m sure you are already familiar with countries like Germany who opened its doors to “safe” prostitution but now grapple with (by their own analysis) becoming the “Bordello of Europe.” Australia, Thailand, Nordic countries and the UK have experimented with liberal laws (or turned a blind eye) yet organized crime, trafficking, high incidences of disease  and child endangerment exists – which is why countries now look towards the Nordic Model for help.

The Bedford case has gone too far! Whether it be the adoption of Bill C-36 or some rendition of the Nordic Model, I implore this committee to look at this beyond party lines or special interest groups and see prostitution for what it is. It is complex, lucrative, rooted in exploitive beliefs and unmanageable by well-meaning Governments both at the federal and community levels.

Canada needs to focus efforts into offering practical steps to assist citizens who are vulnerable to prostitution, invest in programs that address child safety, mental health, addiction and offer exiting strategies. If we can change people’s perceptions about their role in preserving the environment then why can’t we do a better job of changing their perception that buying human beings is an acceptable practice?

Please consider our future carefully.

If you want to send your thoughts – here is the list of committee members courtesy of Hope for the Sold.

Name    Role Email Phone
Mike Wallace Conservative MP & Committee Chair mike.wallace@parl.gc.ca 613-995-0881
Françoise Boivin NDP Justice Critic & Vice-Chair Francoise.Boivin@parl.gc.ca 613-992-4351
Sean Casey Liberal Justice Critic & Vice-Chair Sean.Casey@parl.gc.ca 613-996-4714
Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary for Justice bob.dechert@parl.gc.ca 613-995-7321
Robert Goguen Parliamentary Secretary for Justice Robert.Goguen@parl.gc.ca 613-992-8072
Pierre Jacob NDP MP Pierre.Jacob@parl.gc.ca 613-947-8185
Ève Péclet NDP MP Eve.Peclet@parl.gc.ca 613-995-6327
Kyle Seeback Conservative MP Kyle.Seeback@parl.gc.ca 613-995-5381
David Wilks Conservative MP David.Wilks@parl.gc.ca  613-995-7246
Joy Smith (replacing Patrick Brown) Conservative MP joy.smith@parl.gc.ca 613-992-7148

 

How the Killings of New Westminster Escorts Relates to New Prostitution Laws

This week, charges were laid against Sarbjit Bains who allegedly killed three people. Two of those killed were escorts, Jill Lyons and Karen Nabors, and the other person killed was a man who appears to have no connection to these women.

What drew me to write about this case was what we know about these women and how that relates to the recent supreme court decision to strike down the anti-prostitution laws that exist in this country.

In case you didn’t know, we are heading towards the emergence of legal brothels within our communities, along with the ability for persons to communicate openly with clients and live on the avails of prostitution. One of the arguments set forth by those in favour of this approach is that prostitutes will be safer and able to conduct their business openly – which takes them out of the shadows and into plain sight. OK, well then let’s take a look at Ms. Lyons and Ms. Nabors:

Internet search bar with phrase prostitution

1. Both women were online escorts who ran their own separate businesses and were killed within two weeks of each other. They lived in separate units within the same complex – not on the mean streets.

2. They made a home and business in what appears to be a decent apartment building with plenty of neighbours in a community that does not have a reputation for unusual levels of crime.

3. One of the escorts, Jill Lyons, we know had an addiction problem for which her family has come out and said she was hoping to receive treatment. (As such, her only option for the future would have been to continue her business as is because she would have failed a health check at a legit brothel)

4. Both were said to be mothers who worked as online escorts and for all we know had agency over who they saw and when.

5. They were reported to be friends and certainly had the ability to communicate with each other for protective purposes if need be – one would think.

6. These women died alone and without one person hearing their distress despite being in a room within a building that had other people only steps away.

So my question is: If these women were still conducting their business openly as escorts, one year from now, in the same home, then under this new law what would have prevented Bains from killing them? 

We don’t know what drove either of these women to this life. We do know that at least one of them clearly didn’t appear to be a “happy and empowered escort” if she drugged herself up. What I do know is that under the new laws we will still see women like this battered and killed because there is a deep-seeded hatred of, or indifference towards, women who are paid for sex.

Mr. Bains had access to both these women and killed them. They are dead. They are a representation of many women across this world who are buried in the ground not because laws were antiquated or they didn’t take precautions or that they did not have a place from which to operate their business. These women are dead because they were seen as objects created to be used and harmed.  Their lives were cut short because those who pay to use them are permitted to see them as nothing more than parts.

I want you to put yourself in Ms. Lyons and Ms. Nabors last moments. I want you to imagine what you might have seen and felt. Then tell me whether you would have “chosen” to be ANYTHING but a prostitute.

 

 

FBI Raid Rescued Children from Human Trafficking

Dubbed “Operation Cross-Country” the FBI in the United States launched a massive mission to rescue trafficked teens in 76 cities. Rescuing over 100 teens and a child as young as 9 years old plus arresting 150 pimps was considered a success. With federal, state and local partnerships this 72 hour sting sent a message but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

If within 3 days you can net that many people involved in selling children how many more were buyers. In 72 hours one exploited and prostituted child or adult can be bought several times over. It is hard for people to comprehend the sheer numbers of men out there perusing the Internet or cruising the streets looking to buy someone for sex.

ArrestThe next sting should be 72 hours in cities across the country to pick up all the Johns as well as rescuing the children. Every John that is picked up should be identified in local papers. To me, it is a matter of public safety. If you know that your neighbour likes to pick up little girls or boys you can then make sure your children don’t fall prey to his deviant attraction.

The next phase of the operation should be to shut down online sites that are used to sell these children. As is often the case with those fighting sex trafficking, checking the classifieds yields results. While the rest of us are buying and selling furniture or clothes others are using it to buy and sell human beings. When the pages of these sites clearly are designed for this, it should be a no-brainer that something must be done to eliminate their piece of the profit.

There is far too much acceptance by all of us to allow these businesses to make money, at arm’s length, from criminal activity. Why are they not considered an accessory to a crime? They are assisting in the commission of a crime and you can’t tell me they don’t notice what the johns and others can plainly see. Exploitive ads and pictures that promote sexual services, in particular services with minors, is a dead giveaway.

These children who were rescued have a long road ahead. They require extensive and comprehensive supports to keep them safe. These children grow up to be adults who can easily be on the streets until they acquire a life threatening disease or die at the hands of a pimp or John. Stings like this one make for good news but this story will disappear rather quickly. In the shadow of our neighbourhoods, the bars and through the classifieds section of paper and online publications more girls and boys will be sold to satisfy someone’s husband, boyfriend, uncle, son or father.

Update: A day after writing this post news broke that in Canada, Winnepeg police and the RCMP are looking into website Backpage.com, a US based company. It has been alleged all along that websites like Backpage.com, Craigslist and Kijiji have found their pages used to advertise sex; one description assigned to these sites was “Online pimps.”  With some public pressure Kijiji made efforts to curb the sale of women and girls through their pages but still it prevails, especially in Backpage and Craigslist. Time will tell if so-called legitimate businesses citizens such as these will be forced to play a more active role in policing their own virtual street.