Category Archives: Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a global issue.

Moving Beyond Victim of Human Sex Trafficking

Members of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, who have come together to form a Task-force on Trafficking Women and Girls, met with staff of a program funded by the Salvation Army called Deborah’s Gate. Deborah’s Gate provides multiple services and housing to victims of sexual trafficking. As a volunteer providing career counselling it was my sincere pleasure to be asked to make a presentation in partnership with my colleagues and to be in the company of some amazing people. As I gazed out over the room I was struck by the impressive representation of leadership and compassion along with the diversity of the group. We gathered to understand each other, to bring to light the services provided to victims of human trafficking and to discuss gaps in service. Continue Reading

Freedom Gala: A Night to Combat Human Trafficking

It was with great pleasure that I and my husband attended the Freedom Gala , an event in Vancouver to raise awareness about human trafficking and provide funding to important programs. The Salvation Army has taken up the cause not only bringing the topic to BC schools but also providing a safe house for survivors of human trafficking called Deborah’s Gate . I volunteer my expertise to Deborah’s Gate and I can honestly say it is the most rewarding partnership I have encountered since my days working with the RCMP’s Victim Services program.

Galapic2

It is hard for most people to imagine that human trafficking even exists in their city or town, but it does. With profits from the sex trade grossing more than top corporations like Google, Nike combined, it is no wonder organized crime has stepped in en masse. The transport of girls, women and boys to destinations around this world, solely to sexually service men, is the most tragic and barbaric form of modern-day slavery. It is a lucrative business that brings predators out on the streets, into strip clubs, massage parlours, brothels and online, to find their next victim. On this night the money that was being handed out was not from low lives who want their fantasies fulfilled but from a room full of people who are willing to care about those who are trafficked.

Held at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre Hotel, the room was a buzz with the chatter and hand shaking that accompanies such fund-raising events. There were business women and men, heads of foundations and committees, politicians, socialites, media personalities, police constables, journalists, service providers, volunteers, along with representatives from the Salvation Army programs.

People circled around a selection of silent auction items displayed to entice people to make their bids. Items that ranged from nicely designed jewellery pieces valued at $50, to a $5000 painting and up to a $20,000 vacation to Cabos San Lucas where the winners stay in a 4000 sq. foot residence that sleeps 12 people. It didn’t stop there. Even after the silent auction was complete more money was raised, with auctioneer Howard Blank helping those hands to rise up; giving just a bit more.

JoySmithMember of Parliament Joy Smith greeted the audience with a short speech and an introduction to her son. Through her foundation and political work she has made it her mission to combat human trafficking, moving initiatives forward at both the community and governmental levels. I was introduced to Mrs. Smith through the manager of Deborah’s Gate and I can tell you she was very genuine and kind. She is first politician I have encountered that made me feel like she was truly present in the conversation.

 

Malarek2For me, the highlight of the evening was keynote speaker Victor Malarek. I have read three of his books: Gut Instinct, The Natashas and The Johns. The Natashas and The Johns is an in-depth look at the global sex trade in a way that pulls no punches. Victor didn’t hold back either when it came to his speech.

He has strong opinions on the stupidity that surrounds legalizing prostitution and is clearly pissed off about the men who buy women and children along with those who sell them. It may be tough to listen to, especially for those that are not accustomed to hearing the truth. Borrowing from the Salvation Army’s slogan let me say…The Truth Isn’t Sexy.

 

BooksI had intended to bring my books both of which are riddled with tags and turned down pages. Not knowing what to bring, especially wearing cocktail attire and small purse, I left the books at home. So, with a goal in mind to shake his hand and tell him how much he inspired me to get involved, I walked up with my event program and asked him to sign it. That was the icing on the cake.

Beyond the hand shaking and introductions came moments that are seared into my consciousness. The moments spent with women who know what it is like to live the nightmare of exploitation and slavery. My arms and heart open to these women and my determination to serve remains; I am blessed to work with each of them. I am touched deeply by the people I have met who work to assist these women in their quest to find a new life. A life that allows for freedom, dignity, health and autonomy to make and use their money in the service of their own dreams.

If I had the answers now as to what could make the difference I would gladly share it but human sex trafficking is a complex issue that requires the involvement of so many agencies. The goal of those who helped make this gala happen, those that serve everyday to support the programs and those who gave their money are doing what they can. My sincere thanks to the Freedom Gala Committee for putting on such an incredible evening!

Hope and Treasure – Q&A with an Ex-Stripper

I want to bring to your attention two groups who are delivering the truth about the sex industry to the public and offer you an opportunity to connect with the very people who have worked in it. Hope for the Sold aims to fight sexual exploitation and Treasures is a support group for women who have been in the sex industry. The two recently came together for an interview that will hopefully help readers understand there is more to the industry than just a stage, movie, magazine or brothel. Harmony, a former stripper and the other Xgirls, Crissy and Bronwen, are real women with stories from the inside and as such the previously well crafted illusion of the industry is ripped away.

When people hear, see or read about women who have left the industry, women who come clean about their experiences, it can still be easy for some to dismiss it. People can say “Well, that’s just her” or “Those girls are in the minority.” That is simply not the case. As with all these groups (world wide) they see and hear from women in the industry every week who are trying to get out. Hundreds upon hundreds of women who want a different life than what lies in the audience or street before them. Most of the time consumers don’t see that side but there is no denying that there are plenty of stories to be told and plenty of support networks out there trying to offer what consumers lack in terms of real world understanding and compassion. 

I applaud each of these organization for providing facts that help balance discussions on this topic. You will note that both of these organizations are faith based, one in the US and one in Canada. For those, like me, that are not a part of an organized religion I still encourage you to not turn away and instead see the value in their gifts. The gifts the Xgirls bring is first presented by knowing their names which to me is an important piece in breaking the detachment. Then we get the privilege of hearing about their backgrounds, seeing the women as women, following their path towards a new life and their definition of true empowerment and purpose.

I encourage you to go to the Treasures website for more information and to see more video and resources. I will put their organization up on my charities page for future reference. Please check out the links provided in this post and see how these organizations and individuals are making a difference. I also encourage you to donate or support their efforts in any way you can. I have included this Hope for the Sold pic because I think it is beautiful and because I want to help them continue to bring fabulous resources and films about Human Trafficking.

Sex Trade Workers Court Challenge

A small but vocal group of sex trade workers are wanting to challenge the current laws that surround prostitution and they have gone all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to do so. The Federal Government has tried to block this from happening and rightfully so as any moves to soften our laws will be harmful. The lobbyist aim to legalize prostitution, claiming it will make workers safer but other countries who adopted legalization found it to be a dismal failure.

Victor Malarek reporter, journalist and writer of two books on the topic of prostitution and trafficking The Natashas and The Johns, was recently on CKNW speaking to the lack of logic that surrounds legalization. He was very clear about the ramifications from a human perspective as well as the criminal activity that accompanies the trade. Mr. Malarek talked about the message this sends, “You send the message to men around the world….as long as they have money they have the right to buy sex off a woman or buy the body of a woman…”  (click here for audio, September 21, 2012 at 1:40pm. You will hear my very hurried voice at the end of the show)

This is not a message I’m willing to support. I am acutely familiar with the exploitation and sexual abuse that surrounds prostitution. I have listened to dancers who hated looking out at the losers that paid to watch them, the prostitute that had been raped and women who have been trafficked. I have never heard nor saw any reasons to suggest that helping men access women for their own sexual pleasure was the best course of action. Instead, we should be actively sending the message that women’s bodies are not for sale. We should be bringing the sick criminals that run this industry to justice. We should be pouring our efforts into ending women’s poverty, providing educational options and solid exit strategies for those who are prostituted. Our court time and Government funds should be allocated to worthy examples of women’s empowerment.

On the same day as I listened to Mr. Malarek, came an email to me from The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.  The Honourable Robert Nicholson (though months later) wrote a fairly lengthy letter in response to my concern for the constitutional challenge that had transpired in Ontario. It was my fear that Canada would be opened up for legalization and that the challenge would move westward by the same group of lobbyists…and so it came to be. His letter addressed the constitutional challenge, issue of human trafficking and their intentions. The following are snippets from the letter:

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Your Pleasure, My Pain – A Poem by a Survivor of Human Trafficking

How a woman feels is inconsequential for the men that abuse, traffic or buy women. The only thing that a man sees is property or fantasy. She is there to provide a service and massage their ego. The streets, massage parlours, nondescript homes and strip joints all provide the backdrop for the illusion. They are the place in which the commodification of women and children become glaringly apparent.

The following poem is written by a young woman who knows all too well what it is like to be betrayed, abused and sold. She has adopted a new name for herself after what seems like a lifetime of moving from place to place across North America. She has experienced things we pray never to experience.

Her poem was carefully written on a large piece of paper attached to a wall where she lives. She is safe and supported by a program that helps women who were victims of human trafficking. I asked for her permission to print this poem as I felt it was an important piece for us all to see. I was drawn to the very personal account and the different perspectives in which she has written this poem.

Though, captors and buyer see women as weak and expendable she is far from that.  It is because she feels, because she is intelligent, because she is strong and because she has a heart that beats stronger than any man that she stands among us today. This young woman now works to define her own educational, career and spiritual path. It has been my honor to meet her, work a long side her and all the other women who have shown me what courage really looks like. You are an inspiration!

The fantasy that a woman or child truly enjoys the exploitation dies with the following poem.

Your pleasure, my pain

No, it’s not a game. Nothing can phase me

No one knows my name…

Where did she go?

What did she do?

Wondering when it’s over. Looking over your shoulder…

In the dead of the night, ready for the fight…

Wondering, what would come?

What to do?

How to say?

PRAYING ONE DAY WE’LL BE OKAY…M.I.A.

 

 

Legalizing Brothels – Ontario’s Mistake Will Change Canada

When I heard that Ontario is now going to legalize brothels I questioned for a moment whether I was I was still living in Canada. Based on a false sense that brothel’s protect prostituted women and girls, the misinformed courts have opened up the flood gates for all the ills that have plague other countries who tried and failed to legalize prostitution.

If you are reading this post I’m going to ask you to become informed and contact your MP. If you are not willing to stand up against the exploitation of girls and women, have no interest in sending a message to human traffickers that Canada is not the place to do business, if you would not care if your daughter, sister, mother or friend ended up in circumstances that allowed men to purchase them for sexual purposes…then go ahead and click to another blog or go back to whatever you were doing before you landed here. It’s your choice and thankfully YOU have one.

However, if you are moved to support victims of exploitation, learn more about the Nordic Model and want to send a message to our Government read on.

Please get in touch with your local MP. Write a letter, email or call. Do whatever it takes to change this decision; we only have a few months to do so as the Crown attempts an appeal.

Contact:

Parliament: www.parl.gc.ca

Justice Minister of Canada: rob.nicholson@parl.gc.ca

Prime Minister Stephen Harper: pm@pm.gc.ca

Email and cc all of the above. There is a great letter you can download Letter Outline – provided by EVE.

Here is what you need to know:

Continue Reading

Invisible Chains

I’m about to embark on reading a book by Benjamin Perrin called Invisible Chains – Canada’s Underground of Human Trafficking. It was one of three books I ordered to become more informed about this topic.

Many of my blog readers know I have been developing my awareness, writing and speaking about Human Trafficking for awhile now. We can’t always know why a particular issue or cause catches our attention and holds on, but this has caught mine and I’m powerless to change course.

Human trafficking, especially the trafficking of women and children for sex, is and will continue grow, that scares me. While the scope of funds and policing has been focused on the war on drugs an even greater threat to society has taken over worldwide. It brings just as much destruction if not more; with gang involvement, Government and police corruption, families ripped apart and participants willing get their fix through any means possible.  To illustrate the difference, there isn’t rampant drug tourism but there is known, advertised sex tourism in many cities worldwide and that in itself shows how little is done to protect our most vulnerable from this crime. For most people it was a choice to take drugs, it is not the choice of any women or child to be brutally raped, tortured and sold into slavery. This is only my opinion, but I would rather see more tax dollars and policing address slavery than drugs right now; increasing the number of successful prosecutions of offenders who fuel the trade.

Individually, I’m really not sure how we make a difference, but I’m willing to try even it is in keeping the awareness alive on some small level. It is impressive that there are a growing number of NGO’s and individuals that are brave enough to try to support the victims, monitor the cases and speak honestly and loudly about what is and isn’t being done. One of those people is Benjamin Perrin and that is somebody to pay attention to, in this country and beyond.

If you share the same desire to learn more about Human Sex Trafficking and Human Trafficking in general, have other contacts or resources to contribute,  please feel free to contact me via email or comment on site. I welcome people of like-mind. 🙂

Human Trafficking Link

Thanks to readers out there I have a few more links to review. I am so appreciative of anyone who works to support the victims of trafficking and who help to make our politicians implement laws and policies that will make a difference. Here is a link from Linda.

Canada, USA, UK it doesn’t matter where I go in the world, mentioning this topic opens up news stories familiar and unfamiliar. There is a story to be told everywhere. Modern day slavery is what we are talking about and the only thing that is going to turn this around is to keep the discussion going. Thanks to all who have emailed and commented.

Human Trafficking Accountability

Buying & Selling Humans

In our July 15th, 2009 local paper there was a reference to a man being turned away at our border crossing. The Canada Border Services Agency searched and questions the US citizen, he was apparently going to spend ten days in Vancouver. What was he packing for his trip? A large amount of condoms, an 8-mm video camera, erased videos, a Polaroid camera, film and a list of massage parlours. He was turned away as he needed to provided records of a hit-and run charge in California that dated back to 1989 and proof of residency/employment.

Here is what I want to know: Did anyone think to seize the list of massage parlours and hand it over to the police, because there is a good chance they are operating illegally.

Humans are being bought and sold! Especially, women and children. They are being sold into sexual slavery; working in brothels, massage parlours, strip clubs and on the street. Many people may shy away from this topic, it’s too difficult to hear, they may feel powerless to do anything about it. Some even still believe women and girls choose this life, it’s a victimless crime. Those people are most certainly misinformed.

The bastard that was turned away at the border knew where to go. He along with many others become quite familiar with the strip clubs, parlours and streets that will satisfy their need to “buy a girl.” (or girls) He and people like him have no problem with exploitation and lining the pockets of the criminal underground.

For each of their victims there is this reality. Her name is irrelevant, in fact her real identity has long since been erased. She has no past, present or future. All of that is inconsequential, she is an object to be watched, touched and abused. She does not feel anymore and everything said or not said has been strictly coached and enforced. Her true voice and thoughts long silenced.

My blog takes a look at efforts of the Salvation Army to combat Human Sex Trafficking and theirr SPARKLE OF HOPE campaign which helps raise public awareness and funds programs for victims. Major Winn Blackman spoke to me at length about the work they are doing and what is happening around the world, as well as here in Vancouver. Human Sex Trafficking is alive and well!

I am currently working on a larger piece that will look at this issue in depth and incorporate more of my interview with Major Winn Blackman.

Here is what I ask of you:

DON’T TURN AWAY! We need to look at the role we all play in the issue of Human Trafficking and in particular Human Sex Trafficking. Societies acceptance of certain norms is fueling this industry. By not taking a cold hard look at the facts we are in essence allowing individuals and criminal organizations to operate freely within our cities. The Buying and Selling of Humans is wrong! Become informed, buy a pin to support the Sparkle of Hope Campaign, do something, but don’t turn away!! There is a woman or child out there that needs you.

( CHECK OUT HELEN BAMBER FOUNDATION, THE VIDEO FEATURES ACTOR EMMA THOMPSON)