human trafficking is closer than you think

In this week’s Prairie Messenger, James Buchok of Winnipeg has written an eye-opening article about human trafficking in our own back-yard.  We tend to think this is mostly a third-world problem, but it happens here in Canada. While it is a danger for all at-risk youth, aboriginal woman are especially at risk. Once these women are lured into the sex trade, they become ‘invisible’, often going missing. Too many end up as yet another murder victim.

How does a young person get caught up in this web of abuse and exploitation? Donovan Fontaine, Chief of Sagkeeng First Nation describes how young people leave First Nations for opportunities in the city. They leave, “for what we all want, a better life. They have hopes and then reality hits hard; they lack adaptation skills and support and they go into survival mode. They need training and education, it’s cheaper than incarceration.”

How does a child from a safe and supportive home end up in the hands of traffickers?

After an argument with parents the child needs a friend and finds one, maybe on Facebook, maybe at the mall. With offers of money, shelter and often drugs, the child is lured into captivity, forced into the sex trade and often moved from city to city.

Meanwhile, our courts and parliament continue to study the laws surrounding prostitution. Should it be legalized? Should brothels be allowed to provide a safer environment for sex trade workers? Those who are pushing for the laws are careful to provide the caveat that coercion and exploitation are always illegal. They try to differentiate between those who freely choose to work in prostitution and those who don’t.

What the Prairie Messenger story shows is the ugly truth. The connection between the sex-trade and human trafficking is too obvious to ignore. We consider the selling of human life abhorrent, and rightly so. We look to other countries and wag a finger of judgment. Yes, luring young people from their families with promises of care, shelter, and money takes place on the streets of India. It also takes place on the streets of Canada.

And, we must not forget that there are always at least two parties involved in every sex for money transaction. The basic rule of economics applies; if there is no demand, the supply will diminish and eventually disappear.

It is time to open our eyes to the basic human rights violations that are taking place in our own neighborhoods. It is time to open our eyes to the human trafficking of our own children.

a new season of motor-bike meditations

Hubby got a new motor-bike this spring, one more suited for the comfort of his riding partner. Its arrival was postponed by a week of bad weather. Finally, he was able to bring it home; only to have it sit in the garage for another week of rain and cold.

On Sunday, the weather gods smiled on us and we headed out to visit our daughter. The drive was about an hour and a half each way. I was plugged in to my tunes, and resting comfortably. The time flew by as pleasantly as the spring scenery. The green is yet to come, but the fields are dry and ready for seeding; a sharp contrast to last spring’s floods on the prairies.

I had spent the previous week pouring over news stories of the doctrinal assessment of the LCRW. Emails were flying back and forth from sad and angry friends. Facebook and Twitter were a buzz. I wrote a blog post for catholic dialogue, one for NCR Today, and one for the Prairie Messenger. I was wondering if there was anything left to say. My brain hurt. And yet, cyber-space kept buzzing and news stories kept coming.

Sitting on the back of the bike with my hubby, knowing the joy he was experiencing driving our new machine, was just the medicine I needed. It was him and me, and God’s glorious creation zipping by. My mind had a chance to relax. Okay, maybe a wee bit of mental writing was going on. But, that’s how I usually get my inspirations; during prayer. There are many ways to pray, and motor-bike meditations are one of them. 😉

Check here and here for more motor-bike meditations.

Life for the Roma in France

entrance to a Roma camp: Cristian is on the right, wearing a baseball cap

This is a very special guest post, written by a dear friend in Paris, France. Mary Harvan Gorgette is a lay minister for social-justice and intercultural issues in a 5-parish area of the Diocese of Créteil, France. She coordinates a group that supports Roma families in the area.

Cristian spends most of his day on the road, in the southern suburbs of Paris, France. He rides his bike, stopping occasionally to pick up scrap metal and throw it in his makeshift trailer. Sometimes he loads up a larger appliance left curbside on trash day.

His trailer full, he pedals back to a small shantytown, located off an access road. In September 2010, five Romanian families built small homes around a central courtyard, using materials collected from trash bins. Cristian and Janina’s home has two rooms, a double bed for them and one for their three children. A concrete, wood-burning stove provides heat. A couple plastic chairs can be pulled out and covered with clean linens for visitors to the camp.

For cooking and washing, each family fills jerry cans from a roadside fire hydrant. Toilets are dug away from the camp. Janina and the other women cook on open fires in the courtyard.

A grassy field between the camp and the access road provides a workspace. There Cristian and other young men hammer the objects they have collected, separating the metal to be sold as scrap. The families survive this way because French law prohibits Romanian and Bulgarian citizens from working in any but a restricted number of fields, all requiring advanced degrees. It excludes the poorest Eastern Europeans from an otherwise open EU job market.

Many of the poorest belong to an ethnic group called Roma, long discriminated against in their home countries. There, they are excluded not only from the work force, but from schools, housing, and public services. This drives many to emigrate to the richer West. As Janina says, they live better off French trash: Romanians don’t throw much away.

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