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.