Invite Your MP to Attend Parliamentary Screening of Red Light Green Light

by Michelle Brock on March 18th, 2014

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A Parliamentary screening of Red Light Green Light is taking place in Ottawa on April 9, and all MPs, senators & staff have already received a formal invitation to attend. This is a great opportunity for your representative to learn about sex trafficking, prostitution, and various efforts around the world to prevent sexual exploitation. If you’d like your MP to attend, please send them an email, requesting their attendance on April 9.

Below is an outline you can use, but feel free to personalize it as you wish.

If you do not know who your representative is, you can find out by inserting your postal code here.

Dear MP _______________,

My name is _____________ and I am a resident of ______________.  I am contacting you about an upcoming Parliamentary screening of Red Light Green Light, a documentary made by two Canadians about sex trafficking, prostitution, and various efforts around the world to curb sexual exploitation.   All MPs, senators and staff are welcome to attend the non-partisan screening, which is being hosted by MP Joy Smith, MP Maurice Vallacott, and Senator Mobina Jaffer.  A formal invitation has already been sent to your office.

As outlined in your invitation,  Jared and Michelle Brock, the directors of the film, will be present for Q&A discussion after the screening.  It will be a great opportunity to gain more understanding on a critical and complex issue.  As a member of your constituency who cares about this issue, I urge you to attend.

Please RSVP to the office of MP Joy Smith to confirm your spot.  The RSVP contact email is listed on the bottom of the invitation you received this week.

Please let me know if you plan to attend.  Thank you for your service to our country and to my community.

Sincerely,

(your name)

(your contact info: phone, email, mailing address)

We hope to see all your representatives there!

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Gender Inequality: Real or Imagined?

by Michelle Brock on March 8th, 2014

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I grew up in a European family where my gender did not hold me back from dreaming.  I had the privilege of going to an English immersion school in Finland, an international school in Ethiopia, and a Christian academy for junior high – each providing me with an excellent education and with it, opportunities. My best friends in Africa were were Jesse and Jakke, two brothers who took me on all their adventures.  We were experts at spotting hyenas in the night and making it around their property without touching the ground once.  ”Don’t touch the lava,” we would say as we climbed along window sills and fences, letting our imaginations fly.

I can honestly say that I never even considered gender inequality once as a kid.  Well, maybe a couple times, but only on the soccer field at recess when the guys would hog the ball.

Ethiopian Women 300x207But one day, when my dad I were visiting Blue Nile Falls with some family from Canada, we saw women working hard in a field, carrying huge loads, while the men sat under a shaded tree chewing khat.  Someone in the group made a comment, “oh how typical, the guys watch the women do all the work.”

Typical?

I didn’t get it.  My mom worked hard, and so did my dad.  I was sure the men were just taking a break. And perhaps they were.

It wasn’t until I visited Namibia as an 18 year old that I personally felt gender inequality.  My friend and I were walking on a sandy road in the desert heat, and a truck full of men drove by.  They began to hoot and holler as the truck slowed.  No one else was around.

My heart beat wildly.  We were terrified.  In that moment, my Canadian citizenship, my middle class upbringing, and my academic accomplishments meant nothing.  There was only one reality that remained, pounding in my mind: I am a female.  When the truck finally moved on, we breathed a sigh of relief.

My fear turned to rage.  For the first time I realized that because of my gender, I could not enjoy a peaceful walk alone in the desert, or forest, or mountains without the risk of getting raped, assaulted, or ogled.  How dare they take this joy from me?  Since then, I have always been slightly jealous of my male friends, whose chances of being assaulted on a morning jog are very unlikely.

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My eyes have been opened to the plight of women around the world.

I recently read an enlightening piece by Molly Edmonds that highlights global gender inequality. According to the UN, women do two thirds of the world’s work, receive 10% of the world’s income, and own 1% of the means of production.  They often get penalized for taking time off work to care for sick children.  Women are at high risk of being physically or sexually abused, and in some areas, rape is used as a weapon of war.  There are about 1.5 billion people living on less the a dollar a day, and most of them are women.  In some countries, women are not allowed to drive a car, or leave the house without their husband’s permission.  Despite making up half the world’s population, women hold only 15.6% of elected representative seats globally.  Then there is female infanticide, child brides, and sex trafficking victims.  Women are overrepresented in prostitution, especially if they are from an ethnic background that is oppressed or marginalized.

I’ve met many women for which some of these experiences ring true.  So you can understand why I am offended when some people say that gender inequality is inconsequential.  For some, the concept of gender equality evokes images of aggressive women taking over a business meeting, trampling men under their stilettos.  Others get stuck in a conversation about how gender equality threatens to water down the family unit.  Those who refuse to explore the world outside of these boundaries clearly misunderstand gender equality altogether.  Equality does not threaten the unique differences between men and women, but rather allows us to celebrate them more fully.

I once read the quote of an activist who was imprisoned in South America.  She said, “I do not seek women’s rights, but human rights for women.”  These words have resonated with me ever since. International Women’s Day is not about women being better than men, or about some secret agenda to take over the world.  It is about acknowledging us as human beings and respecting our worth, our contribution, and our legacy.

Today, take some time to celebrate women in your life, to learn about the plight of those around the world, and to invest in the lives of women who are working hard to survive. My husband and I love to make micro-credit loans through KIVA - which allows us to support the dreams of women in developing countries.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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Order Your Postcards Today & Help Bring the Nordic Model to Canada!

by Michelle Brock on February 24th, 2014

Canada Post Mailbox1 1024x682In response to the recent Supreme Court ruling on prostitution, three organizations – EVE, Sextrade 101 and the London Abused Women’s Centre - have launched a national postcard campaign.  The initiative highlights the Nordic Model as the way to move forward, and based on the following components:

  • Decriminalize persons being sold
  • Penalize buyers, pimps, and procurers
  • Mandate robust funding to women wishing to exit the sex industry

 

The goal is to demonstrate to growing support for this approach to our government, which is currently considering their response to the Supreme Court ruling.

50,000 have been printed, with the hope that they will all be signed and sent to MP Joy Smith, who will then present them to Justice Minister Peter MacKay.  You can order yours today by emailing nordicmodel@lawc.on.ca.

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You can find more information on the campaign here!

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Unexpected Dangers of the Sea

by Michelle Brock on February 19th, 2014

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Last week I was on Europe’s Atlantic coast, watching massive waves roll in during a storm. The water crashed against the cliffs, promising to sweep away anyone whose curiosity led them too close.

I shuddered, as I always do when I see nature exert its raw fury.

I came across a video which was taken during that same storm. A man hopped over the “Danger” ropes that had been set up, wanting to take some photos of the raging sea. By the time he saw the wave come in from behind, it was too late. He did not survive.

This man’s fate has haunted me all week, as have the stories of others who were swept away in that very same storm.

I found myself thinking of the many prostitution survivors we’ve met whose stories have eerie similarities. Many of them got too close to a boy who turned out to be a pimp. Some were enticed by the money that could be made in the sex industry, only to discover that they could not get out. We’ve met a father whose daughter did not survive – she was murdered, along with a seven month old baby inside her. The police suspect a john had killed her, but he was never found. By the time each of these young women realized what was happening, they’d been swept into the dark underworld of violence and oppression.

Let’s make it our goal to set up systems that help us all, especially the most vulnerable in our communities, to stay on dry land.

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Watering My Lawn is My Right

by Michelle Brock on January 21st, 2014

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January is California’s rainy season.  I’ve spent the last 3 weeks in a town outside of San Francisco, expecting to see rain clouds and cool temperatures.  Instead, the governor just declared a drought emergency, with many regions not getting any precipitation at all for almost 50 days.

Wells have dried up.  Roaring rivers have shrivelled to a trickle, making bridges over them obsolete.  A lake where locals usually go to swim has become a destination for treasure hunts, with long lost artifacts sitting openly on the dry river bottom, no longer hidden by the deep blue waters.

Citizens in the area have been mandated by the municipality to reduce their water usage by 20-30%, and all outdoor lawn watering is prohibited.

It is in times like this that our cultural values are challenged by nature.  The Western world prides itself on self-sufficiency, independence, and individual rights.  Steeped in these beliefs, it is difficult for some to adjust to a community mindset when an emergency comes along.

sprinkler1This past week, I have taken several neighbourhood walks.  Not only have I seen people watering their lawns, but even their pavement.  One small yard had 6 sprinklers running at full blast, with wasted water pouring down the sidewalk and into the drain.  I considered being that guy and reporting them.  Instead, I chose to believe that they did not know about the drought declaration.

Chances are they did know, revealing a deep-rooted belief:  their individual right to a green lawn trumped the collective rights of an entire community to a life-sustaining resource.

In university I took a course on natural disaster vulnerability management, and learned that natural occurrences turn into natural disasters because humans make themselves vulnerable.  We build on fault lines and floodplains.  We over-consume natural resources, leaving little margin for emergencies. We poison our own rivers.

And, like the group here in California who decided to build a campfire during a severe drought last week, we assume we can be the exception.  This little campfire sparked a wildfire that burned down dozens of homes and further depleted the state’s much needed water reserve.

Photo credit Nick Ut Associated Press

Photo credit- Nick Ut : Associated Press

 

Individual rights certainly have their place, but I wonder if it’s time to revisit an old-fashioned concept that has been lost in our pursuit of personal success:

What is good for my community?

 

It is this question that drives people to sacrifice some of their personal rights for the well-being of others around them.  Our lives are interconnected, and the way we steward our individual rights can have an enormous effect on our communities as a whole.

Dealing with environmental scarcity is just the tip of the ice berg.  We must be willing to ask this same question when it comes to addressing other social ills – like poverty, or sex trafficking, or economic inequality.  What individual rights are we willing to put on hold to advocate for the good of society as whole?

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The Responsibilities of a Storyteller

by Michelle Brock on January 15th, 2014

Jay and I love meeting fellow storytellers.  Once of our favourites is Roxanne Krystalli, who has some wise words about stewarding the stories of those who have experienced violence and trauma. Based on her experience in conflict and post-conflict zones around the world, Roxanne shares some insights that we can all learn from.

Our Tour in Pictures – From the Passenger Seat!

by Michelle Brock on December 28th, 2013

Driving across the country for our tour has reminded us how beautiful Canada is.  Each season is just spectacular.  Here’s some glimpses of our journey from the passenger seat!

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Supreme Court Strikes Down Prostitution Laws…Now What?

by Michelle Brock on December 20th, 2013

Supreme Court of CanadaToday, the Supreme Court ruled on Canada’s prostitution laws.  Until now in Canada, prostitution itself has been legal but everything around it has been illegal.  For example, it has been against the law to communicate for the purposes of prostitution, to operate within a brothel, or for a third party to make money off of someone who is prostituting.

A group of sex workers challenged these laws, saying that it made the industry dangerous for those selling sex.  Today the Supreme Court ruled in their favour, striking down these three provisions.  In essence, this means that by this time next year, brothels could be legal across the country. Not only that, but a third party will be able to live off the avails of prostitution, and soliciting will no longer be banned.

I have to say that the Supreme Court was in a tricky position on this one.  Ultimately, their role was to clean up a messy law, and their decision did not come as a surprise.  No one thought the existing prostitution laws made sense, but where we go from here is a roaring debate.  Let’s start with the effects of this ruling on the industry as a whole.

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The Bad News?

Demand for paid sex will increase as a result of today’s decision, expanding the entire industry.  And based on the examples of other countries that have chosen to decriminalize and regulate prostitution, sex trafficking will increase.  In a context where the buying and selling of sex are both legal, there are never enough people willing to work in the industry to meet the demand, and traffickers are more than willing to step in to fill the supply side.  In legal contexts where living off the avails is permitted, pimps can disguise themselves as bodyguards and managers to avoid getting prosecuted.  Many Canadian police officers have said that striking down these laws would strip them of tools they often use to convict criminals who are exploiting others.

2014The Good News?

Though the Supreme Court has made its decision, they have given Parliament a one year window to amend the law if they wish to do so.  This means that we have 12 months to rewrite the laws on prostitution altogether, as long as they do not violate the Charter.

Canada now has an opportunity to adopt an approach that has been very successful in Sweden.

If there is enough pressure from Canadian citizens, we could – as a country – usher in a preventative approach that criminalizes the purchase of sex while decriminalizing the selling of it.

This law acknowledges that most people who sell sex do so out of a place of vulnerability and inequality, and therefore should not be treated as criminals.  Instead, it places the responsibility on the buyers, who are fueling the industry in the first place.  The model, which is being adopted in several other countries, decreases sex trafficking and makes commercial sexual exploitation difficult and unprofitable for traffickers.  When coupled with exit programs for those who want to leave prostitution, it is an effective way to target the market and protect the most vulnerable.

You can read MP Joy Smith’s press release to learn more about the Nordic Model.  Here is an excerpt:

“Legalizing prostitution is a direct attack on the fundamental rights and freedoms of women, girls and vulnerable people. In the same regard, continuing to criminalize the women and vulnerable populations being prostituted creates barriers that prevent them from escaping prostitution and entrenches inequality. 

Let’s be clear: those who advocate either approach ignore mounting empirical evidence and will find themselves on the wrong side of history and women’s equality. 

As a nation, we must ensure pimps remain severely sanctioned and prostituted women and girls are not criminalized and instead given meaningful escape routes out of sex work. Most importantly, Canada must focus on the real root of prostitution by targeting the buyers of sex.”  

What You Can Do Now:

1. Fill a Petition.  When new legislation is introduced in the House, petition signatures make a significant impact.  If you want a preventative law that reduces demand for paid sex to be adopted in Canada, please download this petition, get as many signatures as you can, and send it in to the address at the bottom of the sheet.  We have collected thousands of signatures already and need more.  We need broad-based democracy!

Download Petition Here!

2. Write a Letter.  Now is the time to contact your Member of Parliament, Justice Minister Peter MacKay (who made this statement in response to the court’s ruling), and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  You can get a sample letter here, (adapted from Defend Dignity), and let your representative know that you want Canada to adopt the Nordic Model.

Letters can be addressed to:

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
313-S Centre Block
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

The Hon. Peter MacKay, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice
Attorney General of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Email: peter.mackay@parl.gc.ca

Name of Your MP 
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

3. Book a Film Screening.  This spring, we are taking our documentary Red Light Green Light on tour across Canada.  It specifically looks at the issue of various prostitution models, and what approaches best prevent sex trafficking.  Check out our tour schedule and sign up to host an event.  

4.  Make a donation.  Support Hope for the Sold as we continue to educate the public about trafficking prevention.  You can make a donation here, or through our Christmas Catalogue!

5.  Follow our Updates. Connecting with us via facebook and twitter will help you keep up to date as Canada’s prostitution laws unfold.

We’re excited to partner with you to prevent commercial sexual exploitation in our country.

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Canada’s Supreme Court to Rule on Prostitution Case Dec. 20

by Michelle Brock on December 16th, 2013

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We’ve just wrapped up the first leg of our the Red Light Green Light  film tour, which took us as far East as Halifax and as far West as Vancouver Island.  So far we’ve done 41 screenings, collected 3,249 signatures in support of the Nordic Model (not including petitions some of you are getting filled at home), participated in over a dozen media interviews, and driven a total of 9,264 km!

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We wanted to get in a quick tour across the country before the Supreme Court decision makes their decision on the Bedford v. Canada prostitution case.  We’ve recently heard that the court will announce their ruling this Friday, December 20.

Whether the court rules in favour of full decriminalization or not, Parliament will have an opportunity to respond to the ruling.  Canada will have a window of time to rewrite the laws on prostitution altogether. If there is enough pressure from Canadian citizens, we could – as a country – usher in a preventative approach that criminalizes the purchase of sex while decriminalizing the selling of it.  This model, which was first adopted in Sweden, decreases sex trafficking and makes commercial sexual exploitation difficult and unprofitable for traffickers.  When coupled with exit programs for those who want to leave prostitution, it is an effective way to target the market and address the vulnerabilities that exist in the industry.

Once Friday’s ruling is announced, we will let you know what you can do to help bring a preventative approach to Canada.  In the meantime, there are three things that can be done.

Briercrest1 300x2251. Host a Spring Tour Event

Starting in April, we are doing a second sweep through Canada with our film, Red Light Green Light.

If you’d like to host a screening in your community, we’ve listed the dates that we plan to be in each area here.  See when we’re in your area and send us a screening request by filling in the form here.

Petitions 192x3002. Fill a Petition

Many of you have signed petitions to bring the Nordic Model to Canada.  We still need loads more signatures, and are looking for petition champions!  Download and print yours here, fill it up with signatures, and send it to the address at the bottom of the petition.  We will take care of getting it to the right people!  Get as many signatures as you can, and don’t worry if the page isn’t full when you send it in.  Each signature from a Canadian citizen counts!

3.  Check out our Christmas Catalogue

Support our spring tour by selecting an item from the Christmas Catalogue for your family and friends!

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It’s Christmas Catalogue Time!

by Michelle Brock on December 10th, 2013

We are currently on tour with our new film, Red Light Green Light.  This documentary highlights the complex connections between sex trafficking and prostitution, and examines preventative models that countries can adopt to prevent commercial sexual exploitation.

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This Christmas season, by making a donation through our Christmas Catalogue, you have an opportunity to spread the message of trafficking prevention across the country.

catalogue 300x187CLICK HERE to see our Christmas Catalogue!

To watch the trailer and learn more about the film, go to www.RedLightGreenLightFilm.com.

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