Red Light Green Light is Headed to the U.S.!

by Michelle Brock on August 27th, 2014

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In June, we wrapped up a cross-Canada film tour with our documentary, Red Light Green Light.  Here are some road highlights from the last 8 months:

  • Did 85 screenings across 8 provinces
  • Survived snowstorms in Thunder Bay and the Rockies
  • Collected thousands of petition signatures
  • Met dozens of MPs, MPPs, MLAs, police officers, social workers, and other service providers
  • Met survivors of exploitation/abuse in almost every audience
  • Testified before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Bill C-36

 

US

While Canada has been our focus to date, trafficking prevention is something that every country needs to be discussing.  This fall, we will be headed across the border to do a U.S. film tour!  We want to plant seeds of awareness with the hope that each state will adopt laws and initiatives that prevent commercial sexual exploitation.  We hope to partner with local organizations that are already doing important work, and believe that Red Light Green Light could be a valuable tool to rally up support for anti-trafficking efforts across the country. So here’s where you come in.  Do you know anyone in the U.S. who would be interested in hosting a screening of Red Light Green Light?  Our plan is to hit the following states:

Upstate New York (ie. Niagara Falls/Buffalo/Utica/Syracuse)
Boston MA
Providence RI
New York City NY
Washington DC
Lynchburg VA
Charlotte NC
Atlanta GA
Jacksonville/Daytona Beach/Orlando FL
Lantana FL
Sarasota FL
Tampa FL
Tallahassee/Mobile/New Orleans
Houston TX
San Antonio/Dallas TX
Phoenix AZ
Las Vegas NV
San Diego CA
Los Angeles CA
Santa Barbara/Monterey/Santa Cruz/San Jose CA
San Francisco CA
Sacramento CA/Redding CA/Eugene OR/Salem OR
Portland OR
Seattle WA
Spokane/Missoula/Helena/Butte/Great Falls MT
Colorado Springs/Denver CO
Lincoln NE
Kansas City MO
Minneapolis MN
Chicago IL
Gary/Kalamazoo/Grand Rapids/Lansing/Ann Arbor/Indianapolis MI
Louisville KY
Nashville TN
Knoxville TN
Cincinnati OH/Dayton OH/Columbus OH/Pittsburgh PA
Akron OH/Cleveland OH/Toledo OH/Detroit MI

RED LIGHT POSTER RGB 662x1024The tour starts NOVEMBER 1st, so we need your help today.

Take some time right now, or in the next few days, to contact your American friends and encourage them to host a screening of the film in their community.  If you know folks on our route that might be willing to jump on board (and who might have the connections and capability to pull off a good event), we’d love for your to connect us!

The easiest way is for you to shoot an introduction email their way and CC Michelle (hopeforthesold@gmail.com), and she will follow up with more details. Here’s a sample you can personalize and email to your friends (be sure to include the links so they can check out the website and trailer):

 

Hi ___________, I’d like to introduce you to Michelle Brock, the co-director of Red Light Green Light, a documentary about sex trafficking. Michelle and her husband Jay run a charity called Hope for the Sold, and went to 10 countries to examine the best ways to prevent commercial sexual exploitation. They just finished an 85 city cross-Canada tour with the film, including a Parliamentary screening for government officials in Ottawa, as well as a bunch of churches, universities, and women’s crisis shelters. 

Jay and Michelle are currently planning a film tour in the U.S., and are looking for schools, churches, and other groups that might be interested in hosting a screening in the fall. I’ve CC’d Michelle on this email, and she will send you a follow up email with some more details. In the meantime, you can check out the film trailer and synopsis right here.

Excited to bring Red Light Green Light to the U.S. of A!

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Crisis in Iraq: Rape and Sex Slavery as a Strategic Weapon of War

by Michelle Brock on August 15th, 2014

When most of us think about war and conflict, we tend to picture soldiers, guns and bombs.  If we watch a lot of movies, we may even envision hand-to-hand combat, underground torture chambers, and chemical warfare.  But there is another factor that is tragically common in the context of conflict: sexual violence as a weapon of war.

The current crisis in Iraq is no different.  ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) – otherwise known simply as IS (Islamic State) – a militant Sunni jihadist group that is advancing through the country, is strategically raping and kidnapping women and children along the way.  Historically on a global scale, rape and pillage have been common, opportunistic practices in the context of conquest.  But in recent decades, sexual violence has become known as a strategic war tool, intentionally and systematically carried out to undermine and fatally wound local communities.

Iraq

According to two United Nations officials, about 1,500 women and children may have been forced into sexual slavery in recent weeks.  The victims are mostly from minority groups within Iraq, consisting of Yazidi, Christian, Turkomen and Shabak women, girls and boys.  What is the purpose of this? Dr. Nazand Begikhani breaks it down:

  1. To foster fear in communities – even if a man is not afraid of getting killed himself, he is afraid for his family and what might happen to his wife and children
  2. Since women are traditionally caretakers, raping or kidnapping them undermines family structures
  3. Perpetrators see gang rape as an opportunity to bond with each other, strengthening their loyalty to the brotherhood
  4. In the case of ethnic cleansing, which is an apparent goal of IS, impragnating women from minority groups is a way to “pollute” the bloodline of a population

As Major-General Patrick Cammaert puts it:

“It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict.”

 

ISISAs IS gains ground in Iraq, we must do everything we can to support those who are on the front lines offering humanitarian support and advocacy.

This is not an easy fix situation, and the history of the area plays a huge role in its complexity.  But but below are some links to organizations that are requesting your activism and generosity (please note that some of these are international organizations and may not be able to provide a Canadian tax receipt, but don’t that that stop you from giving):

Yesterday I watched a VICE undercover documentary (42 mins) about the situation in Iraq and Syria. Please set aside some time this week to watch, learn and pray.  But before you do, remember that this is an extremist group, and most Muslims are just as horrified as the rest of us at what is happening. Considering that many Iraqis and Syrians who currently live in North America or Europe still have family and friends stuck in the midst of this crisis, now is the time for us to reach out to our neighbours and offer support and kindness.

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If Slavery Doesn’t Kill You…Freedom Might

by Michelle Brock on August 11th, 2014

MansSearch 577x1024I am reading a really good book.  It’s called Man’s Search for Meaning, written by holocaust survivor Victor Frankl. Whenever I’ve studied the holocaust or the trans-Atlantic slave trade, I’ve assumed that being freed from such horrific bondage would be the best feeling in the world. And momentarily, it probably is.  But as Frankl points out in his book, being freed is actually more of a process than a moment, and there are many challenges along the way:

“Step for step I progressed, until I again became a human being.  The way that led from the acute mental tension of the last days in camp (from that war of nerves to mental peace) was certainly not free from obstacles.  It would be an error to think that a liberated prisoner was not in need of spiritual care any more.  

We have to consider that a man who has been under such enormous mental pressure for such a long time is naturally in some danger after his liberation, especially since the pressure was released quite suddenly.  This danger (in the sense of psychological hygiene) is the psychological counterpart of the bends.  Just as the physical health of the caisson worker would be endangered if he left his diver’s chamber suddenly (where he is under enormous atmospheric pressure), so the man who has suddenly been liberated from mental pressure can suffer damage to his moral and spiritual health.

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During this psychological phase one observed that people with natures of a more primitive kind could not escape the influences of the brutality which had surrounded them in camp life.  Now, being free, they thought they could use their freedom licentiously and ruthlessly.  The only thing that had changed for them was that they were now the oppressors instead of the oppressed.  They became instigators, not objects, of willful force and injustice.  They justified their behaviour by their own terrible experiences.  

This was often revealed in apparently insignificant events.  A friend was walking across a field with me toward the camp when suddenly we came to a field of green crops.  Automatically, I avoided it, but he drew his arm through mine and dragged me through it.  I stammered something about not treading down the young crops.  He became annoyed, gave me an angry look and shouted, ‘You don’t say! And hasn’t enough been taken from us?  ‘My wife and child have been gassed – not to mention everything else – and you would forbid me to tread on a few stalks of oats!’

OatsOnly slowly could these men be guided back to the commonplace truth that no one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them.  

We had to strive to lead them back to this truth, or the consequences would have been much worse than the loss of a few thousand stalks of oats.”

Why is it that so many girls return to their pimps after they’ve been ‘rescued’?  Why is it that some people who have experienced child abuse end up abusing their own kids? Why is it that service providers experience violence at the hands of the very people they are trying to help?

Because freedom isn’t a moment, it’s a process.  With courage, boldness, and patience, we must strive to walk alongside those who have been hurt, enslaved, and exploited, and foster sustainable, healthy liberty.

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How To Prevent Your Child from Falling Prey to a Trafficker on Facebook

by Michelle Brock on July 30th, 2014

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“Heyy thanks for adding me your very pretty would you be interested in a job making easy money.”

“hey sexy how you doing im rico…i just wanna say you sexy and I will love for you to come get this money with me i see a lot of potential in you.”

“What up Bri? Call me soon as u get this love so we can chop it up and get better acquainted..”

“I LOVE trapping on the weekends. #$Money Making Mission.”

These are some facebook status updates and messages taken from court documents, showing how pimps recruited girls into prostitution by making initial contact online.

A couple years I met a girl in the Oakville area who had accepted a friend request on facebook from some “cute older guys.” They told her they could hook her up with alcohol and get her into all the parties.  She was in high school at the time, and had no idea these older boys were traffickers on a mission to recruit.  As the relationship developed, she was gradually groomed into prostitution.  (I recently came across a similar story online – you can listen to Nina’s story here).

textingThis is happening all over the world.  In Indonesia, 27 of the 129 children reported missing to its National Commission for Child Protection are believed to have been abducted after meeting their captors on Facebook.  The internet has no cultural or socio-economic boundaries.  While many trafficking victims have traditionally been lured or abducted from marginalized or impoverished communities, the internet has opened up the playing field to include middle and even upper class homes.  Teenagers and children are curious and hungry for compliments regardless of socioeconomic status, and traffickers can easily access them via facebook, twitter, and texting at all hours of the day.

For parents, this is a poses a real challenge.  Cell phones, the very thing that parents often want their kids to have for safety purposes, may be the tool that undermines their safety in the worst way.  Social media, which is supposed foster good relationships, sometimes acts as a breeding ground for toxic ones instead.  So what’s a parent to do?

The FBI has identified some warning signs that your child may be at-risk online:

  • Your child spends large amounts of time on-line or texting, especially at night
  • You find pornography on your child’s computer/phone
  • Your child receives phone calls from men you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize
  • Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know
  • Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room
  • Your child becomes withdrawn from the family
  • Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else

 

Here is a list of tips for parents regarding internet safety that could be quite helpful.  Instruct your children:

  • to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line
  • to never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or on-line service to people they do not personally know
  • to never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number
  • to never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images
  • to never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing
  • that whatever they are told on-line may or may not be true

You can read the full FBI Parent Guide here, and some more social media tips here.  Below is a conversation between a pimp and a teen’s parent who stepped in (taken from this CNN Money article):

PimpConvo

family dinner 300x300The most powerful way to traffic-proof your child is to have a strong relationship with them.  This starts at the youngest of ages.  Maybe it’s time to make regular family dinner a bigger priority.  Or to get a new job that allows for more quality time with your kids.

Investing into your kids when they are young can pave the way for a healthy relationship when they are teenagers, and that is a challenging hurdle for pimps to overcome.

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A Subtle Way to Guard our Girls from Predators

by Michelle Brock on July 21st, 2014

I heard my mom’s laughter upstairs.  “Michelle, come take a look at this!”  I bolted up the steps and saw her pointing at the large stuffed animal mouse that stood in the corner of her bedroom.  Its face was covered in lipstick, the red marks concentrated primarily on the lips and eyes.  We considered the culprit – my little sister, who had just learned how to walk – and wondered how she’d managed to find a lipstick and create such a masterpiece during her short nap.

lipstickAfter some investigation, we figured that my sister had crawled over the guardrails on her bed, pushed aside obstacles that were supposed to keep her out of my mom’s drawer, picked out the lipstick and used it on the mouse, returned the lipstick in its rightful place in the drawer, and crawled back into bed as if nothing had happened.  My mom tried to her best to reprimand my sister without breaking into a smile, and we both thought her plan was ingenious and adorable.

I remember marvelling at the keen awareness of a two-year-old.  Whether she had seen my mom put on lipstick, me put on lip gloss, or a commercial advertising eye shadow, my sister understood the basic premise of make-up.  While at her age it came down to mere curiosity and wanting to imitate the women around her, in our appearance-obsessed society there is a point where, for many young girls, curiosity can switch to insecurity.

During our documentary film tour this spring, I met someone who told me of a tactic that some traffickers were using in their area.  They would go to a place where teenage girls were hanging out, like a mall or park, and strike up conversation.  They’d find ways to compliment each girl in some way, whether it was about her hair, her eyes, or her body, and strategically gauge their reaction.  Some girls would ignore them entirely.  Others would respond with “thank you.”  Some would immediately gush out “no I don’t” or “I’m so ugly,” and these were the girls that would be selected for the grooming process.  A little attention goes a long way for a girl starved of self worth, and traffickers would merely pose as boyfriends, showering them with gifts, compliments, and affection, while gradually grooming them into a life of prostitution.

Those of us who are adult women have a responsibility to set an example for young girls.  Are we masking our natural beauty because we are insecure?  Do we complain about our bodies in front of our children, our nieces, our sisters?  What are the possible repercussions of living out of fear?  Let’s examine our hearts and our minds, so we can empower the younger generation to live with contentment, gratitude, and courage.  It’s a subtle way to guard our children from predators seeking to exploit insecurity.

This video says it so beautifully:

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Bill C-36 Adopted by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights

by Michelle Brock on July 16th, 2014

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Good news from MP Joy Smith:

I am delighted to share with you that Bill C-36 has been adopted by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

In September when Parliament resumes, the Chair of the Committee will report the Bill back to the House of Commons where it will go through Report Stage and Third Reading.

Today’s clause by clause study of Bill C-36 was an important opportunity to address concerns by witnesses that the proposed changes to section 213 of the Criminal Code were too vague and would allow prostituted women to continue to be broadly criminalized. Our government put forward and adopted an amendment that significantly narrowed the offence to accomplish what it was intended to accomplish:

Original proposed offence in Bill C-36:

213. (1.1) Everyone is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction who communicates with any person — for the purpose of offering or providing sexual services for consideration — in a public place, or in any place open to public view, that is or is next to a place where persons under the age of 18 can reasonably be expected to be present.

New wording of offence in Bill C-36:

213. (1.1) Everyone is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction who communicates with any person — for the purpose of offering or providing sexual services for consideration — in a public place, or in any place open to public view, that is or is next to a school ground, playground or daycare centre.

RESULT: This puts a focus on discouraging solicitation from three specific places where youth should be able to be free from sexual commodification and objectification.

The second significant amendment to Bill C-36 adopted was put forward by the NDP and supported by the Conservative government was the following:

REVIEW AND REPORT

45.1 (1) Within five years after this section comes into force, a comprehensive review of the provisions and operation of this Act shall be undertaken by such committee of the House of Commons as may be designated or established by the House for that purpose.

(2) The committee referred to in subsection (1) shall, within a year after a review is undertaken pursuant to that subsection or within such further time as the House may authorize, submit a report on the review to the Speaker of the House, including a statement of any changes the committee recommends.

RESULT: This will allow the government to see the impact of Bill C-36 and fine-tune it where necessary. The NDP suggested a review within 2 years and our government changed this to 5 years to allow for more information to be gathered.

I will continue to keep you updated!

Sincerely,

Joy Smith, B.Ed., M.Ed. 

Member of Parliament

Committee 300x225If you’d like to watch Hope for the Sold’s testimony before the Committee from last week, you can do so here (starts at minute 12:30).

We’ll keep you posted on how this develops and what you can do as the bill make progress!

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Indoor Toilets, Vulnerability, and Canada’s Prostitution Law

by Michelle Brock on June 9th, 2014

There was a story from India in the news a couple weeks ago that I still haven’t been able to shake.  Two cousins from the impoverished, “low-caste” Dalit community, aged 14 and 15, went outside in the evening to use the toilet.  Indoor plumbing is still considered a luxury in many parts of the country, and it is quite common for a family to use a field or outhouse to relieve themselves.  Tragically, these two girls were attacked by a group of men.   One of the girls was raped, both were strangled, and their bodies were strung up from a mango tree.

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Photo Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2645231/Teen-Indian-girls-raped-murdered-left-hanging-mango-tree-pictured.html

 

The community was in an outrage.  Some men were caught and arrested.  In India, rape is common and rarely punished, but gruesome, high-profile cases have been making the news in recent years. This specific case may have even been an honour killing.  The state’s Chief Secretary Alok Ranjan dubbed rape as a “trivial incident” and said the crime should “not be blown out of proportions.”

Though it’s true that indoor plumbing would have prevented this particular incident on that particular night, it’s absurd to argue that the lack of an indoor bathroom is what killed these girls.  No – what killed them was men who have been brought up in a society where women (especially women from the Dalit “untouchable” caste) have little value, and rape is a man’s right.  If every family in that community had an indoor toilet, India would still be dealing with a rape crisis because men would simply get more creative.

In the last few days, Canada has been having a very heated discussion about our prostitution laws.  In a nutshell, bill C-36, the proposed prostitution legislation that was tabled by Justice Minister MacKay, makes it illegal to purchase sex, to benefit from someone’s exploitation (ie. pimping), and to advertise the sexual services of another person.  In an effort to address the vulnerability of many of those selling sex while also touching on community protection, the bill simultaneously makes it legal for a person to sell sex, as long as they are not doing it in an area where children could reasonably be expected to be present (read more about my thoughts here).  An advocate from a sex work group made a statement about the bill, saying that “sex workers will die because of these laws.”

The argument is that making any part of the prostitution transaction illegal pushes it into the shadows and makes it more dangerous for sex workers.  While isolated areas can in some cases be more dangerous than well-lit, public areas, there is a misconception that location is to blame for the violence.  Trisha Baptie, who used to be in the sex industry, puts it best:

“It was never the laws that beat, raped and killed me and my friends — it was men. It was never the location that was unsafe, it was the man we were in that location with that made it unsafe…”

 

Switzerland 300x229People selling sex experience violence and death at significantly higher rates than the average citizen.  This is the case regardless of what prostitution laws are in place.  The law isn’t what is killing and abusing women in prostitution, it’s men paying for sex who are killing and abusing women in prostitution.

While making a documentary on prostitution and sex trafficking, my husband and I met a woman who had worked in legal brothel in Switzerland.

She experienced horrific violence at the hands of johns despite being in a legal establishment.  In some legal regimes, sex workers have panic buttons in their rooms and train each other how to get away from violent clients.   While not every john is violent, it’s not unreasonable to say that violence is inherent to prostitution because it thrives on anonymity, preys on vulnerability, and seeks to fulfill a one-sided fantasy.  While harm reduction efforts are vital and should continue, we should stop kidding ourselves by thinking that the industry will no longer have violence if we decriminalize the purchase of sex.  Perhaps it’s time to stop asking if prostitution is violent and start asking why it is violent.

These are some comments from sex buyers:

“The relationship has to stay superficial because they are a person and you’re capable of getting to know them. But once you know them, it’s a problem, because you can’t objectify them anymore.”

“…it can be very satisfying at the moment, but inevitably leads to a lot of stress and anxiety… I am supporting an industry that is exploitive and unfair and potentially harmful to myself and all parties involved…they are getting paid for it, but you are being a patron to an industry that is very dangerous…”

“Being with a prostitute is like having a cup of coffee, when you‘re done, you throw it out.”

“I have to admit that at one time I did think of women merely as sexual objects. And I‘m not proud of it. I was a product of my environment, and that‘s what was going on in the society I grew up in. I think prostitution degrades women and it treats all sexual relationships as cheap sex and not as a respectable loving relationship with intimate feelings for one another.”

MenAndWomen 300x300We collectively have an opportunity to decide which direction we want our society to head.  Laws, if enforced adequately, don’t merely have penal effects but also normative ones.  India’s attitude toward women has had horrific manifestations, like rape culture, honour killings, and female infanticide. Do we honestly think that installing indoor toilets, lighting up isolated streets, and teaching women to travel in large groups gets at the root of the problem?  Of course not.  These efforts are vitally important and can save some lives, but the core issue is men’s entitlement.  India’s long-term strategy should include holding men to account and shifting cultural values, and until that happens, we will continue to hear heart-breaking, gruesome stories in the media.

While decriminalizing the purchase of sex in Canada may have an illusion of empowering women, in reality it leads to a deeper entitlement for men.  A couple years ago, a stripper from Montreal contacted me.  She explained that when the laws changed and Montreal strip clubs started going from a “no-touch” policy to a “full contact” model, she found that men were no longer satisfied with just watching.  In a sense, the law empowered men to go further than before.  She thanked me for advocating against legalizing prostitution, because “men will just want more.”

While some women would no doubt make plenty of money by running escort services or choosing a few well-paying clients, the majority of those in prostitution do not have that kind of relative bargaining power.  And considering that we share a border with the U.S., not only will decriminalization lead to increased demand from Canadian citizens, but also from our southern neighbours.

No law is perfect, and prostitution and sex trafficking are complex issues.  But now is the time to ask ourselves what we value as a country.  Bill C-36, if implemented properly, serves as a good start if we are serious about holding the purchasers of sex to account.  The other alternative is decriminalization, which sends a very different message.  Let us seriously consider what direction we want our society to head, and what is the best option for the common good.

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Canada’s New Prostitution Bill: What You Need to Know

by Michelle Brock on June 6th, 2014

CanadaFlagOn June 4, Justice Minister Peter MacKay introduced the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (Bill C-36).  The bill was drafted as a response to last year’s Supreme Court decision, which ruled Canada’s existing prostitution laws to be unconstitutional.  The Court gave Parliament exactly one year to propose new legislation in response to the ruling, and many have been eagerly anticipating what that would look like.

And now the time has come.  Here are some exciting key points:

  • For the first time in Canada’s history, the buying of sexual services would be illegal.
  • For the first time, prostituted/trafficked people will be seen as victims of coercion or circumstance.
  • For the first time, the government of Canada will provide millions of dollars to help women and youth leave prostitution.

The preamble sets the tone for the legislation, highlighting the vulnerabilities of those in the industry and the need to target demand.

Whereas the Parliament of Canada has grave concerns about the exploitation that is inherent in prostitution and the risks of violence posed to those who engage in it;

Whereas the Parliament of Canada recognizes the social harm caused by the objectification of the human body and the commodification of sexual activity;

Whereas it is important to protect human dignity and the equality of all Canadians by discouraging prostitution, which has a disproportionate impact on women and children;

Whereas it is important to denounce and prohibit the purchase of sexual services because it creates a demand for prostitution;

Whereas it is important to continue to denounce and prohibit the procurement of persons for the purpose of prostitution and the development of economic interests in the exploitation of the prostitution of others as well as the commercialization and institutionalization of prostitution;

Whereas the Parliament of Canada wishes to encourage those who engage in prostitution to report incidents of violence and to leave prostitution;

And whereas the Parliament of Canada is committed to protecting communities from the harms associated with prostitution…

The preamble itself is a huge step in the right direction for Canada, as it acknowledges many of the complexities of prostitution.  Previously, prostitution was solely seen as an issue of nuisance and criminality, whereas we are beginning to see it as an issue of social justice.

Now let’s get into the guts of the proposed legislation.  Under the proposed law:

1.  Purchasing sexual services is illegal. This is the critical piece, as it seeks to reduce demand for paid sex.  Demand is the economic engine that fuels sexual exploitation and makes sex trafficking extremely lucrative.  While there will always be some people who go out of their way to pay for sex, adding barriers will deter the majority from engaging.  According to a study that asked men (including some who admitted they had paid for sex) which initiatives would deter them from purchasing sex, 80-83% said jail time and 66-79% mentioned monetary fines.  Targeting demand is a big step forward if we are to deal with the issue of sexual exploitation on a long-term scale.

2.  Receiving a financial or material benefit from exploiting another person would be illegal. This means pimping.  Other non-exploitative arrangements would not be criminalized.  Before the Supreme Court ruling, living off the avails of prostitution was a criminal act, meaning that body guards, accountants and drivers technically could have been criminalized because they were benefitting off the prostitution of a person they were providing services for.  This would no longer be the case.  Spouses, roommates, and dependents of those in prostitution would also be exempt from a criminal offence.  However, trafficking (exploiting someone for profit), would not be legal.  While traffickers could potentially masquerade as “bodyguards” and “drivers,” the exemptions made in the bill align with the Charter and allow for those who wish to hire security services for their own protection to do so.

3.   Advertising the sexual services of another person is illegal.  This applies to both print media and the internet.  Those who advertise their own sexual services are exempt.

4.  Selling sexual services where a child could reasonably be expected to be present is illegal. This serves as the “protection of communities” portion of the bill, and such places would include schools, nurseries, churches, and malls.  A person can sell sex anywhere else, including indoors in private units for example, just not around children. Personally, I’d like to see this point clarified when the bill goes to committee.  It would be beneficial if “location where children are present” was further defined to avoid ambiguity (for example, within 500 meters from a school/daycare etc…I think most Canadians would this this is pretty reasonable). This specification would be helpful both for those who sell sex as well as law enforcement, so there is less room for confusion.

5.  The penalty for pimping, as well as for purchasing sex from a child will both be raised.

6.  The government will pledge $20 million in new funding.  This includes support for grassroots organizations dealing with the most vulnerable. Assistance will be provided to those who want to leave prostitution.  There is a push for more funding as well, but this is a good start and something we have not seen on this scale before.

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Overall thoughts:

I am pleased to see that this bill puts the responsibly on the johns.  For far too long, prostitution has been an anonymous, low-risk activity for those seeking to purchase sex.  Considering that prostitution has a high degree of violence (regardless of legal context), the only way to reduce the harm on a wide, long-term scale is to reduce demand for paid sex.  If partnered with an awareness campaign that educates Canadians about the realities of prostitution, we have an opportunity to shift the way people view the purchase of sex, and will make great strides toward gender equality.

I am also pleased to see that the bill marks a paradigm shift in how we view people who sell sex.  It is no longer assumed that they are criminals, but seen as vulnerable people who need protection and services.  If police are adequately trained and the “location where children could be present” is specified further to avoid ambiguity, this law gives those selling sex the ability to reach out to police if they need help.

It’s worth pointing out here that our two options as a country right now are Bill C-36 or full decriminalization.  Do we want to make it easier or harder for people to purchase sex?  If we as a country want to take a stand against commercial sexual exploitation, Bill C-36 is worth considering. While details of the legislation can be fine tuned along the way, the foundations are good.

In my opinion, it’s likely that there will be a court challenge – because let’s be honest, no matter what legislation was presented, pro-sex work groups will settle for nothing less than full decriminalization.  However, the three things that they requested at the Supreme Court level have been granted – a person can now sell sex out of an indoor space (the bawdy house provision was struck down), they can hire security and accountants (the living off the avails provision was struck down), and they can communicate for the purposes of sex as long as it’s not in an area where children could reasonably be expected to be present.  They essentially got what they asked for.

But some want to take it further.  They want full decriminalization – including the buying of sex, even though the majority of Canadians disagree.  They want to expand the market for paid sex (it’s a lucrative business after all), while the government is trying to decrease sexual exploitation.  These are very different goals.  Considering that prostitution disproportionately affects marginalized and vulnerable groups and is rife with violence regardless of legal context, the government’s decision to reduce demand for paid sex is definitely a move in the right direction.

We applaud Minister MacKay on his courageous first step of introducing legislation that recognizes the need for addressing demand and for pledging much needed funding for frontline programs.  Let’s continue to push ahead and work together to ensure safety and dignity for women, men, and children.

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This Guy is Bicycling Across Canada to Fight Human Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on May 9th, 2014

Daniel Perrett is going on a bike ride…a BIG bike ride.  While most of us huff and puff our way through the spring, our bodies woefully unprepared to take on rigorous physical activity after months of winter hibernation, Daniel is ready to take on 5,000 km from Montreal to Vancouver.  His goal is to raise $10,000 for Chab Dai Canada, an anti-trafficking organization based out of Montreal.  We had the opportunity to meet Daniel at out McGill screening in April, and this week got to ask him some questions about the ride.  Today is his first day on the road!

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What inspired you to choose Chab Dai, and what will the money you raise be used for?

When I was researching anti-trafficking organizations in Montreal, I learned about Chab Dai and was inspired by their vision to end human trafficking through collaboration and partnership building. When I dug a little deeper, I learned that Chab Dai Canada was in the process of fundraising to create the Canadian Freedom Registry; a database of anti-human trafficking organizations. All of the $10,000 I raise will go towards the creation of the Canadian Freedom Registry.

What kind of training have you been doing in preparation for your ride?

I have been talking with other bikers who have done the trip and spending time in the gym and doing cross training.

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What is the biggest challenge you anticipate on the road?

One of the biggest challenges will be loneliness. I will be on the road for 50 days and that’s a long time to go without seeing friends and family. I’m also expecting to face some serious headwinds, which can be pretty tough.

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Final preparations

What part of the ride are you most excited about?

It’s too hard to choose one thing. I can’t wait to tell people more about the Freedom Registry and have the news spread via the social media and TV. I’m also stoked to discover what Canada is really like in between Vancouver and Montreal. And of course, I’m excited to meet amazing people who are also fighting human trafficking.

How long will the ride take?

I leave today, May 9th and I hope to arrive back in Vancouver on June 28th. That’s 50 days to ride 5000km.

Here’s a video of Dan talking about why this issue matters to him.

 

TODAY, May 9, marks the FIRST DAY of Daniel’s ride!  He would love to raise the first $4,000 today, so make a donation at give.danielperrett.com and help him kick off his ride with a bang!  You can also follow his journey on facebook and twitter @danperrettweets, as well as get more info at danielperrett.com.

 

Daniel, we’re cheering you on!!

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Are You a Good Sleeper? Here’s a Challenge.

by Michelle Brock on May 1st, 2014

Window1“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

-Author unknown

 

 

A few nights ago as we got ready for bed, Jay mentioned what a luxury it was to fall asleep without fear.  There were no bombs going off outside or floods threatening to sweep away the building from under us.  We weren’t being held captive or wondering if our families were still alive.  We weren’t preoccupied with whether we would have food to eat the next day.  Night, for us, was a time of rest.  

As I lay awake, I thought of people around the world for whom night was a very different reality.

Fathers who were wide awake, protecting their families from rogue militants.

Mothers who had everything packed in case of a sudden evacuation.

Families in refugee camps trying to find silence with 20 family members in one tent.

Trafficking captives forced to service men into the morning hours.

Child abuse victims wondering if tonight it would happen again.

Sweatshop workers enduring long nights of physical pain with no hope of seeing a doctor.

Homeless people looking for a place to sleep in -20C weather.

Those of us who have the luxury of fear-free rest have an opportunity to bring that gift to others. Whether it’s supporting fair labour initiatives so that people have a chance to build real livelihoods, researching best practices for peace-building in conflict zones, fostering or adopting a child who is at risk for being preyed upon or abused, offering pro-bono services to people who cannot afford a doctor, a dentist, or a lawyer, or making laws that protect the most vulnerable in our communities, the luxury of a good night’s sleep gives us the energy we need to look out for others.

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Syrian Refugees. Photo: UNHCR B. Sokol

 

Next time you fall asleep in a comfortable bed without fear filling your heart, think of a way you can invest into the safety and well-being of someone else.

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