Beth Fisher, a good friend of mine, sent me a one of her beautiful poems this week. You can check out not with ink to read more of her writing. Please note that the original poem is formatted a little differently, as my html skills are a bit shaky. For those of you who want to see the original format, contact Beth through her blog.
This poem is a reminder to us that the fight against trafficking is worth every effort.
Last Friday Xtra put out an article entitled “Critics slam Conservative MP’s pitch to make buying sex illegal in Canada,” in response to MP Joy Smith’s National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking. The article is available here.
One of MP Smith’s proposals was for Canada to adopt the Swedish model of reducing demand for paid sex. In Sweden, the men who purchase sex from prostituted women are criminalized, while the girls who sell it do not suffer penalties but are instead offered help to leave the industry. Because many of these girls and women are in fact victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking, decreasing demand for paid sex is the only way to ensure that trafficking dries up.
But as the Xtra article demonstrates, there are some who oppose the Swedish model and claim that prostitution and human trafficking are separate issues altogether. Our thoughts:
In response to MP Smith’s proposal, Liberal Justice Critic Marlene Jennings stated the following: “Typical Conservative, simplistic, not based on evidence, not based on fact…Human trafficking and prostitution are two different things, and that’s what the Conservatives like to mix up. They like to mix it up together in the same bowl so that they can confuse people and they can make outrageous statements.”
Our response: Ms. Jennings, how dare you make this a partisan issue? Your remark is distasteful and immature, as we are talking about exploitation on a national and global scale. Busting out the Conservative card makes it sound like you did not read the entire report, but merely base your comments on your disdain for an opposing party. For the record, we are not Conservatives. But if you insist on playing partisan ball, may we remind you that your party, the Liberals, wholly supported the Status of Women report from 2007 which contained evidence and recommendations supporting the Swedish model? Your statements fly in the face of your party’s previous decisions, making you guilty of some serious political flip-flopping.
Next in the article, University of Ottawa criminologist Christine Bruckert says that “pushing the industry underground makes sex workers more likely to turn to people they feel can support them, such as pimps.” We can’t picture sex workers like Sweden’s Pye Jacobsson aligning with pimps for protection and support just because buying sex is a crime in her country. (Which it is. And no, she is not).
Bruckert goes on to say that “if [we] really want to address sex workers, if [we] really want to make things better for sex workers, give sex workers rights.” There seems to be some confusion here. MP Smith’s first priority is to help trafficking victims, not sex workers who want more rights. The aim is to criminalize Johns for buying sex and decriminalizing prostituted women who want to get out of the industry. Several studies have concluded that trafficking increases in countries where prostitution is legalized, so giving sex workers ‘rights’ comes at the expense of the trafficking victims that are funneled into the country to fill demand. The goal is to abolish human trafficking – and if the end of the sex trade is a be a by-product of that, so be it.
Regarding the statement that there is nothing coming out of Sweden indicating that there is a link between the Swedish model and decreased trafficking, please refer to the July 2010 Swedish Justice Department Report stating that the ban on buying sexual services acts as a barrier to human traffickers who want to set up shop in Sweden. An article by Gunilla Ekberg explains in more detail why this is the case.
Finally, Green Party leader Elizabeth May tops off the debate with a bang by saying that the Swedish model is a “disastrous and dangerous idea”, and offers the following statement: “Since the Conservative government has committed to building $9 billion in new prisons and the crime rate is going down, I guess they want to create some new crimes to fill the prisons.”
While we appreciate many of May’s excellent ideas concerning the environment and her service to our country, we feel that she is literally out in “left field” on this one. If attempting to rescue victims of the world’s most hideous atrocity against women is a “disastrous and dangerous idea”, then we suggest that Ms. May attend Jon Stewart’s upcoming Rally to Restore Sanity.
The following is a collection of pictures I put together that tells parts of a trafficking story. I have entitled each one based on how it resonates with me, but I would encourage you to come up with your own titles and what the pictures mean to you. I found these royalty free photos at freedigitalphotos.net.
Ready or Not
Not Who I Am
Pay by the hour
Please don’t take it
Hint of light
Sometimes a picture does say a thousand words. Maybe we need to start listening.
MP Smith’s recommendations are split up into four main categories: prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership. To continue in our journey through the report, today I would like to focus on one action point under the prevention category:
Ensuring that female immigrants aged 15 to 21 arriving in Canada alone be met by a CBSA officer within a week of their entry in the country and on a monthly basis during the following six months to ensure their safety and legitimate working conditions. (p.17)
Here’s the deal: many girls do not know they are being trafficked until after they leave the airport when their documents are taken away. This makes it difficult for Canada Border Services Agency Officers to distinguish between those who are victims of trafficking and those who are refugees or immigrating on their own terms. Once a person has been ushered through the system and leave the airport, any ‘signs’ that could have initially indicated a trafficking situation are lost. For this reason, following up with them would provide for one more level of protection for those who need it.
Naturally, the question that arises is this: howwill this follow up be done? What is the best, most efficient and effective way to reconnect CBSA officers to those who are at risk of being commercially exploited?
How will extra hiring and training be funded? Are we as Canadian citizens willing to pay for this? What questions will the girls be asked and will that require the use of translators? If one of the girls cannot be located, will their case be dismissed or are there resources to search for her? If she is located, is there a secure place where she can receive help and protection?
These are difficult questions, but that should not excuse us from finding the answers. Your thoughts?
Though buying sex is generally frowned upon in Canada, most of the time men who use massage parlours or escort services receive a slap on the wrist or nothing at all. But if MP Joy Smith had it her way, Canada would be addressing demand for paid sex in a much more vigorous manner. Why? Because demand creates supply. In a sense, targeting demand is like repairing a hole in your sinking raft instead of merely trying to get the water out.
Addressing demand is just one of the brilliant initiativesMP Joy Smith is proposing in her fresh-off-the-press proposal for a national action plan called Connecting the Dots: A Proposal for a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. I had the privilege of attending a round table meeting in Toronto last week with a bunch of stakeholders in Ontario to discuss what our part should be as a province, and was happy to see that many of the ideas in our conversation are reflected in MP Joy Smith’s proposal. As I read the proposal I was literally squirming in my seat from excitement because a National Action Plan is most certainly the next necessary step for our country.
MP Joy Smith’s recommendations are bang on, and I found the document itself to be written in a way that is easy to understand. She has record of getting things done in Parliament, and I am thrilled to have someone like her lead us in this next phase.
Over the next little while I would like to discuss the different sections of this proposal and hear what your thoughts are. I believe that conversation is what sparks ideas and I am anxious to know yours! Maybe this will give you some ideas about how you can use your strengths to get involved. You can read the full document here.
The first section I wish to highlight is what Canada has already done (pp.9-11 of the report), because unfortunately many Canadians are unaware that our country has been making some serious efforts in the past nine years. On the global stage, Canada has signed and ratified a number of international agreements related to human trafficking, and nationally it has done the following:
2001: introduced the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) which addresses human trafficking and provides serious penalties with fines of up to $1 million or up to life imprisonment.
May 2006: the first National Human Trafficking Coordination Centre was staffed with RCMP officers and a civilian analyst.
May 2006: the Canadian government announced Temporary Residence Permits (TRPs) would be available to international victims of human trafficking. A permit would allow a victim to stay in Canada for up to 120 days and provided access to healthcare and social assistance. Victims would not be required to participate in legal proceedings or testify to receive a TRP.
February 2007: the House of Commons unanimously adopted Motion M-153, which recommended that a comprehensive strategy to combat the trafficking of persons be adopted. This received support from all parties.
March 2007: the federal Finance Minister announced $6 million annually for law enforcement to assist in protecting children from online sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
May 2007: the federal goverment announced amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to end a loophole where vulnerable foreign workers were being brought to Canada for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
June 2007: New measures to protect victims where announced by the government, including the extension of the TRP from 120 days to 180 days, and letting international victims to apply for work and resident permits without the regular fees.
September 2009: the Canadian government supported the passage of Bill C-268, minimum sentence of child traffickers. (Thanks to those of you who made your voice heard by writing to your MPs and Senators!)
September 2010: Canadian government joined the RCMP to launch the Crime Stoppers Blue Blindfold Campaign to bring awareness about human trafficking to Canadian citizens and provide opportunities for Canadians to help combat human trafficking.
Wow. Good work Canada. It’s nice to know that this issue is gaining priority in our government. But as MP Joy Smith says, “there remains an urgent need for a collaborative, federally-led approach to combat human trafficking that would connect the dots among federal/provincial/territorial agencies and NGOs.” Let’s all be a part of how that happens, and start by reading the proposal.
For more on this, check out the official release and an article by Montreal Gazette.
Whether gaseous sugary drinks are your thing or not, Pepsi’s Refresh Project is giving away a $25,000 grant to individuals or organizations that submits the best proposals to address a need they are passionate about. She Shall Go Free, an organization that fights sex trafficking and raises awareness about gender-based violence, has submitted their proposal to Pepsi with hopes to use the money for the following:
$9,500 – T-shirts with specific themes to raise funds for the organization. Read more about SSGF’s rationale for this.
$6,000 – Funding scholarships for job training/basic education for trafficking survivors
$6,000 – Providing emergency financial assistance to women in need
$3,000 – Purchasing urgently needed items for local shelters and organizations
$500 – Maintenance costs for the organization
Out of all of the participants, She Shall Go Free is currently ranked #36! They must place in the top 10 in order to receive the grant. If you believe in this vision, please VOTE HERE for their proposal. (You can choose to vote with your facebook ID…we found this to be the easiest method). Voting ends on September 30 and you can vote every day for the rest of the month, so don’t put it off. Be sure to also check out the SSGF blog and facebook group. Keep up the great work SSGF, you have Hope for the Sold’s vote!
Tomorrow I will be posting about why Canada’s MP Joy Smith is causing some gentlemen to shake in their boots! Be sure to check out tomorrow’s post here at HFTS, especially if you call Canada your home.
About a year ago, my husband and I became friends with a fellow abolitionist online through Twitter. After corresponding via email and phone for several months, we had the opportunity to actually have a face-to-face meeting with Seth Johnson in Florida back in July. Our lunch conversation probably got some heads turning as we discussed our hopes, frustrations, and experiences regarding sex trafficking. It’s safe to say we have become good friends! I would like to introduce you to Seth and the work he does at Transitions Global.
Seth, what is your role at Transitions Global?
Advocacy director – this basically means that I do everything I can to get the word out about the issue and about Transitions Global. I also try to engage individuals in raising awareness and support for our organization.
What makes Transitions Global different from other anti-trafficking organizations?
I think the biggest difference that I see is their commitment to trauma therapy and to restoring choice to these girls.It has been said that girls who are rescued have the same level of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as Combat Vets who have served three tours of duty. The fact that we work with professional therapists and some who are leaders in the States in their profession makes a huge difference.
The ideology that is always present of restoring choice to these girls is another thing that makes TG unique. A lot of organizations will train girls to do one thing, ie. sewing, cake making, hair dressing etc. While this still might be better than the alternative, I believe it is not the best for them. TG strives to teach them that they have a choice – that they can dream and follow those dreams! This is not easy, there is not way to streamline it. But we are working with individuals, and I think it’s the only truly effective way to do it.
Why are you passionate about justice in the area of sex trafficking?
This is a difficult question to truly answer, but I think it’s a combination of several different things.
Being in the right place at the right time
Being introduced to the issue by volunteering to research it for a group
Having three little girls of my own
Traveling to Cambodia and seeing the issues first-hand. I would have to say this is the biggest reason. Â Once you have seen it, once you know about it, it’s hard if not impossible to turn a blind eye and not do anything about it.
What is the biggest need currently at TG?
While TG is a world leader in after care for this segment of the global population, we are still a grassroots organization. We need people to know our story – to know what we do. To catch our passion to help these girls and to help us raise awareness and support! We cannot help these girls all by ourselves, we need people’s help!
Do you have a story or experience that you can share that has impacted you?
Over the last three years of working as hard as I can on this issue, I have collected a good bit of stories, but there is one that stands out the most. While I was in Cambodia, I filmed a documentary on one of the girls in the safe home. This little girl had been bounced around from one shelter to another before she found us. So we asked her, what’s the biggest difference about this place? About TG? She said, “Transitions feels like home.” This said it all for me, a girls who had suffered abuses beyond imagination was now finally in a place she felt she could call home. Simply amazing!
Do you think that there is hope?
This issue is very dark and very bleak. The successes are few and far between and right now the momentum is definitely on the side of the traffickers. However, a rising tide of concern is growing over the issue, and I think that once the tide of concern rises high enough it will turn into action. Once people choose action over awareness, then we will start putting a huge dent into this issue! I am reminded of Sir Edmund Burke’s quote: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
I don’t know about you, but Seth’s answers coupled with the video clips tugged at my heart strings while truly demonstrating hope in a dark place. Check out the Transitions Global website for more information about what they do, how donations are used, and how you can get involved. Click here to sponsor Seth in his October Run for Freedom.
On Tuesday Public Safety Minister Vic Toews joined the RCMP and Crime Stoppers to announce the “Blue Blindfold” campaign to fight human trafficking. The campaign aims to increase the public’s understanding of what trafficking is and how people can identify suspicious activity. It allows for people to come forward anonymously to Crime Stoppers and report what they have experienced or seen. The campaign is using newspaper, TV, and radio ads to educate the public.
Why the name Blue Blindfold? Because we must stop closing our eyes to the injustice going on around us. The idea came from Britain’s similar campaign which was launched in 2007.
Author Benjamin Perrin shares some of his thoughts on the campaign and on human trafficking in Canada in an interview with CBC. In his words, Blue Blindfold is filling in some gaps but a national action plan is necessary if Canada is serious about ending modern day slavery.
For more on the Blue Blindfold campaign, you can check out:
Recently Craigslist has been under fire for enabling the sale of women and children for sex through their website. Hope for the Sold covered this issue in July by outlining the story of a Chinese woman in New York who sold girls online, and in August we posted a video clip of Craig Newmark responding to media accusations. For those of you who have been following this unfold, here is an update.
On August 9, Craigslist responded to the open letters of two girls (AK and MC) who said they had been forced to sell sexual services through Craigslist. On August 24, attorneys general from 17 states applied pressure, and as a result Craigslist replaced the live link in the adult services section with a black bar that reads “censored.” In other words, this pressure from individuals, organizations, and lawyers has resulted in the following outcome: Craigslist shut down its adult services section!
Bust out the champagne? Well…let’s see how things play out.
The link is still active in Canada and other countries outside the U.S., much to the disappointment of abolitionist groups. Craigslist also has not commented on whether this is a permanent decision or just a short-term action taken to silence the media. Some are complaining that traffickers will merely shift their operations to other service providers. Though there are several complaints floating around, let’s choose to focus on the positive shall we?
Craigslist DID something. They listened to the public’s concerns. Whether their morals, fear of expensive lawsuits, or exasperation was the ultimate deal breaker, the fact is that the adult services link is now blocked in the U.S.
Though Canada and other countries still have access to these services through Craigslist, the U.S. has set the stage and our hope is that this will soon affect Craigslist across the globe.
Yes, traffickers will always morph their operations and pursue other venues. But Craigslist, which was the biggest service provider by far, has made a statement. The company is not responsible for ending sex trafficking – merely that sex trafficking will no longer happen on their turf.
So I will go right out and say it: Well done Craigslist! Hope for the Sold commends you on the action taken and we look forward to hearing increasingly positive news about you in regards to this issue.