While my husband Jay and I were on the road filming our documentary about sex trafficking in Canada, we met several experts, law-makers, police officers, and crisis shelter workers who emphasized the importance of proactive units that seek out traffickers and victims in this country and abroad. Traffickers are extremely organized, and stopping their criminal operations requires Canadians to go on the offense instead of playing defense.
The creation of the BC Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons (OCTIP) in 2007 has been heralded as a step in the right direction by many abolitionists. It represents a unit that specializes in human trafficking in a region of Canada that suffers from both foreign and domestic trafficking.
The B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General quietly slashed this office a few days ago. As explained in this press release:
The B.C. government quietly eliminated the position of Executive Director of OCTIP, whose last day of work was July 29th, and is declining to hire staff to cover those on maternity leave “ effectively shuttering the main office of OCTIP in Victoria. The move leaves OCTIP with only two full-time employees in Vancouver and a meager budget of approximately $300,000. No reasons for the drastic cuts have been given. OCTIP runs a 24/7 victims support hotline, coordinates victim services, trains front-line responders, and raises public awareness about the crime. The future of these life-saving programs is in doubt.
It seems that money is tight for everyone. In understand that. And while I agree that sometimes programs and offices need to be cut, slashing OCTIP will undermine efforts to rescue and protect the most vulnerable. If the reason for the cut is that the program is not performing as well as they want it to, the solution is the make it better, not undermine it further. Considering that human trafficking is gaining momentum in the media and that Canada’s national government is making it a priority, it is strange that BC would choose to take such action.
Yes, the unit still has $300,000 to work with. But consider the chilling words of author Benjamin Perrin: “$300,000 is the amount amount a sex trafficker earns per year from exploiting just one victim.”
Puts things into perspective.
Strangely enough, just weeks ago on June 22nd, Shirley Bond (Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General) made the following statement to announce a major online training course launched by OCTIP, with funding from the federal government:
“Human trafficking is unacceptable, and this is the reason the B.C. government created the Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons. Â Since we established the B.C. office in 2007, we’ve made it a priority to develop partnerships with all levels of government, First Nations, police, and other community organizations to fight this terrible crime.”
As the office of MP Joy Smith pointed out, Minister Bond’s public commitment less than six weeks ago to make the fight against human trafficking a priority is at odds with her Ministry’s decision to slash OCTIP.
Let’s tell Minister Bond that ending human trafficking is a priority for Canadians! Sometimes our leaders just need a reminder that we are paying attention and need them to act on our behalf. Let’s steward this responsibility well. Here is Minister Bond’s contact information:
The Hon. Shirley Bond
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General
Government of British Columbia
Phone: (250) 356-7717
You can CC the BC Premier in your email to Minister Bond: firstname.lastname@example.org
To do some more reading, check out the following articles:
Experts Slam B.C. Government Cuts to Human Trafficking Office August 2 2011 – Press Release
Experts accuse province of axing human trafficking office’s budget 24 Hours Vancouver
Standing with OCTIP,
***Photographers, send in your photos on this theme for a chance to win a copy of Invisible Chains by Benjamin Perrin!