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.

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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.

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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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Want to End the War on Women? Fund a Film!

by Michelle Brock on December 3rd, 2013

Evan Grae DavisWe know some amazing people who are sewing seeds of justice around the world, and one of those people is filmmaker Evan Grae Davis. Our relationship began about a year ago when we interviewed him about his documentary, It’s a Girl. He is currently working on a new project, which he is excited to share with you!

Evan Grae Davis…can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a husband, father, documentary filmmaker, speaker, and social justice activist. My passion is to leverage the power of documentary storytelling to confront culture and inspire social action. I have traveled the world with camera in hand for nearly two decades, advocating for social justice through writing and directing short documentaries and educational videos mobilizing support for non-profits and NGO’s championing the cause of the poor and exploited.

I’ve consulted with and worked along side over 100 regional, national and international organizations, helping them tell their stories and mobilize support for their cause. In 2012, I released my first independent, feature length documentary film, It’s a Girl, asking why nearly 200 million women are missing in the world today– killed, aborted and abandoned simply because they are girls. Shot on location in India and China, It’s a Girl reveals the issue and asks why this is happening, and why so little is being done to save girls and women.

Tell us about “It’s a Girl”… why did you make it, and what was the impact?

During the years I worked with non-profits around the world, I witnessed a lot of injustice. I began asking the question, what are the cultural roots and mindsets that allow for human rights violations on the scale seen throughout the world today? I set out to explore this question through a documentary film. I and the team traveled to nine nations capturing stories for this film. One of the nations we visited was India, hoping to understand how the subjugation and devaluation of women could be justified by the deeply established son-preference culture.

IAG poster webWhat we discovered while filming in India about the epidemic of missing girls and dramatically skewed sex ratios and related abuse and neglect of girls was a game-changer for us.

After hearing the UN statistic of as many as 200 million girls missing in the world today as a result of ‘gendercide’ we researched the issue in China, as well, and were completely astonished by how few people seemed to be aware of what appeared to be the greatest human rights issue of our time, and certainly the greatest form of violence against women in the world today. There seemed to be very little out there on the topic. It was then that we determined to dedicate the film project to exposing this untold story and educating and mobilizing a movement to end gendercide in India and China.

It’s a Girl has screened in hundreds of locations around the world in over 20 countries, with nearly half a million people joining the cause to end gendercide so far as a result of the film. I and the film have been featured in countless radio and media interviews, articles and reviews, including BBC Radio, NPR, New Internationalist, Ms. Magazine, World Magazine and many more. I have spoken at screenings and events globally, including colleges and universities, film festivals, at the European and British Parliaments and on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.

I have also been privileged to take the film and the issue of gendercide to some of the largest TEDx stages in South Asia and the U.S., challenging leaders and influencers from all over the world to act to stand against gendercide– one of the most significant human rights issue of our time and the greatest form of violence against women in the world today.

So what’s next? Why this?

As the It’s a Girl campaign continues to gain momentum, and with the successful release of It’s a Girl on DVD and iTunes, it’s time to think about what is next for me. I have recently launched a new film following up on the theme of It’s a Girl and answering some of the questions that have come up as a result of the film.

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My new film, Female — The World War on Women

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(working title) is a documentary film addressing the various forms of violence and abuse suffered by women on every continent around the globe. While exploring personal stories illustrating an array of issues such as the feminization of poverty, gendercide, female genital mutilation, child marriage, and the objectification and exploitation of women, experts will seek to identify the cultural mindsets and traditions that result in such human rights violations while activists will offer hope of change through viable solutions.

Why now?

The devaluation and subjugation of women worldwide continues today on a scale never seen before in history. What kind of epidemic is at the root of such widespread and methodical violence targeting half of the world’s population?

The answer is misogyny: the hatred of women, or the belief that women are inferior to men. It comes in many forms, including social discrimination, physical abuse, legal discrimination, and the generalized objectification of women. Misogynistic cultures often give husbands and fathers full legal rights over their wives and daughters.

Misogyny can be found in every part of the world, where one out of three women will become a victim of violence in her lifetime. In many parts of the developing world, however, misogyny is even more deeply woven into the fabric of the family and social culture – making the violence inescapable.

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Millions of women throughout the world continue to suffer in silence, and I hope to give them voice– to tell their stories, and the stories of those who are leading the way to greater rights and freedoms for women within their own cultures, who are inspiring movements demanding equality and justice.

How can we all help?

I have recently launched a crowd funding campaign for the film. The distribution model for an effective social action documentary cannot be driven by profit, so my films are made in a non-profit model, freeing me to focus on impact instead. This means I fund the production and distribution of my films through partnership with others who, like me, believe in fighting for the dignity and worth of women.

I am inviting those who want to be a part of making this film to back the project and help spread the word. Even small donations can make a big difference. You can learn more about the film and how to help by checking out my campaign here. And there are some great rewards for those who give, including the It’s a Girl DVD and a copy of the new film once it is complete.

Together, we can tell the stories that need to be told and help restore dignity and value to millions of women.

Evan Grae Davis is currently running an indiegogo campaign to raise the first $30,000. This will fund the development and pre-production, allowing him and his team to conduct research, identify key stories, travel to capture some preliminary footage, and put together a trailer and other tools they will need to raise the remaining funding for post production and distribution.

You can contribute to the campaign here!

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Typhoon Haiyan Aftermath: A Crucial Time for YOU to Prevent Sex Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on November 18th, 2013

Source BBC Getty ImagesThe novel Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison begins with the 2006 tsunami crashing into the Indian coast, plunging entire communities into chaos. In the midst of the disorder, two young girls fall prey to traffickers.  This scenario is unfortunately all too real in regions of devastation.

Most natural disasters heighten the vulnerabilities of children who are already at-risk for sexual exploitation.  Typhoon Haiyan is no different.  When a child is separated from their parents or have lost their family altogether, human traffickers have a unique window of opportunity to kidnap and sell them into the sex trade.  In fact, some countries have been known to bar pedophiles from flying to disaster zones, in an effort to stop them from taking advantage of such profound vulnerability.

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So it is with urgency that I ask you to consider making a donation to relief efforts in the Philippines.  The government of Canada is currently matching donations made by individuals to relief organizations like World Vision.  With 55 years of experience in the Philippines and staff members based throughout the country, they are working closely with government disaster response teams to assist with immediate and long term needs.

Your gift will help bring vital relief to children and families impacted by Typhoon Haiyan, by providing lifesaving essentials and emergency supplies like: food, blankets, household supplies, hygiene kits, shelter and clean drinking water.

Donate online here or call 1-866-595-5550 to make a donation over the phone.

Let’s all jump on board to provide relief for those affected by this typhoon, and by doing so reduce the vulnerabilities of at-risk men, women, and children.

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Miss World Canada 2012 Tara Teng Endorses Red Light Green Light

by Michelle Brock on November 15th, 2013

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