Archive for the ‘Solutions’ Category

An Immigration Recommendation: How Can We Make This Work?

by Michelle Brock on September 23rd, 2010

border services Canada

Last week MP Joy Smith came out with her Proposal for a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, and in my previous post I brought up some of the things that Canada has already done in its effort to end this injustice.  Focusing on the victories serves as a good foundation for us as we attempt to understand the different components of the proposal.

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.

CBSANaturally, the question that arises is this: how will 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?

Michelle Brock


Ending Sex Trafficking One Cell Phone At A Time

by Michelle Brock on July 28th, 2010

cell phone africaIn university I took a class on African politics, and one of the readings we did was on how cell phones are changing the social landscape of Africa.  People in rural areas who have never had the opportunity to communicate through a regular phone (due to the lack of land lines and other factors), now can use cell phones for a low cost to stay connected.  Me being the kind of person who does not own a cell phone and never want to, I initially shrugged off this phenomenon as another Western trend that is invading the developing world.  But as I read the article and discussed it in class, I began to see that maybe, just maybe, cell phones can do some serious good.

An article I recently found online says that in Tanzania 97% of people said they can access a mobile phone while only 28% could access a land line.  In high conflict areas, people are using cell phones to warn communities about riots and rebels roaming through the countryside.  Farmers now have cheap access to information on things like crop prices and legal protocol for land ownership, and the ability to call or text can save huge amounts of time and travel costs for those living in rural areas. Corrupt officials can be bypassed when people can contact the people they need to directly.

So, what does this have to do with eradicating sex trafficking? In Africa and other parts of the developing world, it is often difficult to get crucial information and resources to at-risk communities. Survivors Connect has launched a campaign called Phones4Freedom, which takes your old cell phones and recycles them through The Wireless Source.  Phones4Freedom will receive credits or points for every cell phone you send in, which then allows them to purchase appropriate phones for their anti-trafficking advocates and networks around the world.

Survivors Connect uses text messaging (Frontline SMS – Short Messaging Service) to help those who need it.  It is a guaranteed way to reach all mobile phone users and is cheap to send and receive information.  It makes it possible to have two-way communication, send information to several people at once, provide a discrete and safe way to interact, reduce the time and money wasted on travel, and enable communication without requiring internet connections.

In addition to responding to texts from people who need immediate help, Frontline SMS will use mobile phone communication to:

  • Change attitudes and perceptions about women’s issues, child rights, human rights, and labour standards of community members and police
  • Empower community watch groups with a technological tool to enhance existing awareness efforts
  • Empower citizens to report human rights violations as they occur, which counters a common attitude that standing up for justice is pointless
  • Provide police with data on hotspots that can increase their presence in a given area and reduce trafficking

cell phoneSurvivors Connect is literally preventing trafficking one text at a time! Phones4Freedom is currently accepting phone donations from the U.S. and Canada.  If you have an old cell phone you would like to donate to the cause and you live in the U.S., click here to print out a pre-paid shipping label and mailing instructions. For those of you in Canada wishing to donate a phone, Phones4Freedom has requested that you email [email protected] for specific instructions.

What an innovative way to fight sex trafficking and exploitation while getting rid of ‘junk’ at the same time!

Michelle Brock


The Resiliency of Trafficked Children: Cambodia vs. the West

by Michelle Brock on July 16th, 2010

Ratanak prevention

When HFTS was making its documentary about sex trafficking in Canada, we met and interviewed a man named Brian McConaghy who runs an organization called the Ratanak Foundation.  Ratanak works in Cambodia with child victims of sex trafficking, and several kids have been rescued and put into Ratanak’s safe houses to receive counselling, love, and skills to build new lives.  The first sex tourist to be convicted in Canada, Donald Bakker, abused 7 little girls when he was in Cambodia, and video-taped himself in the process.  6 of the 7 girls have since been rescued out of the trade and put into Ratanak’s safe house.  They have grown into beautiful young women with a passion and a zest for life. A picture of hope.

Ratanak transition

When we asked Brian about the recovery process for these Cambodian kids, he has this to say:

“These kids are extremely resilient.  They have been brought up in a culture and environment that tells them they are worthless. So when someone rescues them out of a life a slavery and abuse, they all of a sudden feel worth, thinking, ‘someone cares about me enough to come rescue me, therefore I must be worth something.’”

trafficked sadBrian is not saying that a lot of trauma has to be worked through, which is difficult and painful.  But their attitude helps in the healing process.  On the other hand, in Western countries where everyone has “rights” and knows about those rights, girls who are violated (whether they are raped once or sold commercially), have a much more difficult time resuming a life of purpose and meaning after they are rescued.  Instead of the thought being, “someone rescued me so I have worth,” the thought pattern is more likely to be “someone violated my rights and my body, so I must not have worth.”

Therefore it is crucial that cultural attitudes and norms are taken into consideration when dealing with rescued victims of sex trafficking and exploitation. Approaches that work in Cambodia may not work in North America, and vice versa.  Brian and his team have done their best to understand Cambodia’s social, political, and cultural climate so that their work is effective, and we would all do well to follow their lead.

Michelle Brock