Archive for the ‘What You Can Do’ Category

Ensuring the Success Canada’s New Prostitution Law Part 1: Addressing Poverty

by Michelle Brock on December 16th, 2014

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As we’ve toured with our film Red Light Green Light this past year, we’ve met many people who are passionate about justice.  Prostitution has been framed primarily as an issue of injustice, and rightly so. It preys on vulnerability and disproportionately targets those on the margins.  The new prostitution law, which prohibits the purchase of sex while decriminalizing those who sell it (as they are usually victims of force or circumstance), seeks to address the demand side of the equation, recognizing that most often, prostitution is an unequal transaction in which the person paying has more power than the person providing a sexual service.

If we are serious about addressing systemic injustice, reducing demand for paid sex is key.  For this reason, I support the new prostitution law.  However, to bring about the intended goal of the law – which is protecting the vulnerable and promoting equality – our passion for justice must extend beyond the new law and filter down to the issues within our society that many would prefer to ignore, issues that are uncomfortable because they are difficult and would require some sacrifice to address.

Somewhere on our journey across the U.S. this past month, I heard someone use the word “takers.”  I marvelled at how one little word could carry with it such a host of assumptions, opinions, and political loyalties.  Like the belief that people on welfare are draining the system, that the poor are manipulating legal loopholes for their own benefit, that minimum wage workers should worship at the feet of “job creators” (another linguistic marvel that carries notable weight).

Calling the poor and the working poor “takers” is not entirely untrue.  Of course there are people who take advantage of the system.  The irony is that those who point the finger assume that they themselves are not.

Herein lies the paradox.  The rich (not all of them, but many) often complain that the poor are lazy, while they themselves try to find ways to ‘put their money and other people to work for them’ so they can avoid being wage slaves.  The rich often complain that the poor are taking advantage of loopholes for their own benefit, while they themselves do the same except with massive repercussions (U.S. banking crisis, anyone?). The rich often pat themselves on the back for creating jobs, but grind out their workers with minimum wage pay and manipulate schedules so that workers who should receive the perks of full time miss the mark by a day or two – allowing their labour to be used with as little cost to the employer as possible.  The rich accuse the poor for not contributing to society, while they themselves lobby to pay little or no taxes in a community, threatening to take their business elsewhere.

So while calling the poor and the working poor “takers” is not entirely untrue, calling the rich “takers” is not entirely untrue either.  At the end of the day, we are all takers, we are all greedy, and broken, and selfish.  The difference is that the poor cannot afford to pay top-notch lawyers to advocate on their behalf.  The difference is that between taking public transit and working three jobs, the poor don’t have time to lobby the government.  The difference is that while the rich get richer, the poor are stuck in a cycle of poverty.

According to StatsCan, wealth inequality is growing in Canada.  The top 10 per cent of Canadians have seen their median net worth grow by 42 per cent since 2005 to $2.1 million in 2012, while the bottom 10 per cent of Canadians saw their median net worth shrink by 150 per cent.  The Broadbent Institute points out that when we look at this broad picture of wealth using new Statistics Canada data, the report shows “deep and persistent inequality.”  Rick Smith, the executive director of the institute says in this article:

“Contrary to rosy reports of rising net worth and a post-recession recovery, these new numbers sound the alarm on Canada’s wealth inequality problem.”

 

Blog post quote 12When I was in my early teens, I played an interesting game in class one day. There was a huge bin of jelly beans in the middle of the room.  We were separated into groups of 4 or 5, and each group received a set of tools.   Group members had to go up one by one and use these tools to scoop as many jelly beans as possible, then bring them back to the the group’s empty bucket.  The group with the most jelly beans in their bucket when the whistle blew won the game and received a prize.

But before the game even started, people started to revolt.  Some groups had been given many useful tools, consisting of shovels and bowls and scoops.  Other groups had only been given a couple teaspoons or a small glass.  One group was given only a straw, and they had to suck on one end of the straw to grab each jelly bean one at a time, gingerly walking it back to the group’s bucket before they ran out of breath.

Though all the groups worked equally hard, the first group – who had the best tools – won the game. When the rest of us started complaining, the teacher pointed out that this game was not actually about jelly beans at all, but a demonstration of the distribution of wealth.  While some would like to think that we are all given the same tools in life, all you have to do is listen to people’s life stories to realize that is not the case.

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So what does this have to so with the issue of prostitution?  Poverty is a key push factor for many of those who end up in the sex industry, and the majority (not all, but the majority) of those in prostitution are in it purely for reasons of economic necessity.  Our goal should not be to make prostitution as easy as possible so that impoverished people have an “option” for work.  This is an insult to the poor.  Our goal should be to level the economic playing field so that people can break out of the cycle of poverty and not depend on the goodwill of “non-violent clients” to put food on the table.

If you are a business owner, consider giving your employees benefits and better wages, even if it means slightly less profit.  Be open to hiring someone with no previous experience who needs help building up their resume.  If you are a landlord, charge less rent (no one says you have to charge the market average).  If you have a well-paying job, consider donating one, ten or fifty per cent to social programs and charities (Jay and I are personally working toward giving away 90% of our income).  These things are all possible, but it requires sacrifice.  It requires having less stuff.  It requires being less greedy.

Our government of course is not off the hook on this one, as the laws they make and enforce shape the system in which we all work, live, and do business.  I find it somewhat ironic that many of those who want to end prostitution simultaneously support the current government’s pro-big business initiatives which end up increasing wealth inequality…and creates an environment where the most vulnerable have to turn to prostitution because of lack of other opportunities.

Reducing demand for paid sex is key when dealing with the issue of sexual exploitation, and Canada’s new prostitution law is a strong step forward if we are serious about prevention.  Those who refuse to acknowledge this as a critical piece are woefully misguided.  But let’s remember to look at the issue of prostitution in its wholeness, and take steps to reduce the economic vulnerability that pushes people to do desperate things.  Demand reduction, coupled with real opportunities for those who would otherwise consider prostitution, gets at the root and makes sustainable prevention possible.

But it will take sacrifice, so let’s conspire together and figure out ways to all do our part.

**This is part one of my series, Ensuring the Success of Canada’s Prostitution Law.  More posts coming soon.

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Meet This Year’s Riders!

by Michelle Brock on September 30th, 2014

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This year’s Ride for Refuge is taking place in FOUR DAYS!  There are 39 riders on 6 teams across 3 provinces riding for Hope for the Sold, and on October 4 they will hop on their bicycles and brave whatever elements may come their way.  Here’s your chance to support their efforts!

Team Name: HFTS Winnipeg

Team Captain: Katie Daman

Riders: 7

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The Daman girls!

Katie hosted a screening of Red Light Green Light in Winnipeg last fall, and her sister Bethany hosted a second one in Niverville in April.  Delicious baked goods accompanied both screenings (made by their super cool family) making for stellar events. Oh, and the day of the RIDE, October 4, just happens to be Katie’s birthday!

Check out their team and SUPPORT HFTS WINNIPEG HERE!

 

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Screening at The Tapestry

Team Name: Ride For Hope (Vancouver)

Team Captain: Flora Miles

Riders: 11

Flora and her husband Brandon brought Red Light Green Light to Richmond BC this past spring.  They just celebrated their 3 year anniversary!

Meet the rest of their team and SUPPORT RIDE FOR HOPE HERE!

 

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Cate, Mady & their Justice Team

Team Name: HFTS Langley

Team Captain: Cate Felton / Mady Sieben

Riders: 3

Cate hosted a screening at Trinity Western University, packing out a lecture hall with students who were eager to talk about social justice and trafficking prevention.  Cate and her friend Mady have been part of a justice club together (pictured).  Meet the HFTS LANGLEY TEAM & SHOW YOUR SUPPORT HERE!

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The bride to be!

Team Name: HFTS Hamilton

Team Captain: Niki Devereaux

Riders: 4

Not only was Niki the first person to donate when we were raising funds to make Red Light Green Light, but also jumped on board to coordinate the RIDE FOR REFUGE campaign for Hope for the Sold this year!  Oh, and she is getting married on October 11 – exactly one week after the RIDE!  Meet Niki’s team and SUPPORT HFTS HAMILTON HERE!

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Victoria screening

Team Name: Restore Dignity (Victoria)

Team Captain: Tania Betiku

Riders: 10

Tania, as part of a passionate team from Vancouver Island, brought Red Light Green Light to Victoria as part of our spring tour.

Meet and SUPPORT THE RESTORE DIGNITY TEAM HERE!

 

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Team Name: Hope Peddlers (Oshawa)

Team Captain: Cindy Gates

Riders: 4

Sadly I have no picture yet of these fine folks, but don’t let that stop you from supporting them Cindy and her team!  You can donate to Hope Peddlers HERE!

To all of you strapping on your helmets and hitting the road on Saturday, WE’RE CHEERING FOR YOU!

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Ride a Bicycle, Prevent Human Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on September 10th, 2014

Check out our new Ride for Refuge video!

Register a team or sign up as a rider here!

Can’t join the RIDE?  Donate directly to Hope for the Sold or support a RIDE team.

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Ride for Hope for the Sold in This Year’s Ride for Refuge!

by Michelle Brock on September 9th, 2014

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This year’s Ride for Refuge is fast approaching, but there is still time to sign up, dust off your bike, and get ready for ride day!

Ride for Refuge is a fantastically fun, family-friendly bike-a-thon supporting charities serving the displaced, vulnerable, and exploited.  It’s taking place on October 4 in 30 locations across the country, and is a great way to support organizations like Hope for the Sold.

 

Hope for the Sold is still looking for riders and team captains for the RIDE.  You can read more about our vision and what you’d be supporting here.

Check out the city listing and register today!

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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

 

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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 ([email protected]), 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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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):

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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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Order Your Postcards Today & Help Bring the Nordic Model to Canada!

by Michelle Brock on February 24th, 2014

Canada Post Mailbox1 1024x682In response to the recent Supreme Court ruling on prostitution, three organizations – EVE, Sextrade 101 and the London Abused Women’s Centre - have launched a national postcard campaign.  The initiative highlights the Nordic Model as the way to move forward, and based on the following components:

  • Decriminalize persons being sold
  • Penalize buyers, pimps, and procurers
  • Mandate robust funding to women wishing to exit the sex industry

 

The goal is to demonstrate to growing support for this approach to our government, which is currently considering their response to the Supreme Court ruling.

50,000 have been printed, with the hope that they will all be signed and sent to MP Joy Smith, who will then present them to Justice Minister Peter MacKay.  You can order yours today by emailing [email protected].

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You can find more information on the campaign here!

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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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Zip Your Lips & Say Happy Birthday

by Michelle Brock on October 10th, 2012

I have two good friends, Niki and Cammy, who are passionate about the fight against sex trafficking. They have each decided to be creative about raising some funds for Hope for the Sold!  Here’s what they’ve cooked up.

NikiThis is Niki.  She is a ridiculously generous, passionate person and has done SO much in support of the abolitionist movement over the years, including hosting awareness events with sheer excellence.  Her birthday is coming up this week, and instead of gifts she has requested that people make a donation to Hope for the Sold!  She makes it very clear that she does not expect birthday gifts in the first place, but if people are so inclined, she wants her birthday to be an opportunity for impact.  So cool.  Say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Niki by donating below!

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Cammy 300x225This is Cammy.  She is one of the coolest, quirkiest people I know.  She has chickens in her backyard. When we met Cammy and her husband, they proudly showed us a room full of fair trade sugar they had shipped in to make it more accessible to their community! Cammy, being rather talkative, has decided to take on the challenge of being silent for a day to raise funds for Hope for the Sold!   Make Cammy’s day of zipping her lips worth it!

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The money donated is going toward our documentary project, for which we are travelling to several countries to explore what models prevent sex trafficking, and what laws and initiatives make it worse. Our goal is to inspire people to think differently about prostitution, so that both government and individuals can adopt practices that stop commercial sexual exploitation from ever happening in the first place.  We are boarding a plane this weekend to begin filming, so Niki and Cammy’s initiatives to raise funds could not come at a better time!

Thanks Niki and cammy for your beautiful, selfless hearts, and your dedication to making a difference in this world.

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It’s Still Not Too Late to Join the Ride for Refuge!

by Michelle Brock on September 24th, 2012

Happy Monday everyone!

The RIDE FOR REFUGE is fast approaching, the first batch of rides taking place this coming Saturday, September 29!  If you live in or near the following cities, your ride is scheduled for that day: Vancouver, Winnipeg, Leamington, Brampton, Ajax, Aylmer, Muskoka, Waterloo, Niagara region, Ottawa, Saskatoon & Sault Ste. Marie!  If you live in Guelph, Hamilton or Maple Ridge, your RIDE day is Saturday Oct 13, and Moosomin is October 6.

We would love for you to register for the RIDE FOR REFUGE, and ride for Hope for the Sold!  This is how we are using the money to fight sex trafficking.  Our riders have raised $1,850 so far!!  Woohoo!

It’s not too late!  REGISTER HERE!

If I can get on a bike for the first time in 5 years – on camera, while wearing a crooked helmet - perhaps you will be inspired to get on yours!  There are different ride lengths to accommodate everyone.  We would love love love for you to join us!  Find out more about the RIDE FOR REFUGE at rideforrefuge.org.

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