Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 13, 2006
False promises lure the naïve into modern day slavery
Play portrays tragedy of human trafficking
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"The trafficking of women and children starts first and foremost here,"
- Hugo Turgeon
That's what happened to Trista, played by actor Shanda Pall. She was duped with promises of money and glamour but ended up working for nothing, just like a modern slave.
Lost in Traffic played at the Horowitz Theatre before an audience of 200 people Nov. 4. Le Theatre Parminou, a Quebec-based theatrical production company that creates theatre that deals with social problems, produced the 90-minute play two years ago at the request of a group of Canadian religious congregations.
The Canadian Religious Conference and other organizations sponsored its Alberta showings. The play was performed in Edmonton, Calgary, Grande Prairie, Red Deer and Lethbridge.
Lost in Traffic is interactive in that the audience gets to answer questions and give input on how to deal with situations. "Seriously, I will need your help to make this show work," Hugo Turgeon, the play's game leader, told the audience.
He described trafficking as a "modern day trade" that's happening right here in North America.
"(A trafficked person) is a person who is being displaced in order to take advantage of that person," he said. "It can be done by force, by threat, seduction, deception or even by fraud."
Which countries do we think of when we talk about this problem? "Thailand, Philippines, Africa, Asia," the audience responded. "So all the poor countries, all countries that are very far from here," Turgeon replied back, with an ironic tone.
"Well, the trafficking of women and children is a problem that starts first and foremost here," he said, introducing a scene that illustrated his point.
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Trista (Shanda Pall) has just arrived from Sophia and is writing a letter home.
The scene is a conversation on the human trafficking topic between Denis (Luc Gauthier), a taxi driver who witnesses situations, his skeptical friend Chantal (Shanda Pall) and Brainy (Catherine Ruel), a bubbly and socially aware woman who is writing a book on the trade.
"Human trafficking is all over the world, including Canada," Brainy said. "It's primarily a business and is tolerated because it's profitable."
She said Canadians contribute to the human trafficking industry when they buy the traffickers' merchandise, be it the sexual or domestic services of trafficked women or clothing made by child labour in other countries. Sex tourists also contribute to the trade, Brainy said.
Canada is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children trafficked for the purposes of labour and sexual exploitation.
It's estimated that human traffickers are coercing 600 to 800 foreign women and girls into joining the Canadian sex trade each year and that another 1,500 to 2,200 persons are trafficked through Canada into the United States.
Women and children are trafficked from Africa, Central and South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia for sexual exploitation.
Most trafficking victims have been identified from source countries in Asia including South Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
On a much lower scale, men, women and children are trafficked for forced labour. Some Canadian girls and women are trafficked internally for commercial sexual exploitation. A good number of Canadian women and girls are also coerced to go overseas to join the trade.
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
One year later Trista, lamenting her misfortunes, sits with her suitcase wondering where she can go from here.
In one scene in an imaginary Latin American country a waitress, Rosa (Catherine Ruel) is almost duped by a charming, fast-talking guy (Luc Gauthier) to go with him to America with promises of big money.
Peanuts are the imaginary country's currency. As a waitress Rosa earned only two peanuts. In her modeling job she could earn up to 200 peanuts a day. She was tempted and ready to pack.
At this point Hugo Turgeon, the play's game leader, froze the action and asked the audience to close their eyes and imagine what would they do if they were in Rosa's shoes, with virtually no hope of ever improving their lot in life. By a show of hands Turgeon concluded a third of the audience would have gone with Smiley.
Turgeon confronted Rosa, telling her she was making it too easy on the guy. To which she said the guy is handsome, found her beautiful and offered a good paying job overseas.
When Turgeon asked the audience whether Rosa was acting precipitously, people said she wasn't checking the guy's facts such as his real name and the fact he wanted Rosa to leave with him the next morning without a passport. Upset as she was, Rosa turned Smiley down.
Another scene depicts a rich family keeping a maid for over 30 years, paying her almost nothing for her services. The woman, with no legal papers, is afraid to go out for fear of being deported. The audience recommends the family give the maid her freedom by giving her money and legal papers.
The final scene shows a heartbroken Trista a year later. Holding her small, red suitcase, just like her shoes, Trista laments her fate. "I am so ashamed," she said. "My employers took away my passport as soon as I arrived. And with it they took away my dignity."
The Canadian Religious Conference is committed to working against human trafficking "because we feel that this is an issue that is against the dignity of the human being," said spokesperson Sister Jeannette Filthaut.
"Everybody has a right to life and they (the traffickers) are taking the life from these people in many countries and we are doing it here in Canada as well."
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