Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
January 19, 2009
Vulnerable women lured into the sex trade
Vancouver Winter Olympics are spotlighting human trafficking
Human traffickers lure women locked in poverty to move to elite jobs in foreign lands and then force them into the sex trade.
BY RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Imagine finding yourself working in a brothel or in the back of a massage parlor after you were promised a well-paying job as a model or a waitress.
This is a brutal reality for a growing number of unsuspecting young women and men who become trapped in the sex trade after being lured to Canada with false promises.
Canada is a source, transit and destination country for women, men and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour.
WINTER OLYMPICS TARGET
And there are fears that the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver may become a catalyst for a massive boom in trafficking of women into the city’s sex trade from outside and within Canada.
That’s why the Canadian Religious Conference (CRC) is trying to educate young Canadians on the issue.
The CRC, in conjunction with the School Sisters of Notre Dame, recently released an awareness and action kit on human trafficking for Catholic high school students across Canada.
The purpose of the kit is to introduce students to the issue and raise awareness of the link between high profile sporting events such as the Winter Olympics and increased trafficking in persons for sexual and labour exploitation, explained Dave Bouchard, spokesperson for the CRC.
“We just want young people to be more aware of what’s happening. And most of the time this is happening to people their own age, people between the ages of 14 to 22.”
The kit, titled Being a Global Village: Human Trafficking and the 2010 Olympics, provides material for about three 60-minute class periods. It can be inserted in curriculum areas such as social or human rights or as a social justice component of religious studies.
The kit contains teacher notes, a Power Point presentation on human trafficking, a documentary/play called the Oldest Oppression, as well as prayers, reflections and action handouts. The kit is available in English and French and can easily be adapted to a parish youth program of catechesis.
“Young people need to become more aware of the issue of human trafficking for two reasons: to avoid any traps that come their way in terms of how traffickers work and to help them get more involved in advocacy work to try to help victims of human trafficking,” says Bouchard.
He will be speaking to teachers’ conventions in February and March to make educators aware of the kit.
Bouchard hopes public schools will also see the value of the human trafficking kit.
Due to the underground nature of human trafficking, accurate statistics on its scale are elusive and often unreliable.
It’s estimated human traffickers are coercing 600 to 800 foreign women and girls into joining the Canadian sex trade each year and that several thousand people are trafficked through Canada into the United States.
“We are probably looking at an annual number of about 8,000 in and through (Canada),” says Bouchard. “We’ve only had two actual convictions in Canada, but there are 31 cases that have been identified that need to be investigated.”
Bouchard, a retired Red Deer teacher and father of four, has been working on the human trafficking issue on behalf of the CRC since 2005.
The CRC is the official organization of more than 200 religious congregations in Canada.
According to one of the kit handouts, nearly a million people are trafficked annually worldwide, producing $10 billion in profits.
Trafficked persons — 70 per cent of whom are women and children — come from all around the globe, including former Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Moldova, as well as Thailand and other parts of Asia and Africa.
Poverty is cited as the root cause of human trafficking.
“Victims of human trafficking are people who are deceived or coerced into coming into our country from a very poor country with promises of good jobs then being forced into jobs that are demeaning and even into the sex trade,” Bouchard explained.
SEX TRADE WORKERS
“Oftentimes these women end up working in brothels that are illegal, in the back of escort services, as exotic dancers or in areas where they are making pornographic pictures.
“These are the jobs that they end up with, not the jobs they were promised at the beginning. They were promised to be models, they were promised jobs in the hospitality industry.”
The human trafficking industry is largely controlled by organized crime, “although we don’t have a specific identity,” Bouchard said. “I know of a case where one individual person was trafficking five women.”
There is also a domestic angle to human trafficking, with a sizable number of Canadian girls being trafficked within Canada, according to Bouchard.
“A lot of them happen to be aboriginal women. They are taken from their home towns where they live in poverty into the big cities where they are abused and taken advantage of.”
A goodly number of Canadian women and girls are also coerced to join the sex trade overseas.
People are also brought into Canada to be used as a source of cheap labour, noted Bouchard. “We have a few cases that we know are being investigated here in Alberta with regards to that.”
Human trafficking has been a criminal offence in Canada since late 2005.