Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 2, 2009
Western bishops target human trafficking
Thousands of people are trafficked through Canada into the U.S.
WCR PHOTO|RAMON GONZALEZ
Regina Archbishop Daniel Bohan hopes the Western Bishops will promote action to help stop human trafficking in Canada.
BY RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — The bishops of Western Canada could soon begin to take action against human trafficking.
At their recent annual meeting at Edmonton’s Providence Renewal Centre, the bishops heard three presentations on human trafficking from Sister Sheila Smith of the Canadian Religious Conference, which is leading a campaign against trafficking.
“I think (human trafficking) is a big problem in the world and affects Canada as well because there is evidence trafficking goes on in Canada,” said Regina Archbishop Daniel Bohan, president of the Western Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“So what we should look for from this conference is that the bishops will become more aware of the problem in their dioceses and perhaps begin to take action or promote action to help alleviate the problem.”
More than 20 bishops from the dioceses of Western Canada and the North attended the Feb. 17-20 meeting.
It is up to each bishop what kind of action, if any, they will take on human trafficking.
“Each bishop is independent,” Bohan clarified. “The conference is not so much decision-making as it is a way of the bishops getting together to educate themselves around issues that affect us in common.”
But Bohan said now that the Western bishops have a better understanding of the human trafficking issue, they might decide to take some kind of action.
“I think what the bishops have to do is try to promote awareness of the problem among Catholic people,” the archbishop said.
“The government is aware of it and I think the people need to be aware of what’s happening in our country.”
Because human trafficking is a criminal activity, it is unlikely people are going to get directly involved.
“But they can promote awareness and set up support groups to help people who are trying to get out of the trafficking situation,” Bohan said.
“The Church feels it’s necessary to speak out on behalf of people who are victims of human trafficking and to try to make these victims see in the Church and in Catholic people a people who will support and help them in any way that they can.”
Canada is a source, transit and destination country for women, men and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour.
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.
At their assembly, the Western bishops elected St. Paul Bishop Luc Bouchard as their representative on the permanent council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.