Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
November 30, 2009
Even Western Canada is not immune to exploitation
Aboriginal women at high risk for being trafficked
KIPLY LUKAN YAWORSKI
SASKATOON - Although it's hard to believe, there is human slavery in Canada, an officer with the Saskatoon Police Service recently told Catholic social justice advocates from across the West.
"The UN describes Canada as a transit, source and destination country for human trafficking, said Hal Lam, cultural liaison officer with the police force.
In addition to international human trafficking, domestic trafficking exists within Canada, Lam said.
In Western Canada, aboriginal women are at an extremely high risk for being trafficked, he said.
"Some of the reserves in northern Saskatchewan, northern Alberta, northern Manitoba are almost like Third World countries," Lam said. "It is easy for organized crime to go there and promise young women a better life."
The Western Conference for Social Justice held its annual gathering here Oct. 30-Nov. 1 with human trafficking one of the topics on its agenda.
Lam said the longing for a better life also lies behind international human trafficking, where predators pretend to be employers or feign a love interest to entrap women seeking to improve their life or help their family.
Once the victims are brought over here, perhaps the trafficker says, "Well, you owe me $50,000 because I brought you over here. I'm going to hold onto your passport, so you'll do what I say," he explained.
Victims don't seek help for a number of reasons, he said. Some have been brainwashed or threatened, others have come from countries where police are feared, and still others fear to dishonour their families - which is a huge factor in some cultures. Some traffickers threaten the families of their victims, or use violence or addictions to control victims.
In Canada, foreign nationals rescued from trafficking situations are automatically given a temporary residence permit, which gives them access to health care and other services, he noted. In 2005, Canada enacted new legislation to combat human trafficking.
The most important thing is to get help for victims, Lam said, but that is complicated by the fact that victims of human trafficking rarely come to the police for help, although they may go to churches or social agencies.
Unlike traffic in drugs or weapons, in human trafficking the "product" can be trafficked many times. Threats, fraud or violence might be used to control a person for the purpose of exploitation.
Such exploitation might be in the sex trade, or it might involve forced labour and servitude, Lam explained. It is not necessary to cross a border for a crime to be considered human trafficking.
"For example, if a girl has been tricked or forced even within Saskatoon to work in a massage parlour, and she's scared for her safety, or if a girl has been lured from the reserve and forced to work in the city, that fits the definition of domestic human trafficking."
In the Saskatoon Diocese, the Catholic Women's League and the diocesan Office for Justice and Peace have been active in a campaign against human trafficking.
In discussion about the issue, Vancouver Archdiocese representative Daniel Hahn noted the CWL's national effort to raise awareness about human trafficking, particularly as it relates to the upcoming winter Olympics.
A pastoral letter on human trafficking from the bishops of British Columbia and the Yukon has also prompted discussion and awareness, he said. A similar groundswell of awareness has happened in the Diocese of Victoria.
Hahn noted that there has also been a "push back" from pro-legalization and pro-brothel forces.
Sister Johanna Jonker of the Winnipeg Archdiocese reported that there is a concerted effort to prevent human trafficking and protect at-risk youth in that city.
Six high-profile Canadian men have stepped forward to participate in a Man to Man campaign against the trafficking and sexual exploitation of children, Jonker said. The project has been organized by a Winnipeg-based national group, Beyond Borders.
Bob McKeon of Edmonton related how the recent discovery of women allegedly trafficked from overseas being rescued in Edmonton was a wake-up call for the community.
The Western Conference for Social Justice (WCSJ) is a group of diocesan social justice representatives from Western Canada, mandated by bishops of the Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops to oversee diocesan social justice ministry.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.