Like whoa! Two blog posts in one day. It’s okay. I’ve neglected posting for quite a bit. This post is something a little more heavy, and required a bit more research and reading than the previous posts.
Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada heard the Bedford v. A.G. case relating to Canada’s current anti-prostitution laws. Unfortunately, I could not watch the live feed, let alone attend the hearing like many did. At the hearing, I recall reading many tweets where the A.G. argued that decriminalization of sex work would lead to an increase in human trafficking. Thankfully Abella J. challenged the A.G. on their arguments.
So, began my quest into finding out how and why this argument came to be. I saw a tweet in my feed that mentioned the Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF) would make ending human trafficking one of their priorities. I clicked on the link (you can read that link HERE) and I noticed that they included two sources for their facts on human trafficking (wherein their facts are not really facts at all). Two of these sources included two government-produced documents. I have previously written about the issue with the government defining problems in women’s lives, especially Indigenous women’s lives. To highlight the issue, it is just a recreation of colonial ideals of Indigenous women/girls that they need to be saved, and that they do not know what is best for them. This colonial ideal of women and girls is actually emphasized and boldly stated in this RCMP report (HERE) on human trafficking in Canada wherein they write that victims do not know they are victims. In fact, the Canadian government goes so far to argue that they “came to the conclusion that prostitution is closely linked to trafficking in persons [and] believe that prostitution is a form of violence and a violation of human rights [and] feels that consent is irrelevant because you can never consent to sexual exploitation.” In other words, all prostitution is human trafficking because trafficking is exploitive, and thereby, ignoring the voices of women who actually experience violence, exploitation, and human rights violations from unsafe working conditions created by anti-prostitution laws. As stated, there are problems with this argument given their application of the definition of human trafficking and its conflation with sex work. In fact, there is no use of the term sex work in any report until the RCMP’s same 2010 report, and even then, there is no recognition of human rights violations that sex workers experience for being apart of an occupation group.
Back to CWF and their use of sensationalist language in place of actual facts…
Some of the facts listed rarely ever mention actual numbers. One might argue, which the RCMP did in the same report as above, that it is hard to find actual or real numbers when dealing with such “clandestine” and “illicit” activity. I just find it really odd that very similar organizations can report on increased numbers of human trafficking but state in another report & same breathe that it is hard to find the victims and report on the numbers. I don’t know maybe that’s just me. This is done in both the 2010 RCMP report and the report sourced by CWF.
In addition to CWF’s so-called facts, they also mention in the same list that vulnerable and marginalized women, including Aboriginal/racialized/immigrant women, are most likely to be trafficked. Yet, fails to highlight that in one of their sources they list that the most likely to be trafficked are in fact middle-class females between the ages of 12-25 (HERE). Last time I checked the statistics, Aboriginal/racialized/immigrant women are most likely to be experiencing poverty. One might point out that their second source highlights this phenomenon; yet, this second report fails to indicate how this phenomenon is connected to the increased in numbers of human trafficking victims. Further to these points, one could also argue that this is one of the reasons behind the numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. However, when we ignore the colonial-legacy behind both issues, we ignored the victimization/re-victimization of the most vulnerable and marginalized (Remember the point above about Aboriginal girls?). In addition to this, by conflating the two issues we ignore the systemic bias including indifference from police as highlighted in the Oppal report released last year.
Then the biggest problem with the one source produced by the Government of Canada is this statement: “Traditionally regarded as prostitution, cases of domestic trafficking in persons (TIP) for sexual exploitation are emerging in Canada due to amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada in November 2005” (HERE) and then immediately following this statement is the mention of one human trafficking offence in May 2008. Then, true to contradictory form, the 2010 RCMP report highlights that most human trafficking charges are reduced to other charges like abduction, sexual assault, etc. So, why do we have these new human trafficking criminal code violations?
Side note: The government of Canada points out that they report on human trafficking in accordance to their 3-P policy: prevention, prosecution, and prevention. Another point to highlight is that the RCMP reports that human trafficking victims are most likely to be of similar ethnic backgrounds to the perpetrators. They also report that domestic TIP occurs mainly in northern regions of Canada, basically where everyone is of similar ethnic background (namely, Aboriginal) or related in some form or another to begin with.
And back to the statement above, the most obvious issue with this quote is that human trafficking has never been regarded as prostitution. Second, to highlight the reasoning in this statement, if you define a situation as a problem, you will most likely find a problem, and this is exactly what the Canadian government is doing. It says, “this problem exists and this is how it looks, and this is how we are going to deal with it” and that is with increased policing of bodies and sexuality, especially in the north and vulnerable/marginalized women/girls (Remember the point above about Aboriginal women and girls?).
So what is the big deal in creating a domestic human trafficking problem? Well, like I have mentioned previously, this is just a change in language, from prostitution to human trafficking, and at the centre of the issue exist Indigenous women/girls.
In the early of the 19th Century, the problem with trafficking was white women, an increased fear of prostitution, and an over-sexualization of Indigenous women/girls, why is there a shift focusing on trafficking in Indigenous women then? To sum up colonialism: if you can control the bodies on the land, you can control the land itself, and when you control the land, you control the resources on the land.
Think about it…
NOTE: I am not arguing that there is no such thing as victims or that victims cannot be victims. Rather, we should not allow the government to define, dictate, and police lived experiences especially those of Indigenous women/girls.