In case you didn’t know, it is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. Charming. What does this day actually mean? Nothing really. It’s just another day for the antis to come together, parade their victims through the media and maybe talk about how many laws their country passed within the last year to help fight against trafficking and exploitation. In other words, today is nothing new. Same ole, same ole.
Within the past year, Canada enacted several laws to allegedly fight against trafficking and exploitation, especially sexual exploitation (See Bill C-36, now law). However, Canada still has done absolutely nothing to actually address the problems that cause trafficking and exploitation in the first place.
According to the god awful Trafficking in Persons (TIPS) report published each year by the States, Canada seems to have a love affair with the topic of sexual exploitation and Canada is too shy to admit to this dalliance. Acknowledging Canada’s penchant toward sexual exploitation would mean Canada has to address its miff in addressing other kinds of trafficking and exploitation—surely people remember the gaff of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. No? That’s okay: these kinds of government-supported programs don’t really fall under the label of “exploitation” or (state-approved) human trafficking.
Other things found in the TIPS report:
- Aboriginal women and girls are vulnerable (the report’s word, not mine) to sexual exploitation through the child welfare system and their own communities (specifically, Aboriginal communities). Yet, the report fails to acknowledge that it is Canada’s own fault for putting Indigenous folks on reserves and Indigenous children in the child welfare system. Doh!
- Canada has increased its capacity surrounding law enforcement and prosecution of human trafficking and exploitation but Canada has done zilch for labour traffickers.
- In increasing its capacity surrounding law enforcement and prosecution of human trafficking and exploitation, the report fails to mention who is being targeted by these increased law enforcement and prosecution efforts (like the increase in criminalization of youth, family members, and members of marginalized communities like Indigenous women who work in the sex trade as the media continues to out sex workers, putting them at greater risk of violence and exploitation).
- Canada does very little to help support victims. Of course, Canada sucks in supporting victims given that Aboriginal women and girls are a vulnerable group (the report’s words, not mine) and given that Canada basically ignores the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Remember that RCMP report? All those girls just wandered off. Can we just give the Canadian government a break, like really? I mean, if the girls who are most likely to go missing and who are most likely to be vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking just wander off, is it really Canada’s fault? C’mon, TIPS, why do you have to be so hard on Canada.
- The victim crime compensation fund in Montreal did not assist individuals in prostitution, even if they were trafficking victims. But if all prostitution = trafficking, then wouldn’t all prostitutes be trafficked victims?
- Some domestic violence shelters would not take trafficking victims out of fear of their traffickers. But if you are like me (you know, an Indigenous woman, all vulnerable) and have tried to access domestic violence support while you working in the sex trade, you will be turned away for wanting to stay in the trade or you will have to hide your working status out of fear of discrimination and stigma.
- It isn’t exactly clear where Canada stands when it comes to foreign victims but this recent anti-human trafficking initiative by police forces across Canada make it clear: “Migrant sex workers caught up in Ottawa sting face deportation.” Yup, it doesn’t get any clearer than with that news article about what happens to foreign victims. I mean, isn’t all prostitution considered to be human trafficking and if so, then wouldn’t all those in the trade be victims—not if you are Asian and in the trade by choice. Funny those double standards.
We don’t have to look far to understand what is going on with these anti-human trafficking efforts. In fact, Empower Foundation in Thailand released its statement on TIPS last year. In that statement, Empower explains what a lower grade means for countries who receive such. Basically, the US stops or reduces aid and trade with the country. Empower highlights the problems with anti-trafficking efforts in one sentence, “We have not heard of any strategy or plan to assist workers who lose their livelihoods from such actions.” Truth! What has Canada done to assist workers who lose their livelihoods from actions that allegedly fight against human trafficking and exploitation? Deportation. Criminalization. Exploitation in other trades and forms of labour (remember, temporary foreign worker program).
As Chanelle Gallant, fierce sex work activist, organizer and ally to many, outlines the problems with the anti-trafficking rhetoric by telling the story of a fictional character, Amy, a middle class white girl (because that who is most vulnerable remember?), the story seems plausible but just kidding because it is made up (much like other trafficking victims stories and research on the subject). Gallant describes Amy as “insecure, vulnerable” and then Amy “gets tricked by an older boyfriend, who is actually super mean but way smarter than [Amy].” Amy is tricked by her boyfriend, as Gallant states, “doing what is apparently the world’s most lucrative work beside being a CEO ($250,000/year).” In case you are wondering about the plausibility of this lucrative work’s income, it’s actually $260,000/year (and sometimes even $280,000/year) and I already debunked this figure in another post. But, don’t you worry because Amy is eventually saved! And then millions and millions of dollars are pumped into awareness campaigns, Gallant details.
Empower makes a bold statement, and a repeated one by many sex work activists and allies, “anti-trafficking money is attractive.” And we see how attractive this money is when the majority of those who do receive the anti-trafficking funds from Bill C-36 are antis (the only true protectors of trafficking victims… pfft). I guess the antis can continue to pimp out their victims and continue to parade them through the media because more victims mean more money! Ye$$$!
Happy World Day Against Trafficking in Persons folks!
It is difficult to decipher where you are serious and where you speak with tongue in cheek. Am I correct in assuming that your battle is against unfair anti-sex work laws that focus on poor women (indigenous, in this case), rather than a battle against sex work as a viable income (for poor indigenous women, in this case)? I just read http://www.thenation.com/article/amnesty-international-is-finally-on-the-right-side-of-the-sex-work-struggle/ and the author references your article for her point that links sex work with indigenous culture. I, too, am an indigenous woman (Karuk Tribe of No. Calif.) and I staunchly rebuke any association with sex work and indigenous CULTURE. Having sex with anyone who will pay you is not our culture, but the end of our culture.
Did you read my quote to the author in that article? Did you even read this post you are commenting on? Because if so, then maybe you wouldn’t have to make a point about Indigenous culture. I never once mentioned indigenous culture in either the quote or the post above. Thus, I am not even certain you read or understood my quote in the article or understood the post you are commenting on. I invite you to read other posts where I discuss the history of criminalization of indigenous bodies and sexualities. Then, perhaps maybe I can entertain your ideas about indigenous sexualities/culture.
Reading this from the US, Chicago to be exact, 6 years in sex work and loving every second. Putting myself thru political science school, so I’m constantly trying to keep up with the current events & politics of sex work, and I had always thought that Canada would be a “safe haven” if things in the US got too bad. But now… this scares me. I have never been one to get paranoid, but the #rentboyraid among other things has made the hobbying community saturated with fear. I don’t think regulation or licensing would be good, the anonymity protects us, but definitely decriminalisation. I thought things were bad over here… if sex work were decriminalised we would see an elimination of streetwalkers, their lives would naturally elevate as a consequence of not having to face persecution.
And btw, just a small comment on miss wildbynature’s comment… I can’t speak for everyone, but most sex workers do not have sex with “anyone” that will pay them. I am turning down close to 300 inquiries per week because they do not meet my screening and background check standards. I also require “references” from other sex workers to ensure that the client won’t become violent, rip me off, etc. In America, the law describes the act of “indiscriminate sex” as being considered prostitution, when the majority of us are VERY indiscriminate. In that lies the issue of criminalization of sex work; when we are FORCED to be indiscriminate due to our desperation, or fear of prosecution, it’s the perfect recipe for a pimp to come in the picture, and it’s extremely hard to pull oneself out of that cycle once it’s started. I myself have many blessings like an understanding and accepting family, a sober lifestyle, that allow me to further work in a safe and supported environment. Thus, I’ve never been arrested, or have ever ‘had’ to see a client I didn’t want to.
Sorry for writing an entire book, I just despair at the all negative picture society paints us as being, and I blame that for the ignorance of the masses. You CAN be a sex worker and be educated, stable, sane, & in some cases, like the author of this article, genius 😉
Thanks for sharing your perspective Angelica. I appreciate it. However, I don’t think the goal to decriminalize sex work should be to eliminate any one form of sex work (like street based sex work) but to provide all sex workers with options to protect themselves from violence without fear of arrest. Again, thank you.