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!