human trafficking

2014 #AllOurSisters: #HumanTrafficking & #SexWork: The REAL truth. #LdnOnt

Well, look at what we have here, another conference in London ON. But it is not just any conference (you know the typical boring conference). No, it is the 2014 All Our Sisters Forum. I am kind of sad I am missing this conference, as my friend told me about it earlier this year. I almost submitted a proposal to present but it did not fit into my schedule.

Last week, I was asked to help promote it (for free—meaning unpaid labour). When I was approached, I already knew what was going to be asked of me. So I started researching the event prior to even receiving the email with the details on this event.

The All Our Sisters Forum website can be accessed here. On their site, it states the following:

Together, through our national network and events, we focus on safe, sustainable housing for women coast to coast.  Through dialogue, research, events and lived experience, we promote security of housing and safe communities for all women in Canada.

The reason this conference caught my eye was due to the fact that it advertised as addressing topics including, “safe housing, violence, human trafficking, addiction, sex work, poverty and other issues related to homelessness among women.” (Source). This event has been on my radar for a while now. So when I was asked to help promote this event it was mentioned because my blog posts and tweets related to the topic of sex work.

Learning to help out issues, events, or other such stuff has been a battle for me. I have to be conscientious of time and energy—if I offer to do anything for free, it is because I want to and it is because I see that what I am being asked to do will have some real benefit to others. Yet, when I was looking over the topics to be discussed relating to sex work at this event, there was only one presentation that mentioned sex work (and talking about the grey area between sex work and human trafficking—no, there is no grey area because sex work isn’t trafficking) and then I noticed another presentation that mentioned human trafficking. My heart dropped to the bottom of my stomach. The name listed on the presentation was the name of the same woman who was interview by the London Free Press and dragged my best friend’s suicide through the dirt for her own anti-sex work agenda. You can read that article here. Specifically, the article reads:

“The hardest part is losing them,” she said, referencing a girl who hung herself three months ago. “Her stage name was Alex, but I want to say her real name out loud – it’s Michelle – because she was a real person,” said Stacey.”

There were two things my best friend taught me when I first arrived at the club we worked at, “Trust no one” and “Mind your own business” (I wrote this in my personal journal dated October 21, 2007).

“Stacey” is lying in this article about my best friend’s suicide and her claim to help her. I am extremely angry with the politicization of my best friend’s suicide to fulfill an anti-sex work agenda. Did she not consider what type of effects this would have on my friend’s family or friends? This is in print media. What if my friend’s son starts searching for answers about his mother? Does anyone have any respect for the dead anymore? My friend wasn’t lying when she said everyone always talked about her…even after her death.

When I used to write about my best friend, I never used to talk about her working as a dancer in the industry. In fact, I kept that very private. However, when I read this article and “Stacy” is quoted as saying both her real name/stage name, I knew I had to step in and let the truth be known. The real truth. I frequently read about the anti-human traffickers and anti-sex workers creating lies and falsifying stories to their benefit (such as in this example of a well-known anti-human trafficking activist). You can even google “human trafficking lies” and a shit load of links will appear discussing the myths and lies that the anti-human traffickers tell to help garner support for their cause (or access the millions of dollars being poured into anti-human trafficking efforts). But, I didn’t think it could ever happen to me or so close to home.

So how do I know she is lying?

Well for one, she gets the date wrong of my best friend’s suicide.

Two, she said she tried to help her and save her. My best friend hated her because well… she hated her (I worked with her and my friend at the same club). Her claim that she tried to help my best friend also suggests there is human trafficking at the club she worked at–there was none. Another lie.

And the circuit she talks about in the article I quoted above, I’ve worked the same circuit–I have never seen human trafficking occurring on this circuit. Sure I’ve seen movement from one club to another but not human trafficking. I mean, aren’t adults allowed to determine when and where they can work, sex work or not?

Finally, she was not allowed anywhere near the club. In fact, she was fired and told not to come back to the premises (as told to me from a DJ who used to work at the club and who I worked with while she worked there). This is also proven by the fact that she did not work at the club for a long time (yeah, I stopped working there in 2010 and still have friends who work there that I visited with until I moved in April 2014—and yes, I will probably, meaning very likely, visit again in the future lol).

I stand by my word: yes, she is a liar.

I really wish I could have attended this conference and in particular, “Stacey’s” presentation–just like how she attended the past only two sex work related events in London ON including the one I spoke earlier this year, where she left immediately after my presentation (probably because she recognized me and if she brought up the same old “But I was trafficked” line like she did at the 2012 sex work event, I would have called her out on her lies). She spoke on opening day and it is entertaining that the presentations for that day are under the heading, “Connecting to ‘the edge’: Speaking Truth.” “Stacey” obviously didn’t mind her own business and on the advice of my best friend, clearly, you can’t trust her.

RIP Michelle/Alex.

Related post: Caught in human trafficking lies

#WS3330G Immigration and Refugee Protection Act: #Terrorism & #HumanTrafficking

So yesterday I did a presentation on Valeria Knowles’ book which is entitled “Stranger at Our Gates.” This book is a detailed historical analysis on immigration policy from 1504 until 1997, and within the past decade.

This isn’t the first time I have written about IRPA on this blog. I have touched on it briefly in previous posts on human trafficking and terrorism. In fact, part of the presentation included such interests of mine. In particular, my curiousity within this topics are on the discourses that frame how these topics are analyzed (or more correctly, not analyzed).

Within this presentation I spoke specifically on the motive requirement which I write in great detail in my paper entitled, “Anti-Terrorism Law and Ideology: An Analysis of the Motive Requirement.” In short, the motive requirement was described as being essential to terrorist activities, and in order to fulfill this requirement one must be seen as “acting in a manner calculated to promote social and political change through violent, undemocratic means…motivated by shared ideology” (Jenkins 2009:432). The problem with this motive requirement, as discussed in my paper and several other scholars, is that such activities become discriminatory in nature (not that the institutions that govern such activity are inhernetly non-discriminatory). In fact, scholars who have written on this topic argue that motive requirement within the definition of terrorist activity needs to be removed to prevent racial, social, political, or religious profiling of both innocent citizens and non-citizens of Canada (Webb 2005; Roach 2005; Carter 2009). We all know that being profiled is only a problem for racialized/indigenized and minority groups (non-citizenship status for example), and by racialized, I don’t mean white people. Remember Skylar Murphy who was still allowed to board a plane to Mexico with a pipe bomb in his bag?  Not only this, the motive requirement expands the defintion of what constitutes terrorist activity. This definition is so broad that Cindy Blackstock, who advocates for the rights of First Nations children both domestically and internationally, was listed as an enemy to the state of Canada under Canadian Security Intelligence Services.

In additon to the above, the way in which institutions and policies address the issue of human trafficking is problematic. Within Canada, human trafficking is defined in two distinct ways, one includes a definition under the IRPA and the other under the Criminal Code of Canada. The Criminal Code of Canada deals specifically with domestic human trafficking (in other words, the trafficking that allegedly affects Indigenous women and girls) and the IRPA deals with international human trafficking, or the movement of bodies across borders (in other words, the kind that allegedly affects immigrant/migrant women and girls). Further, institutions state the victim does not know it is a victim. Most recently, within a Canada-wide police initiative (a shit show of a strategy) to combat human trafficking, only one person was arrested and the police stated that the woman was 18 years old (meaning of legal age to consent) and that she did not cooperate with the police (Source). More precisely, she did not identify as a victim. So what happened to that woman? Was she arrested, charged, or taken to a holding cell? What will happen to other individuals who don’t subscribe to the victim identity? Therefore, it is up to the systems (aka policing/border patrol) to identify victims and perpatrators, and these two (without accident) are defined as originating from the same ethnic origin which could potentially criminalize personal or familial relationships.

These discourses on human trafficking are compelling, especially since white women (historically) were defined as “chosen” or “recruited” through immigration policies or initiatives in an effort to help build families (or build Canada aka protect whiteness). Meanwhile, the movement of Black, brown, and Indigenous bodies across borders and within borders were/are being defined as trafficked (historically and presently), which also restricts/restricted their movement greatly, and defining them in such a manner meaning it was/is a problem that needs to be dealt with swiftly (aka with aggressive policing initiatives–much like this one happening in 2014). Racism, as it existed/exists in immigration policies/inititatives always tend(ed) to focus on how to protect and maintain Canada’s whiteness. Additionally, present day anti-human trafficking campaigns only ever include white faces/bodies within their advertisements or materials. But in the same breath, the same organizations argue that there is a need to protect the most vulnerable, or women of color or Indigenous women.

This begs the question, what are we really trying to accomplish with these discourses and policies?

#humantrafficking and #colonialism

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.