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Shedding Light on Human Trafficking

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So often shoved under the rug is the issue of human trafficking, where a vulnerable person’s freedom in life is confined within the boundary of sexual exploitation. Not to be confused with sex work which is legal in Canada, someone that is participating in human trafficking is “when they recruit, harbour, transport, or obtain a person for labour or commercial sex through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.” The Criminal Code of Canada includes human trafficking offences to be (1) trafficking of a person, (2) trafficking of a person under the age of eighteen, (3) materially benefitting from human trafficking, and (4) withholding or destroying [the victim’s] travel or identification documents.    

More often than not, the victims most vulnerable to this problem are those that are either lacking a strong support system or undergoing a difficult circumstance in their life. It is of no coincidence that foreigners, the impoverished and/or underage women or LBGTQ+ are the most preyed upon. Particularly, the trafficking of Indigenous women is most prevalent in Canada, as poverty is highest within Canada’s Indigenous population. The research finding in Tracia’s Trust strategy highlights the vulnerability of this particular group such that “in Manitoba, a disproportionate number of Indigenous women and girls continue to be exploited and trafficked in the visible sex trade.” 

This continues to be an issue with few solutions because the mass population culturally turns a blind eye on this topic. In the wide scope of “bigger” issues such as climate change, equal rights for visible minorities and the Covid-19 pandemic, the issues surrounding poverty that include homelessness and human trafficking are often overlooked and barely mentioned. In the article “Policing Human Trafficking: Cultural Blinders and Organizational Barriers”, Amy Farrell and Rebecca Pfeffer explore one factor of ignorance amass the United States population in a way that “police leaders talk candidly about the difficulties of devoting resources to human trafficking unless members of the community start to complain about the problem,” and that “the police do not think the public supports labour trafficking investigations because the victims who are often undocumented migrants, adults, and men are often perceived as unsympathetic.”

On top of this tragic mindset shared by many North Americans and problematic lack of priority by the police force in the United States, people tend to pull blinders down on windows that reveal matters that they are convinced would not happen to them. As in the case of Victoria Morrison, a human trafficking survivor who openly unfolded the story of her traumatic time as a victim, she emphasizes that “it really does happen in your own backyard, all over the country, all over the world.” The unthinkable really does happen to anyone – as circumstances that place one in a vulnerable position and be more prone to seek comfort from someone, to abuse substances and lack the motivation to participate in the “normalcy” of everyday – really does happen to anyone.

Someone that is actively suffering under the abuse of their predator may not be obvious to the uninformed, as they are psychologically entrapped to reach out due to their predator’s threats and manipulations. To put in plain, indicators of a victim can be agitation, fearfulness, display of substance misuse, display of limited amount of clothing, psychological and/or physical trauma, appear secretive and untrusting, seeming indebted to someone, regularly moved from place to place, limited freedom of movement, have no possession of identification and money, and has limited access to medical care. 

A crucial step in helping victims by significantly reducing this issue is to spread awareness and stay educated on the issue of human trafficking. Branching out by volunteering to local organizations that help human trafficking victims is a step forward in the right direction. Should you find yourself in a situation to actively help a victim, call 911 or Crime Stoppers: 204-786-8477 in Winnipeg or 1-800-222-8577 toll-free. To speak to a counsellor as someone affected by human trafficking, call Klinic’s 24/7 human trafficking hotline: 1-844-333-2211. 

Works Cited

Farrell, Amy and Pfeffer, Rebecca, “Policing Human Trafficking: Cultural Blinders and Organizational Barriers”, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 653, 2014, pp. 46-64., www.jstor.org/stable/24541774. [Accessed 22 August 2020].

Gov.mb.ca. 2020. [online] Available at: <https://www.gov.mb.ca/fs/traciastrust/pubs/tracias_trust_report_2019.pdf> [Accessed 22 August 2020].

Hopeforjustice.org. 2020. Spot The Signs Of Human Trafficking | Hope For Justice. [online] Available at: <https://hopeforjustice.org/spot-the-signs/> [Accessed 21 August 2020].

Klinic Community Health. 2020. HUMAN TRAFFICKING HOTLINE “The Line” – Klinic Community Health. [online] Available at: <http://klinic.mb.ca/crisis-support/human-trafficking-hotline-information/> [Accessed 21 August 2020].

Rosen, K., 2019. ‘Frozen By Fear’: A Human Trafficking Survivor Returns To Winnipeg To Share Her Story. [online] Winnipeg. Available at: <https://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/frozen-by-fear-a-human-trafficking-survivor-returns-to-winnipeg-to-share-her-story-1.4685362> [Accessed 21 August 2020].

www2.gov.bc.ca. 2020. Canada’s Human Trafficking Laws – Province Of British Columbia. [online] Available at: <https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/justice/criminal-justice/victims-of-crime/human-trafficking/human-trafficking-training/module-2/laws> [Accessed 22 August 2020].

Written by Natasha Byrne

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