Underground Railway to Modern Day Slavery

Underground Railway to Modern Day Slavery

Deep in our history of struggle for freedom Canada was the North Star. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The irony of this quote is palpable as I begin writing this post today about human/sex trafficking in Canada. After reading Invisible Chains and speaking with the Canadian Women’s Foundation I felt compelled to speak out about the injustices occurring in our own backyard. I do not equate Canada with a place of slavery and one that condones rights violations and hopefully I won’t have to for much longer. The greatest barrier to tackling this issue is a lack of awareness. People just do not know that human and sex trafficking is a reality to our homeland. My goal today is to help you see the human side of this sensationalized, often foreign sounding crime.

The last time Mrs. Foster heard her daughter’s voice was in 2006. Originally from Kamloops, 21-year-old Jessie met a generous stranger at a party and ended up in Florida, then in Atlantic City, New York and finally in Vegas. They say, “what happens in Vegas stay in Vegas” turns out a person trafficked to Vegas also stays in Vegas. I want to share with you parts of a letter written to Jessie by her mother:

My sweet, dear, wonderful Jessie…

Hi baby, this is Mom. I just wanted to let you know how much I miss you and how hard we are working to find you and bring you home…Do NOT blame yourself or think that you need to be forgiven for ANYTHING. You are a VICTIM, even if you think you could have left, you were not able to…Your dad is having such a hard time withal of this. He just does not know what to do or what to think. He is doing better now, but I am worried about him. Your friends all miss you and are so worried and supportive to us. Jessie, remember…we will find you, love Mom.

I have one more thing to say, but this is not to Jessie…this is to whoever took her, or has her, or knows where she is. We NEED her…GIVE HER BACK TO US. Give her back to me. I am her mommy and I need my baby back, PLEASE.

When Mrs. Foster wrote this letter, she was hoping it would be widely distributed and help her locate her daughter. If you have any information about Jessie Foster, please visit www.jessiefoster.ca and contact the family.

I take it personally that this happening in a country that I call home. I am offended that our response to human trafficking is passive.  Below is another heart breaker:

Timea Nagy was silent for 10 years about her trafficking story but realized that she needed to speak out in order to start healing.  She was 19 when she responded to an ad in a Budapest paper for a nanny in Toronto.  It didn’t take long before she realized that was far from the truth. Indebted to her traffickers for her ticket she was forced into stripping. She was given fake documents and advised not to contact the police. They threatened to go after her brother if she didn’t cooperate. Dancing was the least horrific thing that she was made to do. Timea was abused, gang raped, and enslaved. Timea experienced a moment where she desperately tried to find a glimpse of herself in the mirror but couldn’t.  That’s when she knew it was time to get help. Eventually, she did and is the founder of Walk With Me and continues to raise awareness about trafficking in Canada.

Young girls across our country are being taken away from their loved ones and lured into an industry that hurts them on every level possible. Who lures them and how do they do it? Pimps, disguised as boyfriends, friends, lovers, husbands, or just random people met by chance. They are taught how to break a girl down by gaining a girl’s trust and then introducing her to varying types of porn, making her a spectator to wild sexual acts, rape (sometimes gang rape), exposing her to drugs and manipulating her into loosening sexual boundaries. This process is called grooming. There are varying strategies that are used to ensure that the girl remains enslaved and does not revolt. The sheer dynamic of owner and slave cannot be better illustrated when pimps brand their girls by tattooing their names on them. (Didn’t we decide that selling human beings and treating them like property was morally wrong? Guess not.)If she revolts against the tattoo or any other unimaginable injustice, the tattoo will be made with a safety pin. Pain diminishes the will to fight. How many cigarette burns could you handle?

Drugs become a coping mechanism. Wouldn’t you want to numb yourself of any feeling? Being forced to perform sexual acts with multiple (up to 12) people a night, while feeling alone, ashamed, and trapped would certainly lead me to drugs. The majority of girls entering the sex trade industry are young (under 18) have low self-esteem, a broken support system and are in desperate need of money. This is not a career choice. Money is what keeps traffickers in the business, because make no mistake, it is lucrative. They trap the girls by making a generous offer at the beginning, like a plane ticket to Canada from abroad, or offer opportunities within our borders. Girls are indebted to their pimps and in order to pay off their debt, they become enslaved. Though some pimps turn to violence, others don’t need to. They make the girls believe that they’re in love with them. They control their victims through psychological abuse/manipulation.

Who are the victims? It could be a girl you went to school with. Who are the traffickers? It could be the man you passed on the street. The condo next door could be a place where a trafficked girl is being sold right now. Seedy motel rooms aren’t for everyone. Some clients prefer a luxury condo with a pretty view. One scenario described in Perrin’s book particularly haunts me. He describes a situation where a young, well-to-do man, orders a prostitute for the evening. He was happy that she would come to his hotel room and that the transaction would be discrete because going out on the street is embarrassing. Two burly bodyguards show up at his door with an underage girl. Taking the biggest risk of her life, this young girl holds out a piece of paper that says, “Help Me”. The young man became overwhelmed and ran away. Though his friend went to the police and they tried to contact the escort service to rescue her, their effort was unsuccessful. I cried. A lot. The thought of this girl, reaching out and then being abandoned to her plight is still making me well up as I write this.

In some sense, we are all like that man. We need to stop running away and acknowledge that sex trafficking is a serious issue in our country. When you think this topic is too extreme to read about, take a moment and think about that young girl whose reality is this atrocious life. Every time you turn away and disengage you are inadvertently condoning this grave human rights violation. Join me and raise your voice, talk about this, share information/news articles, read about what your government is doing to help, report suspect behaviour/activities in your neighbourhood and become an ally. These girls deserve to be free; unshackle them from their invisible chains.

– Kavita Dogra

Useful resources:

Invisible Chains by Benjamin Perrin http://www.endmoderndayslavery.ca/invisible-chains-2/buy-now/

Video – Enslaved and Exploited: The Story of Sex Trafficking in Canada – http://vimeo.com/10668783

Canada’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking – http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/media/nr/2012/nr20120606-eng.aspx

RCMP Report on human trafficking – http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2011/grc-rcmp/PS64-78-2010-eng.pdf

Department of Justice – Human Trafficking – http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/fs-sv/tp/

Sextrade 101 – http://www.sextrade101.com/

News:

Hamilton human trafficking kingpin sentenced to 9 years – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/04/03/hamilton-human-trafficking.html

Human Trafficking, the hidden trade – http://www.globalmontreal.com/human+trafficking+the+hidden+trade/6442682947/story.html

RCMP nabs teen in Hamilton human trafficking case – http://metronews.ca/news/hamilton/313410/rcmp-nabs-teen-in-hamilton-human-trafficking-case/

Sex trade: The girls next door http://www.leaderpost.com/news/trade+girls+next+door/6932392/story.html

 

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