Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Research identifies 140 human trafficking victims in Ottawa

Research identifies 140 human trafficking victims in Ottawa 3937

Researchers say they discovered 140 human trafficking victims in Ottawa over the course of a nine-month investigation into the scope of sexual exploitation in the city.

According to a report released Wednesday, the victims were almost exclusively female, most frequently ranged in age from 12 to 25 years old and 16-year-olds were the most vulnerable to manipulative recruiting tactics that allowed human traffickers to prey upon susceptibilities such as the need for economic support, social acceptance and the desire for love and affection.

And pimps are recruiting the teenagers and young women from neighbours ranging from the ByWard Market and Vanier to the suburbs of Ottawa south and Kanata, according to the report prepared by PACT-Ottawa, or Persons Against the Crime of Trafficking Humans. Girls as young as nine are targeted at parties, shelters, group homes, social housing establishments, the Ottawa Central Bus Station and methadone clinics, the report found.
PACT-Ottawa, a non-profit corporation working to prevent human trafficking, held a press conference for the release of their Project imPACT Local Safety Audit Report by lead-author Elise Wohlbold (L) and co-author Katie LeMay, in Ottawa, July 30, 2014.
PACT-Ottawa, a non-profit corporation working to prevent human trafficking, held a press conference for the release of their Project imPACT Local Safety Audit Report by lead-author Elise Wohlbold (L) and co-author Katie LeMay, in Ottawa, July 30, 2014.

David Kawai / Ottawa Citizen
The number of human trafficking victims is higher than anyone anticipated, according to researcher Elise Wohlbold, the lead author of a report examining the situation in Ottawa.

“Human trafficking is happening in Ottawa. It’s happening to youth and it’s happening to youth of all different backgrounds and races,” said Wohlbold. “There are far more (victims) than what people were expecting.”

Of the 140 victims identified, some were reluctant to report being trafficked since they felt a sense of gratitude for being cared for, loved or simply accepted for who they are by the traffickers, according to the report.

The number is considerably higher than the number of cases that have resulted in arrests or criminal trials, a discrepancy researchers attribute to fear or misplaced loyalty to their abusers.

Ninety per cent of the victims identified in the PACT-Ottawa report are Canadian and from the Ottawa area. Youth who have been marginalized by race, class, disabilities, gender ideology and sexual orientation are at the highest risk of being trafficked.

The research report is part of a two-year pilot project that received $200,000 in funding from Status of Women Canada. Similar projects are being carried out in the York region and in Edmonton.
As part of the project, PACT-Ottawa has now prepared an action plan that will involve collaborating with the Ottawa Coalition to End Human Trafficking to provide training to front line staff such as health-care professionals, social workers, police officers and other community service organizations.

They also hope to educate and empower youth by promoting gender equality through existing laws and programs that reduce violence against women and promote positive gender identities.

According to Wohlbold, emphasis needs to be placed on group homes, high schools, social housing and shelters. Education and public awareness is also needed, specifically tailored towards youth in schools, she said.

Ottawa has seen a number of high-profile court cases involving human trafficking, including the trial of three teenage girls who pimped out other teens for sex. Two of the girls pleaded guilty, while a third was found guilty.

In another case, Jamie Byron was sent to prison for six years for pimping out a 17-year-old from hotels in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal. The girl testified she had been forced to have sex with more than 100 men.

Wohlbold said once the victims are recruited and groomed, traffickers exercise “tremendous control” over them both psychologically and physically, leaving victims not only fearful for their own lives but also for the safety of friends and relatives.

 That, along with a distrust for police or psychological grooming keep them from going to the authorities, she said.

One woman told the researchers she was groomed for months by a trafficker she thought was her boyfriend, then gang-raped and sold for sex from a private home for weeks.

The only contact she had was with “clients.” Private parties are among the most common places victims are trafficked. She never went to police, a common theme.

One former local trafficker told the researchers girls were “easy” to recruit as they were looking for “fast money and a luxurious lifestyle.”

Once the girls were “in the game,” it was difficult to get out because the trafficker used violence, blackmail and threats. On average, he’d earn $1,000 a night from a girl, then keep the money.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Evangelicals are a convenient target in the prostitution debate

Julia Beazley:

For decriminalization proponents, it's easier to discredit Evangelicals than the larger abolitionist cause.3920
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan HaywardFor decriminalization proponents, it's easier to discredit Evangelicals than the larger abolitionist cause.

Much attention is being paid to the role of Evangelical Christian voices — or those deemed Evangelical by association — in the debate over Bill C-36, the new proposed prostitution law. For some time now, those in favour of decriminalizing prostitution have been trying to frame the debate in us-and-them terms, “them” being evangelical groups with abolitionist views on prostitution.

After the Supreme Court heard the Bedford case, I remember listening to interviews with co-applicant Valerie Scott and lawyer Alan Young, and being surprised to hear them singling out “the Evangelicals” and seeking to discredit our arguments as moralistic.

Although one of the main parties opposing the court challenge was an impressive coalition of national women’s organizations and survivor groups, they chose to use valuable airtime to talk about what the Evangelicals had to say — or rather, what they assumed the Evangelicals had to say , which wasn’t what we’d said at all.

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has a reputation for mounting well-researched, well-informed and well-reasoned arguments.

 On this issue in particular, we are well-connected with women’s groups and frontline organizations, and most importantly with survivors of prostitution and the groups representing them.

Their stories, their voices and their experiences have very much shaped and informed our position on the issue.
It’s particularly disheartening, then, to see some survivor voices discredited as either Evangelical or connected to Evangelicals. It is true that some have found faith — Evangelical or not — in their journey out of prostitution.

But that does not, and should not in any way, negate their lived experiences or the strength of their voices in this debate.

Why the consistent focus on the Evangelical angle? It seems fairly transparent, actually. It is far easier to seek to discredit our voice — and those aligned with us by association — than it is to contend with the multitude of voices of survivors and women’s groups who take the same abolitionist position.

It would be ridiculous to suggest that the many survivors advocating for laws that target the demand for paid sex don’t know what they’re talking about.

 Or that the many women’s organizations and frontline service providers don’t understand the realities of prostitution.

Or that the police, the Manitoba Attorney-General, prominent lawyers and researchers are simply being moralistic in their positioning.
We are motivated by the belief that all people have inherent dignity and worth, and should not be treated as objects for another’s gratification or profit
But, oh, the Evangelicals. Far simpler to discredit us, and the whole abolitionist perspective along with us, as though we were its only or main proponent.

The EFC is guided by biblical principles that compel care for the vulnerable and inform the duty of care we owe one another as human beings.

We are motivated by the belief that all people have inherent dignity and worth, and should not be treated as objects for another’s gratification or profit.

We share the widely held position that prostitution is rooted in the historical subordination of women and is, at its core, a form of violence, inequality and exploitation.

We are passionate about working towards a society where all people — and in this case particularly women and children — can live free from exploitation, in all its forms.

Many organizations serving our nation’s most vulnerable and victimized are run and staffed by people of faith. This is a public good. A faith that gets to work and gets its hands dirty is faith at its best.

And so the EFC has been engaged in the debate about our prostitution laws, intervening before the Supreme Court, advocating for the abolition of prostitution before our parliamentarians, and testifying before the Justice Committee about the strengths and weaknesses of Bill C-36. We do this because we care deeply about the issue and the people affected, as do the many evangelicals across the country we have the privilege of representing.

We’re flattered by the attention, but not at the expense of the voices of survivors. What they have to say in this debate cannot — must not — be ignored.

To obscure their voices beneath a manufactured controversy about why Evangelicals are at the table is disingenuous. Let’s refocus the debate on what matters most.

National Post
Julia Beazley is a policy analyst with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.