Canadians fight back global sex trafficking on their soil

Canadians pledge to protect high school students from being recruited to work in the sex industry. Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, August 3, 2012 — A recent announcement by the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada (AEAC) outraged Canadian human rights advocates. Joy Smith, a member of the Canadian Parliament, pledges to protect high school and college students from the AEAC’s recruitment in the sex industry. While many Canadians are against human trafficking, Ms. Smith argues that they are unaware of the crime occurring on their own soil.

Recently, the AEAC announced its plan to recruit high school and college students to fill the demand for sex workers. The announcement came after the Canadian government banned visas allowing foreigners to work in the sex industry. The AEAC said it had already created flyers targeting high school and college students highlighting the benefits of working as exotic dancers.

Ms. Smith, however, says that she and many other advocates will fight to protect young Canadian women and children from the AEAC’s recruitment on campuses. While the AEAC argues that the sex industry is a safe place to work for any woman, Ms. Smith says that couldn’t be further from the truth.  

“There is a misconception that sex trafficking isn’t a prevalent issue in Canada when in reality it is. While the majority of people are against human trafficking, many Canadians do not realize that prostitution, strip clubs, and massage parlors, are where the majority of victims of human trafficking are found.”

Human Trafficking in Canada is an international issue. According to a 2010 study by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canadian law enforcement found that women were trafficked from Canada to the United States for sexual exploitation.

Canada also remains a gateway for many Asian and Eastern European sex trafficking victims to the U.S. Many traffickers have taken advantage of Canada’s lax immigration policy to smuggle foreign trafficking victims into the United States. 

Mimi was smuggled from South Korea to the U.S. through Canada in 2006 after responding to a false employment opportunity. During the following four years, organized criminals forced her into prostitution across the country. Eventually police rescued and safely returned her to her family in South Korea. However, not long after that, she committed suicide.

Up until the visa ban on foreign sex workers, many Eastern European traffickers used Canada’s lax immigration policy to traffic foreign women into Canada. The 2010 RCMP study notes that in 2008, Canadian authorities discovered an attempt to use fraudulent Latvian passports to transport enslaved sex workers into the country. Most were forced to migrate to Canada. In some cases, foreign sex workers came to Canada of their own will. But, they were subject to coercion and threats upon their employment in the sex industry. The study further notes that escort agencies confiscated their documents and placed the workers under debt bondage to pay off their travel costs.

Since 2010, Ms. Smith has been working to combat trafficking in Canada. In particular, she and other advocates have focused on tackling child sex trafficking issues.

“In 2010 my legislation amended the Criminal Code, which brought in mandatory minimum sentences for people trafficking minors. This past year I introduced legislation to amend the definition of Human Trafficking in the Criminal Code in order to provide the necessary tools for law enforcement to apprehend traffickers. This legislation also included extraterritorial jurisdiction in the Criminal Code, which enables police officers to apprehend Canadians and permanent residents when they enslave children or adults.”

Ms. Smith continues to work toward implementing better legal tools to fight trafficking in Canada. She also focuses her efforts on raising awareness to the Canadian public.

“Our greatest weapon for safeguarding our youth from traffickers is education. So I am encouraging everyone to contact my office for a free anti-human trafficking resource kit. As high schools are within provincial jurisdiction, it is crucial that provincial governments take action. Thus, I am strongly encouraging them to take decisive action to protect our youth from those who are seeking to lure them into sexual exploitation.  I am continuing to work alongside our federal government, and doing all that I can to mobilize Canadians in every region of the country.”

In response to the recent announcement by the AEAC, Ms. Smith and many advocates in Canada are planning to fight back with a strong response to protect children from sex trafficking. Regardless of increasing anti-trafficking efforts, Canada remains a destination, transit, and source of global sex trafficking victims. For that reason, advocates around the world must pay attention to Canada’s battle against sex trafficking. 


Youngbee Dale is a writer, researcher, and human rights advocate. She invites you to join her on Google+Facebook, or Twitter


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Youngbee Dale

Youngbee Dale graduated from Regent University with Master’s degree in International Politics in 2009. While at Regent, she interned at World Bank and co-contributed to a human trafficking publication, “Setting the Captives Free” by Olivia McDonald (2007). She also worked with migrant workers and human trafficking victims in South Korea. Currently, she stays home with her three-month-old son to exercise the divine rights to mother and breastfeed him. 

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