Part Two: Canada Criticized Internationally
Human trafficking is not a new problem in Canada, but its classification as a crime is: The legislation was introduced in 2005. As of last August, the RCMP says, charges under the act have led to just 34 convictions specifically for human trafficking (another 56 were for related crimes).
Of the 531 victims in these cases, about 30 per cent were under 18 at the time of the alleged offence.
Unlike the United States, Canada has neither a broad national co-ordinating body on the issue, nor any detailed annual report on trafficking. There is no central data-collection mechanism, and the information that is gathered rarely includes the victim’s ethnicity – partly for the sake of privacy. But the RCMP is well aware of the problem: Domestic trafficking for sexual exploitation “exists and is widespread,” notes a 2013 study by the force that makes special mention of the higher proportion of indigenous women.
The Mounties aren’t the only ones to notice: Canada has been criticized internationally for the situation. A U.S. State Department analysis released last year describes it as a source, transit corridor and destination country for sex trafficking, and calls women from aboriginal communities “especially vulnerable.”
In Toronto, less than 1 per cent of the population is aboriginal versus, The Globe has found, an estimated 20 per cent of the trafficking victims city police have seen in the past two years.
In Vancouver, Canada’s first high-security safe house for trafficking victims says 45 per cent of its residents are aboriginal, as are 40 per cent of the survivors seen by Edmonton’s Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) and a remarkable 70 per cent of those in Winnipeg’s street sex trade, according to the Transition, Education and Resources for Females program.
In a scathing report last March, a United Nations committee declared that the overrepresentation of indigenous women in Canada stems from their economic and social marginalization and puts them at a “disproportionately high risk for disappearance and murder.” The committee added that “insufficient efforts have been made” to address their vulnerability.
There is “no question Canada lags well behind other nations on this extreme human-rights abuse,” says Barbara Gosse, who was senior research director for a 2014 national task force on the issue sponsored by the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
Sweden, she notes, spends on average $1.27 per person a year on ending human trafficking. Canada’s commitment? About 19 cents.
*Published on February 10, 2016