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Canada's 'troubling picture': Authorities fight losing battle against sale of human beings
Description: "A lot. Too much." This was what the victim from Canada's latest human trafficking conviction had to say about how many others are being victimized in the Toronto area without a hope to save them.
Date: 13 November 2008
Author: Tamara Cherry
Source: Toronto Sun

"A lot. Too much."

This was what the victim from Canada's latest human trafficking conviction had to say about how many others are being victimized in the Toronto area without a hope to save them.

"You feel like it's your fault. You feel like you're dumb," 22-year-old Roxanne told the Sun this week, choking back tears after detailing what she had been through before escaping from her pimp last year. "That's why a lot of girls don't go see the police."

Like the victim whose story started the investigation that led to Canada's first human trafficking conviction in May, this week's conviction of Roxanne's pimp was a result of her going to police, who laid the nation's first human trafficking charge.

Such is the sad reality, experts say, of a crime that receives such futile resources that the onus is on the victims to save themselves.

It is a trend that has been repeated with nearly every victim from the few human trafficking cases before Canadian courts. But with few officers detailed to deal with the flesh trade, it becomes nearly impossible for police to seek out victims, a Sun Media series on Canada's failure to address human trafficking found.

While the Peel Regional Police vice unit is responsible for the large majority of human trafficking charges before Canadian courts -- and the only two convictions -- investigating the crime is only part of their mandate, which also includes all other prostitution-related offences, gaming offences, all licensed premises and all adult entertainment premises.

In Toronto, human trafficking cases may be investigated by divisional vice units, major crime bureaus or the central sex crimes unit. There is no specific unit set up to address such cases.

"These two convictions in Peel Region are the result of some courageous victims, police officers and prosecutors," University of B.C. human trafficking expert Benjamin Perrin said yesterday. "Human trafficking does not only exist in Brampton and Mississauga."

The federal government has come under fire for failing to adopt a comprehensive strategy to combat human trafficking -- even though a motion calling on the government to do just that passed by a vote in the House of Commons nearly two years ago.

Likewise, several experts have slammed the Ontario government for failing to make any strides in addressing the crime.

"When enforcement in one jurisdiction increases to curb human trafficking, perpetrators are very efficient at simply moving to another city to continue their crimes where they are less well-known," Perrin said. "A pro-active regional and national response is required to disrupt this crime.

"A very troubling picture is emerging in Canada with domestic trafficking," he said.

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