During her presentation about human trafficking at the Métis Hall on Monday, Diane Redsky of Shoal Lake First Nation warned those in attendance that Aboriginal girls and women are often targeted for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
And with human trafficking happening throughout Canada, she wanted to make people aware of what it is and the possible dangers that young girls and women can easily fall into.
“It’s a modern day form of slavery,” she voiced, citing human trafficking doesn’t have to do with movement, but rather control.
“Someone is controlling these girls and women and gaining financially from what they are forcing her to do,” explained Redsky.
She indicated some of the reasons Aboriginal girls and women are targeted is due to the higher rate of violence against Aboriginal females.
“Canadian Aboriginal women between 25-44 years of age are five-times more likely than other women to die as a result of violence,” said Redsky. “[Aboriginal women are victims of] the most severe, life threatening violence, such as sexual assault, being beaten, choked or attacked with a knife or gun.”
She noted some Aboriginal women experience 10 or more violent episodes from the same perpetrator.
Redsky indicated that in Manitoba, 70 percent of the sexually exploited youth are Aboriginal children, with some as young as 13 years old.
And there are 400 sexually exploited youth involved in the child welfare system, but she added that number is likely higher.
She defined human trafficking as the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring, or receiving women and girls through deception, abuse of power, manipulation, giving payments/benefits, or threats or abduction for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labour, servitude, or practices similar to slavery.
According to the RCMP, 800-1,200 people are trafficked in and through Canada every year.
However, she noted there are plenty of misconceptions and lack of education about human trafficking.
She stressed human trafficking happens to Canadian citizens, does not have to move over borders, and is not the same as human smuggling.
“Canada is a source, transit and destination country,” she explained. “And Ontario is the top receiving region in Canada [for human trafficking].”
Redsky indicated the RCMP Human Trafficking National Coordination Centre data, as of Sept. 2012, cited there were 72 human traffickers convicted of direct and related offenses, that 69 human trafficking cases were pending, there were a total of 164 victims, and that 90 percent were Canadian citizens.
“There is an increase in the demand for younger and younger girls,” she voiced, citing homeless youth and children in the child welfare system often are targeted for sexual exploitation.
And she noted people need to be aware of the two distinct groups involved in sex trafficking.
There are those individuals who financially gain from the recruitment of and sexual exploitation of women and girls. They are often referred to as pimps or managers and bond with victims as their boyfriend, daddy, biological family member or peer.
Then there is the consumer who purchase sex and are referred to as “johns” or “the demand.”
Redsky stressed the recruitment and luring of the pimps is very organized and methodical.
“They recruit at shopping malls, social events, bus stations, simply walking down the street to go to school, through peers and sometimes their own families,” she expressed, citing they promise these girls and women a job or better life.
“Adult women are also recruited and lured to strip clubs, massage parlors, pornography, dating web sites, and other social networking internet sites,” added Redsky.
She noted the pimps use psychological and physical tactics to keep the women in their control.
“They keep her small and in constant chaos,” she voiced, citing they tattoo their “property,” move them around often, threaten the safety of their families, force drug addictions, and unpredictably enforce petty rules.
“She can never feel grounded because that would give her an opportunity to think,” she explained.
Redsky, after speaking with many survivors throughout Canada, noted several ways women have escaped or rescued from the sexual exploitation.
Some include the death or jailing of the trafficker, paying an exit fee of up to $10,000 to the trafficker, kicked out by the trafficker often because they have gotten too old, law enforcement prostitution raids, community outreach programs, or someone calling the police.
Redsky added there is work being done in Canada to respond to the issue of human trafficking, including through the Canadian Women’s Foundation, which Redsky is involved with, as well as the government, RCMP, police services, child welfare and other organizations.
“We need to be reactive and proactive,” she said, citing offering public education and awareness campaigns are a part of that.
Redsky noted they need services for the survivors, such as outreach programs, first response services, safe houses, and trauma counselling.
And she added the “demand” side of it needs to be addressed, since there are no criminal sanctions in the trafficking legislation for men who purchase sex from trafficked women or girls.
“Now that your eyes are opened, they can never be closed again,” she remarked.
The presentation was hosted in partnership with the Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy, Grand Council Treaty #3, Rainy River District Victim Services, Ontario Provincial Police and Gizhewaadiziwin Health Access Centre.