Canada has long boasted its pride in being the “true north, strong and free.” Yet with the B.C. government’s recent decision to remove support from the province’s Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons (OCTIP), I wonder how serious our country is about protecting the most vulnerable in our society from exploitation and ensuring their freedom.
Human trafficking is a serious crime rampant throughout the world and within our country. It takes on a variety of forms, such as forced labour, domestic servitude, or forced prostitution. The global crisis is estimated to include 27 million people trapped in a situation often referred to as “modern-day slavery.”
A recent case of human trafficking was exposed in Vancouver on May 17, 2011, when a woman was caught exploiting a young woman trafficked from Africa to work in her West Vancouver home without pay. The young woman was often denied food, proper living conditions, and her own personal legal documents.
There are many more such cases in which foreign victims have been lured into our country with the promise of work and a new future, only to discover that traffickers upon arrival confiscate their passports and they are forced into exploitive situations.
The 2010 RCMP Threat Assessment on Human Trafficking found that the most recent convictions of this crime involve Canadian victims of exploitation who have been forced into prostitution through escort agencies, massage parlours, and residential brothels.
With the B.C. government’s decision to cut the OCTIP to only 2 staff members for the entire province, along with recent funding cuts to an already shoestring budget, I wonder how the province plans to make a serious impact on the growing crime that is expected to surpass the profits of the drug trade over the next few years?
People are not commodities to be bought, sold, and exploited for profit or personal gain. Human trafficking is a serious problem in Canada and combatting it needs everyone’s involvement. We, as a society, need to clearly declare that we will not tolerate exploitation in our communities or our country.
It’s a long, uphill battle, but I am encouraged because everywhere I look, I find committed citizens standing up and getting serious about ending human exploitation.
The B.C. government needs to do everything possible to ensure that human trafficking ceases to exist. We want the government to take it seriously, because we do!
Tara Teng is the reigning Miss Canada and an anti-human trafficking activist. Follow her on Twitter @misstarateng or visit www.ignitetheroadtojustice.com .