Ottawa helpless to stop global sex trade

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Subject: Ottawa helpless to stop global sex trade
From: Casa Alianza - Regional Office (
Date: Mon May 22 2000 - 11:25:52 EDT

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Wednesday, May 17, 2000

Ottawa helpless to stop global sex traffic
Thousands of women and children bought and sold

Stewart Bell and Marina Jimenez
National Post

Despite growing evidence that Canada is a hub in a global industry that
recruits poverty-stricken women and children into prostitution, the drug
trade and mail-order marriages, Ottawa lacks a strategy for dealing with
the problem, government documents say.

A "domestic policy vacuum" is preventing government agencies from
responding adequately to the trafficking of women and children, says a
January report prepared for Citizenship and Immigration Canada obtained
under the Access to Information Act.

"Behind the policy vacuum lies an information vacuum," warns the report by
Consulting and Audit Canada. "Our findings confirmed that information on
trafficking in women at the federal level is very limited."

Thousands of women and children are being traded like consumer goods across
international boundaries. Traffickers buy and sell them to pimps and drug
lords, while others are recruited for mail-order marriages or to work as
household servants.

Canada has become a destination for women and children trafficked from poor
nations and a transit point for those on the way to brothels and sweatshops
in the U.S.

Evidence of the burgeoning trade is mounting.

A National Post investigation found that: Several Canadian agents have
brought women to Canada as "burlesque entertainers" and police believe many
of the dancers are being pressured into prostitution; an estimated 200
young Hondurans have been brought to Vancouver to sell drugs on the
streets; rural Canadian men are importing mail-order wives from
poverty-stricken villages in the Philippines.

"So many Canadians are involved in this," said Cecilia Diocson, a
researcher at the Philippine Women Centre in Vancouver, which recently
completed a study for Ottawa on the plight of Filipino mail-order brides
that found many end up isolated and abused.

While many women willingly travel to Canada to work both legally and
illicitly, others are brought here under false pretenses. Police in Canada
have infiltrated rings that import women from Southeast Asia, Eastern
Europe and Latin America to work virtually as sex slaves.

One federal government report says underworld profiteers earn up to
$400-million annually from the trade in Canada. Current estimates of the
number of women brought to Canada by traffickers vary from 8,000 to 16,000,
although there is "little hard data" to document the problem, according to
one federal report.

Support groups say anecdotal evidence suggests the problem is increasing.

Ottawa has commissioned several studies on the issue, including one that
investigates the lives of migrant sex workers from Eastern Europe and the
Soviet Union and others exploring the lives of mail-order brides and
domestic workers. A fourth study is looking at changes to legislation.

The term "trafficking in women" once referred only to women imported to
work as prostitutes, but government officials, police and advocacy groups
are expanding the definition to include mail-order brides and domestic
workers lured by false promises of wealth.

Pending changes to the Immigration Act will give police new powers to
tackle the global trade. In the meantime, police in Toronto have mounted a
joint operation called Project Almonzo, which has raided 16 strip clubs and
laid 650 criminal charges against owners and sex workers.

Some women are pressured to be prostitutes and are made to live in
poor-quality housing, their activities monitored and controlled in a manner
no Canadian stripper would ever tolerate, says Superintendant Ron Taverner,
in charge of the Toronto Police Special Investigative Services, which has
overseen the task force.

"It's difficult to stop this activity because in a lot of cases
complainants don't come forward. They are afraid of being deported or being
targeted by employers," said Spt. Taverner.

A report by the federal Status of Women Canada Department notes there are
concerns police are laying charges against women in order to make them
co-operate in prosecuting traffickers.

Police say this is not true. Project Almonzo has a program for the women,
which teaches them English and computer skills. Charges against them are
stayed if they complete the program, which currently has about 115 graduates.

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