[Stop-traffic] News/Canada: Ottawa helpless to stop global sex trade

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/Canada: Ottawa helpless to stop global sex trade
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Tue Aug 29 2000 - 09:11:53 EDT


Page URL: http://www.nationalpost.com/home.asp?f=000517/291056

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.
Melanie Orhant
Stop-Traffic Moderator

Please contact me off-list for any questions about Stop-Traffic at <<morhant@igc.org>>.

Women's Reproductive Health Initiative
Program for Appropriate Technology in Health
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dealing with human rights abuses associated with trafficking
in persons, with an emphasis on public health and trafficking
in persons for forced labor, including forced prostitution,
sweatshop labor, domestic service and some coercive mail
order bride arrangements.
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