2016 National Forum on Human Trafficking - Summary Report

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Executive Summary

The National Forum on Human Trafficking was a two day event co-hosted by Public Safety Canada and the Canadian Women’s Foundation. The  Forum on Human Trafficking brought together stakeholders with very different perspectives including those who have experienced trafficking, Indigenous women, law enforcement, government, service providers, and sex workers. The format for the National Forum on Human Trafficking consisted of two stages: the first day of the Forum was primarily information sharing and listening to participants. The second day of the Forum was about promoting dialogue and working in collaboration.

The National Forum on Human Trafficking included individual presentations, panels, workshops and roundtable discussions. The subject matter of these forums included:

Some presentations and discussions during the National Forum on Human Trafficking highlighted the variety of perspectives on human trafficking and generated debate and discussion among participants. At the same time, it became evident that there are many topics that most participants agree on. Some examples include:

Introduction

The National Forum on Human Trafficking (the Forum) was a two day event co-hosted by Public Safety Canada and the Canadian Women’s Foundation. The Forum brought together stakeholders with different perspectives including those who have experienced trafficking, Indigenous women, members of law enforcement, government, service providers, and sex workers.

Canada’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking was established in June 2012 as a four year plan designed to consolidate the efforts of the Federal Government to combat human trafficking. Public Safety Canada oversees the implementation of the Action Plan and has engaged relevant stakeholders annually over the last four years. The four pillars of the National Action Plan are to strengthen prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership within human trafficking initiatives.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation began working on anti-trafficking efforts in 2012 with the establishment of its National Taskforce on Sex Trafficking of Women and Girls in Canada. The Taskforce consisted of 24 experts from across Canada that represented many stakeholders in anti-trafficking initiatives. The Taskforce held consultations with various stakeholders across the country, culminating in a Final Report released in May 2014 and the formulation of a five year strategy for the Canadian Women’s Foundation to work on specific recommendations from the Taskforce Report. The centerpiece of the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s strategy is to provide multi-year funding to organizations leading anti-trafficking efforts through service provision and collective responses at the community level.

Building upon previous consultations, the objectives of this meeting were to:

Event Format

The Forum represented a great achievement in anti-trafficking efforts. It brought together a wide range of stakeholders including people who have experienced trafficking, Indigenous women, members of law enforcement, government, service providers, and sex workers. As human trafficking originates in the intersection of socio-structural factors, including poverty, sexism/gender stereotyping, racism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression, it was important that the Forum have representatives present from each sector.

“If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk with others.”

-Sheherazade Hirji, CEO, Canadian Women’s Foundation

The Forum sought to promote self-reflection and create dialogue on different perspectives so that anti-trafficking frontline responses can be improved and policies are better informed. The format of the Forum reflects the view that the work to end trafficking is complex and requires many approaches and therefore must include all organizations that might have contact with individuals that have been trafficked. The organizers of the Forum worked to create a safe space for dialogue. In support of these discussions and diverse perspectives, the organizers engaged two mediators from the St. Stephens Community House in Toronto, a counselor specialised in trauma, and designated a room for one-on-one counselling for participants.

The format for the Forum consisted of two stages.

The first day of the Forum was primarily information sharing and listening to participants. The second day of the Forum was about promoting dialogue and working in collaboration.

The Forum included individual presentations, panels, workshops and roundtable discussions. The subject matter of these forums included:

Plenary 1: Panel Discussion on Emerging Trends / Modalities in Trafficking in Canada

The first panel of the Forum reflected the complex nature of human trafficking by highlighting the numerous situations in which human trafficking arises. The panel included four individuals from organizations that work on the issue of human trafficking in different ways. The panel consisted of Laura Germino of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers who discussed human trafficking of farm workers in the United States, Shalini Konanur of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario who discussed forced marriage as an aspect of human trafficking, Bridget Perrier of SexTrade 101 who discussed missing and murdered Indigenous women as an issue of human trafficking, and Fay Faraday of Faraday Law who discussed the links between the temporary foreign worker program and human trafficking in labour. The following is a brief overview of their presentations.

Laura Germino, Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Laura Germino is from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a farmworker-based human rights organization based in Florida. The Coalition represents and works with migrant workers and immigrants to improve access to justice and create better working and living conditions for farm workers in the United States. CIW’s work has steadily grown over more than twenty years to encompass three broad and overlapping spheres: the Fair Food Program, the Anti-Slavery Campaign and the Campaign for Fair Food.

Ms. Germino expressed deep concern for migrant labourers due to the risk of exploitation and lack of access to justice due to the threat of deportation or detention. Ms. Germino explained the progress that CIW has made regarding migrant farm worker rights in the United States and expressed optimism that the same principles could be applied in Canada.

CIW’s main achievements include:

Shalini Konanur, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario

Shalini Konanur is from the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO), which has become a leader on issues of access to justice for low-income South Asians. SALCO works with thousands of clients a year and is one of 77 legal clinics that work with low income people in Ontario. Ms. Konanur spoke about the issue of forced marriage in Canada.

The main messages in her presentation include:

Bridget Perrier, SexTrade101

Bridget Perrier is from SexTrade 101 and is a survivor of exploitation and human trafficking. Sex Trade 101 offers public awareness and education on all aspects of the sex trade. Ms. Perrier shared her personal story and expressed anguish over missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.

Ms. Perrier’s key messages included:

Fay Faraday, Faraday Law, Metcalfe Foundation

Fay Faraday is a labour and human rights lawyer in Toronto who has been representing migrant workers since 1990. In her legal practice, Ms. Faraday has addressed a wide range of social justice issues relating to migrant workers and workers in precarious employment, women's equality, race discrimination, gender and work, rights of persons with disabilities, employment equity, poverty, income security, international human rights norms, and homelessness and the right to adequate housing. Ms. Faraday spoke on the temporary foreign worker program in Canada. Her key points are summarized below.

Participant Discussion on 1st Panel

Following the presentations by the panelists, participants shared some thoughts on what they heard.

Plenary 2: Panel Discussion on Gaps in Mainstream Anti-Trafficking Efforts & Promising Practices to Address those Gaps

The second panel at the Forum addressed the issue of gaps in current anti-trafficking efforts. The panel presented different perspectives of current anti-trafficking initiatives and provided some thought-provoking ideas for participants to discuss.

The panel consisted of Jean McDonald of Maggie’s: Toronto Sex Workers Action Project, Loly Rico of the FCJ Refugee Centre, Kate Zen of Butterfly: Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Network, and Danielle Monroe of ACT Alberta.

Overviews of their presentations are outlined below.

Jean McDonald, Maggie’s – Toronto Sex Workers Action Project

Jean McDonald is from Maggie’s: Toronto Sex Workers Action Project, which is an organization run by and for sex workers. Maggie’s is in favour of decriminalizing sex work to reduce harm and violence against sex workers. Ms. McDonald spoke about the need for a rights-based approach to ending human trafficking, which entails decriminalization and labour rights for sex workers. Ms. McDonald stated that what is needed is more prevention against violence and reparation rather than investigation and enforcement of current laws. Ms. McDonald stated that the current five year strategy of the Canadian Women’s Foundation should be re-evaluated. Ms. McDonald outlined five recommendations which are described below.

  1. Peer led outreach and support work is essential - peer-led models of outreach build trust and connect people in need with services.
  2. Migrants who are experiencing violence, exploitation and abuse should not have to fear detention and deportation if they report to police.
  3. Identifying as a victim of human trafficking should not be a condition to receiving services. There is a need for services to be offered more broadly regardless of if the individual identifies as a victim of human trafficking or not.
  4. There is a need for evidence-based research to better inform anti-trafficking work and to better define what is human trafficking as opposed to what is sex work.
  5. Issues such as poverty, homelessness, mental health and addiction are key in combatting exploitation and ending the cycle of violence and abuse.

Loly Rico, FCJ Refugee Centre

Loly Rico is the Co-Director of the FCJ Refugee Centre. FCJ Refugee Centre provides direct services including: housing, assistance with the permit process for temporary residency status as well as assistance with paperwork, translation and interpretation, accompaniment, referral to immigration lawyers, orientation to local social services, skills development, and counselling to support a healthy and positive start to life in Canada.

Some of Loly Rico’s key messages included:

Ms. Rico also highlighted in her presentation:

Kate Zen, Butterfly: Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Network

Kate Zen is from Butterfly: Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Network. Butterfly was formed by sex workers, social workers, legal and health professionals to provide support to, and advocate for, the rights of Asian and migrant sex workers. The organization is founded upon the belief that sex workers are entitled to respect and basic human rights. Ms. Zen shared her personal experience of choosing to use sex work as a form of resilience against forms of violence she has faced.

Some of Kate Zen’s key messages included:

Danielle Monroe, ACT Alberta

Danielle Monroe is from ACT Alberta, a pan-provincial organization that combats human trafficking by increasing knowledge and awareness on human trafficking, advocating for effective rights-based responses, building capacity of all involved stakeholders, and leading and fostering collaboration for joint action against human trafficking.

ACT Alberta recently created a community action plan with funding from Status of Women Canada. The objective was to come up with practical solutions to prevent and reduce sex trafficking in the community. As part of the action plan, a needs assessment was conducted which highlights the lack of consensus around the definition of human trafficking and that there is conflation of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, which can be problematic. The needs assessment revealed key priorities which include:

The Community Action Plan includes 10 goals:

ACT Alberta spoke to when the strategies were effective and when they were less effective in creating and implementing their Community Action Plan.

Workshops

The Forum held five workshops on issues that are at the forefront of anti-trafficking initiatives:

The following sections outline the discussions in each workshop.

Improving Access to Justice for Trafficked Persons

This workshop included presentations by Maureen Thrasher of WEFiGHT, an anti-human trafficking initiative based in Windsor, and Karen Dean of the Women’s Support Network of York Region. Following the presentations, participants discussed ways to improve access to justice for trafficked persons. Participants discussed the following themes:

Understanding a Rights-Based Approach as a Means of Reducing Harms of Anti-Trafficking Initiatives

Presentations were made in this workshop by Elene Lam of the Migrant Sex Workers Project,  Chanelle Gallant of STRUT, a Toronto-based sex worker organizing project, Annalee Lepp of the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, and Samantha Garcia Fialdini of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

The main themes in the discussion include:

Involving Survivors in Anti-Trafficking Responses

This workshop included presentations by LaRaine Seivwright of Ndinawemaaganag Endaawaad,  Pauline Gagne of PACT-Ottawa, Emily Forward and Karly Church of East Metro Youth Services, and Michelle Smith of the Women’s Support Network of York Region.

The discussion in the workshop raised the following themes and ideas:

Promising Practices in Collaborative Models

Presentations on promising practices in collaborative models were made by Sue Wilson of the Coalition Assisting Trafficked Individuals, Danielle Monroe of ACT Alberta and SJ Thiessen of Partners for Youth. The participants shared the following ideas following the presentations.

Promising Practices in Housing Models

Presentations were made on promising practices in housing models by Julie Neubauer of Covenant House in Toronto, Toni Sinclair of Elizabeth Fry in Edmonton, Larissa Maxwell of Deborah’s Gate, and Marie-Hélène Senay of the Federation des maisons d’hebergement pour femmes. The participant discussion following the presentations is summarized below.

Julie Kaye, Beyond Good Intentions – Anti-Trafficking and the Reproduction of Harm in Canada

Julie Kaye is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Director of Community Engaged Research at King’s University. She is a sociologist who specializes in the areas of social justice, critical criminology, law, gender, policy, development, human trafficking, and post- and settler-colonial thought. Her doctorate examined responses to human trafficking, development, migration, immigration policy, migrant worker programs, sex work, and policy. Dr. Kaye engages in community-based research with sex workers, community organizations, harm reduction strategies, and de-colonial organizing and research alongside Indigenous-led responses to violence against Indigenous women. 

Dr. Kaye’s presentation was critical of anti-trafficking initiatives because of the widespread use of polarizing terminology and the mass oversimplification of a complex issue. She stated that the anti-trafficking narrative largely portrays trafficked women as eastern European or Asian women and stigmatizes sex workers. Ms. Kaye also pointed out gaps in the ways that funding for anti-trafficking has been distributed and that Canada’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking can be criticized for perpetuating historical forms of oppression. She criticizes anti-trafficking organizations that have a historical approach of ‘civilizing and saving’ marginalized people. She also pointed out that a number of anti-trafficking organizations deem acts performed for an exchange of money are a form of sexual exploitation.

“Trying to fit cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women into the trafficking box, we serve only to diminish or hide what we know to be true about their experiences”

- Sisters in Spirit Report, 2010

Dr. Kaye stated that the root causes of human trafficking must be understood through the context of a settler-colonial system of patriarchy, sexism, and racism. Ms. Kaye reinforced this perspective by highlighting the use of forced labour in residential schools, the disproportionately high number of female indigenous women in Canadian prisons, and indigenous children in state-based care. Ms. Kaye welcomed the dialogue initiated at the Forum and is hopeful that a commitment to critical reflection and structural change will occur.

Discussion from Tables

Following Dr. Kaye’s presentation, some participants expressed concern about pro-prostitution positions being expressed at the Forum. Some participants stated that the sex trade as whole is oppressive and that selling sex is exploitative regardless of the participation of consenting adults. These participants believe in abolishing the sex trade and that the focus needs to be on eliminating demand and educating young men and boys to be aware of ‘pimp culture’.

Other participants welcomed the debate and the differing opinions on the sex trade. Participants acknowledged the efforts of the Canadian Women’s Foundation and Public Safety Canada to create a safe space where everyone is considered equal and where all opinions can be expressed. Other participants indicated that only ten years ago there weren’t many conversations on human trafficking and the sex trade, and that to see these issues being discussed was a step forward.  

World Café

The World Café portion of the Forum allowed participants to contemplate four topics: root causes of human trafficking; principles to inform anti-trafficking policies; frontline response improvements; and thinking outside the box on anti-trafficking initiatives. The following section outlines the responses from participants on each topic.

Theme 1: Root Causes

Participants recognized the following root causes of human trafficking:

Theme 2: Principles to Inform Policy

Participants expressed the following principles that should inform anti-trafficking policies:

Theme 3: Frontline Response Improvements

Participants acknowledged the following challenges to frontline responses to trafficking situations:

Participants made the following recommendations for improvements to frontline responses:

Theme 4: Outside the Box

Participants came up with many innovative and creative ideas to combat human trafficking including:

 Participant Thoughts on Forum:

Feedback was provided by participants at the end of the forum. Key comments are identified below:

Visioning Activity: What’s different in five years?

The facilitator asked participants to think about what differences they would like to see in five years in the fight to end human trafficking. Participants reflected on the experiences and perspectives that had been shared at the Forum. Participants made the following statements about what differences they would like to see in five years:

Recommendations

The following recommendations are based on the experiences, observations and feedback from participants at the Forum;

ANNEX A: Optional Working Lunch: Government of Ontario Upcoming Provincial Strategy

External Consultations to Date - Feedback Received:

Feedback from Participants:

Date modified: