Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Canada: Trafficking in Canada

ONTARIO, CANADA - “I feel unworthy, dirty, tainted, like nothing. I feel I am only good for one thing—sex.” These were the distressing words of an 18-year-old Canadian, called “Eve” in an Ontario courtroom. Imani Nakpamgi, a 25 year old from Niagara Falls, Ontario, forced Eve into the Canadian sex industry when she was 15.

He sometimes made her take a dozen men in a day. This went on for 26 months; Nakpamgi earned more than $350,000 off her. He was the first person convicted of hu­man trafficking in Canada.

Not all human trafficking fits the same archetype, nor does it command the same media coverage. Christina Panis, a board member of the Philip­pine Women’s Centre, told me about another trafficked woman. (Panis couldn’t use the woman’s name for confidential­ity reasons; for the purposes of this article we’ll call her Maria.) Maria came to Vancouver under the Live-in Caregiver Program, leaving three children behind in the Philippines. She hoped to attain permanent residency and earn a good wage so she could send money back to her family. Under the program, she was sup­posed to work 40 hours per week providing live-in elderly care. When Maria arrived, she was also forced to scrub the outside of her employer’s house, clean all the windows, tend to the gar­den, clean her employer’s sis­ter’s house, and work overtime without pay. She could not take days off and when she was sick her employer refused to let her visit the doctor.

Panis first heard about the case during a meeting at the Phil­ippine Women’s Centre. Maria had called the centre for assis­tance and a group of volunteers, including Panis, drove to a huge mansion near south Granville to rescue her. A middle-aged Chinese woman opened the door and led the group downstairs to see Maria. They passed a huge swimming pool and an enter­tainment centre with a giant TV screen. A look of immense relief crossed Maria’s face when the rescue mission arrived.

It may not be as easy to garner media outrage for Maria’s story, but Panis and many others would argue that this woman was a vic­tim of human trafficking.

As diverse as the two stories are, both differ from the traf­ficking cases typically depicted in North American media. The stories usually revolve around the sex trade. The victim is por­trayed as a vulnerable girl from a poor country who is kidnapped or lured away with enticing of­fers of work abroad only to find herself forced into prostitution in a developed country like the United States or England...


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