By Juliana L.
Warning, please read before beginning the article: This article contains non-graphic mentions of subjects that may be disturbing to sensitive readers including the topics of violence and sexual exploitation.
Many people believe that slavery has ceased to exist in our society. They are wrong. Modern slavery, also known as human trafficking, is one of the most rapidly growing forms of organized crime, second only to drug trafficking. It is an international business, stretching from China and India to the U.S. and Canada, a range that Calgary is not exempt from. According to the Government of Canada’s Public Safety section of their website, approximately 2.45 million people are victims of human trafficking. They are forced into degrading, slave-like situations in which they are exploited for labour or sexual purposes. 50% of these victims are minors, with the average age of those entering the business being 12-14 years old. Modern slavery is a far bigger problem than most people realize and needs to be dealt with accordingly.
Human trafficking is defined in the traditional sense as the cross-continental movement of people for the purpose of exploiting them. Many victims still fall under this category, being shipped from foreign countries to satisfy a local demand. In these situations, the young victim is often tricked into believing that the trafficker will smuggle them into a better life as many had been working in low-paying jobs or living in poverty. Instead of getting them a job as promised, the trafficker will take their documentation and give them to a pimp (a man who controls prostitutes and arranges clients for them, taking part or all of their earnings in return). Manipulation in this manner is a common method used to capture new victims, though there are many other means. Young adults and children are sold into the business by family members in order to bring in money for the family. Some families, like the victims, believed that the job opportunity was legitimate, while other families knew about the harsh conditions and chose to ignore them in favour of money. Kidnapping continues to be a popular method as well. Once a person has been trafficked it is nearly impossible for them to escape. They are imprisoned, with severe punishments enforced for any escape attempts or slight disobediences. The trafficker can also threaten the victim’s family. Overall, trafficked people have very short lifespans, dying from malnutrition, diseases (especially sexually transmitted diseases), or injuries from sexual violence.
Calgary is not exempt from this negligence of humans rights. Organizations like the Alberta Coalition on human Trafficking (ACT Alberta) have been working to raise awareness in local provinces of this crime. Over-reliance on legal definitions of human trafficking has crippled the justice systems, making it difficult for police to convict human traffickers. Additionally, human trafficking is a relatively new offence in Canada as it was introduced into the criminal code in 2005. Criminals practicing the trade have picked up on these flaws, creating the perfect breeding ground for these transgressions. To put this into perspective, Codie Toby Cardinal allegedly recruited young women from Alberta and Saskatchewan, having them come to Calgary through modelling contracts. These girls were subsequently advertised online and sexually exploited out of a Calgary hotel. Though this story deals with the exploitation of young woman, it is a misconception that the only victims of human trafficking are female. One in four victims are male according to ACT Alberta’s website and male prostitution is a highly overlooked aspect of this crime.
The reason why human trafficking is such a lucrative trade is because of how often the victims can be used. With drug trafficking, once the drugs are sold they are used and cannot be resold, forcing the dealer to restock. The sad truth is that trafficked people, on the other hand, can be used multiple times as pimps often rent them out by the hour or nightly. In this manner, the dealer will have to restock only when his current victims are too old for his purposes or they die. On the occasion that the victim is permanently sold, the average price of a slave is $90 in American currency. Human trafficking is a destructive, rapidly growing crime that needs attention if it’s going to be rectified. Slavery still exists today and it needs to be stopped.