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- Created: Wednesday, 21 August 2013 13:41
- Published: Wednesday, 21 August 2013 13:41
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BY DON BUTLER, POSTMEDIA NEWS
Family members are increasingly involved in the domestic human trafficking of aboriginal women and girls for the purposes of sexual exploitation, according to Public Safety Canada.
The assessment appears in a tender for research into trends and issues in the trafficking of aboriginal women and girls. It says the involvement of both family members and criminal organizations is an emerging trend that "appears to be a significant complicating factor" in their exploitation.
The research is intended to increase understanding of the trafficking of aboriginal women and girls in Canada. It will include at least 70 discussions with people who provide services to trafficked aboriginal women and girls or vulnerable communities, those who have studied the issue and people investigating or prosecuting crimes involving trafficked female aboriginals.
Public Safety wants the researchers to describe the extent and situations in which family members are involved in victimizing their relatives, clarify the relationship between human trafficking and domestic violence, and outline how gangs and criminal organizations are involved, with a focus on the trafficking of family members.
Experts agreed Monday that family members are involved in the trafficking of their own relatives in Canada, though it remains relatively uncommon.
Michele Audette, president of the Ottawa-based Native Women's Association of Canada, said she has heard stories from aboriginal parents who sold their own children for sex to pay for their addictions.
"I listened to some families where, because of their addiction to drugs and drinking, every two weeks they were trafficking their own children," she said. "I was so shocked.
"It's a small number, but it's there. Because of that, we cannot stay quiet or deny this reality doesn't exist in our First Nations communities."
The Canadian Women's Foundation is funding a national task force on sex trafficking of girls and young women in Canada that has met with more than 150 organizations and spoken to 50 survivors of sex trafficking.
Sandra Diaz, a member of the task force's staff team, said gangs and organized crime "are definitely at the helm of this enormous and serious issue that's happening right here in Canada." The role that family members play, she said, is not fully understood. "We haven't seen that there is an epidemic of families trafficking their daughters in Canada."
The task force looks forward to seeing the results of the Public Safety research "to get a sense of how big a percentage that is," she said. "There's an enormous need for more research. We don't have data. It doesn't exist in a way that is comprehensive and deep. So any research is good research."
A 2009 study of the trafficking of aboriginal women and girls in Canada by Anette Sikka then an LL. D candidate at the University of Ottawa, said participants indicated that many girls entered the sex trade through familial or peer relationships. Many "spoke of sisters coercing or forcing younger siblings into the sex trade to make money," Sikka's study says. Young girls command higher payments than older girls, it notes. "Many older women are unable to survive through their sex trade earnings, and thus engage younger family members into the trade."
Though media attention has focused on human trafficking involving people from other countries coming to Canada, most trafficking is domestic, and almost all involves sexual exploitation.
According to the RCMP's Human Trafficking National Co-ordination Centre in Ottawa, as of this June, prosecutors had secured convictions against 69 individuals in 45 cases involving human trafficking since 2005. More than 90 per cent involved trafficking of people already in Canada. "It is in many ways big business for gangs or organized crime," Diaz said.