Many Canadians have a general awareness that human trafficking happens in the world, but it feels far away. It can be jarring to find out just how close it really is. It happens every day in our own communities. To help expand our understanding of this very real issue in Canada, we invited our partner organization, BridgeNorth, to share some thoughts and information for today’s blog. As part of FAIR’s Together for Freedom appeal, this post is meant to help encourage the faith community in Canada to realize how they can be an advocate in their communities for victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Human trafficking is a major issue in Canada with most cases of human trafficking taking the form of sex trafficking. The average age of recruitment in Canada is 13 years old and perpetrators often sell the dream of romance, an exciting life, and promises of love or money. In reality, victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation live a horrific nightmare that is very easy to fall into and difficult to escape. Most police services have full-time investigators dedicated to sex trafficking cases because it is that much of a problem in our communities and that much of a priority for the institutions that are protecting those vulnerable to this crime.
Within this crime, you will see individuals forced into providing sexual services; participating in exotic dancing; and working in strip clubs, massage parlours, and the production of pornography. This crime occurs in micro-brothels, hotel rooms or condominiums, and Airbnbs. Sex trafficking occurs behind closed doors in Canada, hidden in plain sight.
There are different systems and levels within Canada where the faith community can serve as advocates, having a significant impact by opening your hearts to this critical cause.
The faith community can become advocates by directly supporting those impacted, getting involved with local advocacy initiatives, and raising awareness and fundraising among their friends and family:
- Mobilizing the Church community and becoming the hands and feet of Jesus. By connecting with your local anti-human-trafficking organizations and initiatives, you can offer access to volunteers and resources to experts in this field.
- Opening your homes. Those exiting the sex trade often need a safe and caring space to regroup and reintegrate. Families looking to provide loving homes can connect with local anti-human-trafficking organizations and volunteer to offer support.
- Getting involved in local coalitions. Often, anti-human-trafficking coalitions are open to the public. Anyone with a passion for making a difference can join.
- Hosting public education parties, gathering your friends together to share important information on human trafficking and fundraise for a local organization.
- Praying that those who have been impacted by this crime can find freedom.
- Praying that those who are at risk of being exploited will be supported to find a different path.
- Organizing public education sessions for the congregation, and partnering with experts on the issue to raise awareness about human trafficking in your community.
The faith community can advocate through Canada’s political systems by:
- Writing your MPs and MPPs to express that sex trafficking and violence against women are top-of-mind issues that you want addressed.
- Researching which candidates promise to act against human trafficking and voting in line with this research.
- Praying that those in powerful positions will choose to act against human trafficking.
The faith community can get involved with the initiatives and organizations creating systematic change by:
- Providing funding for core needs like staffing. Within non-profit organizations, some of the most challenging dollars to attain from donors are for salaries. Without salaries, the organization cannot operate.
- Reducing the demand for purchasing sexual services, which fuels sex trafficking. Without this demand, traffickers would not be incentivized to exploit others for profit. You can become an advocate by speaking to men in your life about the realities of sex trafficking, who it impacts, and why they should not buy sex.
- Praying that the demand and the harm it results in are reduced.
- Using your influence in political and legal systems to increase education and to demand change.