Youth – the silent victims of human trafficking

Human trafficking is a hidden crime, happening in our neighbourhoods yet kept out of sight by a complex, clever network of criminals who are making huge profits ($32 billion yearly) with negligible risk of prosecution.  It is further kept hidden because the victims, mostly women and youth are frozen by fear and coerced into silence by threats and tactics of intimidation, power and control. Human trafficking is a form of global prostitution.In Canada many court cases which actually have the elements of human trafficking often result in lesser convictions. 

Canadian law puts a heavy burden on the victim to make reports, to be witnesses and to prove that their safety was endangered.  Victims of sex trafficking are mostly youth in their early teens and very vulnerable to the luring behaviour of predators. Most youth victims are fearful of law enforcement, fear retaliation from abuser and dread facing the abuser in court. Thus most cases never get to court.

The first conviction of human trafficking in Canada only happened in 2008 when an 18 year old girl (Eve) came forward after two and a half years of being sold for sex.  In her disclosure to the police she exposed another girl (Samantha), a 14 year old who was sold for 2 months through Craig’s list by Mr. Nakpangi.  He made a profit $425,000.

Human trafficking is a hidden crime, happening in our neighbourhoods yet kept out of sight by a complex, clever network of criminals who are making huge profits ($32 billion yearly) with negligible risk of prosecution.  It is further kept hidden because the victims, mostly women and youth are frozen by fear and coerced into silence by threats and tactics of intimidation, power and control. Human trafficking is a form of global prostitution.In Canada many court cases which actually have the elements of human trafficking often result in lesser convictions. 

Canadian law puts a heavy burden on the victim to make reports, to be witnesses and to prove that their safety was endangered.  Victims of sex trafficking are mostly youth in their early teens and very vulnerable to the luring behaviour of predators. Most youth victims are fearful of law enforcement, fear retaliation from abuser and dread facing the abuser in court. Thus most cases never get to court.

The first conviction of human trafficking in Canada only happened in 2008 when an 18 year old girl (Eve) came forward after two and a half years of being sold for sex.  In her disclosure to the police she exposed another girl (Samantha), a 14 year old who was sold for 2 months through Craig’s list by Mr. Nakpangi.  He made a profit $425,000.

Both girls from Mississauga, Ontario were extremely vulnerable to being lured easily into this entrapment.  Samantha was a ward of Children Aid Society, having spent most of her life in and out of group homes.  She also suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Mr. Nakpangi suggested that she could make money for them to live in a nice home.  When he presented the idea of a dream home he was playing into her fantasy and capitalizing on her weakness.

For exploiting Samantha, Mr. Nakpangi received 2 years in jail for living off the avails of prostitution.  For exploiting Eve, he received three years on a trafficking conviction only because he threatened the safety of Eve as well as her two year old brother.

Our Canadian laws fail to focus on the actual exploitive act of prostituting women and youth.  Following the example of Sweden, our laws need to define prostitution as a form of male violence which destroys vulnerable youth and is harmful to our society.  The Swedish model of law adapted by many countries clearly criminalizes the buyers of sex and protects the vulnerable victims of the act. 

Until this happens in our country sex trafficking will continue to increase, making large profits at the expense of the lives of women and youth.  The dignity and lives of youth will continue to be violated.  “No group in society is so victimized, so brutally terrorized and abused as women and children who are trapped in the vicious cycle of prostitution.  It continues to be one of the most overlooked human rights abuses on the planet today.” (Victor Malarek, The Johns)

Sister Nancy Brown, S.C. is our Pastoral Counsellor 

Printed Summer, 2011 edition of Cultures West, Human Trafficking, published by Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of BC