On November 7, 2006, lawyer and women’s rights activist Chantal Tie represented NAWL at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women (FEWO) hearings on Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation. Here are excerpts of her testimony.
“Trafficking is both a national and an international or global problem. We have an internal trafficking problem, principally the trafficking of aboriginal girls and women within Canada…Both in Canada and into Canada, major contributing causes are poverty, abuse, social isolation, drug and alcohol problems and gender inequality itself, which is manifest in an unequal distribution of power, money, and educational resources. Because of this, trafficked women need both protection and assistance.
We are concerned, however, that the government has so far fairly narrowly viewed their role as one of enforcement and criminalization of the problem, which ironically increases the vulnerability of the trafficked people… Indeed, the traffickers themselves use the threat of exposure, either criminal or immigration exposure, as a means to enforce the control over their victims. The way to get around this is to prosecute the traffickers and not the trafficked persons themselves. When dealing with global trafficking, the current protection mechanisms are woefully inadequate: the preremoval risk assessments have an extremely low success rate. Refugee claims are sometimes not available to trafficked women, because once a removal order has been made, you have no access to the refugee division. If women receive no appropriate legal advice prior to immigration’s enforcement, they would have no access to the refugee division.
Humanitarian and compassionate applications are entirely inadequate. There is no stay of removal pending consideration of an “H and C” application. There are fees adhering to these applications that are beyond the resources of these women in many cases. The women would rarely qualify under the “H and C” criteria, sometimes for reasons related directly to their being trafficked, such as involvement in criminal activities, willingly or unwillingly, or inability to establish oneself within Canada if one has low skills. There is no access to legal advice for many of these types of applications. There needs to be adequate funding for organizations that support trafficked persons, so they can provide appropriate gender-sensitive counselling and alternative employment assistance and upgrading to counter the inequality that leads these persons into being trafficked in the first place. In the international arena, we have to put more development resources into supporting efforts for gender equality and elimination of poverty. We need to support specific initiatives aimed at mobilizing women’s communities to combat trafficking in their own communities. Trafficking is also linked to civil war and conflict. Women are fleeing without family protection and they’re left to fend for themselves. They’re clearly targets of criminal traffickers. Major assistance to trafficked women in conflict zones is required. Canada also needs to ensure that our troops serving as peacekeepers are protecting women and not using the services of trafficked women.”
In February 2007, FEWO released its report, Turning Outrage into Action to Address Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation. Several of NAWL’s recommendations were adopted. This Report is available on the FEWO website.
The Committee recommends that Citizenship and Immigration Canada increase access to and information on migration channels in order to increase women’s ability to migrate independently and safely.
The Committee recommends that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and the Standing Committee on the Status of Women review the Canadian immigration barriers that may contribute to the increased vulnerability of women to trafficking in persons.
From the FEWO Report, Turning Outrage into Action to Address Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation (February, 2007)
Chantal Tie has been preparing and presenting refugee claims for over 20 years.