Inuit and Human Trafficking
In late 2012, Pauktuutit was made aware of over 40 cases of Inuit women being trafficking through Ottawa alone. Since learning of this, Pauktuutit has made human trafficking a priority issue in the Abuse Prevention department, and the Board of Directors has held several teleconferences to discuss human trafficking since early 2013.
In March 2013, a workshop was held with Inuit women from across Inuit Nunangat at its Annual General Meeting. The workshop was intended to begin to raise awareness of the issue, and seek advice on how best to begin to raise this issue with Inuit generally. Discussions included how Inuit women and girls are uniquely vulnerable to human trafficking in the North and urban centers like Ottawa, what information gaps exist, and what supports and services are currently available for victims. Participants also watched a video presentation of an Inuk woman talking about her own experiences and the unique vulnerabilities of Inuit women and girls.
Among the conclusions from the workshop were recommendations for more online safety information and awareness for parents and their children, using social media for anti-human trafficking awareness, and addressing the root causes of violence that make Inuit vulnerable to human trafficking.
Following that consultation, Pauktuutit has continued to raise the issue with senior officials of federal government departments, with the Ending Violence Against Aboriginal Women Working Group, comprised of provincial and territorial officials of Aboriginal Affairs Ministers, and participated in several federal government roundtables including consultations on a proposed bill of rights for victims of crime. Pauktuutit also participated in Helen Roos’ consultations with stakeholders in Iqaluit, and in training sessions for Inuit front line workers in Ottawa to raise awareness of human trafficking and the supports they may require. Pauktuutit continues to raise Inuit-specific issues and priorities in relation to current work on the issue of murdered and missing Aboriginal women.
Pauktuutit presently has extremely limited capacity to address this issue in addition to its current work on violence and abuse prevention. Proposals focused on the human trafficking of Inuit have been submitted to Justice Canada and Public Safety Canada.
In gathering more information, Pauktuutit recognizes that human trafficking directly affects Inuit, but that it also must be discussed and presented in a way that uses trauma-informed approaches to treat HT survivors with respect, and to not alarm the public. Pauktuutit hopes to move forward on this issue in the following ways:
- Raising awareness;
- Developing resources to train front line workers, and better prepare service providers to identify and help victims of human trafficking; and
- Starting and getting involved in projects that can directly benefit human trafficking survivors and their families.
What is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation or hiding/ trapping victims so they can’t leave for the purpose of exploitation – typically in the sex industry or forced sex work.
In the North, it could mean that you are being used by someone to make money. This is done by threatening them, or making it so they can’t get out. It is done on purpose, with the traffickers knowing that it exploits the victim, and it’s against their will. There are three main elements that define human trafficking:
1) The Act
The act of human trafficking is the actions traffickers use to get their victims. It can be by:
- Transporting; and
- Hiding / keeping / trapping.
2) The Means
This is how the trafficker keeps their victims. It can be by:
- Force (physical);
- Threats (verbal, emotional, psychological);
- Coercion (intimidation, bullying, emotionally trapping or manipulation); and
- Deception (tricking the victim).
3) The Purpose
Trafficking is the intentional exploitation of a victim through either:
- Sexual exploitation;
- Forced labour;
- Organ removal.
The terminology and language of human trafficking is not yet developed in Inuktitut, and this is a challenge. The criminal code section for human trafficking has recently been translated into Baffin syllabics, but there are explanations and words that still need to be developed to not create confusion when discussing human trafficking.
Who are the Victims?
This issue is not about blame and it is not about bad choices. It is about people who trick, manipulate and take advantage of others for financial gain.
There are many valid reasons victims have been reluctant to come forward. Now that the issue has been identified as affecting Inuit; governments, police and other partners need to move forward quickly.
We hope parents and caregivers will become more aware of the risks to youth and become more involved with their online activities. We need to increase our work to prevent child sexual abuse and other forms of violence. We need the police and justice system to verify stories, collect evidence, and to arrest and prosecute traffickers.
We know that there are many things that make Inuit vulnerable to human trafficking. Pauktuutit needs to learn more about how this issue affects Inuit in different communities. We know anecdotally that luring is occurring over the internet, as well as in person. Without causing alarm, Pauktuutit needs to bring attention to this issue, so that anyone identified can receive appropriate supports.
Who are the Traffickers?
Again, we don’t yet know enough about the issue to speak about who the traffickers may be. What we do know from southern trafficking cases is that they range in age and in gender. They are, however, sophisticated predators that take advantage of people’s vulnerabilities.
As a national organization, Pauktuutit believes that a multi-pronged and cross-jurisdictional approach is needed to both prevent future Inuit victims of human trafficking, as well as to help identify and help Inuit survivors of human trafficking. There is a need for support services, including prevention and early intervention in the North, as well as support for victims of violence generally. There is a need for concerted, collaborative efforts by governments, communities, RCMP and the justice system to reducing the rates of violence, including child sexual abuse, in the North.
The 146-page report from Roos-Remillard Consulting Services is available here: http://bit.ly/NzwMpt
Recommendations from this report include:
- Interagency cooperation;
- Legislative amendments;
- Specialized services; and
- Public awareness.
Pauktuutit supports these recommendations. The vulnerabilities outlined in Helen Roos’ report are not new, and Pauktuutit has worked on them for decades. Many of these are poverty and unemployment, overcrowded housing, addictions and family violence. Previous sexual and physical abuse makes people very vulnerable to being exploited by traffickers.
Funding for training, research, and raising awareness have been prioritized.