Human Trafficking

CRC Statement on Human Trafficking

Since 2004, the Canadian Religious Conference (CRC) is committed to work toward the eradication of violence in all its forms including human trafficking. In 2006, the CRC renewed the commitment to further the efforts against human trafficking by encouraging greater support for victims and by deepening critical analysis of the social and ideological context that creates the demand for trafficking. Based on this experience, the CRC states the importance of a comprehensive stategy for addressing this issue.

The Canadian Religious Conference (CRC) is committed to “continue working toward the eradication of violence in all its forms by: furthering our efforts against human trafficking, encouraging greater support for victims and deepening critical analysis of the social and ideological context that creates the demand for trafficking.” (CRC Declaration 2006)

Since 2004, the CRC has aligned itself with those religious conferences, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) worldwide who accept the United Nations definition of human trafficking that is found in the 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children (Palermo Protocol), supplement to the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.

The CRC understands that the problem of human trafficking is a complex system that requires a comprehensive approach, one that includes analysis of socio-economic factors, migration policies, and gender relationships. From the perspective of the CRC, it is very important to understand that this complex system has multiple root causes. There is not a simple ‘cause and effect’ relationship in the tragedy of human trafficking, but multiple factors interacting to create patterns of dominance and oppression.

The CRC understands that the present model of economic globalization creates realities that contribute to the problem of human trafficking, especially:

  1. increased restrictions placed on people moving across borders, especially women and children;
  2. increased economic inequality between people and nations;
  3. increased impoverishment of women and children.

Promotion of a Comprehensive Strategy
Given the multiple factors and socio-economic patterns that converge to create the tragedy of trafficking in persons, it is imperative to us that we call the Canadian government to adopt a multi-faceted response. We have identified elements of a comprehensive strategy for addressing this issue and we urge governments to take a more comprehensive approach. The following aspects are included in the holistic approach that the CRC promotes:

  1. Addressing the reality that the need to escape poverty domestically and internationally is a common factor among trafficking survivors.
  2. Counteracting the desire for profit that motivates traffickers.
  3. Addressing the demand for sexual exploitation.
  4. Addressing the need for migrant workers’ rights in Canada.
  5. Addressing gender inequality.
  6. Protecting the human rights of persons who are trafficking survivors.

Action Commitment
The CRC is active in the fields of prevention of human trafficking and the protection of trafficked persons by:

  1. educating CRC members and their networks;
  2. sharing with appropriate governmental and NGO parties our research and our experiences of accompanying people who have been trafficked;
  3. collaborating with and supporting local, provincial, national and global networks, other religious conferences and NGOs who are involved in education, analysis and advocacy of this issue;
  4. organizing meetings with politicians, and policy analysts in the Canadian government;
  5. holding federal or provincial elected representatives accountable.

In a global context where systems of oppression threaten the sacredness of all forms of life on our planet, the CRC carries to the heart of the problem of human trafficking a Gospel vision of engaged spirituality. Called to be a prophetic voice in the world and in the Church, the CRC continues in the long line of witnesses who dedicated themselves, often at the cost of their lives, to living deeply the Gospel values that promote dignity and freedom for all. The activities of the CRC relate to the reality of today and look to the Resurrection, which gives hope for transformation.

Baptized in Christ, consecrated publicly to God in religious life, we are called to be prophetic signs, in the world and in the Church, of life lived radically according to the Gospel, with a particular option for the poor, the oppressed, and those whom society ignores and rejects, whether at home or abroad. Therefore, the “love of Christ urges us” (2 Cor. 5:14) to be in solidarity with the poor, to denounce injustice, to foster a concern for the environment, to work for peace and for the coming of the Reign of God. (CRC Mission Statement, adopted by the 1990 General Assembly.)

See for more information on the CRC’s work on human trafficking.

Pastoral Letter on Human Trafficking

The Catholic Bishops of British Columbia and the Yukon have published a Pastoral Letter on the trafficking of women and children.  The publication of this Letter coincided with the Vancouver launch of the CRC resource and awareness kit  described in the article below We are a Global Vlllage.  The event took place February 10 At Saint Patrick Regional High School with more than 80 students present.

The Pastoral Letter contains three parts: a description of trafficking, the reaction of the Catholic Church to this tragic reality and an invitation to take concrete actions to put a halt  to the trafficking of persons. 

The bishops invite the government  to continue putting in place assistance and support for the victims by offering a rehabilition program that restores human dignity and provides  protection for those who have fled from their traffickers. 

Advertising agencies and media are also challenged.  'We invite you,' the bishops write 'to foster the common good, to report responsibly on the ongoing exploitation of people and its root causes, and to respect them in accordance with their full human dignity.' The bishops implore the media to cease the humiliating portrayals of women in advertising, the trivialization of sexuality and the family, and the promotion of destructive patterns of consumption.

With the permission of the bishops, The CRC is making available a copy of the Pastoral Letter in PDF format.

The Strength of Networking

Renowned expert and international activist, Sister Eugenia Bonetti, MC, spoke with members of the CRC-KAIROS group on October 31, 2006 about the global reality of human trafficking.

Sister Bonetti's presentation, which addresses the root causes of trafficking is available here PDF Format. In her presentation, Sister Bonetti stresses that 'it is the prophetic role of Religious Life to reach out to immigrant women 'imported' from different countries for sexual exploitation'.

Human Trafficking: Global, National and Local Responses

Renowned expert and international activist, Sister Eugenia Bonetti of Rome, Italy, gave a public address in Ottawa on November 1, 2006 about the global reality of human trafficking. An Italian Consolata Missionary Sister, Sr. Bonetti coordinates the operations of 100 small shelters throughout Italy, dealing with the rehabilitation, social reintegration and protection of victims of human trafficking.

'Trafficking of human beings for sexual exploitation has developed into a global market, involving countries of origin, transit and destination.' Sister Bonetti's journal is filled, she says, with details of so many meetings with victims of different names and stories, but at the same time, so many aspects of their experiences are common, and unveil a widespread social illness.' We are called to build a better future by joining together in  the fight against poverty and exploitation. Her presentation can be found here in PDF Format..

Facts and Figures on Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is now a well documented reality. Human trafficking affects the lives of thousands and thousands of women and children around the world. And contrary to our belief, Canada is no exception.

Facts and Figures
In the World
Human trafficking, especially trafficking in women and children, is everywhere in the world. It is a proven reality.

Each year, between 700,000 and 4 million women and children cross international boundaries as victims of this trafficking. According to the UNODC, (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) 92% of victims of human trafficking are sold into prostitution. Of those, 48% are children. The European Union's Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities reports that 90% of trafficking victims are sold into prostitution.

Not long ago, on October 24, 2007 to be precise, the police arrested over 20 persons from 7 countries in the hope of dismantling a trafficking network involving nearly 140 children, most of the time young Nigerian girls.

We cannot forget the thousands of children used as slaves in the illegal industry, generating about 9,5 US billion dollars each year. Just think that nearly half the world’s chocolate is made from cocoa grown in the Ivory Coast, West Africa, where tens of thousands of children are forced to work on plantations as slaves.

In Canada
What about Canada, where reports estimate that there are between 8,000 and 16,000 illegal immigrants with profits of this trafficking amounting to $400 million each year? These victims have come, for example, from orphanages in the Ukraine, from Asia and eastern European countries, from Ethiopia, etc. but they also come from our country and are Canadian citizens.

On October 24, CBC News reported that a police force in the Greater Toronto Area said it was targeting a violent group of pimps from North Preston, near Halifax. Peel Regional Police said the group, called North Preston's Finest, forces young girls from Nova Scotia into stripping and selling sex in clubs around southern Ontario, ordering them to make at least $1,000 a night and taking all the money. 'The problem really comes when the girl doesn't want to do it anymore, and then she's either threatened or her family is threatened or her safety is threatened somehow, so in a sense she is being trafficked,' said Det. Randy Cowan, with the Peel vice squad.

The squad has raided many strip clubs and found the same activities in the VIP rooms: naked dancers bumping and grinding in men's laps, some allowing various sex acts. Vice cops routinely look for East Coast addresses in the identification of dancers registered at these clubs.The laws make fighting prostitution difficult, Cowan said, so his unit is targeting the pimps cashing in on the action.

As early as the late 1990s, the Chinese and Vietnamese mafia expanded their operations in brothels in Toronto and recruited young girls from Southeast Asia. The young women who were prey to this trafficking were purchased for $8,000 or less and sold to their procurers for $15,000.

In every large town in Canada, how many young girls have been sexually exploited by street gang members?

A raid by police of these brothels in 2006 revealed that this particular procurement ring was providing between 30 and 40 young girls to about 15 brothels in Toronto on a quarterly basis, reported MP Joy Smith in her December 7 speech in Parliament.

In Prince Rupert, BC, a woman is kidnapped off the street and lost to the brothels of Southeast Asia. A young girl is lured by the promise of ‘the good life’ from a small town to turn tricks in a Vancouver apartment. A would-be refugee flees deplorable conditions overseas and finds a worse world of sadistic sexual slavery. These are not the fictional plots of weekend made-for-TV movies, but the grim world of human sexual trafficking. “Human trafficking is already happening right here in Rupert,” said Capt. Nancy Sheils.

The Daily News, July 2007: Three weeks into a cross-Canada manhunt for three Nova Scotia men wanted for a brutal gang sex assault, there are hints the men are involved in a prostitution ring forcing young women into the sex trade and moving them from Nova Scotia to Ontario. Halifax Regional Police are on the lookout for Spencer Sinclair Thompson, 22, Anthony Roberts, 22, and Ernest Downey, 21, after a 19-year-old Nova Scotia woman was gang raped in Mississauga, Ontario, last month.

In the early 1990s, a large pimping ring running girls from the Halifax area to Montreal, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Calgary, Victoria B.C. and New York City was broken up by police in Ontario.

For more information, you may visit the Canadian Council for Refugees website:

The CRC Web site: also proposes many sites you may like to visit. Click on Links on the brown bar at the top of the site.

For those who prefer reading a magazine, New Internationalist, September, 2007, Issue # 404, could be an excellent complement to this fact-finding exercise.

Jean Bellefeuille
JPIC National Portfolio Director