The problem of human trafficking is not remote – it’s right on our doorstep, according to Cathy Peters of the Be Amazing Campaign.
Peters attended the March 29 online meeting of White Rock council to ask for support and to share her message that more needs to be done to stop human sex trafficking, sexual exploitation and child sex trafficking in B.C.
“Human trafficking, or sexual exploitation for the purposes of prostitution, is the fastest-growing crime in the world – and it’s here,” Peters told council.
“It is recruiting, transporting, transferring, receiving, holding, concealing, harbouring or exercising control over a person for the purpose of exploiting them,” she said. “The key word is exploitation – this is modern-day slavery.”
Council unanimously endorsed a motion from Coun. Anthony Manning that it write a letter of support for Peters that would be copied to South Surrey-White Rock MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay and area MLAs Stephanie Cadieux and Trevor Halford.
Peters, who has been campaigning in support of better enforcement and understanding of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act since it became federal law in 2014, said there are actions the city can take to guard against trafficking in the White Rock and South Surrey area.
“Train your business licensing managers what to look for when granting business licences,” she said.
“Unregistered massage and body-rub parlours, nail spas, holistic health centres, day spas, modeling agencies, tattoo parlours, escort services, cheap bars and hotels, men’s clubs, Air BNBs, vacation cabin rentals, strip clubs, organized crime clubhouses and truck stops can all be typical covers for sex trafficking.”
Peters noted that White Rock’s close proximity to the U.S. border also makes it “vulnerable.”
In regard to hotels and motels, Peters pointed out that Ontario – as part of its measures to curb sex trafficking – is “mandating registration of every guest that is actually in the room.”
She said that B.C., generally is falling behind other areas of Canada in both enforcement of federal law and raising awareness through education.
“Public awareness in B.C. is completely lacking,” she said, also charging that “the media has a pro-sex industry narrative that is very difficult to counter – they call it sex work. It’s not work, it’s exploitation.”
Peters offered some chilling statistics as part of her presentation to council.
The average age of recruitment into the sex industry is 13 years old, she said, and “much younger for Indigenous girls.”
Some 54 per cent of victims are Indigenous, she noted. “They are severely over-represented in the sex industry, which is the worst form of systemic racism in the country.”
Some 82 per cent of those involved in prostitution have a history of childhood sexual abuse or incest, 72 per cent live with complex PTSD , 86 per cent have housing needs, 82 per cent need drug rehabilitation, she said.
Of those involved in prostitution, 95 per cent want to leave, she added. “It is not a choice – it is not a job.”
Peters, a North Vancouver resident, said she has been raising awareness about sexual exploitation – specifically that involving children – in communities, and at every political level and police jurisdiction, throughout B.C.
Peters said the federal act targets demand by criminalizing the buyer of sex, while recognizing the seller of sex, usually a female, is a victim and is not criminalized. It also puts in place exit strategies to assist victims out of the sex trade, she noted.
“We don’t do any of these things very well at all in B.C.,” she said. “This law focuses on the source of the harm, the buyers of sex and the profiteers.”
Peters said both Toronto and Vancouver have acquired a reputation as “global sex tourism hot-spots” while Canada is known as a “child sex tourism destination – and the public do not know that.”
Peters added that, in the sex industry, “children is where the money is, fueled by the internet, where most of the luring is taking place,” noting that pornography creates the market for commercially-paid sex.
“Men and boys are the buyers of sex, and the key to ending exploitation.”
Other contributing factors, she said, are globalization, unregulated technology, limited law enforcement and, so far, very little prevention education.
Canada has a new national human trafficking hotline number Peters said – 1-833-900-1010 – and provincially there is a number (604-660-5199) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to report the crime.
Victims can also access help through 1-800-563-0808 or VictimLinkBC@bc21