Demonstrators bring attention to human trafficking in Montreal
More than a dozen people took part in a demonstration last Saturday in an effort to bring awareness to the problem of human trafficking in Canada. The demonstration took place on the corner of Ste. Catherine and Crescent Street downtown amidst the crowds of people celebrating Montreal’s annual Grand Prix.
“Our goal is to bring attention to the trafficking of sex workers that surrounds major sporting events like the Grand Prix,” said demonstration organizer Sharon Di Fruscia.
“Trafficking is one of the most profitable businesses in the world, it’s extremely well organized, they operate under the radar and it simply needs to stop.”
This is the third year the demonstration has taken place. This year’s event drew collaboration from various religious organizations, in addition to the anti-trafficking group STOP.
As Di Fruscia explained, the trafficking process begins some time prior to the sporting event. The large influx of tourists is the primary reason for the increase in sex workers.
“Sex workers are trafficked into the city hosting the event months before. They are kept in an underground network of basements and secluded rooms. In Canada we have trafficking victims from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and northern Europe. We also have a lot of our own indigenous people that are trafficked from province to province and over the border to the States.”
Aside from informing the general public about the issue of human trafficking, the groups putting on the demonstration have even bigger goals in mind, as explained by demonstrator and Catholic Women’s League member Patricia Hannan.
“We need to make the public more aware of this situation,” said Hannan. “One of our goals is to petition people to ask the government to bring attention to this issue as part of its advertising campaign for Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics.”
In addition, Di Fuscia added that the group has long-term objectives to make Canada more hospitable to the victims of human trafficking.
“We want to see our government grant asylum to the victims of trafficking,” she said. “Victims of trafficking are often sent back to their home country, which is very traumatic for them; we want to grant them a safe haven, and acquire the funding necessary to develop treatment programs and facilities to help get them back on their feet.”
According to statistics from the Temple Committee Against Human Trafficking, there are currently 27 million victims of human trafficking; 80 percent of which are trafficked for the purposes of prostitution.
“Education is the key,” said demonstrator Phyllis Douillard. “When people are educated enough, their conscience will not allow them to exploit sex workers. These are desperate young women and children who are promised jobs as waitresses or something else. When they get here, they’re passports are taken and they are forced into prostitution — it has to stop.”