THE HIDDEN HARMS
OF ANTI-TRAFFICKING COMMUNITY FORUM
Alison Clancey - Executive Director, SWAN
Dr. Hayli Millar - Professor, Criminology & Criminal Justice, UFV
Dr. Tamara O'Doherty - Professor, Criminology, SFU
Dr. Sarah Hunt - Assistant Professor, Critical Indigenous Geographies, UBC
Mary W. - Member, Butterfly Asian & Migrant Sex Workers Network
Elene Lam - Founder, Butterfly Asian & Migrant Sex Workers Network
Dr. Julie Ham - Assistant Professor, Criminology & Sociology, HKU
Kimberly Mackenzie - Outreach Coordinator, SWAN
Executive Director, SWAN
Alison introduced the forum with a discussion of the troubling trends in anti-trafficking initiatives over the past decade. She provided an overview of the ‘rescue industry,’ and urged stakeholders increase their critical awareness of the consequences of misinformed anti-trafficking measures. Common goals of honesty, transparency and ethics were highlighted, along with general encouragement to all anti-trafficking stakeholders to prioritize evidence over ideology.
Social Sciences, Criminology & Criminal Justice, UFV & SFU
Dr. Millar and Dr. O'Doherty presented their 2015 research project "The Palermo Protocol & Canada Ten Years On: The Evolution and Human Rights Impacts of Anti-Trafficking Laws in Canada." Their comprehensive study examined Canada's use of anti-trafficking legislation and the specific consequences for one of the groups identified as being particularly vulnerable to human trafficking: migrant sex workers.
Assistant Professor of Critical Indigenous Geographies, UBC
Dr. Hunt discussed her experiences working with Indigenous communities across British Columbia in the early 2000s in anti-violence initiatives, with an emphasis on youth sexual exploitation. Her presentation focused on critical examinations of federal trafficking narratives, the specific consequences Indigenous women and communities experience, and how these narratives harm the very communities they are intended to protect. Dr. Hunt reframes the issues of exploitation and violence against consensual Indigenous sex workers in order to draw attention to government inaction.
Mary W. -
Member, Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Network
Mary shared Annie's story: Annie migrated to Canada independently as a skilled worker and encountered difficulties having her academic and employment credentials recognized. She became a single parent shortly after her arrival in Canada and struggled with working long underpaid hours in multiple jobs she was overqualified for. Annie began working in a massage parlour and, finally appreciated for her services and able to provide for herself and her child, she found sex work to be empowering, financially sustainable and emotionally rewarding. Mary discussed the new challenges and barriers Annie faced as an immigrant sex worker, related primarily to sex-work stigma, law enforcement, and victimization.
Founder, Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Network
Elene discussed the dialogue around sex work and women of colour, and the preconceived notions and harmful assumptions that these women are trafficked. The process of 'rescue,' as intended by anti-trafficking initiatives, instead forces these women to leave the sex industry. This forced departure thereby amounts to a subsequent seizure of their financial independence and well-being, as well as individual agency over their own bodies. Elene's discussion examined the racialized dynamics of criminalization and victimization in the sex industry.
Assistant Professor of Criminology, Department of Sociology, HKU
Dr. Ham discussed her research with im/migrant and racialized women sex workers in Canada and Australia, and highlighted the challenges and limitations with categorizing "migrant sex workers." Her research focuses on women sex workers with a broad range of citizenship and residency statuses (ie: naturalized citizens, permanent residents and temporary migrants), and their diverse perspectives on national identity and belonging. Dr. Ham's findings contrast women's lived realities against law enforcement, policy understandings, and the legal "migrant sex worker" label. In Canada, racial or ethnic difference continues to be used as an often inaccurate but convenient indicator of ‘migrant’ status in the sex industry.
Outreach Coordinator, SWAN
Kimberly highlighted the origins of SWAN's advocacy toolkit, which was created to highlight the realities of im/migrant sex workers. She discussed the consequences of anti-trafficking rhetoric that SWAN witnesses through its ongoing service to im/migrant women engaged in sex work, with a focus on police agencies' anti-trafficking raids in massage parlours and deportations by Canada Border Services Agency. Kimberly discussed the many challenges that politicized anti-trafficking rhetoric can create for sex worker support organizations such as SWAN. Kimberly concludes by suggesting ways for stakeholders to engage in ethical and responsible anti-trafficking work.
This forum also served as the public launch for SWAN's at the time latest toolkit: "Im/migrant Sex Workers, Myths and Misconceptions: Realities of the Anti-Trafficked."
Anyone wishing to request a copy of SWAN's toolkit can contact us directly by email or phone: 604-719-6343