There are an estimated 17,000 people living in conditions of slavery in Canada (GSI 2018). Both Canadian and foreign citizens are exploited in forced labour and sex trafficking. Forced labour affects migrant workers under ‘low-skilled’ temporary visa streams including the low-wage and primary agricultural streams. These workers are often in restaurants, hotels, agriculture, food preparation, construction or domestic work. Sexual exploitation of Canadian citizens is the most common form of slavery detected by authorities in the country, with 93% of sex trafficking victims being Canadian.
Leann developed an addiction issue after a serious industry left her in a wheelchair. She borrowed money to feed her addiction that resulted in her owing money to her traffickers, who forced her into forced criminal activity to pay off her debt. Leanna was forced to open bank accounts, assume fake identities and have multiple IDs to get money for her traffickers. Though she was arrested on a number of occasions, her traffickers were always waiting for her outside jail when she was released. This cycle continued for three years until her traffickers suspected she had stolen from them and locked her in a room where she was sexual and physical abused. She was finally able to escape when one day someone left the door open and she was helped by a passerby.
It was nine years ago and I still hear a type of vehicle and the hair on my neck raises, my stomach starts churning, I feel like I will vomit.
I saw individuals who were sex trafficked, who were forced to do other horrendous crimes, because it was demanded of them. You don’t get a voluntary out. You do what they tell you or you get a consequence. And if you get too many consequences, you become a liability and you don’t come back.
[…] it started when I had a significant injury, developed an addiction issue, and changed to stronger and more significant drugs.
I ended up owing a lot of money that there was no possible way to pay off. I was violently beaten multiple times until there was a submission and I told them I would do whatever they wanted.
But because I was in a wheelchair and using a walker, I wasn’t very attractive or capable of doing the sex industry stuff.
I had multiple stints in jail, and the bill kept piling up. They’d always hav someone waiting for me outside jail to take me to do more.
[The cycle continued for three years, until her traffickers thought she stole from them. She insisted she didn't, but they locked her in a room. She was sexually assaulted and beaten]
On day three, someone left a door open and I escaped. A passerby saw me and offered me help and took me to a trauma centre.
I know that it was time. I was going to die if I didn’t start doing something to start saving myself and trust someone somewhere. That was my out.
You can’t get clean, sober, and deal with your trauma in three months. People think of trafficking and trauma and they want to put a very square box on it, they want to blame someone, but they have to look at the situation as holistic. The trauma that comes from trafficking, it’s a life-long trauma.
Police are stuck to a letter of the law mentality, it's either black or white. You're innocent or you're guilty. But instead, you have to look at the human element, the context. We're still at a crossroads, because the barriers to people getting out are significant. Having a criminal record holds people back for life.
Narrative provided by CBC