Telling the story of my life in my home - Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cry: Human Trafficking and our World

Perhaps the most troubling aspect is how it flies under the radar, one of the most prevalent crimes in our world today and yet we hear so little about it, and know even less. We think or believe that it happens elsewhere, certainly not in our country, our province or our community. We think it impacts people who are not like us, from other cultural or economic groups. And when we do learn of it - when it touches our lives in some way, I suspect we have a similar response - we cry.

I admit I knew very little about it until a few years ago when I was working on a story about missing and murdered Aboriginal women in our country. One of the resources I contacted at Crimestoppers mentioned the issue of human trafficking, and what followed left me stunned. The information that human trafficking was an issue in our own country and communities shocked me to the core, because I was one of those who thought it affected "other people" in "other places". I spoke to friends and family, and even other writers, to see what they knew about the subject of human trafficking, and the answer was virtually always the same: next to nothing.

There are many stories I could share, frightening ones. A quick web search brought up stories like this one and this one. Human trafficking is far from a rarity in this world and even in our own country, but the trouble is that the statistics are somewhat nebulous as we simply don't really know the magnitude of the problem. It is a slippery thing to grasp, under reported and misunderstood. How many of our missing young adults, supposed runaways. have been trafficked? How many missing women are forced into a life of servitude, sexual or otherwise? What are the real numbers? We don't actually know - but here are some things we do believe to be true: 


MORE THAN 27 MILLION PEOPLE ARE ENSLAVED GLOBALLY

EVERY 30 SECONDS SOMEONE BECOMES A VICTIM OF
MODERN DAY SLAVERY

THE AVERAGE AGE OF A TRAFFICKING VICTIM IS 12 YEARS OLD

ONLY 1-2% OF VICTIMS ARE EVER RESCUED

ACCORDING TO A UNODC REPORT FROM 2005, HUMAN TRAFFICKING EARNED $32 BILLION IN REVENUE

Human trafficking is a global "industry", one that provides a pool of human labour for everything from the sex trade to sweatshops. It is not a small problem but one that has global impacts - including in our own community as many who work in our social profits that deal with youth can attest to. And human trafficking preys upon our most vulnerable, the youth in our communities.

Just as I learned about this topic a few years ago so too did a local man. Gordon Ponak, who has been writing scripts and presenting productions on a variety of topics for years, learned about trafficking at a conference. The subject stuck with him, the longevity proven when he realized it was a story that needed to be told as the silence surrounding the topic was deafening. And so he wrote a script, one that is from all reports compelling and powerful and impacting - and appropriately titled "Cry".

"Cry" debuts next weekend at Keyano Theatre. Just as all good creative work should be, it is provocative and it will not be easy to watch, because the tale it tells is an uncomfortable one for us to see. It is far easier to deny that human trafficking exists or has any impact in our world. It is far easier and far more comfortable to think that this issue is one that involves "other people in other places", but one of the great truths in life is that the most uncomfortable realities are the ones we most need to understand - and accept.

Perhaps I am more passionate about the topic as the mother of a young woman who would easily fall into the age range targeted by human traffickers. Perhaps it is because I am concerned about the vulnerable in our community, particularly our youth who can easily fall prey to schemes designed to entrap them. Perhaps it is because is I recall how I felt when I learned about it, when I realized that my understanding of the topic fell far, far short of the reality. 

I would encourage you to do a few things. First, get tickets to see "Cry" next weekend as there is no doubt it will be a changing experience. Second, visit the website for the production to learn more about human trafficking, and about ways you can contribute to ending human trafficking. And I will ask you to watch this video, compelling on its own, to learn more about human trafficking, the upcoming production and the impact this issue has in our world - and our community. This is not an easy topic, and not as easy issue to understand - which is perhaps why it is so vitally important we do so, because the easy things in life are the ones that we rarely need to think about - or the ones that make us cry.



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