Darker side of migration examined for International Week

(Edmonton) During an International Week that focused on migration and crossing borders, Autumn Ballek presented a darker look at the topic.

“Human trafficking has an annual global market worth $42 billion,” she told her audience Thursday afternoon. “It is becoming the most lucrative industry in the world. Wal-Mart, the biggest company throughout the world, only has $10 billion.”

Ballek, the northern Alberta representative for World Vision Canada, said an estimated 12.3 million people are victims of human trafficking every year. About 70 per cent are exploited sexually, while 30 per cent experience labour exploitation. About 80 per cent of human trafficking victims are female, and 50 per cent are children.

Around the world children are recruited by armies as soldiers, persuaded or forced to kill; they are forced into the sex industry, or even into other kinds of work, such as fishing or even begging. And, while Canadians might like to think these kinds of atrocities are restricted to more volatile parts of the globe, Ballek says there isn’t enough attention being paid here in Canada.

“It’s interesting that International Week has chosen ‘migration’ as the key focus this year, because it’s really bringing to light some of the issues that we never hear about, especially here in Canada,” she said. “It’s not just happening overseas; it’s happening in our own country. We don’t want to admit that it’s a problem here, but it is.”

And, although Canada is considered a portof call when it comes to human trafficking into the United States, it’s also happening in the community, she said.

“You’ve got people who are recruiting young women who are living in poverty—from group homes or from Aboriginal reservations—and targeting young girls, convincing them to move to the city in hopes of becoming prosperous, and then selling them,” she said, and that she believes one of the main causes of this traffic is the lack of speed in which human-trafficking laws are in enacted in Canada. “It’s still so slow, [because] it’s still so new to us.”

There are ways to help, said Ballek. Creating awareness, circulating petitions and becoming informed are all great first steps, but there are ways to take action as well, she says. One of the simplest methods is also the most effective: “Write your member of Parliament,” she said.

“That is probably the most effective way to actually enact change in Canada, [and is] the most powerful way that you can voice your opinion. It’s even better if you write it and hand-deliver it, and get some face-to-face time with your representative, and let them know you’re concerned about these issues.”

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