In this episode, we speak to three fierce advocates about the false divide between labour and sex trafficking in rural and urban communities. We look at how gender and economic coercion happen in forced marriage, migrant labour, and domestic and transnational sex trafficking. We ask, what connects these experiences? Is the label “trafficking” helpful to survivors or service providers? How can services and legal remedies reflect the reality of this spectrum of exploitation? And, what might the post-COVID environment look like for survivors?
Hosted by Elvira Truglia and Fay Faraday
Click on the 'Transcript' tab to read the show transcript.
Deepa Mattoo is Executive Director of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic in Toronto which provides legal, interpretation and counselling services to women, non-binary and trans people who experience gender-based violence, including in trafficking, documented and undocumented migrant work, undocumented sex work, and forced marriage.
Shelley Gilbert is Coordinator of Social Work Services at Legal Assistance of Windsor and is responsible for the WEFiGHT Anti-Human Trafficking Project which provides direct services to survivors of domestic and international sex and labour trafficking, forced labour and forced marriage.
Luis Alberto Mata leads the Anti-Human Trafficking Program at FCJ Refugee Centre in Toronto. The program takes a holistic approach to offering direct services to people who have been trafficked, walking with survivors through legal processes, immigration procedures, settlement and recovery. The program includes three projects, focusing respectively on migrant workers, migrant women and youth.
On the show, we referred to “the spectrum of exploitation” as a way to bridge the divide between sex and labour trafficking. Click here to see how this idea is developed by the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR).
Our guests also pointed to challenges in recognizing labour trafficking. The case study below walks through how forced labour happens in Canada, the barriers to getting support for survivors, and what advocates say needs to change in policy. See: Infographic: Forced Labour Happens in Canada
This episode mentions how difficult it is to access legal remedies and get convictions on human trafficking. CCR spoke to immigration and refugee lawyers across Canada for insight on what they need to improve access to legal services and avoid creating more harm for survivors. See: Trafficked Persons: Avoiding Collateral Harm
For an overview of the laws, policies and remedies for trafficked persons, see: Human Trafficking and the Law: How to Protect Trafficked Persons.
To learn about Conditional Permanent Residence (a restrictive immigration policy that is now repealed) click here and here.
Contact us: email@example.com
Credits: This show was produced by Elvira Truglia and Fay Faraday. We thank the Canadian Women's Foundation for their financial support.
The Traffik Report
EP3: The false divide: labour versus sex trafficking
NOTE: Transcripts may contain errors. Please check the audio before quoting in print.
Elvira Truglia 00:34
Welcome to The Traffik Report, a podcast that navigates sex and labour trafficking in Canada. Join us as we close the gap between the image and the reality of trafficking. I'm Elvira Truglia.
Fay Faraday 00:46
And I'm Fay Faraday. On the show we have real conversations, share ideas about what's working on the ground, and build solutions for economic and gender justice.
Elvira Truglia 00:57
In this episode, we speak to three fierce anti trafficking advocates about the false divide between labour and sex trafficking, and about what the post-COVID environment might look like for survivors.
Fay Faraday 01:10
A theme that keeps coming up is how the label trafficking is a barrier. For people with lived experience, the word trafficking is a barrier because they don't identify with the term. Another barrier with the trafficking label is that it tends to be associated with sex trafficking. And the stereotype of sex trafficking is something that's reinforced in popular culture.
Elvira Truglia 01:32
And also, until recently, even in policy circles, discussions on human trafficking have really focused on sex trafficking. And this tends to hide really the complex reality of how exploitation actually happens. So unpacking this complexity is really where we're starting today's conversation on trafficking. We're super happy to introduce three longtime advocates, Deepa, Luis, and Shelley, thank you so much for joining us, and welcome to The Traffik Report. Can you please introduce yourself to our listeners.
Deepa Mattoo 02:16
So my name is Deepa Mattoo. I'm the executive director of Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic in Toronto. It's a it's a clinic that works with survivors of gender based violence, self identified women and non binary people. And the experience of the clinic in terms of working with the construct of trafficking has been some 10 years old at this point, I would say and the clinic has been doing work on various variety of issues, which includes forced marriages, labour trafficking, and an economic coercion, which is also the work that we have been doing that way. So that's me.
Luis Alberta Mata 02:55
My name is Luis Alberto Mata and I am the anti human trafficking and migrant workers program coordinator at the FCJ Refugee Centre in Toronto. My connection with this work is my passion for human rights. I'm so grateful with the opportunity in my centre to be in contact with those, I will say hundreds of migrant workers that come to this country looking for a new horizon in their lives, but sometimes they are catched in rings of exploitation and abuses.
Shelley Gilbert 03:26
Hi everyone, my name is Shelley Gilbert. I'm the coordinator of social work services at a community legal clinic called Legal Assistance of Windsor. And I've worked with people who've experienced gender based violence for probably 35 years, and began working specifically with trafficked people almost 20 years ago now. So we run a project called We Fight out of Legal Assistance of Windsor and provide support services, direct services, as well as systemic advocacy, public education and training with regards to people who've experienced both international and domestic trafficking, and all different areas of traffic.
Elvira Truglia 04:08
Welcome, again to the podcast. And I should also mention that we've actually all collaborated together. Me personally, at my former work at the Canadian Council for Refugees, and you as well, Fay...
Fay Faraday 04:19
Yeah, I've had the pleasure of working with Deepa, Luis, and Shelley in wearing a variety of hats in the community and in the legal field. So it's really wonderful for us to be able to come together and have this conversation. So just to start us off, you know, just very quickly, do you find the label trafficking helpful in the work that you do? Like yes, no, it's complicated. Where do you land on that?
Shelley Gilbert 04:49
I think it is complicated because I think that it's a term associated with legislation specifically. And so when we have people who follow into the gray areas of what that definition is in the legislation, but recognize that they have experienced exploitation recognize that they're experiencing the trauma as a result of that exploitation, then we want them to be able to receive the support, that they should have the services that may come with that label, if you will. And so it can be a really difficult position to be in. And certainly it means that we're advocating very often for that label to be expanded to include people so that they receive the services that they can have and the resources that they deserve to have, as a result of the, and need to have really, as a result of the experience, it has really been a difficult, I think label to associate for people. And mostly that's because of the way that that's been defined, I think in government. And I think in legislation, I think by certain services as well,
Deepa Mattoo 06:00
in my opinion, I think it is complicated. But it is also interesting to kind of analyze that, where does it stemmed from, it's the international convention and the protocol that kind of gives that language out. And then it introduces a model of service delivery, it introduces a model or funding pattern. And then a lot more people start using that terminology. So it's a chicken and egg situation a little bit, because what happens, actions which can be defined as crime, what happens are not necessarily just in trafficking, we see that in a lot of gender based violence scenarios. But in certain certain situations, they are labeled as trafficking because of how it intersects with people's. And I always find labour conversation. Very interesting, Fay, because in gender based violence work, that is my primary focus of work, we always talk about it, right? Like would a survivor say that I'm a survivor of gender based violence, or domestic violence or trafficking or forced marriage, never right, because they just experience what they experience. The labels are put on those experiences by the system and structures. And unfortunately, we as thinkers and workers, and frontline service providers also have to utilize those labels because that's where our funding is coming from that's where our reporting is going. That's where the legislative frameworks are for providing supports. So yes, it is complex.
Luis Alberta Mata 07:35
My first surprise that I had when I began engaged in this field was to find that the situation is happening a lot in developed countries like Canada, that is the country where I live and work right now, when I was back in my country in Colombia many, many years ago, almost two decades. I don't know. But I had the idea that the situation happened only in the countries of the south only. But when I came to Canada, and I became involved in the social work and the settlement Viola and then later in the in the anti human trafficking work. What I found is that it's a very complicated situation. Human trafficking is touching several parts of the social and economic and legal aspects of the society. And there is an intersectionality, between sex and labour trafficking. But what surprised me the most was that it's not recognized. And the authorities and the media and the society are all reluctant to accept that human trafficking for labour exploitation is happening just in our backyard, just around the corner. And the way the policies have been designed in in immigration and other policies, appears to facilitate this phenomenon to happen in our country. And then when we meet a case in the in the FCJ Refugee Centre is like a Pandora case. Behind that case, there are several more cases what we found on case and then we see that 28 or 30 or 45 workers are in the same situation that the workers we met because we work mostly in international cases, but migrant workers, they are facing barriers in cultural barriers and language barrier and other things. They are a little bit also reluctant or afraid to say and to disclose everything. But when we take solitary steps, we find that the situation is very, very grave and the the abuses are so high and the poorest care, scattered situation is that those situations are not recognized, and the authorities are reluctant to recognize that is happening in the country.
Elvira Truglia 09:42
So it seems like the three of you are pointing to questions around legislation, and you talked about how the label itself could either be hinder or support trafficked persons. And Luis, you also pointed to some of the systemic aspects around the concept of trafficking. But you know, one of the things that we are trying to do in the podcast is to really demystify what we mean by trafficking. So we are definitely going to get into all those questions around legislation and system stuff. But maybe right now, if we can take a step back and think about, really, based on the work that you do, what are the different kinds of experiences that are captured under the term trafficking? And maybe Deepa, can you zoom in on your work in an urban context? And Shelley and Luis, you both work in urban and rural settings? Can you talk a little bit about what are the unique challenges in a rural context, for example? So Deepa, the floor is yours.
Deepa Mattoo 10:38
Thank you, Elvira. So from the experiences that we see, say in the urban setting, in the city of Toronto, I think, as we were discussing earlier, that although a lot of focus in the mainstream focuses on the exploitation side, and the conversations always overtly occupy the space when it comes to sex trafficking, but experiences that are very well known to people like us and an organization like us are situations of labour trafficking, where we see a lot of a lot of movement and harbouring and restrain of people in the urban setting. And this could be in the service industry, this could be in the labour industry, where we see a lot of situations of what would be labeled as trafficking, we see the labour exploitation within the context of movement, and marriage as relationship. And that's where we say that the forced marriage can also create conditions of trafficking and are routinely actually used as a vehicle for trafficking for both labour exploitation and in some cases, also sexual exploitation. I think something which we have kind of learned over the years is that it's the coercion part and these, these experiences that's common, whether it's coming from the spectrum of labour to the forced marriage, what we see is the notion of the monetary gain and the benefits that the exploiter or the perpetrators are getting, and the movement of people, both nationally and transnationally. I think that's another thing which sometimes when people hear about forced marriage, they always think that it is something which would be happening from outside the borders of Canada, but we see a lot of situation where the movement is happening of all men, women and children within Canada. So that's, I think, is the context of our experience here in the in the urban environment. 54% of the total cases of human trafficking, if we just look at the you know, the global numbers, we see that 54%, which is the more than half happened with women, that were women and identified folks. So within that construct, what we see is that there is a lot of marriages, either by fraud or coercion that are entered into with the purpose of moving these people into exploitative situations where it might be that they are exploited for the purpose of labour, or it could be that they're exploited purely for gaining wealth, which could be by by virtue of just taking the wealth or the benefits coming out of this relationship, it could be that is happening as an exploitation, with help off the whole family where the purpose or the intent behind is immigration status and movement. In some rare cases, we also see this entering into the forced migration context where the forced marriage is happening for the purpose of navigating safety. But actually, the perpetrators in the name on the exchange of the safety are actually exploiting survivors and moving them into exploitative situations of living like in trafficked conditions. So marriage is used as a vehicle. And I think people find it difficult to understand in the context of the marriage, but if you translate that as labour exploitation, so a simple example could be a person is brought into the country through marriage. And now instead of living as, you know, partners, this person is working in a basement in a packaging space, and their movement are completely restricted. They don't have any understanding of what rights do they have, what is their, what is their status in the country, what can they access or not access. So they're living in trafficked conditions, but on paper, they are legitimately married, but there is no real marriage. So that could be like a very simple example. But this can be far more complicated than that. It could be that people are brought in as caregivers under the context of marriage, they are brought in as running businesses. It could be that they're just getting into these relationships for creation of wealth, exchange of wealth, land. There are lots of different kinds of scenarios that we see happen in these cases. But I do want to say people shouldn't confuse it A to think that it is rooted in some kind of cultural context because it's not it is rooted in patriarchy, I think that's a very important thing to remember. And 2 to assume that all forced marriages are arranged marriages. Because in a very simple again to, you know, write using really popular silver language, if you have to compare arranged marriage, you would compare it to actually having a Tinder account or a Hinge account. Whereas, if you have to think about forced marriage, you would think about literally getting recruited and groomed into a situation of exploitation. So that's the difference. That's the level of difference in these two situations.
Elvira Truglia 15:41
Thank you for painting that picture, Deepa - that really provides a good idea of what forced marriage could look like. And it's certainly something that you don't hear as much about as maybe some of the other kinds of experiences of trafficking and exploitation. So following that, Shelley and Luis, can you paint a picture for us as well, in terms of the examples of trafficking that you're seeing?
Shelley Gilbert 16:03
The common threads that we're going to see amongst all types of trafficking is the coercion that's used, and the exploitation that somebody is getting something monetarily, most often through this relationship, or the work of that person, how they come to that relationship with the offender, if we want to call the trafficker that comes in to base so I think it It depends on the vulnerabilities that are preyed upon, of that the survivor, if you will. So whether it is in a urban setting, you know, very often we are working with domestic sex trafficking survivors, people who've experienced that type of abuse, and most often they are sort of recruited, if we want to use that terminology, by someone who is preying upon their vulnerabilities of perhaps homelessness of the youth, addiction perhaps or substance misuse, some way they are recruited in that way. And then at some point in these relationships, coercion has to begin to get that survivor to continue doing the type of work that that person wants them to do. So I think that's the other myth is that very often people think that the trafficker grabs you right? or immediately, you know, you were in a trafficking circumstance. And that is not the case. Very often, I think that's where sometimes for survivors as well, they haven't sort of wrap their heads around, where what this relationship is, right. And so in, in more rural settings, I mean, we're seeing mostly young women who are victims of sex trafficking in the county settings. But most often, we are also working with survivors of forced labour as well. So we are working with people who, again, have entered into a relationship with someone not realizing that it was it was going to be exploited. And when they realize the exploitation, and started arguing against that exploitation is when the coercion begins. So very often, we're seeing people who may have been in that relationship with that trafficker over months, unfortunately, sometimes years before they started recognizing what is happening to me, I don't have control over my money, I don't have control over where I'm living, I don't have control of how much I'm working, I don't have control of my wages. I don't have control of anything of who I want to be with who I'm allowed to speak to in the community. I'm following rules. And that could be over a period of time before they say I want this to stop. And that's when that coercion must begin if the offender wants them to continue working in whatever business that might be. So we've worked with people who of course, in the agriculture, business, migrant workers, specifically, both documented people, people who are on current work permit, as well as people who have overstayed work permit, or who came as a visitor who perhaps were defrauded into believing that they would have a work permit upon arrival that is happening a lot over the last couple of years. I've met with 10s and 10s and 10s of people who believed and were tricked into believing that they could land in Canada and then get a work permit from within Canada, and then were picked up and because then they realize that they are undocumented people working, the traffickers were able to exploit and abuse them and coerce them into continuing with threats of deportation, of course with threats of calling the authorities on them, etc, etc. I think one of the hardest pieces for people and for survivors that are living in rural areas is the fact they very often have to leave their community for safety reasons, because of a lack of support and services in rural communities. So when we have, for instance, spoken with specifically migrant worker women who were experiencing trafficking and perhaps sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace, etc, and said, the only safe shelter for you is in the city of Windsor, very often, they have really had to think about that or haven't stayed there very long, because they've had to leave their community. They very often don't speak the language of the staff in the shelter. And so they've left their friends who speak language of origin, and they've left their work. And so if they were working in a place, you know, they are still trying to send money home to their children and family in their country of origin. And they don't want to lose the opportunity of working here in Canada. So it's very difficult for people to have to leave their home communities and come for the support. It's really important that we are and I know FCJ Refugee Centre does this as well, is we go to people instead of expecting them to come to us.
Elvira Truglia 21:17
Thanks for that, Shelley. And on that note, taking us back to painting a picture of the different kinds of experiences captured under the term trafficking, Luis, can you provide us with some examples and maybe speak specifically to the rural context? You know, what are you seeing? And thinking that people listening to this podcast may have never heard that trafficking happens in Canada, what does that look like?
Luis Alberta Mata 21:42
I will add that there are systemic issues that many migrant workers are suffering, or living in environments where the labour rights and human rights are not properly respected. And then when they come to Canada, sometimes, because they are isolated, they have been not provided with enough information about the labour rights in Canada. Sometimes they accept the situation in Canada because they don't know. Only when the situation just escalates and is when they look for some support and they discovered that they have been victims of labour abuses and human rights abuses, etc. Talking about systemic issues, the recruitment process are not properly regulated. Sometimes, we have cases in which migrant workers have paid astronomic amounts of money like for instance $12,000, so even $20,000 for the opportunity to come to Canada just for the application. But these recruiters take advantage of their lack of information and they promise a good future in Canada sometimes its just application for the for the work permit. We have a case in which the workers have paid each one of them paid almost $42,000 to different recruiters, including lawyers and consultants and they were trying to reach looking for support I'm trying to find solution for the limbo, immigration limbo they were living. And also we have had cases in which the deductions are so abusive or for instance, just to put a sample for housing, the migrant workers have to pay for the housing and they they put in a packed house or apartment or even in the stables in very poor conditions they live in, paying between $300 to $600 per month, even though there are 20 or 25 workers living in the very small space with curtains separating like creating rooms, fictional rooms but all of them paying $400 for the rent monthly, that kind of situation happen a lot. And also the overtime in the rural happening a lot. In the rural area the workers come to Canada with idea that they gonna get paid by hour, hourly. However, sometimes the rules change and they are pay by weight. And then being paid by weight means that they need to work more extra hours in order to get the same money they were going to get if they were paid by hours. Like for instance, we knew a case in which the worker will work in 13 to 14 hours. In order to get the same amount they will get it they will work in seven hours paying by hour. These kinds of abuses are quite normal unfortunately very sad happened in the many farms in many factories as well. We have a case in which the workers were without status. That's another situation and there is a lot of people who have been rejected or they lost the path for the immigration in order to get their own residency for instance, they filled refugee claimants or these are migrant workers who came with work permit but they overstay or they left their places after the abuses and they became in limbo living underground. Those that are thousands and thousands in this country. Without status they're afraid of the protection they are afraid of the authorities and then the employers take advantage of the situation and making threats against them with the police with the deportation, etc. Then the workers are set the situation just working overtime, sometimes getting below the minimum wage living in a very poor conditions maltreated by the administrators etc. We had a case in court in which a group of Guatemalan women, they were obligated to go to parties. Where they complained that they were put to work in the most difficult schedules. And also they were treated like the men doing the same kind of work but getting less payment, that kind of situation happen a lot in the rural area. And in the urban, we have been taking cases from the construction area. Many, many migrant workers are suffering abuses in the construction during the pandemic, we suppose that the inspections and the follow up from the authorities were going to be, they were going to follow up on the situation but no. During the pandemic, what we have been discovering is that the abuses have been increased. And many workers have been suffering accidents. Recently, we knew a worker that lost one of the fingers, they gave him just painkillers, he lost only the top of the other finger anyway, not the whole finger. But he said that was so painful. The hand was imflamated, he needed to work. They said you don't you don't go to work, then just leave. And he was unable to leave because he had a family and he was afraid he would have not known where to go. That kind of situation happened a lot in Toronto, in Toronto and in other cities and it is mostly as well in the construction. Caregivers also in the urban areas are suffering a lot of abuses, they are set up to work in the contract just to say something eight hours and to do a specific tasks. However, once in the house, sometimes they are working on call, they are 24 hours, sometimes working fourteen, fifteen hours. And they were in the initial contract, they were asked to work with taking care of kids, or just one senior. But at the end they finalized doing the cleaning, laundry, cooking and doing the work that is in the contract. And on call that kind of situation happen a lot in the labour world.
Fay Faraday 27:13
So there's so many different ways in which people are being exploited. And when you see all of these different things, is there a way in which you see them being connected as part of a larger picture? I mean, you've talked about who the people are who you're working with a lot of migrant folks, a lot of racialized folks, mostly women and non binary folks, people in poverty. If there's something in the dynamics that connects this is there Are there common root causes that you're seeing that give rise to this?
Deepa Mattoo 27:55
I just wanted to say that I think your question kind of has the answer to that intersectional experience of various forms of marginalization. And various interactions with the systems create are at the heart of these experiences, right. And within the context of the immigrant and migrant and refugee context when we see trafficking clearly that that movement, and the forced movement that happens a lot of time is very much rooted in the the creation of the borders and the creation of the structures and the legislative schemes. It is directly stemming out of that, once they are within a country and they're experiencing those, that exploitation within a country whether in the forced marriage context or labour context or any other form of servitude, labour, emotional abuse, and coercive control kind of situations. All of that is stemming out of the benefit of the exploiter by exploiting the situation and getting economic gains and making profit off people's lives and experiences. So which is then directly related to who would be exploited people who don't have the resources and the power, who will be the exploiter who has the power and dominance and is able to exploit people right. So definitely we deconstructed and try to try to see what all is happening. There is lack of consent, there is closure and there is coercive control. And then the baseline for me is the political reasons. What happens is at the service provision level at the frontline level, because we are so exhausted with the case by case by case by case, service delivery, and making sure that you know one person at a time is getting that support, that political context gets lost, because who has the time then left to say this needs To be dismantled, you are creating these environments of legislative schemes, which actually empowers people to exploit people. And again, a very simple example that I can I can think about which I think all of us vehemently kind of opposed and argued was when there was this condition of permanent residency created for conjugal partners, right. And we all were like, so against it. And I think in the history of legislative schemes globally, Canada is the only country where it was introduced. And because of the work collective work of all of us, it was taken back by the next government, right? Nowhere else in the world, that conditional permanent residency based on on marriage or conjugal relationship has ever been taken back. So a lot of our g8 countries still have that condition. So I know that when we come together, and we really push ourselves and we kind of get on it, we are able to get those political decisions changed. But honestly, it is tough work and a lot of consistent work. And and a lot of times frontline service agencies are focused on rightly so the next call that's coming to us
Elvira Truglia 31:12
Did you want to give us a 101 on conditional permanent residence?
Deepa Mattoo 31:17
So conditional permanent residency was a legislative condition put on sponsored spouses and conjugal partners who, once they came into the country, were required to show that a that they had the intent to remain married, like thinking about it, like who knows, when you get married, you intend to remain married, and then you have to show that you were in a conjugal relationship. And then you have to show that you were actually living together for at least two years, before you could actually get a permanent residency. So it was a perfect scenario created by a legislative skein of exploitation of a you will get married. So bearing in mind that marriage is with full consent, and then we can have a separate podcast to just talk about that full consent consent concept in exploitative relationships with power imbalance, because your consent has to be an ongoing notion, as we know that as per the legal construct, but it changes and it is influenced by what you're navigating, right? So so the full context in those relationships where there is movement environment involved, and immigration status involved, is a big, big elephant in the room that needs to be discussed at some point.
Shelley Gilbert 32:28
You know, I think two intersecting factors that we are seeing with regards to the hundreds of people that we've worked with now, are issues related to poverty, right, and then you can think about all the intersectionalities around poverty, racialized people, whether they're Canadian citizens or permanent residents, or newcomers that have come to Canada or people who are migrant workers, etc, etc. So people who have experienced poverty, and what have we done here, and in other countries, to perpetuate that poverty, indigenous people, of course, from other lands, as well as this plan? People who are marginalized people, racialized people, people living in poverty, but the other pieces, for me is pre existing trauma, especially when we're well for all of the people that I'm working with, that the the lack of political will, the lack of best practices and services that address trauma early. And some of the systems that we have that do not address trauma means that very often we're seeing people who are unfortunately, not able to recognize what is happening at times. And so we see people going back into very abusive and exploitive circumstances, really, because our systems have not assisted early in life to sort of address that trauma, right, and help with attachment. How are the systems that we have now? How are we sort of perpetuating what is happening to people and and so very often, many of the women I'm working with, have preexisting trauma. And then the trafficking, perhaps mental health, perhaps addictions, etc, are a result of that early trauma never been addressed. So I think from my perspective, there are two huge root causes. And that of course, is poverty and an inability for us to address mental health in this in this country for sure. And we see the fallout of that and trauma just being exacerbated time and time again.
Luis Alberta Mata 34:44
What I can say that the system the immigration system, facilitates next exploitation and the labour of users in Canada. This is something that is systemic, but in general the system and we leaps now, learning collaborate internationally, is a system based in inequalities. And those inequalities create also the environment and the poverty and the violence to expel people for many parts of the world. And then those in a more powerful position, take advantage of the situation. And then they have legislation to facilitate the phenomenon to happen in Canada, the immigration system. Fortunately, there are good employers, it's not everyone. But unfortunately, many are the ones taking advantage of these gaps in the immigration system. For instance, the temporary foreign workers program allow people to come here for many years, I was talking to a worker who was telling me she was already sick, old, injured. And she said, I have been coming to this country for 10 years. But now that I'm sick, now that I'm injured, and now that I'm feeling old, I thought that I will have the opportunity to stay and to bring my daughter, my employer said that they are not going to bring me any more to the country. But she was unable to continue in the farm, because she got an injury. And then she was no doing the same kind of job she used to do in the past. And then she was noticed that that was the last time they were coming to Canada. What she was telling me is how is that that I spend my life in the country. And I was so good to work on the good to stay. That is a sample of kidding, in glove the situation many, many migrant workers in the country, then these kind of inequalities and the way that the rules has been made, facilitate trade gaps that facilitate exploitation and the abuses. And sometimes the employer is acting like a normal like he is not doing nothing wrong, because what he's doing is in the law, he can say okay, you are not coming next year period. And nothing happened. A lot of migrant workers handled that situation they escaped and they became living on the ground. The remedies are also very poor, very difficult to reach sometimes suspensive also, they are facing a nightmare in that world working in a very difficult situation, exploited underpaid, sometimes sick, because they are poor access to help because they're restricted and also afraid, because the deportation to lose the opportunity to be here in the country. These inequalities created the situation this system, clothes, food, vehicles, everything we you see around has been made, most of the time, most of the time, under exploitation under the labour abuses because there are factories and faraway countries doing things that we use here in a very cheap labour. And then they are creating poverty here and poverty there. We need to think in the system we need something more fair, we need to do something. I'm not saying that we need to change dramatically everything but at least to see, for instance, systemic issues in the law, how the immigration law has been designed, for instance, why we don't create laws, immigration system that attract migrant workers to stay also in the country.
Elvira Truglia 38:23
You've all spoken really eloquently about the systemic roots of trafficking. And I feel like this conversation could continue for the next eight hours. But you've also spoken to the fact that exploitation really varies from one situation to another, and that it takes many forms. Something we know is that those different, but connected experiences are referred to as part of the spectrum of exploitation. So I'm going to bring in a new term here, and I know it's one that you're all quite familiar with - thinking more with your advocacy hat, do you find that framing it in this way, as the spectrum of exploitation, do you find that a helpful concept as advocates?
Shelley Gilbert 39:03
I think it does provide a framework for us, that gives us a wider concept than just traffic and context. Most importantly to me is when I'm working with people and trying to use a trauma informed lens, it allows people to tell their story along that spectrum. And there is no rush, there is no need for us to move them to the trafficking end of that spectrum, if you will, people know that something is has happened to them. They know that something wrong has happened, where that is along the spectrum, how they want to describe their experiences. I think that the having that exploitation spectrum allows people the opportunity to explain that in a way that makes sense for them. Especially when we're working with people from different cultures and different languages etc. And people who've experienced trauma do not have a real linear way of articulating their experiences. So I think the exploitation spectrum has done two things, it has reminded us to allow people to articulate their experiences in the way that makes sense to them. But secondly, from an advocacy perspective, it is also helped us to align potential legal remedies along those experiences, and help people again, to see what those potential remedies might be, and allow them the opportunity then, to choose particular or to learn more about particular remedies that resonate with them. So if we're working with somebody who may have criminal code violations, but they also may have human rights violations and want to think about where they may want to go, if they do want further information on a particular remedy, can we assist them to see a lawyer that has specialty in that particular area. So it's allowed us to look at those remedies with the people that we're working with, but more importantly, allowed them to have the information and to make some decisions that make sense for them at that time in their life.
Deepa Mattoo 41:16
I think if we have to think about what are the four or five main forms of abuse, in that spectrum that people experience, it's physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, situational abuse, and economic abuse, right. So I do agree with Shelley, we are working with survivors, and we are working from a trauma informed client centric way, it is really important for them to see themselves and the questions that we're asking it is for them to see and identify with the indicators that we are exploring in our conversation. But it goes back to our original conversation that anything that we use, any label that we use, is not necessarily for survivors, it's for us to identify the indicators, and help us with the assessment and then make sure that we use the right tools in the box to support the survivors. From the survivors perspective, as Shelley is saying, it's, they just know that they have experienced something and they are aware of their experience. They don't necessarily care for the labels, they don't necessarily care for how we identify them. And sometimes, in fact, they are perplexed when they hear of those labels, because it confuses them it's like, I don't understand that identity is not necessarily theirs, we are giving it to them. And it's an offer from us so it's really important that whatever we are offering actually is structured in a way that they can actually see it themselves and identify with it. So I think that's where I would say that he has a helps, but we need to remember that it's more for us than the survivors.
Luis Alberta Mata 43:00
I would like to support what Deepa said, it's for us, very important to understand this term of a spectrum of exploitation. I would like to mention just a case in which a migrant worker was suffering discrimination and harassment because he was from the LGBT community that was so discriminated and harassed and maltreated and that inglobes human rights violation. But also, he was working excessive hours overtime and not paid for that overtime. And the wages were not no fair, then that inglobes, labour violations, he complained, because they were put to sleep in the same bed two workers by bed. And there were between six to eight workers by room sharing beds. And during the pandemic, no protection, no social distance, nothing. And then he was threatened when he did some complaint that is a criminal code violation, a threat, the connection between these threats that is in the Criminal Code and the discrimination or harassment that is a human rights violation. And the labour is labour violation, all this connection, all these elements create what is the human trafficking and also we need to add the recruitment, because they paid for the opportunity to go to work. And also they were paying a lot for the housing that was in terrible conditions, then all these connected things. The intersectionality of these things is the spectrum of exploitation, connected interconnected. And it's very important for us as Deepa said also to be allocated in that context to understand many times the workers or the migrants in the golden oil situation, they don't understand they are just living the situation. But because we are a little bit far away from the situation, we need to understand to see what kind of tools we can use, how we can approach the case in what way not to victimize the person or just to provide the real, genuine support, and how to address the situation when we are talking on behalf of them to the authorities to the police, or to the immigration, etc, etc, to make them to understand what is going on. And why this is not good for the society and for this country.
Fay Faraday 45:19
Each of you has brought in a perspective on the next idea that I wanted to ask you about, which is, we see all these different forms of exploitation, we see all these different forms of coercion. But it's really hard to prove the case in whichever of these administrative or criminal or civil court forums that we try to seek remedies in what makes it so hard to prove what makes it so hard to actually get a legal victory in this space.
Deepa Mattoo 45:53
I think it goes to the core of, of what happens to most most situations of abuse and exploitation, where the premises of the whole experience is based off someone's very personal intimate experience. And the educators or the officers making decisions are starting from the point of an adversarial system of not believing them, if you want to shift the paradigm, you shift this whole process on its head. And the shifting of the process on its head means that you start with believing and you only question if you see something to be questioned, right? Not necessarily you question the experience, and then start, you know, cross examining someone and asking them for evidence. And I feel very frustrated a lot of times because the expectation is that you have documentation and evidence of this really intimate form of violence that has some really complicated impacts on your psychological experience. And you know, we have been talking about trauma quite a bit today and like that, how do you prove that trauma? Right? Unless and until you get a Eurocentric doctor who will assess you on a Eurocentric model of trauma, and then say that you are traumatized, right? Whereas you representing yourself as not that person who needs to be tested on a Eurocentric model, because your experience of trauma and manifestation of trauma and expression of trauma is very different, right. So as much as I love trauma informed practice, don't get me wrong on and I think Shelley knows this, I'm a big fan. And I work in an environment, which is trauma informed. But I also know that what has happened in usage of terminology and words, I feel like sometimes I see trauma just replacing the bias and masking the bias, because, oh, you are traumatized so we are now using a pathological lens, which is still going to have all the loaded biases of who you are, where you come from, what your cultural expression of pain is, and blame you and shame you through the process. So I think that's what makes it really, really complicated. It's the expectation that someone will be able to express eloquently produce all these financial difficulty and exploitation related paperwork. And will be very consistent in their storytelling, and will be able to able to talk about it freely when they have been deprived of freedom, or their life in some cases. So that is the mind boggling, complicated process that we are asking people to come through. And I have to say this, and I've said this in other spaces. Being a lawyer, sometimes if I had taken a step back and thought about it, if I had to prove this case for myself, I can tell you that in spite of being the fierce advocate I am, then I tried to put myself through that thinking process I developed cold feet. So that's how complex it is that a well informed, educated, privileged person like myself, thinks, if I had to go through this experience and prove my exploitation and my experience of abuse, I would probably not do it. So that's how bad it is.
Shelley Gilbert 49:27
I think Deepa's absolutely right. I mean, when you look at gender based violence overall, right and how that has come through different venues, different court systems, administrative court systems, criminal court system, we know all of that piece. But on top of it, when we're talking about international trafficking, and we're talking about labour trafficking trafficking specifically, I think that we are using a very white middle class definition of what constitutes coercion and we have seen this forever in lots of times I'm asked do I see that pendulum shifting a little bit, where immigration or law enforcement are recognizing that coercion can be threats of deportation, it is threats to go to the helping authorities like police, for instance, right, it is the threat to throw somebody out. Right. But when law enforcement when immigration are thinking about it from our white middle class Canadian perspective, then they are not recognizing what coercion or what those experiences mean to that particular individual. And, you know, when, when I've spoken with, with crown attorneys, for instance, I've said you have to think like an immigration lawyer, you have to understand the country of origin condition, right, because you have to understand what that threat would mean for that particular person. And so I still don't think we're at that place where we're even prepared to recognize it outside of our own Canadian white way of thinking about the world. And so when people come forward when people have you know, are brave enough to come forward or feel that Canada will listen to them because they feel it's a human rights based, a justice based country, they're often really really disappointed in how they're treated and where, if at all, that particular case goes anywhere whether it's criminal justice system where we see time and time again, those of us who are requesting temporary resident permits on behalf of trafficked people how often they are denied and they are disbelieved and humiliated and intimidated by the process.
Luis Alberta Mata 51:49
Shelley and Deepa have been so clear on this topic of the remedies I just wanted to mention through through the case something the remedies are so limited, and not only limited but unrealistic. I think that the different authorities and the lawmakers should be in conversation with the frontline worker, with organization, with the advocates, and with the victims and survivors to first understand what is going on on the ground and then design the laws and the application because I was sitting before the pandemic doing the interpretation and also doing the companionship to a migrant worker who was in an interview and I was so confident that that case was so easy the TRP was going to be granted because all the signs of human trafficking were there, all of them, however the officer so nice, very friendly etc etc suddenly started following the manual and the checking list and when the migrant said answered that the passport was in his hands that was not seized by the employer. I saw the reaction of the officer they obviously wanted to probably to help but that question was put in the water outside of the facility with the tarp because the checking list said in context with the sex trafficking that the documents are seized or not they are taken by destroyed or by the pin whatever but in this case no. The labour exploitation most of the times the workers keep the documents the coercion as Shelley was explaining is done in a different way its not that visible anyway is coercion using no other mechanism and also what are the question were you able to leave the place and the worker was only say yes I was able to leave I was not locked how hard we were to go not documents I have a lot of money or we need a lot of money because I paid to come here and also this this employee it was taking my money doing those deductions and threatening me with the with the police, etc, etc. I needed to stay there was no choice for me. But I was not locked. Actually I can take my back and I leave but that two questions put the worker out of the TRP because that was a check list. I believe the officers on the ground need training, they are so poorly trained, some of them are so good, they want to do their job in a high quality way. However, those manuals are those guidelines, those immigration regulations have been designed in the way that human trafficking for labour exploitation is not recognized. And the authorities are reluctant to accept that this phenomenon is happening in our country a lot, a lot. Then also the lens that the authorities see the situation sometimes the police CBSA all the those who are related to the situation of migrant workers, sometimes they are not prepared to see this through the lens of the human rights to see the spectrum that we are talking about those aspects of the spectrum that are in the labour legislation also in the Human Rights Code in the Criminal Code, how elements from all those parts are interconnected creating the human trafficking situation and then in the labour protection.
Elvira Truglia 55:14
So it all really comes back to the point Deepa made a number of times - is how trafficking and exploitation is inscribed in policy and legislation. And if we can maybe shift the conversation a little bit...Making the assumption that our understanding of human trafficking has shifted somewhat, in policy or on the front lines, and in advocacy circles, and that maybe that shift is also from a change in the understanding around the divide between sex and labour trafficking, or having it acknowledged as maybe a false divide? Would you agree with that? Do you think that there has been a shift? Has the divide between sex and labour trafficking started to break down?
Deepa Mattoo 55:57
I think personally, the conversation has moved, and there is a movement. But there is not a complete shift in the sense that I don't believe that people who advocate for labour trafficking necessarily feel that we have all the tools made available to us and we are understood every time you're talking about labour trafficking, or every time you're talking about forced marriages that people are understanding us. I think there is more reception on the policy tables and among our sector colleagues, but that false divide that's created between the sexual exploitation and labour trafficking is coming out of the conversations, that what is considered labour, and how sex work is not considered labour so it's rooted in a completely other different legislative scheme and problem, it is not rooted in I think, people's understanding of the problem. It's where it stems from where the stigma related to the sex trafficking stems from and what is the colonial historical reasons behind it, right. And I come from a Commonwealth country, India, and I know that sex work was actually stigmatized and criminalized during colonial times, it was pre colonial times, it was not as much of a stigmatized profession and then they started using body labeling people who were in sex work, and so on and so forth. So it is rooted in a very colonial framework of law. And again, I am not necessarily saying that exploitation for anything should be, should be condoned for from any perspective, but unless and until you understand someone's labour, and you stop stigmatizing people's labour, you will never have the solution to this false divide. So I think that's where the root cause of the problem is, if someone is exploited in labour, it is exploitation. Whether that label is sex work, whether it's working in a factory, whether it's working in a shop, or as a lawyer, it is labour. So I think that's where the crux of the problem lies. And if someone is being exploited, it should as any workplace, that there should be protections, there should be supports. And I don't think anyone's choice of work should be labeled as, like, who are we to police that. And I think that's where the problem is, if I speak to that false divide, and that's why that stigmatization creates these dialogues of do not talk about it, this is not the right place, people thinking that you are trying to co opt their agenda, that that confusion, all stems out of the colonial history of legislative inheritance that we all have received.
Shelley Gilbert 58:33
Yeah, I mean, I think the false divide, you know, it's also because sex work, you know, it's surrounded by this whole morality piece of it, right. And so people are outraged. And people want to say, you know, sex workers and funding as well has come associated with those organizations that provide support to women exiting the trade or women who are doing only domestic sex trafficking, anti sex trafficking works, as well as all the sensationalizing of that type of trafficking, if you will, that's created, I think, some of the divide. You know, I think many of the sectors have made some slight movement in recognizing that exploitation is exploitation. So I think we are starting to see that, especially with regards to law enforcement and how they are somewhat relating now to the issue of labour trafficking in what we consider traditional sort of labour trafficking, if you will. Where I don't see any movement at all, is that dialogue around marriage trafficking, right or forced marriage at all? Right, so we don't see those systems, law enforcement, criminal justice, for instance, and I don't know about immigration, considering forced marriage as a form of trafficking at all. So I think we still have a long way to go. With breaking down the types and saying it's sex, it's forced marriage, it's labour and recognizing the elements of trafficking. How would the systems consider someone who is forced to panhandle on the street? How are they recognizing people who are forced to move drugs across the city or across the province or into the country? Are we recognizing coercion and exploitation, instead of getting so hung up on what type of labour somebody is forced into, which I think, you know, goes to deepest point. So we're still not recognizing, I think, certainly forced marriage as a form of trafficking, we're not recognizing the coercion and the exploitation inherent in that abusive relationship. And in some ways, I think we are starting to expand or other sectors are starting to expand their understanding of this issue.
Fay Faraday 1:00:58
If I can just ask a last question, Are there things that you're concerned about as we move forward, coming out of the pandemic, what are you looking at, on your horizon that we should be aware of,
Luis Alberta Mata 1:01:10
I'm afraid that many things are going to remain this pandemic came to change the world forever. And in many, many, many ways. The important thing is that the pandemic uncovered situations that we knew that were happening, but we didn't know the dimension, or the exploitation in our backyard in Ontario, in all the areas, rural and urban areas are now we are a little bit more aware about that exploitation, because anyway, the pandemic helped to disclose situations that were happening in the farms in the factories, and also in the in other kinds of industries, I'm optimistic that that we now have more tools, more information, more conscious, we need to do things together, that we need to be, instead of waiting, for those in that situation to come to us, we need to go there, we need to, we need to do a different kind of reach, we need to reinvent the way we approach the places in order to discover in order to disclose what is going on what is happening there, what kind of situations are happening that we don't know and have been happening for long, and we didn't know.
Shelley Gilbert 1:02:19
Well as the social worker group, I'm gonna you know where I'm going to go. I mean, what we are now seeing as people are coming out, and over the last, I would say, maybe three months or so, is that people have been isolated. They've been isolated from their support, they've been isolated from resources that they would typically reach out to. And very often they've been isolated with their offenders. So as a result, we're seeing people with more and more and more very complex trauma and experiences that have manifested in horrible ways for them. So people are unwell right now, I think many of the people that we're working with, and I think that's a direct result of the lockdown. And I think it's a direct result of the way the system's responded, I don't have the answer around how we could have responded necessarily, but I don't think that we responded in a way that recognized the impact it was going to have for people experiencing violence. So we are now seeing how that's manifesting for many of the people that we work with. The other thing that I'm worried about is systemically, it gives an excuse to not change anything from a policy or legislative reason. Because now we're busy addressing post pandemic stuff instead of recognizing the things that we always knew needed to be changed. And now we're going to change our focus from perhaps our promises around what we were going to do around that to this now. And it's just an excuse to not do things like recognize the close work permit issues or changing the open work permit for vulnerable workers criteria, different things that would have been, or considering permanent residents like we should be, right, for people that are here working as temporary foreign workers. So you know, I think from a systemic perspective, that's what I'm worried about. And certainly what we're what we're seeing with many of the people that we're working with is already coming forward to us.
Deepa Mattoo 1:04:22
In terms of my my take on what COVID has done and what we are going to see on the horizon, it is based and rooted into what that COVID recovery or COVID planning would be looking like right like there will be a direct correlation of it. And a couple of things that we have been advocating for and talking about, I think among us as a group here or in my role as at the national action plan conversations and consultations we have been talking about if a situation of not having status in the country, breeds violence. In situation of violence, and why can't we, at least once in our lifetime why can't this government turn its head to regularization of status of people in the country? Right? So that's one ask, which is on the table loud and clear. I think you and I are talking about it, thankfully, mainstream groups are talking about it, thankfully, people who do labour organizing are talking about it. It's at the forefront of that conversation. I think any one of us in the room can, can share that how when I got the opportunity to be in front of a policymaker or a minister, I said it, right, we all are doing that from our spaces. So if that, say, for example, if the government seizes the moment and does that, it will look very different in the post recovery world, right, then suddenly, we will probably see a reduction in number of cases, because people would have a regular status of which completely breeds a lot of these situations. There is also this whole factor about what would Canada do in this post form involved around its immigration policies of number of people bringing into the country, number of people coming through the refugee processes, what is going to be the impact on the backlog of all of those refugee cases. So all of those complicated factors of decision making in this post recovery world are going to impact what we will see on the ground. From the perspective of the frontline worker, we know that as the world will open up again, we will see a number of cases show up from the survivors who are just right now on the ground surviving and not really talking about their experiences, because it was navigating their safety versus getting any kind of supports, and they were navigating their safety. But from the perspective of a global impact, I'm really going to be very disappointed if from a global impact perspective. All these wealthy nations are not able to think about this, a moment of change. They have seen how intertwined our economies are, they have seen how connected we are. This pandemic has exposed a lot of inequalities in this world. And these thinkers who are going to plan for, you know, agendas for next 20-30 years (dog barks), really need to get their act together. And if they don't learn from this experience, they will never learn, we should all think of doing something else with our lives.
Elvira Truglia 1:07:26
Your dog agrees Deepa, your dog agrees. As always, that was a wonderful conversation with Deepa and Shelley and Luis And that wraps up today's episode of The Traffik Report. Join us next time when we talk about another divide the debate between sex work versus sex trafficking.
Fay Faraday 1:07:58
Make sure you subscribe to our podcast so you don't miss any of our conversations. Also, come visit us at our website at thetraffikreport.ca. Remember, that's traffik with a K. After every episode, we post the show transcript and also post a number of resources and links that are related to the topics we've been talking about. Make sure you check them out. My name is Fay Faraday.
Elvira Truglia 1:08:24
And I'm Elvira Truglia. In today's episode you heard from Deepa Mattoo from the Barbra Schlifer Clinic, Shelley Gilbert from Legal Assistance of Windsor and Luis Alberto Mata from the FCJ Refugee Centre.
Fay Faraday 1:08:39
This episode was produced by Elvira Truglia and Fay Faraday. Our theme song "I'm Not Alone", was created by youth at PLEA Community Services Society in British Columbia. And as always, we thank the Canadian Women's Foundation for their financial support which has made this podcast possible.
Elvira Truglia 1:09:00
Thanks for listening to The Traffik Report, speaking truth to power on sex and labour trafficking. Until next time.