Are Social Issues In Arctic Canada More Serious Than We Realize Or Are Ready to Admit To?

Myself, our staff and Board find the results of a report, Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking in Nunavut, most disturbing. This report, that really appears to only touch the surface of a wider and even more disturbing sexual exploitation of Inuit in Canada, both in the north and South, particularly children.

This report should not be another- one day flash in the pan story in the northern daily news cycles. It should and must serve as a call to action by individuals, organizations and governments at all levels.

To Its credit, Pauktuutit, the national woman’s organization, was a part of the reveling report and is to be congratulated for its work thus far on this most troubling issue.
This report, which is an initial survey, was completed by Helen Roos and consolidates input from over 25 organizational partners, 32 youth and adult victims of sexual exploitation. This report was completed through a project contribution between Roos-Remillard Consulting Services and the Federal Department of Justice, Victim’s Fund.

Most alarming it states that human trafficking is now a reality in the Canadian Arctic and Nunavut specifically. “Inuit represent one of the most vulnerable populations in Canada due to systemic conditions of poverty in remote, isolated communities and urban centers where Inuit live.” And moreover, “the predator or trafficker moniker, particularly in small communities, has been a parent, spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, friend or employer who exploits a youth or adult, either for forced labour, forced sex or both.”

The researchers reviewed documents filed with various branches of the justice system and found definite indications from reports, disclosure and criminal investigations that the sexual exportation and human trafficking of Inuit is occurring, both in Nunavut, Ottawa and other cities across Canada.

It also determined that human trafficking is not exclusive to girls and women but to Inuit boys as well, although no one would elaborate or expand on that side.

So in other words this is not something that is happening in the big sinful cities of the south or other parts of the world, but in the tiny, and yes badly overcrowded houses in Northern Communities. It is wrong, cruel, and abhorrent and needs to be stopped.

The report cites one front line worker based in Ottawa who reportedly had forty cases of street-affected Inuit who experienced sexual exploitation.

During the three-month period of this research from May to August 2013, interviews in Nunavut with officials in law enforcement, social services and frontline shelters reported victim clients within their recent caseload. At least six of these alleged incidents of exploitation were referred for further investigation.  Only one proceeded to human trafficking charges.

In that particular case, the presiding Judge opted instead to proceed on prostitution charges.

However, it was noted that with more investigative training for officials on human trafficking, coupled with child abuse training, the police noted that they would have more charges in Nunavut.
Equally disturbing is the lack of research and information on this matter in other Inuit regions, such as the Northwest Territories or Nunavik. In Labrador, the CBC reported last October that a similar study, with near identical conclusions, was put under lock and key- by Provincial authorities because it was too sensitive for the public.

The title of the Labrador study is worth repeating, because it captures the essence of the monumental problem these issues present to Arctic Communities. “Nobody’s Mandate and Everybody’s Responsibility.”

I think all of us have a responsibility to demand of all leaders at all levels what specifically is their response to these findings, what will they be demanding of the justice system, and what are they prepared to do themselves?

For Arctic Children and Youth, we will endeavour to use our growing web facilities to deliver warning messages to the youth, offer guidance if they suspect they are victims or potential victims of any form of exploitation. Additionally we will expand our efforts and commitment to work with anyone and everyone to bring about change and justice for the present day victims and future prevention.

The report is available at the following link. A very good summary was also reported in the Nunatsiaq news on February 4, 2014. Click here for that article.

Download some more information on human trafficking by clicking on the Download links below. Credits go to Helen Roos, Roos-Remillard Consulting Services: http://www.roosremillardconsulting.ca

 

pdf What is Human Trafficking
pdf Where can I get help?