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Oryx and Crake: Human Trafficking in Canada

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Human trafficking is the trade of humans for forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others. Canada has been identified as both a transit and a destination point for this crime. Over the years it is found that human trafficking often takes place in urban centers, within Canada’s borders as well as smaller cities and communities. Margaret Atwood’s novel, Oryx and Crake, brings awareness to human trafficking and how it’s quickly dismissed in society. Unfortunately, this crime is something that happens often in Canada and affects so many people, such as indigenous women, migrants and Immigrants, and children. Although trafficking is a crime happening all over the world, we cannot ignore the fact that it happens in Canada just as much as third world countries.

Indigenous women are being trafficked and sexually exploited all over Canada. This is due to the country’s ugly and violent colonial history. Stephen Harper, Canada’s last prime minister, is one of many colonial leaders who repeatedly refused to engage in fixing this crime. He said, “Um, it’s not high on our radar, to be honest’, leaving indigenous women to fend for themselves against traffickers. Canada has ignored and refused to fix the problem of human trafficking for years. “The colonialization, discrimination, racial stereotyping and several other acts made against indigenous people, have left them with little social or political power” said Miriam Mcnab. (“Indigenous Women’s Issues in Canada”) This has led to inequality and poverty in the indigenous community, making the trafficking of indigenous women more probable. In 2015 there were ‘approximately 1,200 documented cases of indigenous women and girls who have gone missing or been murdered over three decades.” (“Violence against indigenous women is woven into Canada’s history”) Something that has linked, several times, to the sexual exploitation and trafficking of Indigenous women in Canada, is the disconnection from their families and communities. (“Daphne Bramham: Human trafficking is pervasive and largely ignored in Canada”) Just like Indigenous women, Oryx in Oryx and Crake was disconnected from her family. She was sold to Uncle who trafficked and sexually exploited her. Both Oryx and Indigenous women are seen as, unintelligent, valueless, people and as a result, society took advantage of them. Indigenous women are insanely overrepresented in Human trafficking. ‘Aboriginal people make up just 4 percent of the population, but a study in 2014 found they account for about half the victims of trafficking.’ (Grant, 1) Due to this crime being done so secretively, there are so many cases of trafficked Indigenous women that go unnoticed and unsolved each year in Canada.

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Just like Indigenous women, migrant workers and new immigrants are highly risked targets for human trafficking in Canada. Due to language barriers, a lack of accessible support and a lack of accurate information about their rights, migrant workers are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. (“Human Trafficking”) Some enter Canada legally but end up being forced to do labour in agriculture, construction and several other trades. (“human trafficking in Canada”) There was a case of forty-three victims, born in Mexico, that had paid traffickers a lot of money to transport them from their home country to Canada. They were promised education, work visas and eventually permanent residency status. However, once in Canada, they were forced to live in horrible conditions and to work for a cleaning company. Thanks to further investigations, the victims were released in February 2019 by the Ontario police. One of the victims said, “I went to bed a slave, woke up a free man”, contributing to the statement that human trafficking today is described as modern-day slavery. Those being exploited over labour are usually underpaid or not paid at all. “Many of them work on farms or mines in areas where there is not a lot of police presence,” Dandurand explained. (“’Modern day slavery’: Why human trafficking often flies under the radar in Canada “) Migrants and Immigrants are discriminated against and perceived as outsiders, making them more vulnerable to human trafficking. In the novel, Oryx and Crake, the characters living inside the Compounds, receive better education and better living conditions than those on the outside. As a result, their society describes the Outsiders as inhuman people with no value. Just like migrants and new immigrants, the Outsiders in Oryx and Crake are seen as, unworthy, unintelligent, outsiders. Unfortunately, there are so many different forms of forced labour that go unnoticed by the general public such as, debt bondage. Debt bondage is the enslavement of people for unpaid debts and is one of the most common forms of contemporary forced labour. In these cases, Immigration documents are held by the traffickers, and victims are often physically abused. Many are then forced into labour to pay off their migratory debts. (“Human Trafficking”) Due to the manipulation, threats and abuse trafficked victims endure, it is difficult to solve cases in Canada without in-depth investigations.

Just like migrant workers, children are also highly risked targets for human trafficking and commodity in Canada. Exploitation usually begins at the age of 13. However, there are plenty of human trafficking cases that include young children and teenagers that have fallen victims. Sydney Loney said, “This is the kind of problem we’d prefer to pretend doesn’t exist, although that’s getting harder to do. If you ask most Canadians, they’d say they’re horrified that trafficking exists, but relieved that we live here, where things like that don’t happen. But Canada is exactly that kind of place.” (“This Woman Was Trafficked at a Club When She Was 19”) Statistics from the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey say that a quarter of trafficked victims are under the age of 18. (“Daphne Bramham: Human trafficking is pervasive and largely ignored in Canada”) Trafficked children are being used for so many horrible trades all over Canada. When sexually exploited they are forced to perform sexual acts including exotic dancing or the production of pornography. Just like trafficked children, Oryx in Oryx and Crake was exploited and manipulated into child pornography. Children are often sold or sent to areas with the promise of a better life but instead are faced with various horrors. Some are forced to work in small industries and manufacturing operations where they work for excessive periods of time, dangerous working conditions, and for little or no wages. They are also sometimes trafficked into military service as soldiers and experience armed combat at very young ages (“Human Trafficking”). According to former Conservative Member of Parliament, Joy Smith, ‘All 12 to 14-year-olds are vulnerable because they’re kids. They haven’t lived life and they believe people who are friendly to them are trying to be their friends. They’re trying to get the victim to work for them, and separate them from all their support systems” (“’They’re kids’: Expert on human trafficking speaks about victims, prevention in Thunder Bay”). Human trafficking survivor, Alaya McIvor, was twelve years old when she was taken into foster care. She was given two options: to stay in her unsafe community or relocate. She chose to relocate and was given a one-way Greyhound ticket to Winnipeg with no one waiting for her at the other end. She said, “I got onto that bus, I was happy to leave my community and got to Winnipeg an hour later and there was an Italian man … he lured me and I got into his vehicle.” She survived poverty, child abuse, sexual exploitation, trafficking in Manitoba and B.C., rapes, beatings and police brutality. Over the years, she says, she has “lost count” of friends and relatives who have gone missing or been murdered due to trafficking in Canada (Grant, 9). Human Trafficking violates children and denies them the ability to reach their full potential. They have experience horrible devastating horrors that have a huge impact on their lives, even after being rescued.

Canada is both a transit and destination point for human trafficking, and unfortunately it often goes undetected. Although many sources such as Margaret Atwood’s book, Oryx and Crake, try to help and bring awareness to the situation, many Canadians don’t do anything about it. Indigenous women, migrants and children are a couple major examples of people who become victims to a horrible crime. Human trafficking has been a problem in Canada for years. Only recently have they begun to engage and fix it. Since human trafficking is suddenly so pervasive, Canada cannot put aside the fact that it is a major problem in their country just as much as others.

Works Cited

  1. Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, May 2003.
  2. “Child Trafficking.” UNICEF, Accessed 20 Dec. 2019.
  3. “Daphne Bramham: Human trafficking is pervasive and largely ignored in Canada.” Vancouver Sun, Accessed 13 Dec. 2019.
  4. Grant, Tavia. “The Trafficked: Sexual exploitation is costing Canadian women their lives.” 10 Feb 2016, Accessed 13 Dec. 2019.
  5. ”Human Trafficking.” 5 Dec. 2019, Accessed 15 Dec. 2019.
  6. “Human Trafficking.” Government of Canada, Accessed 20 Dec. 2019.
  7. “Human Trafficking in Canada.” Province of British Columbia, Accessed 20 Dec. 2019.
  8. “Indigenous Women’s Issues in Canada.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 7 Feb. 2006, Accessed 13 Dec. 2019.
  9. “’Modern day slavery’: Why human trafficking often flies under the radar in Canada.“ Global News, 14 February 2019, Accessed 15 Dec. 2019.
  10. “’They’re kids’: Expert on human trafficking speaks about victims, prevention in Thunder Bay.” CBC, 18 Nov. 2019, Accessed 20 Dec. 2019.
  11. “This Woman Was Trafficked at a Club When She Was 19.” Flare, 27 Dec. 2018, Accessed 13 Dec. 2019.
  12. “Violence against indigenous women is woven into Canada’s history.” The guardian, Dec. 2015, Accessed 15 Dec. 2019.

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