Last weekend's Human Trafficking Forum in Vancouver was very well-attended even though the local media basically ignored it. I was in fact the only media person there, and I went as a paying participant rather than working media.... altho of course I will still be writing it up.
Victor Malarek gave another mesmerizing keynote address on Friday night about the realities of human trafficking and the grim lives of the victims. I've heard speak him before and interviewed him twice on my program and he never fails to impress an audience with his passion and knowledge. He got (not surprisingly) a standing ovation.
Saturday consisted of a series of lectures and discussions with locals. It was a very intense day, coming on the heels of a very busy work week for me. And unfortunately I slept in and missed the first session, which was about a new global initiative on trafficking. My profound apologies to my non-Canadian readers for that. I will try and find out from someone who was there what it was about, and post it here.
There was a fair bit of focus on the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics, amid concern that Whistler and Vancouver are in danger of becoming the world's hottest whorehouse for 17 days.
While this is of course a valid concern, quite frankly, to me it seems to smack of NIMBYism a bit. It's all very well and good to let the traffickers and pimps know that we are not open for business here, but really, what message does that send... really? Pretty much just "Go elsewhere." (And what message does that send to their victims?)
Of course I am in favour of letting scumbag traffickers and pimps know that their business is not welcome here in 2010. But it shouldn't end there. Hopefully, it won't.
To be fair, I did come out of the forum assured that some positive strides are being made ... on the home front at least. Liberal Senators Mobina Jaffer and Gerard Phelan spoke about their work to push through Bill S-222, a private member's bill toughening up the wishy-washy current bill to amend the criminal code in regard to human trafficking. BC's provincial government has, I found out there, opened something called the Office for Combatting the Trafficking of Persons about 3 months ago ... but good luck finding their website or even a mention of it on the government's website.
Apart from government lip service, it does seem that public awareness is growing, and there is a bit more media attention given to the matter. The forum was organized by a local Catholic group and there were a number of Roman Catholic nuns there. They are actually working very hard (and, it seems, effectively) to raise awareness. They are also working to provide services and support to victims of trafficking... and as such walking the walk as so many just talk the talk.
I'll be posting more this week as I sift through the reams of notes I took as well as the backlog of articles I haven't had a chance to comment on yet.