Saturday, October 13, 2007


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


Letters to the Editor
WestEnder (WE)

After reading your article 'Human Trafficking in Vancouver', in the September 20 issue of WE, I was left wondering why such a piece ran without any actual lived experience voices to back up the sensational claims made by Lee Lakeman, Rape Relief and newly hired law professor at UBC, Benjamin Perrin.

The Rape Relief stance is to take migrant sex work and connect it to human trafficking as this than supports their political position of the sex trade as slavery and men commodifying women. This furthers aides in Rape Relief's argument of why the sex trade needs to be abolished.

Those of us who live in sex worker communities and as someone who speaks on this issue with 37 years of real lived experience, both on-street and off-street, I know many migrant sex providers. Those who migrate have come to Canada for a better way of life. Compared to where they come from, Canada is safer and where better opportunities exist.

Another element to the migrant sex trade issue which is often overlooked is the plight of Aboriginal Citizens. Many First Nation citizens are fleeing deplorable situations including third-world poverty conditions within their homelands. These same conditions exist for migrant sex trade providers who faced without options flee from eastern European and southeast Asia countries.

Another aspect to the sex trade which is completely erased is that many sex trade providers including migrant ones, identify as bisexual,two-spirited, lesbian, gay or questioning regarding their sexual lifestyle. This is an important fact not to be overlooked since many of these individuals have in their places of origin or traditional lands been imprisoned or harmed due to their lifestyle. Once here, we must strive to ensure their life, liberty and security needs are met.
Migrant sex workers come to Canada without proper documentation and they know they are considered illegal. They fear their choice of work being discovered since the fear of being sent back home and imprisoned in poverty is very real. Many migrant workers are sending money back home to their families in order to help with their families plight.

The push by Rape Relief to have migrant sex workers classified as victims of human trafficking and with academic Dr.Benjamin Perrin now joining their calls, subsequently poor migrant women and men are being further traumatized. Once these migrant workers are discovered, Rape Relief under the guise of benevolence, instead, makes their lives a living hell.

Until we have appropriate laws in Canada regarding protection for sex trade providers, those fleeing extreme poverty, human rights abuses and abuser counties will continue to be at extreme risk of harm.

Canada has to wake up and grant refugee protection to migrant sex trade providers. Moreover, we must be very careful in how we determine who is deemed a victim of human trafficking. We must not bend to the stance propagated by Rape Relief and misguided academics like Mr. Perrin, who has only one agenda, that of wanting the sex trade abolished.

We must strive instead, to offer education options, badly needed job skills training programs, de-criminalization and affordable housing solutions which will in the long-term dramatically improve conditions and survival rates for sex trade and migrant sex trade providers.

Jamie Lee Hamilton