“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
What a great truth spoken by a great man. Years later, Martin Luther King’s words echo with great resonance as we find ourselves in a world swirling with injustice – everything from terrorist attacks, to people not being able to access clean drinking water to millions of people being bought and sold. It all seems too great a burden a bear.
With this month being home to both Martin Luther King Jr. Day and human trafficking awareness month, it’s important to recognize the connection between Mr. King’s work towards justice and the issue of injustice presented by contemporary human trafficking.
Martin Luther King Jr. grew up seeing black people discriminated against in ways such as segregation, not being able to vote, and hate crimes (including having his own house burnt down) 1. Against the opposition of his day, Martin Luther King Jr. fought for equality of all peoples, justice, and human dignity.
The injustice of human trafficking, is that it takes away the very thing Martin Luther King fought for - human dignity. It reduces a human to a commodity. It turns a someone into a something. It’s the Cambodian man strung out on amphetamines catching fish off the coast of Thailand2, it’s the young girl in debt-bondage weaving carpets in Pakistan3, and it’s the runaway Canadian teenager who got picked up by a trafficker and is now pimped out every night4. Human trafficking is happening all over this world enslaving approximately 30 million people5. It is the second largest illicit industry in the world generating $32 billion in profit annually (that’s more than the profits of Nike, Google, and Starbucks combined!)6. Defined simply, human trafficking is the movement of persons across borders through the use of force or coercion for the purposes of exploitation (for the full definition, click here – https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-is-human-trafficking.html#What_is_Human_Trafficking ). Exploitation can take various forms such as sexual exploitation, forced labour, removal of organs, and domestic servitude.
In Canada, the most common forms of exploitation are sexual exploitation and forced labour. The latest estimate suggests that there are approximately 1200 victims of human trafficking in Canada7. Although this Canadian number may seem small in comparison to the 30 million enslaved worldwide, the truth is that no human life is too small for our attention or advocacy.
Martin Luther King believed so strongly in advocacy that he said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” On this note, I want to challenge you to speak out against injustice like Martin Luther King did and raise awareness about the injustice of human trafficking. Raising awareness is the first step towards change. In the past few years, we have seen some positive legislative change surrounding this issue with the federal government introducing the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking in 2012, Manitoba’s provincial government’s Child Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking Act established in 2008, and Ontario’s provincial government passing the Anti-Human Trafficking Act last year. While some progress has been made, there is still much more to be done so that every person can live free. Raising awareness about human trafficking is critical to eradicate it, because we cannot solve a problem that people cannot identify.
When people know what human trafficking is, they will be more likely to report suspicious establishments or people to the police. If the government and police can hear that Canadians want a slave-free Canada, they will be quicker to work towards that end.
So consider yourself challenged to raise awareness about human trafficking! Here are some things you could do:
- Share a post about human trafficking on your social media outlets
- Host an awareness film night with friends and family (check out Call + Response, Nefarious, Taken, and Born into Brothels to name a few)
- Write a letter to your MPP and MP (with elections coming up, let them know this issue matters to you!)
- Volunteer with us or another anti-human trafficking organization
Remember, “the time is always right to do what is right”
For Freedom’s Sake