Sex And Child Trafficking In Canada: What We Know
The sick and twisted world of sex and child trafficking has been finding its way into mainstream blogs and news networks with stories of missing children, with hundreds of arrests that took place in California and with several police in the Washington DC metro area who have been arrested and charged with trafficking. Public awareness seems to have exploded over the past 6 months with the help of conspiracy theories about pizza shops and deep, dark child trafficking rings. Ashton Kutcher's high profile efforts to fight human trafficking have also helped, along with the continued exposure of rampant pedophilia in the United Kingdom. But what we haven't been hearing much about is Canada. There definitely is no shortage of missing children, pedophilia and human trafficking in this country, so why not take a look at it?
Canada is littered with freaks and creeps, but we'll put our focus on one province in particular. One province has direct access to the international sex trade via ports, a disturbingly high number of active investigations into missing children, and a highway known for a disproportionate number of murders. That province is British Columbia.
As of 2016, there were 258 active cases of missing children in British Columbia. Some of the cases date as far back as 1949, but most of them are more recent. One case in particular has gotten more attention than the rest. Lindsey Nicholls went missing in 1993 at the age of 14 in Comox. She was in foster care and was reportedly walking down a rural road toward Courtenay when she went missing. Throughout the years there have been reported sightings of Lindsey Nicholls, but nothing that has led the RCMP in the right direction. A more recent case involves Caitlin Murray, who went missing in September of 2013 after parking her car near the Fraser Bridge Inn in Quesnel.
Quesnel is only 123 kilometres south of BC's Highway Of Tears, otherwise known as Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert. Since 1969, several people—mostly women—have been found dead along this stretch of highway and in the surrounding area. Police put the number at 19, but other independent organizations include women and missing people from the surrounding areas in their official counts, coming to a number closer to 50. Of the police numbers, more than half are aboriginal women. A majority of the cases haven't been solved.
The Highway Of Tears runs through or connects to several municipalities and First Nations reserves. Some of the murder cases could be linked to an American serial killer named Bobby Jack Fowler, but his death in prison has made the investigations more difficult. The murders and missing persons could generally be shrugged off as a natural consequence of the poverty and crime in the area, but in 2015 BC's privacy commissioner made an explosive discovery.
The Obvious Cover-Up
An investigation by Elizabeth Denham, BC's privacy and information commissioner, revealed that officials in the BC government triple-deleted emails pertaining to the Highway Of Tears following Freedom Of Information requests. The emails were ordered to be deleted by a ministerial assistant named George Gretes.
It was a former assistant to BC's transport minister who notified Denham of the triple-deletions. Tim Duncan testified that George Gretes had ordered him to delete all of the emails that were being sought in a FOI request, and that when Duncan refused, Gretes reached over to Duncan's keyboard and deleted the emails three times—once out of the inbox and then out of the deleted folder. Following that, the third deletion took place when the backup was overridden to prevent the emails from being recovered.
What makes all of this even more strange is that it was admitted in 2014, by parliamentary secretary Darryl Plecas, that BC's Transport Ministry conducted a fairly large investigation into Highway 16. In June and July of 2014, officials from the ministry interviewed people from over 80 communities in and around the Highway Of Tears. Despite this, the government responded to a FOI request from the NDP by stating that there were no records pertaining to an investigation into missing and murdered women along the Highway Of Tears.
To summarize, the BC government sent a team to investigate the Highway Of Tears. They interviewed hundreds of people and likely produced some sort of evidence that could have revealed important information regarding the missing and murdered people in the area. All of the information they gathered mysteriously vanished and its existence was denied by the BC government. Following a FOI request, emails pertaining to the Highway Of Tears investigation were triple-deleted, never to be seen again. The entire investigation and its findings were erased.
The most important question now is why the BC government would feel the need to cover up what they found. Had they found nothing relevant or substantial, they wouldn't have gone to such great lengths to cover it up. The government originally sought to gain insight into the Highway Of Tears, but when their investigation was concluded, something compelled them to act almost like the investigation never even happened.
Stories About A Club In Vancouver
In 1994, while fighting a land claim, aboriginal lawyer and activist, Renate Andres-Auger, was dragged out of a courtroom kicking and screaming. She made an explosive claim following an investigation that was backed up by her own lawyer, Jack Cram.
Andres-Auger passed away last year, but Cram is still alive and allegedly as tight-lipped as a mute. He lives somewhere in BC's mainland and won't talk about the allegations he and Andres-Auger made in court in 1994. Both of their lives were ruined by what they allegedly uncovered through their own investigations.
Andres-Auger and Cram produced evidence which they allege implicated two BC Supreme Court judges and members of the Law Society in a conspiracy to protect pedophiles. The evidence was a series of photos, eye-witness accounts and documents that supposedly proved the involvement of lawyers, judges and political figures in a pedophile ring operating out of an exclusive and prestigious club in downtown Vancouver.
I'm not going to name the club or the people that Cram and Andres-Auger allege were involved in criminal activity. The information can easily be found elsewhere. None of their findings were ever released to the public, making their claims no more valuable than a rumour. The only things we know to be true, without a doubt, are that both Andres-Auger and Cram were dragged out of a courtroom, disbarred and discredited for their allegations and their pursuit of a potentially corrupt land claim.
The story of Andres-Auger and Cram is worth a look, considering they never had an opportunity to defend themselves in court or in the court of public opinion. Their allegations have often been brushed aside as outlandish conspiracy theories and Cram has been publicly accused of suffering from mental illness.
Andres-Auger and her allegations about child sex trafficking are mentioned in Earth Into Property: Colonization, Decolonization, And Capitalism, by Anthony J. Hall, as they were described by Jennifer Wade of Amnesty International in Vancouver:
“The sex trade in children is not a recent happening in Vancouver. While doing some research for this presentation, I came across the affidavit of a Cree lawyer named Renate Andres-Auger naming prominent legal personalities and the B.C. Law Society for destroying her legal practice and libeling and slandering her (I have a copy of that affidavit listing prominent plaintiffs with me). Renate Auger alleged this happened partly because of her knowledge of pedophile rings operating out of...”
More details and the specific excerpts from Anthony J. Hall's book can be read here.
Sex Trafficking On Reserves
Sex trafficking and prostitution disproportionately afflict Indigenous women in Canada. To assume that sex trafficking is an issue on many lower income First Nations reserves in BC isn't a stretch. We aren't going out on a limb when we say that sex trafficking is probably a problem among First Nations communities in BC, particularly among the communities in and around the Prince George area. Much of that trafficking can also be assumed to be child sex trafficking, as there are too many stories of Indigenous children suffering from sexual abuse.
The province of BC has an action plan to combat trafficking. In that action plan, the risk of trafficking among Indigenous women and children is expressly cited:
“Aboriginal youth represent the fastest growing population in BC and a disproportionate number of Aboriginal youth are disconnected from their families and culture, reside in rural reserve communities with limited resources, and this places them at greater risk of being groomed, lured and recruited by traffickers, especially for sexual exploitation.”
The province's action plan can be read in more detail here.
Many of Canada's Indigenous women are lured off of reserves, but we shouldn't be naive by believing that much of the grooming, recruiting and business isn't conducted on the reserves themselves. The assistant executive director of Alberta's Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Sherilyn Trompetter, told the Edmonton Journal in 2007, “We have national trafficking of Canadian women, especially in the aboriginal communities. In the prairie provinces, there is a lot of activity going on. Girls are being recruited on reserves and brought into the big urban centres like Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton and Calgary to work in prostitution.”
Much of the same can probably be said for some of BC's First Nations reserves. Just last year, the Canadian Press touched on a story about a young girl from a remote BC reserve who was perpetually abused from a young age:
“They were family members, these two predators — their unwanted touch impossible to escape for a young girl living on a remote First Nation in British Columbia.
That isolation, a fact of life for many Aboriginal Peoples, is a pernicious barrier to the essential goal of exposing the scourge of indigenous sexual abuse and incest, says Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
Bellegarde is pleading with chiefs to confront the problem head-on. But he also acknowledges a difficult truth: many First Nations people who live in remote areas are reluctant to come forward with their allegations for fear of reprisals in their small, tightly knit communities.”
The story talks about the reluctance of victims to come forward due to fears of retaliation or punishment. This isn't surprising, since so many child abusers escape blame or prosecution, as seen in the stories coming out of the UK regarding Jimmy Savile and other high profile criminals. This is an important and common trend in cases of pedophilia everywhere. The fear of coming forward is particularly strong when the abusers are perceived as leaders or prominent figures within a community. The same article also describes the “deafening silence” that can result from the fear:
“During a months-long investigation by The Canadian Press, a number of leading experts — researchers, the head of Canada's national Inuit organization and former Truth and Reconciliation chairman Murray Sinclair — have flagged alarming levels of sexual abuse in some indigenous communities and potential links to the aboriginal suicide crisis.
A theme has emerged: it is very much an open secret.
During interviews, some victims have cited a 'deafening' silence about something they consider a widespread problem. Speaking up about their experiences often leads to a severe backlash, they say.”
The consensus is that where there is sexual abuse or exploitation, there is often silence. That has been the case in stories emerging around the world regarding trafficking rings and widespread child abuse. It wasn't until after his death that an official inquiry was launched to investigate the many abuses committed by Jimmy Savile in the UK. We see much of the same regarding stories closer to home that involve hockey coaches and abuse victims that have stayed silent for decades.
As an example of unrelated acts of retaliation and intimidation that can happen on any First Nation reserve—just as they do in all non-Indigenous Canadian communities—in 2013, a man who was unjustly fired without compensation by the Tl'azt'en Nation in BC was awarded $185,000 following a court ruling. The court awarded Vincent Joseph damages when it was found that the Tl'azt'en Nation's executive director fired Joseph without compensation. Furthermore, the court found that the executive director had threatened, intimidated, harassed and destroyed Joseph's reputation in the community after he had openly criticized the director's management style. The court ruling is published here.
Vancouver, A Hub For Human Trafficking
UBC law professor, Benjamin Perrin, warned in 2007 that the 2010 Winter Olympics would be viewed as a big business opportunity for sex traffickers. In September 2007, Magda Ibrahim wrote:
“Vancouver is considered to be a hub for Pacific human trafficking, says Benjamin Perrin, an assistant professor who joined UBC Faculty of Law last month, and last year published influential research into the problem, which sparked changes to victims immigration rights. Traffickers will view the 2010 Olympics as the biggest business opportunity for them in decades. Any time you have an influx of foreign tourists and money, you'll see a huge demand for the sex trade.”
Strangely, Canada has seen very few large scale sex trafficking charges when compared to the United States and the UK. It's admitted by experts in the field and by many prominent reporters in the Vancouver area that the city is a “hub for trafficking”, yet very few charges have ever been successfully laid.
The first case charged under Canada's human trafficking laws was against a Vancouver massage parlour owner named Michael Ng. However, the charges of human trafficking were dropped in 2007 and he was convicted of several lesser offences. The judge in the case, Malcolm MacLean, ruled that human trafficking could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. One of the women in the case testified that she had been lured from China and promised a job as a waitress. Instead, she was told she would have to work as a prostitute and pay Ng $11,000 a month, as reported by the CBC in 2007. Ng was only sentenced to serve 15 months in prison.
In September of 2016, Franco Orr escaped a human trafficking conviction in a second trial in the BC Supreme Court. Orr was originally the first person to ever be found guilty of human trafficking in 2013, but his conviction was overturned in 2015 and he was given a re-trial.
In 2007, Benjamin Perrin said, “I can't understand why Canada hasn't successfully prosecuted a single person for human trafficking when you look at other countries like the U.S., Australia, and the U.K..”
It's an interesting question. Why has human trafficking slipped under the radar in Canada? With so many stories about its existence from the Vancouver area alone, it seems a lot like an open secret that no one wants to talk about.
Most sex trafficking victims enter Canada by boat and are smuggled in from Asia and Russia through ports on BC's coast. According to past investigations, these same ports could be used to smuggle Canadian victims out of Canada. One of the smallest but closest ports to the Pacific trafficking trade is Port Alberni, located on Vancouver Island just about 200 kilometres north of Victoria. Larger ports in Vancouver are often cited as entry points for human smuggling, but several smaller ports can escape attention. The BC government's website admits that Canada is “both a transit and a destination point for human trafficking”.
Portland recently investigated a sex trafficking ring in which one Vancouver man was arrested. Eliseo Canul-May of Vancouver was among nine other men who fell for a fake internet ad soliciting sex on a site that was well known for trafficking.
It's not often that child traffickers are prosecuted in Canada. This lack of prosecution—but awareness that it exists—should be cause for investigation. Is the definition of trafficking too specific or too broad to bring sustainable charges in Canada, or is there another problem?
Figuring It Out
When we look at the amount of trafficking reported to be taking place and the lack of prosecution in Canada, red flags start to pop up like whack-a-mole. Combining this with the known silence that revolves around most cases of pedophilia and abuse, we can surmise that there is a quiet epidemic in Canada that no one wants to talk about.
It's time to look at the laws, the judges and the evidence. If the laws are ineffective, we need to change them. If the judges are defining the laws inappropriately, we need to rewrite them. If victims are terrified to come forward, we need to make them feel comfortable. If evidence is being destroyed by government officials, we need to hold them accountable. If journalists are bored or uninspired by cases of trafficking or pedophilia, we need to light fires under their asses.
It's time to figure out why Canada is known as a destination and transit point for traffickers, but why few charges have ever been successfully prosecuted. The responsibility belongs to the public as much as it belongs to law enforcement.
Let's figure this out.