Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking

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Acknowledgement: This research document was reviewed by Dr. D. Scharie Tavcer, she is an Associate Professor in the Criminal Justice Degree Program at Mount Royal University and a Gladue Writer for Alberta Justice & Public Safety. Dr. Tavcer holds a PhD from Max Planck Institute and the Albert-Ludwigs Universität, located in Germany.  She is the author of several books, the most recent being Canadian Criminal Law and the Criminal Code: An Introduction by Oxford University Press. Her research background and areas of expertise concern critical reflection of the criminal justice system that also includes application for best practices. Topics include sexual consent education, criminal law and its application, sentencing, occupational stress injuries, and gendered violence. The research document was reviewed for comprehensiveness and accuracy to ensure quality and validity of the research. The information in this document is current as of April 2024.

Themes: Sexual Exploitation; Human Trafficking; Systemic Discrimination; Systemic Barriers; Poverty; Housing; Child Welfare; Gender; Violence, Colonialism; Criminal Justice System

Executive Summary: Human trafficking, as defined by the United Nations Protocol, encompasses various forms of exploitation, including forced labor, organ harvesting, and sexual exploitation. Indigenous women and girls in Canada are particularly vulnerable due to intersecting social factors such as gender and racial discrimination, poverty, inadequate education, and historical trauma. Sex trafficking, predominantly targeting women and girls, constitutes a significant portion of global trafficking, with approximately 98% of victims being female. Settler colonialism and its legacy, including the Canadian Indian Residential Schools, have contributed to the systemic oppression and marginalization of Indigenous peoples, perpetuating stereotypes that facilitate exploitation. The criminal justice system often fails to recognize coercion and deception, reinforcing victim-blaming narratives. Addressing the factors that lead to the exploitation, such as poverty and lack of education, is crucial for preventing trafficking and further moving to supporting survivors. Holistic support, including community involvement and psychosocial care, is essential for healing and reintegrating survivors into society. Understanding and combating human trafficking requires a multifaceted approach that acknowledges historical injustices and systemic inequalities.

Purpose of the document: What are "Systemic and Background Factors" and how are they relevant to the Gladue Principles? Systemic and background factors (also known as Gladue Factors) are the unique experiences, circumstances, and challenges that an Indigenous person, their family, community, or Nation has faced. They relate to the harmful effects of colonialism and discrimination, past and present. Systemic and Background factors must be considered in a Gladue analysis (e.g. the direct and intergenerational impacts of residential school and the Sixties Scoop, among others). These factors are broader circumstances known to contribute to the over-incarceration of Indigenous persons in particular, as well as those that figure prominently in the causation of crime more generally. The purpose of this Research Summary is to help provide social context and background information for judges, lawyers, and Gladue report writers to better unpack the complex ways systemic discrimination and settler colonialism can impact an Indigenous person’s life. As well, these summaries will provide evidence-based research that speak to alternatives to incarceration, restorative options, and ways to support an individual through healing, aftercare, and release planning. While these summaries cannot replace the need for case-specific information about Indigenous individuals or the contemporary dynamics within their families and Nations, they can be used to craft more effective submissions and reports that better tie those case-specific details to the broader social context surrounding Indigenous overincarceration.

Access a copy of the Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking Summary by downloading the PDF attached at the top of this entry