The war against human traffickers that prey on our youth is now out in the open. Those profiting from the recruitment of Canadian women and girls into the sex trade have gone public through newspapers with their strategy of targeting Canadian high school students since they can no longer import young women from abroad to sexually exploit.
It is no surprise that the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada (AEAC) is upset with the recent initiatives to close a loop hole of human trafficking in Canada. A source of income for strip club owners is being cut off and they are angry. Yet teachers and parents are also furious that the AEAC would target their youth for sexual exploitation.
Tim Lambrinos, executive director of the AEAC, claims he represents 38,000 strippers, 28 per cent of whom are students. He portrays his role as helping youth pay for university, but in reality, he is the spokesperson for an industry that makes millions through luring students into the adult sexual entertainment industry.
Many of these victims are terrified to talk about the reality of their experiences, and are effectively muzzled by coaching, manipulation and abuse. They are trained to take violence against them and not to bring police attention to the clubs. Ask Natasha Falle, Timea Nagy, or the hundreds of other victims who have fallen prey to the modern day slave trade. They will tell the real story.
Take Sharon, a young Canadian teenager I spoke with who described how her predator -- her boyfriend -- promised to take care of her and love her forever. After isolating her from her family and friends, he dramatically changed. He sold her on the sex market. Her life was a living hell until she was eventually too sick to profit her owner. Then she was discarded and left to die.
While Sharon's pimp worked in secret, this week the key players in Canadian strip clubs and escort services publicly boasted of their strategy to target teenagers in high schools. With explicit literature written to minors about peeling off their clothes and promises of earning huge sums of money, these individuals brazenly recruit our youth. I commend the Vancouver School Board for its swift refusal to entertain recruitment by strip clubs in its schools.
All around the globe, including right here in Canada, primarily women and girls are forced into sexual exploitation in the sex industry through coercion, threats, deception, or fraud. Police regularly find underage girls working in Canadian strip clubs. The average age of entry into prostitution in Canada is between 12 and 14 years of age. It's impossible to believe that these young girls and boys are making a rational choice to sell their bodies to 20-40 men a night. Each victim can earn their "owner" as much as $280,800 annually, as reported by the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada.
Those who fall victim to human trafficking are not just the most vulnerable children, but are from every demographic. Natasha Falle came from a respectable Calgary family, and became a prostitute shortly before her 15th birthday. She told me she was forced to recruit other victims through glamorizing prostitution and concealing the violent experiences -- focusing on the promise of huge paydays and quick money. Natasha eventually escaped from that brutal world and founded an organization (SexTrade101) to rescue the very girls she used to recruit.
Prostitution, strip clubs, and massage parlours all share a common thread -- the owners are making big bucks through the sexual "services" of young victims. Timea Nagy, the founder of Walk With Me, an organization dedicated to rehabilitating victims of human trafficking, first came to Canada from Eastern Europe on a sex trade temporary foreign worker visa.
When she arrived in Canada, she was manipulated and coerced into stripping. During those three months as a stripper, she was repeatedly raped by her agents, forced to have sex with the club's clients and threatened with death. Her story is not unique.
There are thousands of victims, like Sharon, Natasha, and Timea, who have been lured and abducted into modern day slavery in Canada. Sharon's pimp discarded her to die, but she is alive today because someone refused to be a bystander and took action.
Canadians must send a strong message to the pimps and the owners of strip clubs and escort services that our children will not be bought or sold.