Posted by 7 March 2014 by Senator Charlie Watt
Dr. Dalee Sambo Dorough, an Expert Member and Vice Chairperson on the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), shares my opinion that “no state should be able to use the UNCLOS regime and treaty provisions to claim portions or territory of the Arctic Ocean and Seabed that Inuit occupy and have rights to unless Inuit are engaged and ultimately consent.”
Dr. Sambo Dorough presented Inuit concerns to the UNPFII in May of 2013, bringing attention to Canada’s lack of consultation on the upcoming submission to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and she also expressed concern over the UN process and “the lack of representation of Indigenous Peoples within the regulatory and decision making institutions of this important treaty.”
The Forum accepted our concerns and adopted them into their final report in September 2013.
We know this is just the beginning as we have also shared our concerns with the Chairperson of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Chief Wilton Littlechild, and look forward to further initiatives on this file. Please find a clip of Dr. Sambo Dorough’s comments, and the final report here:
Clip of Dr. Sambo Dorough's comments
Dr. Sambo Dorough's comments
Final report: United Nations—Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, May 2013
Click here to read Senator Watt's first blog about Arctic Sovereignty
Click here to read Part Two
Click here to read Part Three
Posted by 3 March 2014 by Senator Charlie Watt
I have just celebrated an anniversary here in the Senate and would like to thank my colleagues for their kind words.
Last week, Senator Denis Patterson made a very personal speech which reminded me of some great times. We have worked together for many years, and I thank him sharing such great memories.
Please click here to read his speech
Posted by 28 February 2014 by Senator Charlie Watt
Over the past year, Dr. Claudio Aporta of Dalhousie University has prepared a report titled, Inuit Trails and Arctic Occupancy. His work is unique, as it’s the first to clearly compile and analyze historical maps of Inuit occupancy of the Arctic. Dr. Aporta used written histories, often based on other historical documents and oral history.
While the Arctic is often thought of as barren or empty, this report shows that Inuit routes connect our culture, reflecting Inuit use of the Arctic that predates encounters with Europeans. The trails documented by Dr. Aporta allow for the flow of people, ideas, trade, culture, and language in the Arctic.
His work proves “intensive use of most of the waters and coasts associated with the proposed routes of the Northwest Passage” by Inuit. This timely work comes as the Northwest Passage takes on a new significance as use of the Passage as a shipping channel sees unprecedented growth in use as climate change opens new shipping lanes.
This fascinating work proves an enduring connection of the Inuit to our territories and has relevance as the Arctic continues to gain geopolitical importance.
Please click here to access this report
Click here to read Senator Watt's first blog about Arctic Sovereignty
Click here to read Part Two
Posted by 20 February 2014 by Senator Mobina Jaffer
Unlike the United States, there has not been a lot of research on mandatory minimum sentences in Canada. However, the little Canadian research that does exist is not supportive of mandatory minimum sentences. Mandatory minimum sentences have repeatedly been criticized by several government commissions and reviews.
In 1987, the Canadian Sentencing Commission stated that “the existence of mandatory minimums appear to be justified by a belief in their deterrent value which is dubious at best.” The Sentencing Commission found that mandatory sentences do not deter people from committing crimes because most people do not even know that the minimum sentences exist. The Commission concluded that potential offenders are deterred by the possibility of detection and not by mandatory sentences. However, the Commission did find clear evidence that mandatory minimums go against the principle of proportionality. The commission argued that mandatory minimums were unjust because they prevent sentencing judges from imposing sentences that fairly reflect the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence and the circumstances of the offender.
Additionally, in 1984, the Law Reform Commission Working Paper on Homicide recommended that the mandatory life sentence for second-degree murder be repealed, and that judges should be given the discretion to impose a sentence. The Commission made this recommendation because, in its view, “murders… vary enormously one from another in various ways and in particular as to their moral culpability.” And, given this variety, the Commission stated that judges are “in the best position to take account of all the individual circumstances of each particular crime.”
Moreover, the Self-Defence Review, established in 1995 by the Solicitor General and Minister of Justice, recommended a modification to the mandatory life sentence for murder. The head of the review, Justice Ratushny, found cases where women plead guilty to manslaughter, rather than go to trial for murder, even though there was strong evidence to support a defence of self-defense. These guilty pleas were attributed to the pressures that the mandatory life sentence for murder placed on accused women. To solve the problem of women feeling pressured to plead guilty to manslaughter, Justice Ratushny stated, “all that is required is the creation of some discretion on the part of the sentencing judge to depart from the strict sentencing rules currently in place.”
Despite these criticisms, the use of mandatory minimum sentences continues to grow. We have gone from twenty-nine mandatory minimums in 2005 to roughly sixty in 2013. This raises the question of why the government is passing laws that have been shown to be ineffective and problematic for over thirty years.
Posted by 19 February 2014 by Senator Grant Mitchell
Mr. Trudeau's decision was to exclude Liberal Senators from his national caucus which will now include only his elected Liberal MPs.
It is the right decision and I support and applaud it. Mr. Trudeau has unleashed "in one fell swoop" a reform process that will make very significant and improved differences in how the Senate operates.
I believe that Mr. Trudeau was motivated by a desire to catalyze the restoration of Senate credibility, acknowledging that the greatest erosion of credibility has been related to increasing partisanship.
The changes will not occur precipitously or many of them even immediately. But already, we Senate Liberals are starting to act and think differently:
1. Before the change, there were inevitably implications for the Liberal Leader and the MP caucus from a position I might want to take. If I took a position that was not held by them or contradicted a position they might hold, there would be two inevitable accusations: that the Leader would be weak because there would be construed a split in caucus and/or that position would be construed as the Leader's position too and then it would be discredited and he would be criticized for "holding" it.
Now, Liberal Senators do not have to consider that problem. We can each take any position we want and it can legitimately be construed as no more than our own position. It cannot be tied to the Leader.
2. We will begin to vote quite independently. There will be no pressure whatsoever on Liberal Senators to take a common position. We may well do more policy discussion and position development in public.
3. While we will still have the person referred to as the "Whip," he or she will have one fewer than the many tasks they had before the change: they will have no reason whatsoever to talk to Liberal Senators about voting together or in any particular way at all. The "Whip" will still have an administrative/management role including ensuring that assignments are made to committees in an orderly fashion, coordinating replacements for those who have to be absent from a committee meeting, ensuring voting attendance, etc.
4. Whereas before we received research material and "bill kits" from the MP caucus (who typically study legislation first), we will have to do more research through our own resources.
5. We will no longer be able to use the Liberal Party website to disclose our expenses but are working on alternative reporting mechanisms right now.
There will be other considerations to make if and when the Liberals form the government. Because the Parliamentary system is premised upon a party system (and that has served the system well — another topic for discussion in another blog), and because an unelected body cannot be regularly defeating the laws passed by elected MPs, there will be a need for a party reflecting government values in the Senate to manage government legislation when it arrives there. The Senate has defeated only 6 government bills since 1945.
However it has, before this government arrived in 2006, frequently amended government bills and many of those amendments were accepted. This is to say that even if there needs to be some concerted voting for government legislation in the Senate there will still be room for independent Senate thinking.
So, as this evolves, it is more and more evident that the change will be significant. I am invigorated by the prospects of truly improving the Senate and making this a time of historic change to this remarkable institution.
Posted by 18 February 2014 by Senator Mobina Jaffer
On November 20, the Minister of Justice, the Honourable Peter MacKay, introduced a bill to address cyberbullying, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act. During second reading of the bill, the Minister said that its main purpose was to address the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.
However, Bill C-13 goes a lot further than that. It amends not only the Criminal Code, but others as well. As an omnibus bill, it picks up a number of issues along the way, such as the financial data of banks, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, telemarketing and the theft of telecommunication services. According to the Minister, the bill proposes updates to offences and to the powers of police to investigate offences committed online. This would give them more powers to be able to actually complete their investigations.
A young person convicted under this bill would face a maximum of five years in prison.
As the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, I see a number of problems with this bill. First, cyberbullying is not the main focus. By including several issues in a single bill, the issue of cyberbullying is being used to push through an ideological and political agenda while overlooking the main issues surrounding cyberbullying.
My second concern with this bill is the five-year prison sentence. Following our study on cyberbullying, we tabled the report Cyberbullying Hurts: Respect for Rights in the Digital Age. In the report, most of the witnesses said that restorative justice was the best solution. The Committee even made the following recommendation: that the promotion of restorative justice initiatives be a key component of any coordinated strategy to address cyberbullying. However, Bill C-13 runs contrary to this recommendation. As the first Senate committee to hear the stories of young Canadians, we were told that they did not want to see their friends, coworkers or bullies end up behind bars.
My third concern with this bill is that it is not focussed on young Canadians. And yet they are the best experts when it comes to managing and addressing the problem of cyberbullying. However, during the second reading of Bill C-13, at no time did the Honourable Peter MacKay say how much young Canadians are experts in this area. The advantage of our report is that we had the chance to hear from young Canadians, the group directly affected by the problem of cyberbullying. They are the ones most able to explain the problem and make recommendations.
Unfortunately, Bill C-13 may look effective on paper, but in reality it addresses only a small part of the problem without focussing on what young people have to say about cyberbullying.
Posted by 14 February 2014 by Senator Charlie Watt
For many Canadians, the work of a Senator is a mystery. So, I would like to take the opportunity to showcase some of the work I am involved in beyond the regular committee meetings and Senate sittings.
In particular, I have an interest in the Arctic, and Canada’s claim to the Arctic through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) limits of the continental shelf. My Senate Liberal colleagues have been very supportive of my interest in this area as the outcome of this process will have very real implications for the Inuit and for Canada.
Research work to date has included: a legal opinion by Hutchins Legal Inc. on the subject of Inuit rights to the Arctic. We have commissioned an Inuit historic use of Arctic sea ice by Dr. Claudio Aporta of Dalhousie University (completed January 2014), and later this month we also look forward to another legal opinion from Hutchins Legal Inc. on the subject of Canada’s December 2013 submission to the UNCLOS.
These reports have already made an impact here and at the United Nations. Last spring, I had the privilege of hosting an Inuit elders Conference on the subject of Arctic Sovereignty (February 2013) and a combined Inuit youth and elders Conference on Arctic Sovereignty (April 2013). Then in May of last year, Dr. Dalee Sambo Dorough presented our concerns to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Forum accepted our concerns and adopted them into their final report (September 2013). We know this is just the beginning as we have also shared our concerns with the Chairperson of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Chief Wilton Littlechild and look forward to further initiatives on this file.
I want to thank my colleagues for standing with Canada’s Inuit as we remind the world of Indigenous rights. By asserting Inuit historic use of Arctic land and sea ice and water we are strengthening Canada’s claim to the regions beyond the 200 mile limit and reasserting Inuit rights within the region.
As Canada’s only Inuk Senator, I will use my position to strengthen Canadian knowledge of the Inuit and the challenges faced by my people.
Nakurmiik (thank you)
Senator Charlie Watt
Click here to read Part Two
Posted by 4 February 2014 by Senator Mobina Jaffer
Today I want to take a moment to recognize the 1.1 million Syrian refugee children scattered in camps around the Middle East. The Syrian war has been devastating for children, both physically and psychologically.
I would like to take a moment to share the story of one of those million refugee children with you. Moussa is 15 years old and currently lives in a refugee camp in Jordan. This is what he told Save the Children.
I was captured by the police and put in prison for 22 days. I was tortured and I saw children dying. I’ve got scars on my feet, chest and back. There were hundreds of us in prison – I was in a big cell with the other children. The youngest ones were nine or ten, they had been captured. I was beaten up every day, and they used electricity too.
In prison, when someone died, they kept hitting the body. There were dead bodies in my cell too – they’d been there for a long time and they stank. They were decomposing – there were maggots. Eventually, they threw me out. They carried me out on a blanket. I couldn’t move.
A passerby stopped and looked at my Id. He took me to my village, where my family found me and took me to hospital. I still have back pains.
I came here with my twin brother. He’s now in hospital being cared for by our older brother. He got second-degree burns after our house was attacked. There were tanks and shelling. One of my brothers was killed – shot in the head. At that time, I was in prison. That was five months ago. They ransacked houses and shops, killed small children. They even targeted schools, hospitals and mosques.
I’ve lost my father, but my mother is here in Jordan. She ran away from the camp because she had health issues. She has heart problems and the dust in the camp was making it difficult for her to breathe. I wish I could see her. I haven’t spoken to her for 20 days.
I want people to know what’s happening in Syria.
I have one friend in the camp. I come to the child-friendly spaces every now and then, but I don’t play. I used to be more sociable, but now I’m not doing anything at all. I’m depressed. I don’t want to socialise. I don’t feel secure in my sleep.
No words can adequately describe how devastating it is to hear about a child subjected to torture. I shudder imagine the effects of the physical and psychological trauma that Moussa has endured.
We must all ask our selves, how will we heal those wounds?
If the world is to make any resolutions for 2014 it should be to end the conflict in Syria and give adequate aid to the Syrian refugees. Each of us must make a commitment to work to return the innocence to Syrian children. We must do this for the sake of an entire generation of Syrian children who will carry the scars of this war for the rest of their lives.
Posted by 29 January 2014 by Senator James Cowan
Colleagues, today the Senate enters a new era. This morning, Mr. Trudeau announced to Canadians that beginning immediately, only elected members of the House of Commons, or “the other place” as we call it here, will serve as members of the Liberal caucus. Those of us who are members of the Liberal Party of Canada who sit in this Chamber are now officially independent of the national Liberal caucus.
As we here all know, the Senate has been facing one of the greatest crises of public confidence in its 150-year history. One of the strongest criticisms has been that senators are not in fact independent and therefore not able to exercise the sober second thought that Canadians expect and deserve. The perception has been that senators are unduly influenced by our respective caucus colleagues in the other place.
That has not been my experience. I can honestly say that in my experience, my colleagues in the House of Commons have not dictated to those of us on this side how we should vote on particular measures.
The decision today by Mr. Trudeau decisively removes any shadow of this perception.
A widely-held view of the Senate is that it has become too partisan.
With his action today, Mr. Trudeau has swept away all grounds for that criticism – again, at least for this side.
This is a historic day for the Senate, colleagues. We are entering uncharted waters – but while I will not pretend that we knew this was coming, my colleagues and I are excited and invigorated by its possibilities.
Mr. Trudeau has challenged Prime Minister Harper to join him in this historic reform and renewal of the Senate. We will have to wait and see; I know that there are a number of senators on both sides of this Chamber who have supported this approach for some time as the way for the Senate to best fulfil its role and serve Canadians.
I am proud to tell you that when we met this morning, my colleagues voted to confirm our leadership team. Accordingly, I continue to serve as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. Senator Fraser was similarly elected to serve as Deputy Leader, Senator Munson as our caucus Whip and Senator Hubley as Deputy Whip. As well, Senator Mitchell will continue as Chair of our caucus.
I am a proud member of the Liberal Party of Canada, and I am proud of our leader, Mr. Trudeau. This was not an easy decision for him – but it is the right decision for the Senate and most especially for Canadians whom we serve. Mr. Trudeau has liberated those of us who sit on this side of the Chamber from the perception of many Canadians that we are controlled in our actions by the Leader of our Party, or by its members in the other place.
As I have repeated in every session since I first became Leader of the Opposition here, we will do our best to fulfil our constitutional role – as members of an active, thoughtful, dedicated Opposition, exercising our mandated role of sober second thought. We will carefully scrutinize the Government’s legislative program and will propose legislative measures of our own. Where we find fault with legislation, we will propose amendments to improve it. Where we find favour with the Government’s proposals, we will support them. Always, our guide will be the public good.
As we approach the 150th anniversary as a country, I believe this change will allow the Senate to better realize the potential envisaged by the Fathers of Confederation – a truly independent Chamber of sober second thought.
Posted by 18 November 2013 by Senator Grant Mitchell
The Senate debate over the past several weeks was one of the most demanding, emotionally wearing, frustrating and best debates that I have witnessed in my time in the Senate. There have been many excellent debates in that time, serious and important debates. (And that is one of the reasons why we have to televise the proceedings of the Senate Chamber.)
This one was a special debate because the stakes were so high, the issues so complex and all of them were argued extremely well by various Senators:
1. There is the basic issue of everyone's frustration and anger with Senators who would have made inappropriate claims, and even after paying them back had received no apparent additional punishment. I received much input on people's anger about that and certainly share it. Clearly, that side of the issue had to be dealt with.
2. But at the same time, and I received much input on this too, whatever punishment was given these Senators had to be done properly. The question of rule of law and due process of the law loomed large in this debate.
3. And, all of this had to be considered in the human context. The very lives of the three Senators in question—Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin—were literally in our hands. Suspension without pay may well mean almost no chance of earning a livelihood.
No Senators were opposed to punishment. The government Leader in the Senate, the Leader of the Conservative Senators, moved the motion to suspend all three without pay until the next election or prorogation for some other reason. At the time that the Senators had been forced to pay back the amounts inappropriately claimed, the Liberal Leader in the Senate made it very clear that it was not enough that each of the three simply pay back the amounts without there being some form of actual punishment or sanction against them. So, punishment, yes or no, was not the issue.
However, all of the Liberal Senators, except one, and several Conservative Senators throughout the ensuing debate and votes made it clear that while they were in favour of punishing the three, there were serious questions about how that should be done. I was in this group. I was very concerned about a number of issues:
1. The basis for the motion to suspend them without pay or benefits was that in each case an external audit found questions about their claims. It was on the basis of these findings that they were made to reimburse the amount they claimed. However, the suspensions being proposed in the motion constituted a new level of severity of punishment, some would argue on the level of criminal severity. Surely, there would have to be a higher bar for the review and verification of the information than auditors' reports where the accused never had the chance to cross-examine the auditors or question their accusers with the aid of counsel.
2. The Senate is a judicial process. The argument was made by one Liberal Senator with strong legal and constitutional experience that once the Senate rendered a "verdict" therefore, subsequent criminal action might be ruled "double jeopardy" and disallowed by the courts. At least two of the three are currently under RCMP investigation. There is much precedent in other legislative jurisdictions that legislative action like the Senate suspense motion and debate were put on hold whenever criminal investigations were underway. Why take the risk that the Senate proceeding would rule out criminal action later when we could wait for that to finish and then act without that risk and with more information if need be?
3. Many argued that if this were the private sector, there would be no question but that they would be fired. However, in the private sector, the fired employee has recourse to the courts to sue for wrongful dismissal. There is no appeal to what the Senate decides in a case like this. Moreover, at least one of the Senators in question argued that they were told by their leadership that they were doing nothing wrong. It is doubtful that the employee in the private sector would be fired if they had been told by their boss that they were doing nothing wrong.
4. How is it that three Senators who had been accused of three different infractions should all receive the same penalty? While there were some similarities in their cases, the cases are actually substantially different. They involved vastly different sums of money. Two were accused of not living in the provinces they represent while one was not. Two were accused of living in Ottawa and claiming for housing allowance while there but the third was not. One was accused of living in Toronto and not in the province which she represented but did not live in Ottawa.
In any event, the Liberal Leader in the Senate, Senator Cowan, moved an amendment that we refer these questions to the Senate Rules Committee. There is precedent for this kind of referral in other legislatures around the world and in fact in our own Senate.
For me, that was the reasonable, fair and high road solution to a quagmire of problems. It is the very essence and soul of the Senate to protect rights. If we did not do that correctly, judgement of us would not be based upon the behaviour of individual Senators, but on the basis of the action of the Senate itself. In the latter, the stakes were even much higher.
Posted by 8 November 2013 by Senator Mobina Jaffer
After the encounter with the young girl in the street in Kolkata, I was shaken. I did not want to keep going. But the next day I was scheduled to meet face-to-face with a group of trafficked teenagers and so on I went.
When I met with the girls, it was as if I was meeting with young girls anywhere in the world. We all sat down on the floor in a circle and they would ask me questions and I in turn would ask them questions. Their questions were like questions my own daughter has asked me… about clothes, food, Bollywood movies and popular songs. I nearly forgot what these girls had been through, what they had experienced.
The reality of these girls though, is that they have been brutalized by traffickers. In many cases, they have been snatched from their family and village, and forcibly placed in a brothel. At the brothel, their spirits were broken by terrible beatings and brutal rapes, often by the Trafficker himself, and then forcibly having to submit to 12 to 20 rapes a day.
I have for over twenty years worked on issues of trafficking… yet these girls’ experiences shocked me like I was learning about it for the first time. Observing their young faces, all I wanted to say was that I was sorry that I did not do more to protect you… but I did not say it, because I did not want the happy banter between us to disappear.
I think one of the ways to say sorry to these girls and help them to rehabilitate is to make sure that the traffickers are held accountable for their actions, as there are many roadblocks in their way to obtaining justice.
In my next blog, I will speak about the legal obstacles these young women face when they attempt to obtain closure from the court system.
Posted by 23 October 2013 by Senator Mobina Jaffer
During the orientation session, I was given an introduction to the problem of trafficking in India.
I learned that India's population is 1.27 billion. The population of West Bengal, India is 91 million. Kolkata, India has a population of 15 million.
Most of the children trafficked in Kolkata and West Bengal are from within India but there are also some from Nepal. The border between Nepal and India is very porous and therefore easy to transport people within these two countries.
What should the model look like from injustice to justice?
What does the current justice system look like in Kolkata?
In Kolkata, the justice system cannot properly function because there are too many challenges facing the justice system especially around resources.
International Justice Mission (IJM) helps to fix these problems. They identify brothels in Kolkata where girls and women have been trafficked for sexual exploitation. Their investigators work with police and local authorities to rescue the girls and ensure that the traffickers are held to account for breaking Indian anti-trafficking laws. They also provide aftercare for the girls. I was really impressed by their protectiveness of the underage girls and how the focus was entirely on the victim. Her welfare was paramount, and they would work with her no matter how long it took for her to recover. Their work is invaluable in making sure there is hope for those who are sexually trafficked.
In truth though, the public system is broken. There is no doubt that the local authorities and the Indian government are making an effort to stop the trafficking, but this problem cannot solely rest on the shoulders of local or Indian government, or on the work of non-profits like IJM. It is a worldwide problem and therefore all governments need to be involved. That is why I believe I need to be involved as a law maker from Canada. I need to do my share in raising awareness of trafficking of children and being a force in changing Canadian laws so that we can help those abroad.
After the orientation session, we went to the red light district. We were prepared by IJM on issues of security and what to expect when we went to the red light district. I listened carefully to the instructions and thought I was ready for the visit.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.
When we drove through one red light district I was shocked by the number of girls and women I saw. There were women of all ages in all kind of dress.
I locked eyes with a woman who looked my age (but I am sure she was much younger and her job had made her look my age.) We stared into each other's eyes. I am sure my eyes were asking WHY, at her age, she was standing in line to be traded by the pimps. (There were pimps all around us, sitting outside with the girls whose services they were selling.) The woman of my age stared back at me with an angry glare, and I did not understand why she was mad at me.
It seemed like ages that we stared at each other. The look in her eyes made me fearful that there would be an incident, so I turned my gaze and stared in disbelief at the hundreds, if not thousands, of women standing in line waiting for johns.
As we were ending our drive into the district I saw a very young Nepali girl. To me, she looked as if she was twelve. Her eyes conveyed the absolute betrayal she felt, and before I could do anything, she fled. I just saw her for a fleeting second.
Instead of driving, we walked through the second red light district. During the tour, I was in a daze. All I could see was women around me and by this time I just wanted to get out. I felt like I was suffocating. When we returned to the hotel, I returned to my room and just sat in bed staring at the wall. I felt dirty, overwhelmed and dejected.
It occurred to me that the woman of my age was staring at me angrily to demand who was I to judge her.
And in truth, I had been judging her. I felt a deep regret for doing so. I do not walk in her shoes, and I do not face her challenges nor do I have her concerns. I have made peace in my mind's eye with her.
The young Nepali girl is another thing. For just a fleeting second I caught her look of betrayal. That, I have not been able to wipe out of my mind.
She and 2 million other children have been betrayed by us politicians. We could stop the children from being trafficked, and yet we have done nothing. As a group, we need the will to take action.
I will be carrying this girl's image with me and I know it will propel me to create the will and the momentum so that my fellow politicians and I can stop the trafficking of 2 million children.
In my next blog I will cover my experience in the court system and the courts challenges to deal with the issues of trafficking with so few financial resources.
Posted by 18 October 2013 by Senator Mobina Jaffer
A few months ago, I was asked by International Justice Mission Canada to consider working with them on issues of teenage sexual trafficking in Kolkata, India.
International Justice Mission Canada, in partnership with the U.S.-based International Justice Mission (IJM), is a human rights organization that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. More specifically, IJM focuses on forced labour slavery, illegal property seizure, sexual violence, sex trafficking, illegal detention, and citizenship documentation. IJM does great work. Their team of lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to ensure that victims are rescued immediately, that perpetrators are persecuted, that victims have access to support and resources following a rescue, and that the public justice systems (police, courts, and laws) effectively protect the poor.
It seemed like a great idea in June when I said I would accompany IJM to Kolkata. Then, just as I was leaving Vancouver, I was blessed with a granddaughter Almeera. I no longer wanted to go. I was to be one of a group of Parliamentarians that were travelling to Kolkata, surely they would not miss one Senator? However, the rest of the group was unable to make it. It was thanks to my husband and children, who encouraged me to travel to Kolkata, that I observed the fate of these teenage girls. It will be my responsibility to raise awareness about international sexual trafficking in Parliament upon my return.
The trip to Kolkata from Vancouver was very long and backbreaking. But from the minute that I arrived, I knew that I had made the right decision. I know as a public policy person I will learn a lot that I can utilize in my work back in Canada.
I am travelling with two amazing people who work 24/7 to promote the purpose of IJM, Jamie McIntosh and Petra Bosma. Jamie McIntosh is the founder and executive director of IJM Canada. More than a decade ago, Jamie became acutely aware that the global poor lived outside the protection of the law. He launched IJM’s Canadian office, convinced that Canadians could join in the fight against violent oppression. Petra Bosma is IJM Canada’s public affairs manager and coordinates the organization’s communications initiatives. She captures and writes stories that describe the work of IJM Canada. These two individuals have been instrumental in helping me to understand the trafficking situation in Kolkata.
I am going to try and share my experience with my fellow Parliamentarians and with you, so please watch for my upcoming blogs.
This blog is an introduction to my trip; in the next one, I will share with you the orientation by International Justice Mission and my experience in red light districts. My third blog will be on the Court systems and trafficking, and the following one will be on victim recovery and aftercare. Lastly, I will share with you from time to time blogs on trafficking.
I hope that you will follow my blog series and learn more about the fate of these girls.