By Dierdre Pike
“Human trafficking and slavery are evil, violent crimes against God, creation and humanity. They take root and grow where the commodification of people and the Earth is encouraged and rewarded, where ‘getting something for free is admired’, and where systems of oppression — colonization, imperialism, racism, patriarchy — create and perpetuate false realities, truths, orders, and values.”
With those powerful words spoken by the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, we had begun the first of three meetings of a national reference group on human trafficking and modern slavery in Canada. When I received the Primate’s invitation through Dr. Ryan Weston, the lead animator, public witness for social and ecological justice, to join this group of people from coast to coast to coast, (over Zoom, of course!) I knew I better do some homework.
After a year a half in my role in justice and outreach, I had been digging deep into a few different issues, but had taken no action to follow up on the last official diocesan engagement on human trafficking in 2018. Back then, Canon Michael Mondloch and three others from Niagara, had joined representatives from across the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario, for three days of prayer and planning called, “Engage Freedom! Anglicans Against Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Workshops.”
Geographically, Niagara is impacted by this horrid reality in a few ways. The presence of the, “highways to hell,” or the 400 highways corridor, runs through or near many communities in the diocese and is the primary route for moving human beings from town to town against their will in Ontario. It has been reported that 66 percent of people trafficked in Canada are brought to Ontario going through the Golden Horseshoe.
The Welland Canal has made Port Colborne an area of concern for increased trafficking of women and girls, particularly Indigenous females. The YWCA in the Niagara Region has assisted hundreds of victims of human trafficking in the area. They have proposed a shelter of just 6 beds to help women and their children escape.
For these reasons and more, I knew it was time to make this issue a bigger priority on my docket and that of this diocese. Archbishop Anne Germond, metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario, was also in the reference group. We connected over this one simple statement by the representative from Newfoundland.
“My work in this area has all started with a cup of tea.”
After a virtual tea with the Archbishop over the old-fashioned phone one evening, I knew it was time to invite the people of this diocese to have a cup of tea so we could talk about this scourge on humanity.
General Synod laid the groundwork for this effort with a 2019 resolution condemning the ongoing practices of human trafficking and modern slavery and committing to work for their elimination in Canada and globally.
The resolution also urges the Anglican Church of Canada to:
constructively engage all levels of government on relevant policy areas to combat human trafficking, slavery and enforced migration;
develop, promote and disseminate liturgical, theological and educational materials related to combatting human trafficking, slavery and enforced migration;
continue building relationships with local and regional networks combatting human trafficking, slavery and exploitation; and
maintain and support a national network of Canadian Anglicans engaged in this work and to liaise with relevant ecumenical, interfaith and Communion bodies.
We are deepening our dialogue on this issue in the Diocese of Niagara starting with tea in 2021. If you want to join us, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 905-526-1317, ext. 470. Let’s have a tea and talk!