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Meawasige said indigenous women are “over represented in human trafficking.” As for the traffickers, they are both organized and incidental. “Traffickers are anybody from 16-years old and up, could be going to high school… There’s a process called ‘grooming’. Some of these guys are really nice looking, they come on to these young girls, and within three days they’ve got them working.” 

Is it an issue in West Nipissing? “Oh yes!” she said. “That’s what people in my workshop were saying last night; they are quite well aware that it’s going on in the (…) community, and the problem is not getting smaller, it’s getting bigger.”

Meawasige related the particular vulnerability of indigenous youth, due to the lasting effects of colonization. “With my people, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission said we are the most hated people in Canada and they gave specific reasons why and when it began. There’s multi-generational trauma and other factors, other vulnerabilities — the Catholic CAS and the 60’s Scoop, the Indian residential schools — that was intended to break our families. …Racial discrimination is built right into the system, into the justice system, education, all those systems and it doesn’t deal kindly with the aboriginal people of this country. No, things haven’t changed.”

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Nipissing not spared in growing scourge of human trafficking

by Isabel Mosseler

January is Human Trafficking Awareness month, and if people think this is an issue that does not affect West Nipissing, sadly they are mistaken. That was made clear during an evening with Isabel Meawasige, hosted at N’Bissing Secondary School on January 16, when she spoke about the reality of human trafficking in Northeastern Ontario. Meawasige is well known as part of the activist group International Grandmothers. “I’ve been involved in this for awhile now,” she said. “I got some information when I was at a women’s conference in India.” She said her target audience is youth, but her actual audience on Tuesday ended up being older people. 

Human trafficking is a worldwide issue, with an estimated 30 million slaves. Of those, it’s estimated 1.2 million children are exploited in the global sex trade, with 80% of victims being girls. In Canada, the RCMP estimated in 2010 there were 600-800 persons being trafficked, primarily for sexual purposes, and an additional 1,500 to 2,200 persons trafficked through Canada to the United States. The domestic human slavery in Canada is predominantly seen with young Aboriginal or marginalized girls coerced into prostitution at an average age of 12 years old.