Together as a church, Canadian Anglicans are taking steps towards ending human trafficking across their nation. Last month, the Anglican Church of Canada organised a regional consultation in Pickering, Ontario at the Manresa Jesuit Centre. Individuals from across the region of Ontario listened to stories of survivors, discussed the cycle that traps victims, and responded with priorities and action. The consultation involved panel discussions and presentations, with speakers including government representatives, indigenous leaders, Anglican Communion partners, and professions working to end human trafficking.
In the words of one participant, “We have been in the presence of evil and trauma – It has confirmed my belief that trauma is healed through relationship. Think about the image of the Trinity. Together in solidarity – together we can confront and heal it.”
Among the speakers and co-facilitator of the event was Rachel Carnegie, Co-Executive Director of the Anglican Alliance. Rachel shared her insight on responding to human trafficking from the Alliance’s work around the Communion. She explained the Alliance’s holistic response framework, which is based on the idea that each context is different and any response must be guided by local churches. She referred to this framework as the Seven Ps towards ending human trafficking: Prevention, Protection, Prosecution, Policy, Partnership, Participation, and Prayer.
“It is hugely encouraging to see how Canada is joining other provinces around the Communion in committing to tackle the scourge of human trafficking,” she said. “The stories we have heard from survivors have been truly heart breaking and disturbing, and yet the meeting was also informed by light and hope in the survivors’ courage and vision and also in the recognition that together, learning, praying and acting as a church and with others, we can help to end this crime against humanity.”
Experts informed participants on the nature of human trafficking, to better equip them to respond. They shared the stages that lead to exploitation and the groups that are most often targeted: women and girls, homeless and marginalised youth, young people who struggle with low self esteem, bullying, addiction, or mental health issues. Of these groups, indigenous women and girls are particularly at risk.
Trafficking from indigenous communities was a key focus of the event and leaders played a critical role in the consultation. Among them was Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum of the Nichnawbe Aski Nation. She shared a presentation on the relationship between human trafficking and missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, as well as indigenous boys and men.
Ultimately, the consultation responded with the following principles and priorities: raise awareness, be guided by survivors, building the local church as a safe space, and outreach to vulnerable groups. They also recognised that Indigenous communities must lead and guide any response in their own context.
Ryan Weston, co-chair of the Human Trafficking Reference Group shared, “If we are going to be effective in [working to eliminate human trafficking], it needs to be engaged in at every level of the church. So we want the grassroots parish folks to be aware and engaged and praying and taking action as much as folks that are closely affiliated with national initiatives.”
This consultation is the first of four regional consultations, one for each internal province of the Anglican Church of Canada. The need for these consultations grew out of a discussion at the church’s general synod. Archdeacon Michael Thompson, Provincial Secretary for the Anglican Church of Canada, shared his reflections on the recent event. “The Primate will be grateful to know that this issue is stirring the heart of the Church. If anyone is in Christ – there is a new creation. Because you have been here there is a new creation.”