Forced Labour Indicators Video Transcript

Benjamin Perrin, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia:

With respect to forced labour trafficking, a number of similar factors to what you see with sex trafficking involving foreigners. The first is the idea of debt bondage where there’s a debt that’s of an imposed or changing amount, that is one. The nature of work is not was as expected.

One of the cases of alleged forced labour trafficking in Toronto was called the Elmvale 11. Elmvale is a small farming community outside of Barrie, Ontario. This is a case involving a group of Filipino men who came to Canada, they believed, to work on one of the large ships that was supposed to be an ice breaker, they were told. Big valuable important project, they get there and on arrival were told there’s no ice breaker project. They’re put in a basement and wait there for days, don’t know what’s going on, and are told now they are going to work at this farm, clean the farm, and do all of this menial work. These were qualified people to do other jobs. That’s an example of a deception that was used.

That in itself is of concern because it shows that they were not freely choosing to come to Canada, now, they’re under the control of someone and, potentially. If, they don’t have control over their earnings or wages are withheld. During our research on Invisible Chains, we actually got some copies of some contracts that are used by certain employers in Canada that the Canada Revenue Agency reviewed the contracts. One of the officers who reviewed them said the clauses smacked of slavery. They said that the person was not entitled to any wages earned until the end of their contract. Imagine if our jobs were like that, you know, I don’t get to earn a dime until the end of a whole year of working as a law professor. How would I pay for anything, right? Now, obviously, I’m dependent on someone. And then, of course, the second clause in some of these contracts would be, less disbursements. So they will take off everything they can possibly imagine, okay? The meals that the person eats, the place where they sleep even if it’s a dirty floor like in the Elmvale 11 case. That would be billed back to the person, and then again it is designed to make the person think that they are getting out of the situation but in reality they won’t.

Additionally, threats are common, threats of deportation, and most of the people involved in forced labour trafficking in Canada have evaded a criminal prosecution because they have not physically harmed the worker. And they know that, they know if they cross the line, they’ll be in serious trouble and that’s an escalation of their crime and it’s easier to prove offenses against them. Far easier is to threaten deportation, saying, look your Visa says that you are going to work here, now we know that’s not true, you’re doing this. All I need to do is call the CBSA, the Canadian Boarder Services Agency, and you going to be gone. And for some people who are holding out hope that they are going to get this money at the end of the year, that’s enough to keep them in this control but they’re in need of assistance. Again, not aware of where their community is or able to change employers at all, or leave the situation. Afraid to talk, or the employer prohibits access to the employee, that’s another one.

If they live and work in the same place, often in substandard conditions, that turns out to be a major indicator. Why? Because we have to remember forced labour traffickers, their goal is to extract the maximum possible profit from these men and women who are engaged in forced labour situations. So the forced labour cases we’ve heard about from police include everything in Canada from people working in restaurants, in the community that many of us would go to, to on the farm, in agriculture, to live-in care givers, we had multiple cases of people in the federal live-in care giver program, to people who have come to Canada to work as babysitters.

And in some of these cases, it’s important to realize that lines of exportation blur. There is a case that we have documented involving an under-aged girl, sixteen year old, from a Caribbean country called St. Vincent and the Grenadines, she came to Canada thinking to be a babysitter. Turns out that the employer of her, her exploiter, it’s a family. It’s not just one man, it was a family, and by day we would say was a forced labour trafficking victim. Forced to do all these menial tasks throughout the house, long hours without pay. And by night, sexually abused by the husband, the father of this household. She is at once a victim of sex and forced labour trafficking.

And so, we often do see sexual abuse as well against forced labour victims not just women and girls but men as well have it threatened against them. So, these warning signs are definitely a lot more nuanced, I would say, than what we would begin with several years ago in talking about human trafficking. And realizing that many traffickers are more sophisticated now and they realize, for example, withholding identify documents actually is now a separate crime. And it’s an indicator police use to determine methods of control, so they may actually let the victim keep their identification. So, we’re always in a constant race to try to better understand how traffickers are adapting, but this is at least the current state of our research on this problem.