Provide Culturally Competent Services to Trafficked Persons

It is important to deliver culturally competent services that consider how people of a different culture react to their experiences and to receiving support. This applies for both internationally and domestically trafficked persons.

As we develop our work guided by principles of respect and defense of human rights, we aim to develop our services and programs in a cultural competent manner. Cultural competency involves an individual and professional’s ability to treat every person with dignity, respect, and fairness.  It implies that organizations set in place a set of practices, policies, and behaviours that are congruent with principles of equity, fairness, and inclusion of cultural differences and a commitment to address social inequities among cultural groups.

– Pilar Riano, Associate Professor with the Liu Institute for Global Studies at the University of British Columbia

Considerations when working with trafficked persons from different cultural backgrounds:

  • Honour your promises. In many cultures, verbal agreements carry more weight than written agreements.
  • Be aware that your professional designation may be unfamiliar or create tension for people from other cultures. Define your role clearly.
  • Ask the trafficked person how they wish to be supported. What are their expectations?
  • Do not provide a timeline and require the person meet it.
  • Do not impose or expect direct eye contact.
  • Do not feel you must answer or fill the silent periods during discussion. These silent periods can be longer than you are accustomed to, and may be needed for thought formulation.
  • Consider whether the person comes from a more collective or individualistic culture. It may be appropriate to involve the person’s family or community in their healing journey.

For more information on working specifically with Aboriginal people in Canada, please see the following information sheet: Working Effectively with Aboriginal People.

As a caseworker supporting Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal victims of crime, the most important things I’ve learned are to be willing to listen and to allow for time to build trust. We are tested many times by our clients and I know it is to see if we can be trusted. One woman who had been in the sex trade for many years told me it took her a year and a half to really believe we cared about her. It can be emotionally powerful to bear witness – to hear a person’s story and ‘walk a mile in another’s moccasins’.

– Freda Ens, Caseworker for Victims of Crime in British Columbia

For more information on cultural competency, the Government of Alberta has published a self-assessment guide “through which human service organizations can better understand cultural competency, reflect on their structures, policies and procedures, and plan and implement culturally competent practices.”


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