With the 2018 Most Wanted list, Operation Reverse Spotlight shone a spotlight on those who do more harm than good in their attempts to address human trafficking. Police officers, politicians, and feminist organizations all made the list.
The Police Officer who...
While catfishing in an anti-trafficking raid, asked if the migrant sex worker had “big tits.”
Anti-trafficking raids carried out against sex workers are often based on uninformed, stereotypical assumptions about sex work.
Characteristic of these raids is voyeurism, disrespectful language and invasive questions that have little to do with human trafficking but is more about satisfying officers’ curiosity about the sex industry and the women who work in it.
The Politician who...
texted on his phone for the majority of a national-level anti-trafficking committee meeting and didn’t hear a thing.
In December 2018, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights presented its “Moving Forward in the Fight Against Human Trafficking” report to the House of Commons. The Committee report and was based on “evidence received from a wide range of stakeholders” across Canada. SWAN was one of 55 stakeholders that submitted a formal written brief for the Committee’s review.
For sex worker rights groups, the report is a problematic, re-purposed mess of anti-sex work, anti-trafficking rhetoric. It conflates sex work with trafficking and equates non-evidence based hyperbole with ‘fact’. Even the image chosen for the report’s cover is sensationalized standard copy that is favored and widely used among anti-sex work proponents and evangelicals alike.
Politicians must be able to listen to critical perspectives about human trafficking, which may be different from what they think they know.
The Police Agency that...
replaced SWAN with a Police Officer who, in turn, referred a migrant sex worker to immigration services that do not exist.
Try as they might, police officers are not outreach workers. Police officers cannot effectively provide social services, let alone specialized supports for im/migrant communities. At the bottom of the Vancouver Police Department’s Victim Services page, sex worker and im/migrant serving organizations are noticeably absent from the “many different Vancouver community agencies” the Vancouver Police Department lists as being in partnership with to provide “specialized” service to victims.
The exclusion is an example of how police exclude community agencies whose values and principles may not always be in alignment with those of law enforcement.
The Police who...
or the Police Agency that…
no longer participates in Operation Northern Spotlight because it’s bad PR, but still carries out anti-trafficking raids.
The epitome of enacting and enabling violence under the disingenuous guise of “protecting and helping,” Operation Northern Spotlight increases distrust of police and deters sex workers from reporting violence.
Public Safety Canada earns a special acknowledgment for being complicit in keeping Canadian police agencies generously funded to continue catfishing sex workers through ‘rescue’ enforcement actions.
The Police Officer who...
strong-armed a migrant sex worker into identifying as a victim during an anti-trafficking raid. When she didn’t agree, he reported her to the Canada Border Services Agency. She was arrested and deported.
Deportation is a very real threat at any time for sex workers living with precarious or uncertain immigration status. This results in obvious misgivings about any interaction whatsoever with police or any authoritative agency. When anti-trafficking, forced ‘rescue’ raids happen, migrant sex workers are left with only two choices: identify as a ‘victim’, or identify as a ‘criminal’ in violation of immigration law and face arrest, detention and deportation.
Vancouver Police Department’s Guidelines on Police Requests Related to Immigration Status is intentionally vague about the agency’s working relationship with the Canada Border Services Agency. The Guidelines continue to be opposed by affected communities; it creates a false sense of security in that it does not give migrants any meaningful protections from arrest, detention, and deportation.
The Feminist Organization that...
was unable to reflect on its privilege and understand its role in furthering the harms of perpetuating misinformation about human trafficking.
Anti-trafficking campaigns often hide moral, economic and/or political agendas. A moral agenda underlying many anti-trafficking campaigns is the prohibition and/or criminalization of the sex industry via the Swedish Model. Under the guise of anti-trafficking campaigns, radical feminist groups often collaborate with SWERFs, TERFs, anti-SOGI proponents, evangelicals and/or conservatives to prohibit sex work.
These feminist organizations are complicit in enacting and enabling violence against sex workers. Feminism must include the fight for sex workers’ rights. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t feminism.