Human trafficking in London Ontario was in the news this past week. An article was published in several newspapers about it, as well as it was the topic of several radio shows and TV News segment that focused on London, Ontario. It was not the news story that London would like to be associated with. But it shines a light on a growing problem in the area that needs attention by people sharing information to shine light on the issue. According to the article and the police human trafficking is ‘huge business here in London’. Human Trafficking is considered the world’s fastest growing crime. This article sparked my attention especially since I released a Christian feature film called Daughter of the King in August of 2014 about the topic of human trafficking and the power of God’s love and Grace. I wrote and directed the film which was shot mostly in London and surrounding area of South-western Ontario. The film went on to win 32 Awards, have 16 Official Selections, 3 Nominations and an Official Finalist at film festivals all around the world.
Daughter of the King follows Ashley Miller as she tries to rebuild herself and return to a normal life after a previous drug filled episode in her life that landed her in prison. An outstanding debt gets Ashley sucked back into the underworld that is ruled by Haydar, a ruthless man that forces her into debt slavery until she pays her debt off. She becomes a human trafficking victim as Haydar considers her, his property until the debt is fully paid. Ashley is forced to be a prostitute and deal drugs hoping to regain her freedom. The abuse that comes at her from all sides and in all forms crushes her to the ground making her believe she’s worthless.
The topic of human trafficking has been the story line for a few production companies of late. Including Co-Producers of GOD’S NOT DEAD. The created CAGED NO MORE which is a feature film that will raise awareness of human trafficking, aid in connecting anti-trafficking organizations, equip parents, schools and churches to aid in trafficking prevention. The cast features; Kevin Sorbo, Emmy-Award winner Loretta Devine, Alan Powell, and Cassidy Gifford with appearances by Kathie Lee Gifford, Gov. Bobby Jindal and Natalie Grant.
I feel these story lines about of human trafficking and the human rights violations are important to shine the light on what is done to people that are trafficked, specifically women and children. These issues need to be brought out of the shadows and darkness and brought to light in the public so more people are aware of what goes on. “Haydar in the film strips Ashley of all her rights and freedoms and reduces her to a piece of property that he can do with as he sees fit. That is something no person should have to endure and is the upmost Human rights violation on so many levels. These are the things that society needs to be educated about to help stop it from happening to people. But are people ears open to it. Are people listening to the cries for help from the weakest amongst us.
As I was preparing for the film in the year prior I listen to tons of people that told me that the issue of human trafficking was not a London Ontario Issue that, a darkness like that existed in Toronto Canada or some other foreign country across the ocean. They were positive that it did not exist in London Ontario then and would not be an issue that London, Ontario Canada would face.
On the eve of the first rehearsal for the film the first ever Human Trafficking Charges were laid in London, Ontario and since then the numbers and incidents have only increased till this present time when it has been declared that it is “Big Business” in London. ‘I never would have expected the scope of what I have seen here,’ Police Detective Michael Hay, the head of the anti-human trafficking section. All of this is coming out of a two-day training program that teaches police officers, justice officials and community partners how to better support victims of human trafficking and those at risk begins Monday in London.
But more than the police need to become aware of it. The problem is many do not know what Human Trafficking is or if they do they wish to turn a blind eye to it. Here is where the shining the light comes into play. We must each as people in the world share and expose the darkness around us that is hurting people. People that could be someone close to us.
To understand human trafficking you have to understand that Slavery was abolished over 150 years ago. And yet there are more people in Slavery today than any time in the history of the world. The majority of those slaves are from Human Trafficking in some form. “Human trafficking is extremely common. Seventy-one per cent of human trafficking is domestic sex trade trafficking. These are women and girls who are born and bred here, being forced into the sex trade,” Hay said on CBC’s London Morning.
“The statistics are that 50 per cent of victims are between 18 and 24, and 25 per cent are under 18. In the past three months, my team and I have come across a 14-year-old and two 16-year-olds,” said Hay. “I’ve been blown away by what I have been finding. I never would have expected the scope of what I have seen here.” London police launched its human trafficking unit in January. When officers perform “John stings” to catch men buying sex from trafficked women, they get 50 to 70 people in an hour trying to arrange dates.
“It’s huge business here in London,” Hay said. “There are women who have been victimized for a weekend, and others who live like this for months, for years.” London is a prime spot for human sex trafficking because it’s on the Highway 401 corridor. Women and girls are taken from hotel room to hotel room on the highway, often without knowing what city they’re in, and forced to have sex.
During filming of Daughter of the King we believe we witnessed this in action. But were unclear at the time. But there was a few times where what we were filming dealing with prostitution and sex trafficking, very closely reflected real life around us. Early on a man stopped in the middle of a side street in his jeep to “take in the view” of cast members dressed as prostitutes on the private property we were shooting on next to the street. He even asked “what’s the price to be with your hookers”. While at a couple of motel’s filming myself as well as a few of the cast and crew witnessed on several occasions, real prostitutes working out of rooms near where we were shooting. One in fact had three men in an hour. Man #2 was just leaving and got into one cab when Man #3 was getting dropped off by another cab. The two men actually passed each other, while the prostitute waited at the door until Man #3 entered.
We also saw what could have been actually human trafficking. As a man (likely a pimp) was verbally abusive to a female. He took her into the room and a couple minutes later came out dragging her behind him roughly into a waiting vehicle and drove away. A man came over and told us for our own good we should just pretend we saw nothing and mind our own business. These victims can’t give consent. They’re being, every day, repeatedly sexually assaulted.
The experience of making the film changed me and it has called me to action to fight for those that have no one to fight for them. I have worked with LAHT (London Anti-Human Trafficking Association) out of London and helped with their PR and Media in the past. Including creating a promotional Video dealing with what they do in London to help bring awareness about Human Trafficking. I feel the time has come for people to shine the light into the darkness and to look beneath the surface and stand up, open our eyes up and rise up to fight this issue that is running ramped around the world. My goal is to be part of the generation that makes a difference. Human trafficking and exploitation are very real issues in the world that everyone needs to pay attention to. We need to see that the true heart of human trafficking and Sexual exploitation is the demand for it driven by men. At the heart of the issue is a male population that is fuelling an industry that exploits women. The key thing about Sex trafficking is supply and demand. Without the demand the supply would dry up. The male population is the root of the issue. The world needs to change their perspective and men need to speak up for women. Any person that has any sense of justice for the poor or justice for the marginal needs to stand up and speak out on the issue of Human Trafficking.
Information about Daughter of the King can be found at:
DOTK Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/DaughteroftheKingMovie/