Sexual Assault Centres Addressing Human Trafficking in Ontario

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By the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres

The sexual exploitation of persons through human trafficking is a crime that disproportionately affects women and girls. Marginalized and exploited populations of women – for example, youth, Aboriginal women and girls, and women with limited or no status in Canada – are most vulnerable to being targeted. Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan identifies that there is a “need for a more coordinated response to human trafficking”; further, a number of different sectors need to be involved “in order to assist victims with everything from safe housing to navigating immigration processes”.

We also recognized the importance of a collaborative approach to human trafficking. As sexual assault centres, we shared concerns on how to do collaborative work effectively in our own communities and across multiple sectors while maintaining a feminist anti-oppression and intersectional approach to the work.

Sexual Assault Centres in Ontario: Competencies in Addressing Human Trafficking

While all Ontario sexual assault centres support sexual violence survivors and share similarities in their programs and services, centres across the province are autonomous. Sexual Assault Centre staff and volunteers engaged in this work, however, all agree that sexual violence against women and children is power-based, gender-based, structurally supported and therefore political.

Violence includes the human trafficking of women. Particularly, sexual assault centres are interested in supporting women and girls who are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. A recent report from the U.N. crime-fighting office noted that 2.4 million people across the globe are victims of human trafficking at any one time, and 80 percent of them are being exploited sexually2.

In many ways, Sexual Assault Centres are well-positioned to address human trafficking in Ontario.

Sexual Assault Centres transferable competencies include the following:

  1. Centres are committed to respond to all survivors of sexual violence with whom they come into contact, including women experiencing sexual violence in the context of human trafficking.
  2. Centres have considerable and longstanding expertise in working with women surviving sexual violence from a trauma-informed, anti-oppression, intersectional framework.
  3. Centres understand that different women experience sexual violence differently. For example, a woman’s race, religion, socioeconomic status, age or sexual identity affects her level of risk for being targeted for acts of violence, as well as resources accessible to her in her healing from violence. This framework for support acknowledges that different women present different confidentiality, safety, shelter and access needs, and compels Sexual Assault Centres to respond to these needs.
  4. Feminist counselling approaches used at Sexual Assault centres include “the ability of workers to assert and reinforce boundaries in ways that do not exploit power differences between clients and staff…and the ability of workers to apply ongoing critical analyses of larger societal systems and institutions”¹.
  5. Centres have historically exercised the capacity, motivation and resourcefulness to support survivors of sexual violence who choose not to engage with the criminal justice system as a means of resolving their experience of violation. Sexual Assault Centre workers instead agree that mandatory reporting to police can promote overreliance on a current legal system which (1) does not effectively resolve most reported sexual assault cases, and (2) can alienate or outright prohibit access to support for marginalized populations of survivors², including survivors who are in conflict with the law. While it is important that sexual assault survivors have access to the legal system, women also need alternatives. This position can be very useful to survivors of human trafficking, who may elect not to engage with the criminal justice system, may face barriers, or may feel ambivalent about accessing the criminal justice system. Currently, many human trafficking initiatives in Ontario have a strong criminal justice focus; or prioritize the prosecution of traffickers ahead of support for trafficking survivors. In this, Sexual Assault Centres bring increased capacity to community work with survivors who choose not to report.
  6. Centres continue to exercise the capacity and motivation to advocate for women survivors individually (that is, on a case by case basis) and systemically.
  7. Centres have the capacity, motivation and expertise to challenge policy criteria (i.e. criteria for admission into a women’s shelter, to acquire Special Priority on housing listings, to apply for Ontario Works) meant to support women experiencing violence in their regions. Women who are trafficked often do not meet these criteria due to lack of documentation or identification. Motivated and experienced advocates, such as Sexual Assault centre staff, can support women in challenging outdated policy/criteria and achieving these supports.
  8. Centres agree that “survivors are at the centre of the work”3, and that this framework for supporting survivors of violence can be extended to developing specific supports for trafficked women. Support, in this context, includes activities and services facilitated by sexual assault centres, as well as larger lobbying action for legal and systemic changes that support survivors of trafficking. Sexual Assault Centres acknowledge that survivors of sexual violence “know from experience…where the gaps and traps are in systems and policies”4. In this, Centres are interested in understanding the needs of trafficked women and creating regional responses that address these needs.

Whether a Centre currently has direct experience supporting survivors of human trafficking in your region or not, it likely identifies with the above competencies and operationalizes them within its services for survivors of sexual violence.

These competencies are all applicable to ─ and useful in ─ addressing the needs of human trafficking survivors in Ontario. Continue reading

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WAWG Asks if Hamilton Candidates are #UpForDebate

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Hamilton’s Woman Abuse Working Group – a coalition of over twenty agencies working to end violence against women – asked eighteen Hamilton candidates in the federal election questions about issues facing women and only four responded.

Up for Debate is a non-partisan movement to keep issues identified by women on the political agenda during the federal election campaign.

Candidates who did respond

David Christopherson (NDP- Hamilton Centre) and Wayne Marston (NDP-Hamilton East-Stoney Creek) responded before the deadline. Instead of answering individual questions, Mr. Marston and Ms. Schmid-Jones sent a statement (below). The Liberal Party contacted WAWG to ask for an extension, following that Anne Tennier (Hamilton Centre) responded on September 20th, as did the Green Party’s Ute Schmid-Jones (Hamilton Centre).

Candidates who did not respond

Yonatan Rozenszajn (PC), Hamilton Centre
Diane Bubanko (PC), Hamilton East-Stoney Creek
Bob Bratina (Liberal), Hamilton East-Stoney Creek
Raheem Aman (Green), Hamilton Mountain
Allan Miles (PC), Hamilton Mountain
Shaun Burt (Liberal), Hamilton Mountain
Scott Duvall (NDP), Hamilton Mountain
Vincent Samuel (PC), Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas
Peter Ormond (Green), Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas
Filomena Tassi (Liberal), Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas
Alex Johnstone (NDP), Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas
David Sweet (PC), Flamborough-Glanbrook
Jennifer Stebbing (Liberal), Flamborough-Glanbrook
Mike DiLivio (NDP), Flamborough-Glanbrook Continue reading

Derek Mellor Update

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On Tuesday, July 15 Hamilton police officer Derek Mellor’s hearing was delayed again.

Derek Mellor has admitted to inappropriate sexual behaviour with witnesses or victims in human trafficking investigations which has caused many Hamiltonians to speak out.

From CHCH:

A cop accused of exploiting the victims of a human trafficking ring will remain a Hamilton Police Service employee for at least another four months. A hearing for Sgt. Derek Mellor — a 14-year veteran — was delayed today because his lawyer was sick.

Derek Mellor was supposed to right the wrongs inflicted on a number of female victims by a human trafficking ring here in Hamilton. Instead, he had sex, with three of them.

A petition has been started asking for Mellor’s dismissal from Hamilton Police.

In a letter to the Hamilton Spectator SACHA and the Elizabeth Fry Society stated:

Of serious concern is that Mellor hopes to continue to serve as a police officer.  Anything short of Mellor’s complete dismissal would send a concerning message to the community, including survivors, about a lack of police accountability.

 

Lee Prokaska wrote to the Spectator frustrated about the slow moving hearings:

The financial cost of delay is perhaps easiest to discern in Police Services Act matters, during which officers are suspended with pay pending the outcome of their trials. Former Hamilton police inspector David Doel, for example, faced 13 serious charges under the act. He took home more than $550,000 while suspended; manipulation of the system resulted in Doel retiring before the charges were dealt with.

A new date has been set for the hearing – November 3rd, 2014.

 

More Hamiltonians Speak Out About Derek Mellor

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On Monday, February 15th Sgt. Derek Mellor plead guilty to several charges of sexual misconduct.

Many Hamiltonians have spoken out against his abuse of his authority.

From Susan Clairmont’s February 26th Hamilton Spectator column:

The damage he has done to those women, and to our city as a whole, is vast and deep.

He has revictimized his victims. He has possibly sent some of them back into the life he was duty-bound to help them escape. He has created a chill that may prevent other women from seeking the help of police. He has jeopardized the outcome of every ongoing case he has been involved with. He has torpedoed the local effort to combat human trafficking, a very real and dangerous issue. And he has damaged the reputation of his service, tainting every good, clean cop by association. Continue reading

Sgt. Derek Mellor Pleads Guilty to Sexual Misconduct Charges

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Yesterday at a hearing at Hamilton Police Services Derek Mellor plead guilty to many charges of sexual misconduct.

At the hearing through a statement of fact more details about the inappropriate sexual behaviour with witnesses or victims in human trafficking investigations were described:

Mellor admitted to undertaking a sexual relationship with the mother of a woman whose human trafficking case he was working on. He admitted to engaging in sexual activity with her on the side of a rural road, sending her pictures of his penis and a three-second video of him masturbating.

Over that period of time, the woman sent Mellor a number of photos of her in lingerie, and her profile from a website that advertises discreet relationships between married couples.

Mellor also pleaded guilty to sending sexual photos and texts to two women who worked with the human trafficking volunteer organization “Walk With Me.” In both cases, he obtained their contacts through working together and at social gatherings and fundraisers for sex workers. The messages started as flirtatious before escalating to blatantly sexual, according to police act documents.

There are more details in the CBC Hamilton article.

There will be a hearing at Hamilton Police on King William Street on Monday, April 24 at 10am which Mellor will be sentenced.

A Hamilton community member has created a petition asking for Mellor dismissal from Hamilton Police.

Hamilton Human Trafficking Detective Accused of Sexual Misconduct

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A round up of articles about Derek Mellor, a sergeant with the Hamilton Police Services, who is accused of multiple sexual misconduct charges under the Police Services Act.

Mellor’s hearing is on Monday, February 24th at 9am at the Hamilton Police station on King William Street.  The public is able to attend the hearing.

From CBC Hamilton’s June 19, 2013 article:

A Hamilton police sergeant who led the service’s human trafficking unit is facing multiple sexual misconduct charges, which have been laid under the provincial Police Services Act.

Sgt. Derek Mellor, a 14-year veteran with the Hamilton police, is alleged to have engaged in, or attempted to engage in, sexual activity with various witnesses, potential witnesses and other individuals involved in his investigations.

Mellor is also alleged to have sent photographs and videos of a sexual nature to victims’ services workers whom he met while working as a human trafficking investigator.

Documents provided to the CBC state that Mellor used his “character and position as a member of the Hamilton Police Service for private advantage.”

Mellor has been suspended since late last year, when the allegations surfaced.

In total, Mellor is accused of nine counts of discreditable conduct, one count of insubordination and one count of corrupt practice for incidents that are alleged to have occurred between May 2011 and November 2012.

Two of the counts allege Mellor engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a witness or potential witness.

From The Hamilton Spectator on January 10, 2013:

A 19-year-old former sex worker who is a witness in a human trafficking case has accused the lead Hamilton police investigator of an inappropriate sexual relationship with her. Those allegations have led to an ongoing internal investigation and fears among advocates that criminal cases may now be tainted.

CHCH TV’s coverage from June 19, 2013:

The charges he is facing range from two counts of engaging in sexual activity with women who were potential witnesses, charges of sending pictures and a video of a sexual nature to those same witnesses and members of victim services; also having an inappropriate relationship with a human trafficking investigator.

From The Hamilton Spectator’s February 10, 2013 article:

Mellor was facing nine charges of discreditable conduct and one count each of insubordination and corrupt practices. Eight of those charges revolve around sexual activity with witnesses, attempting relations with a potential witness and sending sexual material to witnesses. The former vice and drugs officer had pioneered a much-publicized human trafficking unit pilot project, paid for by a provincial grant. The unit was not continued past its pilot stage.

According to documents filed with the hearing officer, Mellor now faces an additional pair of insubordination charges over allegations he failed to file supporting paperwork (reports, notes and a brief for the Crown prosecutor) in relation to two arrests he made in May and June of 2011. The effect those alleged failures had on the cases involved is not publicly known at this point.

In a further twist, Visentini asked that the two new charges be “adjourned sine die” — suspended — saying a decision on proceeding with those charges would be made following the disposition of the first 11 charges laid against Mellor.

From The Hamilton Spectator’s  February 14th, article community activists organized a rally and march in Hamilton:

“I want to stand behind the women that I think police take advantage of. I think the police abuse their authority,” said Debroah James, 40. “There’s an imbalance of power in the relationship between police and marginalized women.”

James works with a local agency that helps sex trade workers. She says some of these women are more afraid of the police than they are of johns, and therefore avoid going to them when they need help.

No one in the crowd would identify themselves as an organizer of the event, and the woman who started the rally wouldn’t give her name. She said she was afraid of the police and is employed — and some agencies are not comfortable with employees who speak out against police.

Signs in the crowd read “Strip searches = sexual violence,” “Who do you serve, who do you protect” and “This is a culture, stop police sexual violence.”

Supporters marched down Main Street in the two right lanes alongside traffic. Mounted police and members of the Action Team followed them along their route to the police station on King William Street to maintain a peaceful protest while people chanted and handed out pamphlets.

On behalf of Chief Glen De Caire, Hamilton police spokesperson Catherine Martin emailed a statement that said “we respect the right for a peaceful demonstration.”

She wouldn’t comment on Mellor or any matter before the Police Services Act Tribunal, but did say in any case of serious misconduct, the position of the administration has been consistent in seeking dismissal.

— compiled by erin

February 14th Events

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Since 1991 Aboriginal activists and supporters have been marching, gathering, marching and speaking out about murdered and missing women on February 14th.

From the Women’s Memorial March website:

The February 14th Women’s Memorial March is an opportunity to come together to grieve the loss of our beloved sisters, remember the women who are still missing, and to dedicate ourselves to justice. Please join us.

February 14th is also One Billion Rising – a global day of action to end violence against women.

Here’s the events that are happening in and around Hamilton next Friday.

One Billion Rising
Hamilton is rising and dancing to put an end to violence against women. At 11:30am folks will be meeting at lots of different locations around Hamilton and walking together to Gore Park:

  • Good Shepherd Women’s Services | 30 Pearl Street North
  • Immigrant Women’s Centre (Main site) | 8 Main Street East
  • Immigrant Women’s Centre (Rebecca site) | 182 Rebecca Street
  • YWCA Hamilton and SACHA | 75 MacNab Street South
  •  Jackson Square | Intersection between James North & King St. West
  •  Women’s Centre of Hamilton | 100 Main St. East

More information at http://onebillionhamilton.tumblr.com/

 

March Against Police Sexual Violence
When:
Friday, February 14th at 3pm
Where: Hamilton City Hall – 71 Main Street West, Hamilton ON

Hamilton’s first dedicated Human trafficking officer, Derek Mellor faces a sexual-misconduct hearing. In 2012, a 19-year-old former sex-worker, and witness in a human trafficking case, disclosed having a sexual relationship with Mellor. It is unknown if this was consensual, since details are unknown surrounding the disturbingly unequal balance of power between the two, given the woman’s then-criminalized profession and Mellor’s police power. Since it is known that the disclosure originally occurred with a worker who runs support groups for sex-workers, it is not a stretch to assume the interaction was coercive in nature. In an article, the support worker said other sex workers in her groups have had similar complaints.

As we continue to read about officers charged with domestic violence at home, we must now also take this current discovery into account. Finally, the public begins to see bits of the larger picture of police violence against women that has been in plain sight of sex workers and their supports for so long. Enough is enough!

Come take a stand with others against all police brutality, including sexual violence and violence against women by police.

Facebook event – https://www.facebook.com/events/269516013212187/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming
Spectator article – http://www.thespec.com/news-story/2269510-officer-probed-for-alleged-tryst-with-witness/

 

9th Annual Strawberry Ceremony in Honour of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
and those who have died violent deaths by colonialism

When: Friday, February 14th at 12:30pm
Where: Strawberry Ceremony with Wanda Whitebird begins at 12:30 Police Headquarters 40 College Street at Bay, Toronto and Community Feast catered by NaMeRes at the 519 Church Street Community Centre; 519 Church Street following the rally.

Three Indigenous women have died violent deaths in Toronto since last year’s ceremony. This has led No More Silence to create a community owned database to document and investigate such deaths in collaboration with Families of Sisters in Spirit and the Native Youth Sexual Health Network

We continue to raise our voices in denouncing the racism and complicity of state institutions and we support the demand for a national public inquiry led by Indigenous grass roots women and supported by a United Nations Investigation into Missing & Murdered Indigenous women in Canada

According to research conducted by the Native Women Association of Canada (NWAC) under the Sisters In Spirit Program, over 600 Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing, most of them over the last 30 years.

Facebook event – https://www.facebook.com/events/578758638867662/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming&suggestsessionid=62f7932858f0796e987698864f464c48
To find out about other Women’s Memorial Marches in other communities – http://womensmemorialmarch.wordpress.com/national/

 

Vigil to Honour the Missing/Murdered Aboriginal Women

5:15 – 6:00: Peaceful vigil at King and Main Street in Hagersville, Ontario to honour the over 700 Aboriginal missing/murdered Aboriginal women
6:15- 7:00 Country Style at Mississaugas of New Credit Strawberry Ceremony to honour our Sisters in Spirit
Special Guests/Speakers: Wonda Jamieson, Aileen Joseph, Lynn LaForme
Refreshments available.
Bring your drum, shaker, signs.

PDF – strawberry ceremony and 3rd annual vigil