Poverty and Trafficking

The Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) makes a direct link between poverty and trafficking (modern day slavery) internationally and in Canada, in terms of both cause and consequences. 

Trafficking in Human Persons

Human trafficking is a contemporary form of slavery, and the third largest international underground financial activity after the sale of drugs and armaments. Such a complex problem has multiple root causes, but cannot be separated from the massive disparities in wealth in the global community, or from the power differentials between men and women that exist in all societies.

Without a doubt, “Today the face of poverty, marginalization, discrimination and exploitation in the world takes the face of a woman. Women constitute 80 percent of those who live in conditions of absolute poverty, almost two-thirds of the world’s 850 million illiterate adults, and more than half of those – between the ages of 15 and 24 – who are infected with HIV/AIDS. But the most humiliating poverty of all for a woman is that of being trafficked, of being sold and bought like a commodity.” (Sr. Eugenia Bonetti, MC)

Religious orders, especially religious orders of women, have banded together around the world to take action to overcome this global problem.

At the 95th regular General Chapter of 2006, the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, each Province and Region was called upon to “intensify its commitment to eliminate trafficking of women and children through collaboration in projects that address the causes and consequences.” Many groups of CND sisters helped finance and promote the tour of the Thêatre Parmi Nous production of a play concerning trafficking that traveled across Canada. And the Social Justice Network of the Congrégation has chosen this theme as an enduring priority.

The Canadian Religious Conference has also engaged in considerable work on the issue of Trafficking, where religious orders share information on the issue and plan joint action strategies. Religious have presented briefs to the Canadian Parliament, lobbied Members of Parliament, educated the public, police and border services, and carried out a range of other activities. In Canada, the work includes advocacy to address poverty at home and abroad, to address insufficient regulations related to immigration and refugee determination policies, to strengthen international instruments against trafficking, and to limit the demand for trafficking of persons by educating about new gender relationships of equality.

Poverty in Canada

Exciting new possibilities for poverty work in Canada came with the 2010 formation of the organization Dignity for All, a coalition of already existing groups who are working to end poverty.  Among the first members of Dignity for All were Visitation Province of the CND, the JPIC Office and many individual CND Sisters and Associates.

The rate of child and family poverty in Canada has been stalled at 17-18% over the past 5 years despite strong economic growth and low unemployment, according to an anti-poverty coalition called Campaign 2000.  In fact, data from Statistics Canada shows that over the past 25 years Canada’s child poverty rate has never dropped below the 15% level of 1989 when the House of Commons resolved to end child poverty.

In Campaign 2000’s November 2006 report, it was stated that:

  • Economic growth is not ending child poverty. The rate of child and family poverty has been stalled at 17-18% over the past 5 years despite strong economic growth and low unemployment. 
  • Canada exhibits a growing proportion of working poor families. One-third (34%) of poor children live in families with at least one parent working full time, full year – up from 27% twelve years ago.
  • Canada is a laggard on child care spending. Canada’s expenditures on child care as a percentage of GDP are the lowest among OECD countries. Regulated child care spaces meet the needs of less than 16% of children; cancellation of federal child care agreements mean little prospect for improvement.
  • Canada is one of the few countries without an affordable housing strategy. Two in every three low income families with children live in unaffordable housing.
  • No province has reduced child poverty to less than 10%:  British Columbia (23.5%) and Newfoundland & Labrador (23.1%) have the highest rates. Alberta’s rate is 14.5% despite strong economic growth. Quebec’s investments in families have seen its rate steadily decline since 1997.
  • Poor families are very poor. The average poor female lone parent family would need $9,400/year additional income just to bring them up to the poverty line.
  • Public programs do help reduce child poverty. Without government transfer programs the poverty rate for low income families with children would have been 24%.