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Native women, children, and unfortunately even babies are being trafficked in the sex trade on freighters crossing the Canadian and U. Next month, Christine Stark—a student with the University of Minnesota, Duluth, who is completing her Master's degree in social work—will complete an examination of the sex trade in Minnesota, in which she compiles anecdotal, first hand accounts of Aboriginal women, particularly from northern reservations, being trafficked across state, provincial, and international lines to be forced into servitude in the sex industry on both sides of the border.
The numerous stories and the gradual realization that this was an issue decades, perhaps centuries, in the making, compelled Stark to delve further into what exactly is taking place. She decided to conduct an exploratory study, "simply because we have these stories circulating and we wanted to gather information and begin to understand what has happened and what currently is happening around the trafficking of Native American and First Nations women on the ships" said Stark, in an interview with CBC Radio's Superior Morning.
Through her independent research and work with the Indian Women's Sexual Assault Centre, Stark interviewed hundreds of Native women who have been through the trauma of the Lake Superior sex trade. The stories she's compiled are evidence of an underground industry that's thriving on the suffering of First Nations women, which is seemingly going unchecked and underreported. In an article written for the Duluth Star Tribune , Stark describes one disturbing anecdote of an Anishinaabe woman who had just left a shelter after being beaten by her pimp—who was a wealthy, white family man.
He paid her bills, rent, and the essentials for her children, but on weekends, "brought up other white men from the Cities for prostitution with Native women Native women, teen girls and boys, and even babies have been sold for sex on the ships.
The fact that these horrendous crimes are taking place right under the noses of North American authorities is obviously disturbing and somewhat surprising, considering we have a Conservative government that is oh-so-tough on the commercialization of human beings. However, the word 'trafficking' can often be a blurry one. Their organization has also been researching this issue. Kazia told me over email: "People assume that trafficking always takes place across international borders, however, the vast majority of people who are trafficked in Canada are indigenous women and girls from inside Canada and sometimes, as we're now starting to understand, across the US border.