Vancouver Olympic Games organizers have received a failing grade for their efforts to curb sex trafficking into the city, a think-tank announced Tuesday.
The Citizens Summit Against Sex Slavery, a coalition of women’s groups, academics and politicians, gave the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee, the B.C. government and the federal government an “F” for “failing to make sure women and youth are secure against human trafficking during the 2010 Olympics.”
Benjamin Perrin, a law professor at the University of British Columbia specializing in human trafficking, said he knew of “dozens” of young women, mostly from major urban centres and native reserves, who were being sent to Vancouver to deal with an expected surge of tourists seeking prostitutes.
Spikes in prostitution often coincide with mass sporting events, said Perrin. He said the 2004 Summer Games in Athens and 2006 World Cup in Germany are just two recent summits that attracted fleets of sex-trade workers to meet the needs of a typically wealthy, male audience.
“I’m very disappointed to say we were expecting this,” said Perrin, pointing to recommendations his group made in 2007 to the RCMP and VANOC to prevent a surge in human trafficking before the Olympics.
“Fortunately, what is apparent today, is that a number of woman who have been brought to Vancouver for the purpose of being sold for sex during the Games by their traffickers have been rescued,” said Perrin. “How many more out there, who are going to be subject to exploitation, we just don’t know.”
Many of these cases, Perrin said, are abetted by the popularity of online classified websites, such as Craigslist, that feature “erotic services” listings.
The listings are anonymous, helping travellers from around the world set up appointments with prostitutes before they set foot in Vancouver.
In the U.S., customers must provide credit card information before responding to a post. However, that’s not the case in Canada, allowing a “virtual sex slave market to flourish outside the reach of police and intelligence services,” a release from the summit said.
Vancouver police aren’t planning any crackdown on prostitution during the Games, said Const. Lindsey Houghton.
“Street-related prostitution existed before the Games, it will exist during the Games and it will exist after,” Houghton said. “Our enforcement around that will not be any different. We have a dedicated vice unit that works very closely with the girls and the guys . . . to ensure that they are safe.”