First I'd like to acknowledge that I am standing here on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit, who fall under the Two Row Wampum Treaty.
I represent Sextrade101 and the many Anishinabe women and girls who are enslaved in prostitution and/or trafficked.
My name is Wasayakwe. My English name is Bridget Perrier. I was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and put up for adoption. I was adopted by a good family who tried to raise me the best way possible, but as I got older the effects of colonialism, intergenerational trauma and child sexual abuse made me a perfect candidate for prostitution.
I was lured and debased into prostitution at the age of 12 from a child welfare-run group home. I remained enslaved for 10 years in prostitution. I was sold to men who felt privileged to steal my innocence and invade my body. I was paraded like cattle in front of men who were able to purchase me, and the acts that I did were something no little girl should ever have to endure here in Canada, the land of the free.
Because of the men, I cannot have a child normally, because of trauma to my cervix. Still to this day I have nightmares, and sometimes I sleep with the lights on. My trauma is deep, and sometimes I feel as though I'm frozen—or even worse, I feel damaged and not worthy.
I was traded in legal establishments, street corners and strip clubs. I even had a few trips across the Great Lakes servicing ship men at the age of 13. The scariest thing that happened to me was, at 14 years of age, being held captive for a period of 43 hours and raped and tortured repeatedly by a sexual predator who preyed on exploited girls.
My exploiters made a lot of money and tried to break me, but I fought for my life. My first pimp was a woman who owned a legal brothel, where I was groomed to say that I was her niece or her daughter's friend, if the police ever asked. My second pimp was introduced to me when I was in Toronto. I was a prostitute for money. He was supposed to be a bodyguard, but that turned out to be one big lie. Both are out there still, doing the same thing to more little girls somewhere here in Canada.
After many years, I was able to exit prostitution and rebuild my life, and with that, my education became a tool. I was recognized for my tenacity and my strength, and I am now able to be an asset to my community and my people. I am a mother, grandmother, activist and warrior woman. Now my experiences may be sacrificial at times, but I am doing them for Canada's Anishinabe women and girls who are being bought and sold, who have disappeared or been murdered.
We must look at who is doing this. It is the men.
I have a letter. The birth mom of my oldest daughter was murdered by Robert Pickton, and my daughter asked me to read this to you.
My name is Angel Wolfe. My birth mom's name is Brenda Wolfe. My mom was murdered by Robert Pickton.
Her murder was one of the first six that he was charged with. I was six years old when she was murdered and nine years old when her jaw bone was found in a pig trough. I am one of the 98 orphans who were left behind because of that monster.
I do blame the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP. I believe that Bills such as [PCEPA] will save vulnerable women like my mom. I'm sickened that my mom's death has been used to legitimize such indignity and sadness.
I'm also sickened by the term “the Pickton bill”. It's insulting and a slap in the face to the 98 orphans, and the organizations and the prosex work lobby movement should be really ashamed for speaking on behalf of the families who lost their loved ones.
I blame prostitution, addiction & mental Illness for my mother's death, and on behalf of the 98 orphans, we do not want our mothers' deaths to be the reason prostitution is legitimized.
I will make it my mission in life to carry her story and educate people about addictions, prostitution and the murdered and the missing.
Sincerely, Angel Wolfe
PCEPA will protect my daughters and granddaughters and other young native girls from predator sex buyers who have the nerve to solicit in public. Just last week, I was in Thunder Bay where buying vulnerable women is not on the agenda of their police department or MAG or any other organization.
If prostitution were such a healthy path, then why are the sex buyers not telling their wives, girlfriends and families that they use or have used sexual services from prostitutes?
Sextrade101 believes that prostitution is not a choice, but it's lack of choice that keeps women and girls enslaved. We believe that everybody should be shown a viable way out of the sex trade and not be encouraged to stay in it. We believe in helping people understand the full price of life in prostitution before they become involved and in helping women get out alive with their minds, bodies, and spirits intact. We have all been collectively afraid, raped, beaten, sold, disregarded. Most of us were also children who were forgotten, neglected, abused, used, led astray, abandoned and not protected.
Sextrade101 members and advocates are current and former prostituted women. We have a huge concern with the criminalization of prostituted women and girls. We have seen that diversion programs for prostituted women and girls are not the only the solution for everyone. We also have seen that a lot of money has gone out for support services, but we're still in this kind of silo.
Some 85% of Sextrade101 advocates and members have experienced pimp violence. This is pretty far from the picture painted by the Supreme Court of Canada, which is that pimps are nice guys. These pimps and sex buyers are the problem. They're the ones who abuse and in some cases kill.
I supported my daughter throughout the missing women inquiry, and the outcome was this: Our mothers, sisters, and daughters are not born to be used and sold for men's sexual needs. We are not commodities.
Also, we want to talk about linguistics. There's nothing in the native language, in indigenous languages, that describes selling sex, so if it's not in our language, it's not for our women.
I applaud former minister MacKay for the creation of Bill C‑36, because he recognized the inherent dangers and abuses for those who are prostituted. That bill was a victory for survivors and those who are stuck in a vicious cycle of indignity and pain.
We need to look at the numbers, which show that 52% of human trafficking victims are native and that the average age of exploitation for a native girl is 12 years of age. Ninety-eight per cent of the women that Sextrade101 has worked with have said that they have wanted out at some point.
As a sex trade survivor, I thank you so much for giving me the honour of speaking on behalf of the survivors in Sextrade101 and all the Anishinabe survivors across Canada, whether they are still in or have exited.
What we're seeing now is the increase of girls using social media as a tool for their exploitation, only as sugar babies, as Trisha pointed out, there is now a niche for native girls. When I was in the game, we never said we were native, because we knew if we said we were native, we would be in trouble. We would be in trouble by being assaulted or whatever, so we hid our identities.
Just last week I had a young woman from northern Ontario sleeping on my couch because the treatment centre that we paid $20,000 for to get private drug and alcohol treatment took one look at her and said she wasn't fit for their program. We had nowhere to send her, and at that moment, after 15 years of injecting drugs, she just wanted.... She was done. We had to think outside the box and figure out something radically fast.
I've seen a lot of money going into this, and not a lot of action. We don't have a safe house for indigenous women here in Ontario. We have a lot of religious-run safe houses, and I'm sorry, it's not a fit for my girls, my indigenous girls. I always get emails. Every week I get this “Hi, Bridget, we feel that this survivor fits your criteria.” Why? It's because she's indigenous and she's opened her mouth and said what she feels is best for her.
I don't know where to put them. I don't know where to put them, and I'm putting my children at risk by having them in my home, but I can't send them anywhere else, so we have this girl right now who has had 15 hard-core years on the street. She survived an attempted murder. I can tell her story and sit here and say, “Holy cow, she's doing good.” We have her in a bush camp and she's off drugs, and that's a big accomplishment. I told her that in 35 days your brain will retrain itself.
We're in crisis. I was in Thunder Bay, and they're buying women left, right and centre. The Thunder Bay police don't want to be burdened with the issue of exploitation, and they don't even want to admit that there's human trafficking going on. The pretty native girls are being farmed to southern Ontario and trafficked along the Golden Horseshoe.
What I'm seeing now, and Trisha is saying this, is that we're burying our daughters. I'm seeing girls that I was out there in the trenches with, and now it's daughters. It's intergenerational. If we don't help them figure out their potential, we're creating room for the new generation. It's happening. I'm now seeing grandma, mom and grandchild. Let's add fuel with a pandemic and now an opioid crisis, and we have the perfect brewing pot for exploitation.
When a prostituted indigenous woman is murdered, we see what happens. It's the Cindy Gladues and everything.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that we're in crisis here, and especially in northern Ontario. I'm only in northern Ontario for one week out of the month. I go to Thunder Bay. That's my job. Nobody knows where to go, and the people who are providing frontline help are putting themselves in harm's way to help women exit. If we just had a place to send them, like a one-stop shop, it would be so much easier.
What we're trying to do at Sextrade101 is mentor them. We don't have core funding like that. We have to get funding through another organization, but to this day, our recidivism rate back into prostitution is only at 4%. Obviously we're doing something right.
With that, I'll say meegwetch, and I'm up for questions.