NEWS FROM THE NETWORK: Visit from the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery
Visiting Canada from August 23 to September 6, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Tomoya Obokata, stopped in Montreal to meet with organizations and hear testimonies from temporary migrant workers who are victims of modern slavery.
Sister IsaBelle Couillard, SGM, President of the CATHII (The Action Committee against internal and international human trafficking) Board of Directors and Talitha Kum's North American representative, took part in this important meeting, where the floor was given mainly to victims of trafficking in Quebec, Canada. She was accompanied by Sister Lise Gagnon, SNJM, TK representative for the 3 Americas, Ms. Kavitha Culum, CATHII Project Manager, Ms. Sofia Farro Ranke, master's student in criminology, and Ms. Renaude Grégoire, Development and Advocacy Officer. At the May 2023 Colloque, on temporary female migrant workers, Ms. Grégoire informed the anti-trafficking organizations and presented Talitha Kum's plan to invite the Special Rapporteur to visit Quebec.
Whether on farms, in the food industry or in private homes, the testimonies heard and analyses presented had several points in common: unfulfilled contracts, long working hours, little or no time off, isolation and threats, forced work that was not in their agreement, broken promises of bringing their children, sexual harassment, obligation to perform massages (prostitution) so that the employer would confirm that the domestic worker meet the conditions to obtain her permanent residence, unaware of their rights, difficulty in asserting their rights due to employer threats, long delays and employer objections before the CNESST, access to healthcare denied or delayed, delays in obtaining a new work permit (which means that temporary workers become non-status and live illegally), indebtedness, discrimination and racism, etc. One temporary migrant worker had a work accident that left him paraplegic. At the meeting, One of the survivors cried out to the Special Rapporteur: "Put an end to slavery! End the closed permit!"
It was pointed out that the United States had abolished the closed work permit because jurisprudence considered it to be modern-day slavery. Putting an end to the closed work permit is one of the recommendations made by all the organizations, including CATHII.
At the end of May 2023, CATHII had sent a submission to the Special Rapporteur and an invitation to come and meet the NGOs.
The Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery held a press conference on September 6. His report will be made public in September 2024.
By Sr. IsaBelle Couillard, SGM, Regional representative of North America
October 5th, 2023