By the time Bridget Perrier was 14 she was turning tricks on the street and for escort services.
“You’re like herded cattle. You go in front of the madam; she takes a look to see if you’re going to make money (and) asks you what nationality you are… You can’t tell me they didn’t know (I was underage),” she said.
Perrier was often trafficked between Toronto and Thunder Bay, Ont. She claimed authorities never asked her for identification or consent.
“I was exploited by people around me who were put in place to protect me,” she said.
Perrier insisted that human trafficking is a global problem and that Canada is not immune; she said the problem exists especially in aboriginal communities.
Shae Invidiata, who has been fighting human trafficking in Canada with different organizations for eight years, said the average age for girls in prostitution is 12 to 14. Invidiata reacted to the recent Ontario Supreme Court decision that struck down Canada’s anti-prostitution law.
“The reality is that legalizing prostitution and making common bawdy houses in Canada legal, fuels human trafficking,” Invidiata said.
Although the new legislation does not intend to encourage child trafficking and prostitution, Johnathan Rosenthal, an activist and attorney believes that there will be a surge in child trafficking.
“It will definitely become more prevalent. Sadly, there are a great number of people who enjoy having sex with children and I think that’s why I don’t think legalization is the answer. I think regulation or legislation is the answer,” he said.
Invidiata calls human trafficking the “modern slave trade” and believes awareness is the first step to eradicating the problem. To that end Invidiata organized the Stop Child Trafficking Now and its second annual Black Tie Walk, on Sunday.
Other countries have experienced the same problems with legalization and Invidiata fears it will happen here.
“Human trafficking is … foreign to many people in Canada, and yet, human trafficking is rapidly growing in Canada. We want to expose this injustice and evil for what it is and make people aware,” Invidiata said.
Rosenthal said that legislation is needed to protect vulnerable women and children.
“I think that we should definitely take heed of the present laws have some real difficulties and somehow try to regulate this industry which will allow and ensure that young kids aren’t abused,” he said.
Perrier’s son Tanner developed cancer as an infant. As mother and son battled the disease, she continued to work the streets. Five-year-old Tanner’s dying wish was for his mother to stop working.
“He made me pinky swear that I would stop,” she said.
Despite encountering many difficulties within the system Perrier eventually found her own way off the streets and out of prostitution. She found safe housing in Toronto within the aboriginal community, Nevertheless, attorney Rosenthal still fears for the future.
“You’re probably going to see bus loads of (human traffic) kids arriving in our city,” Rosenthal said.