Guest Blogger: Luis CdeBaca, United States Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
On this date in 1793, the First Parliament of Upper Canada passed the Act Against Slavery, making Upper Canada the first British territory to enact an abolition law. John Graves Simcoe, the colony’s lieutenant governor, was moved by the story of a young woman in slavery who had been forced to leave Canada and sold into slavery in the United States. But when he heard this story, he didn’t just dismiss it as a problem that couldn’t be fixed. He decided to do something about it. Even though several of his colleagues were themselves slave owners, Simcoe didn’t relent until an agreement was reached that would begin to phase out the system of legal slavery in Canada.
History is peppered with similar stories, of leaders whose drive and courage finally tipped the balance in favor of a freer and more just world. In the United States, as we approach the 150th anniversary of the end of legal slavery in our country, we honor those who fought and died to secure freedom for those who were enslaved and for future generations.
But looking around the world today, we see that the adoption of laws and policies banning slavery did not necessary result in theendof slavery. Indeed, as many as 27 million men, women, and children live in a state of modern slavery, what we sometimes call trafficking in persons. This crime takes many forms—women promised jobs as domestic workers only to find themselves trapped and abused; men on fishing boats forced to labor long hours for no pay; children prostituted in brothels. Whatever the form it takes, human trafficking is a crime and an offense to all the efforts throughout history to eradicate slavery. And just as so many courageous leaders over the centuries said slavery was intolerable, modern abolitionists in governments around the world are recommitting themselves to this struggle.
That’s why over the last 12 years, so many countries have adopted laws designed to fight slavery in its modern form. The U.N. adopted the Palermo Protocol, which laid out the 3P’s of fighting human trafficking—prevention, prosecution, and protection. As the United States’ annual Trafficking in Persons Reporttells us, we’re making real progress in this struggle. More victims are being identified, more trafficking cases are being prosecuted, and more innovations for protecting survivors are being put to use.
The United States is proud to partner with Canada to lead this fight. On a recent visit, I had the pleasure of meeting with a number of leaders in the Canadian government who are committed to eradicating this scourge once and for all. And with the announcement of a new national action plan, Canada is showing the international community what an effective anti-trafficking strategy looks like. This sort of commitment is precisely what’s needed to advance in this struggle.
The progress we’ve made should give us great optimism that the vision of John Graves Simcoe—the vision of so many people throughout history who fought against slavery—is within reach. Their accomplishments and sacrifices must continue to inspire us as we move forward with this work, and we must be driven by a common commitment to build a world free from slavery.