For five years, International Justice Mission Canada has made it their goal to educate, empower, and engage Canadians in the pursuit of justice for the oppressed. There are things in place within communities to help impoverished people find food and shelter, but nothing to protect them from abuse and oppression, therein lays IJM’s purpose. After a shocking study revealed numerous organizations abusing both their power and their workers, IJM stepped in to make people aware of this and many other injustices, and work toward putting an end to them. One of the most serious and frightening of these injustices is human trafficking, and in terms of people’s awareness of the matter, IJM’s Executive Director Jamie McIntosh says we have only scratched the surface.
“I think in recent months and even the last couple of years, awareness has been rising with the release of different media pieces or some recent movies relating to human trafficking. But the scale of awareness as well as the depth of understanding of the challenges, I think on that we still have a long way to go.” McIntosh still believes that awareness is slowly and steadily rising, but thinks people would still be floored by the staggering statistics surrounding the issue of human trafficking, revealing that it is the number two form of profit for organized crime around the globe, earning traffickers anywhere between $10 billion and $32.5 billion dollars in annual profit, just trailing illegal drug smuggling. In terms of what is being done to raise the awareness of these and other issues, the IJM utilizes its involvement in churches and schools in various communities as well as its influence as a human rights organization to take on injustice on several different levels. “We’ve done a number of things ranging from testifying before the House of Commons, as a committee, the Status of Women committee as they researched the issue of human trafficking,” says McIntosh. “We’ve also hosted or conducted parliamentary briefings with various members of parliament and senators surrounding the issues and some practical steps that Canada can take to counter human trafficking.”
Canadians don’t seem to realize how big a role they have played in countering human trafficking. About 150 years ago, Canadians were responsible for the rescue of slaves working on cotton plantations and helped many of them find refuge in Southern Ontario and Nova Scotia.
Public campaigning aside, there are many other media related things that the IJM has engaged in to raise awareness of the injustices they are countering. The IJM has released two books written by their international founder Gary Haugen, the more recent of which deals with issues of human trafficking and details what the IJM has already done to put a stop to it. McIntosh says of the book: “Terrify No More is a more recent narrative account of how we were particularly involved in a series of raids and rescue operations resulting in the release of 37 girls from brothels in Cambodia, girls as young as five.” As well as dealing with the human trafficking issue in Cambodia, Terrify No More also details many other of IJM’s works of advocacy all around the world, from restoring property to African widows to defending the rights of street children in Latin America.
IJM Canada has also put on numerous benefit concerts to assist in aiding the victims of human trafficking and other injustices. Recently, they put together a Canadian tour with singer Jacob Moon to enable their team to continue working on upcoming cases. For those who want to get involved, there are many small and large-scale ways for people to join IJM’s cause. It can be as small as wearing the trademark “Seek Justice” t-shirt or educating yourself on the issues by visiting their website IJM.ca. “If people are interested in becoming justice partners with us they can make a monthly commitment: say $40 a month to stand with us as we stand with victims of abuse and oppression around the world,” says McIntosh. “And if individuals have particular expertise as law enforcement professionals, as lawyers, or as social workers then we may have short or long-term international deployments for them as well.” Anything from hosting a benefit concert to getting an IJM representative to speak at your school or church will help raise awareness in the long run.
It is important to remember that raising awareness is not the only duty of the IJM. They handle each issue with their fourfold purpose: First off is victim relief, actually going in and rescuing victims from abuse and oppression at the hands of people who are more powerful than they are. Second is perpetrator accountability, making sure that the offenders or perpetrators pay for their crime. A prime example of this is IJM’s involvement in the Donald Bakker case, where they provided evidence that lead to the first conviction of a Canadian under Canada’s sex tourism law for violating children in Cambodia. “The Vancouver Police Department turned to us for some of our assistance in bringing that conviction about through the evidence that we had. That leads to him serving a jail sentence rather than being free to prey upon these children overseas,” says McIntosh. From there, the IJM works on structural prevention initiatives, to deter others from committing similar crimes. Lastly is victim aftercare, where IJM takes steps to ensure that victims of injustice are able to transition into leading normal, successful lives. Overall, IJM has, and hopes to continue to raise public awareness through words and use their community of compassionate and committed advocates to take the necessary action to “Seek Justice.”
For more information visit IJM.ca.
Writer: Joe Chammas