Slavery in the Contemporary Form: An International Perspective

Posted: New Initiatives:
Oct 11, 2023
  • Issue 17
Microsoft Teams image 50

Professor Tomoya Obokata, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, visited NWAC’s Social, Cultural and Economic Innovation Center on August 25. During this visit, the International Unit engaged in a meaningful dialogue concerning the current human rights situation faced by indigenous women and gender-diverse individuals in Canada.

Professor Obokata is a renowned Japanese scholar specializing in international law and human rights, particularly in areas like transnational organized crime, human trafficking, and modern slavery.

Slavery was the first human rights issue to arouse wide international concern. Yet its practices continue to remain a grave and persistent problem, which often involves hidden populations.

The most vulnerable and marginalized individuals, particularly Indigenous women and girls, bear the brunt of this problem due to historical colonialism and discrimination. Fear, lack of education, and the struggle for survival make them prime targets for human traffickers.

During Professor Obokata’s country visit, we voiced our concerns for the well-being of our indigenous children, who disproportionately face challenges within the child welfare system when transitioning out of care.

We advocated for the safety of our Indigenous women and gender-diverse individuals, who are at heightened risk when travelling to access essential resources.

We raised awareness about the cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse (MMIWG2S+) people whom we have diligently tracked through our “Safe Passage” initiative.

And our voices were heard! Professor Obokata expressed his deep concerns to the United Nations Human Rights Council regarding the alarming rates at which Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people go missing or are tragically murdered, often as a result of being trafficked for forced labour or sexual exploitation. He highlighted the connections between Canada’s colonial legacy and the disproportionate impact of contemporary forms of slavery on Indigenous Peoples.

In his remarks, Professor Obokata pointed out that while Canada has made updates to its domestic frameworks aimed at addressing contemporary forms of slavery in recent years, there remains a notable absence of trauma-informed personnel and human rights-based approaches in law enforcement and the court system.

We have also been actively enhancing our international connections and fostering a revival of Indigenous relationships throughout the Americas. In May 2023, NWAC established a letter of understanding with the Central American Integration System (SICA), with the objective of collaboratively promoting social and economic integration, along with democratic security.

Currently, CEO Lynne Groulx is on a journey to visit the eight nations comprising SICA. Over the past few months, she has visited El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, and Guatemala.

Additionally, we are delighted to announce that this month marked the start of a series of cultural events aimed at showcasing Salvadoran Indigenous culture. These events will vividly illustrate the cultural and economic benefits that arise from robust global partnerships.

Our goal is to support the micro-economies of Indigenous Peoples, enabling them to achieve full economic participation. Each product sold contributes to the support of the eight SICA member states artists and the preservation of artistic traditions.