Magazine article Anglican Journal

CoGS Hears of Slavery Horrors

Magazine article Anglican Journal

CoGS Hears of Slavery Horrors

Article excerpt

Siobhan Bennett, a youth member from the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, had tears in her eyes even before she started addressing the other members of Council of General Synod (CoGS). It wasn't long before they knew why.

Bennett had asked if she might share something from her own life at a session on human trafficking June 24. As she fought to speak through her tears and sobs, she told them of an extremely disturbing encounter she'd had with the world of human trafficking and child sex trade.

Several months after she had started working at a Niagara Falls, Ont., hotel, Bennett said, a woman came into the hotel with a girl she said was her daughter. The girl, Bennett thought, couldn't have been more than 14 years old. During the roughly two weeks that the two stayed at the hotel, the woman would talk to Bennett fairly regularly--it was her job, after all, to give the woman dinner recommendations or to set her up with tours. The woman would often talk to Bennett about what she had done that day and reward her with tips, and eventually, Bennett said, she came to see her as a friend of sorts.

Then two undercover police officers arrived at the hotel, saying they suspected someone staying there of human trafficking. Eventually they arrested the woman. Even more shocking, Bennett's supervisor took her aside to tell her he had noticed the woman seemed especially interested in her, and he suspected she had been considering targeting her.

The episode, Bennett said, hit her very hard, for a number of reasons. "I didn't go back to work for like three days because I felt so dirty. I felt terrible," she said. "This girl that was with her wasn't her daughter--it was a victim. And I don't know what happened to her...We were told that after they checked out, when the police went into the room, and when the maid service went in, that there were needles all over the floor...there were drugs, there were all kinds of nasty, horrible things in the room."

Bennett said she "can't even begin to imagine" what the victim went through. "The number of times that she was at the front desk with an iPhone...and she wasn't saying anything--she didn't look at me for help, she didn't ask for anything, and I just wish that I could have known."

Bennett's story was just one of a number of human trafficking-related presentations CoGS heard at the session, which also included prayer and the lighting of candles by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada; the screening of a short film on human trafficking by Anglican Video; and several minutes of silent reflection.

The session concluded with a motion that CoGS endorse an an anti-human trafficking resolution approved by the Anglican Consultative Council in 2012. …

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