The Catholic Register
September 17, 2023
Human Trafficking

Trafficking campaign takes to airwaves

Mary Ward Centre to use new radio strategy

Trafficking campaign takes to airwaves

Human trafficking goes so far beyond the sex trade, with many also being exploited for their labour.

(OSV News photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

  • avatar
    Angelica Vecchiato
    The Catholic Register

The Mary Ward Centre is taking to the airwaves to spread its human trafficking awareness message to vulnerable populations across the Americas.

As part of its ongoing campaign against human trafficking, a new initiative started in 2022 will use Spanish radio in six nations to expose human rights injustices to Canadian newcomers and those seeking to come here.

Eva Rodríguez-Diaz, a social worker with over 20 years of experience, is the mastermind behind the new program. She says this new strategy will bring awareness to labour exploitation, a lesser-known subset of the human trafficking industry.

“Usually people talk about sex trafficking because it has been the most mentioned modality, but here in Canada labour exploitation could be even larger than sex trafficking,” said Rodriguez-Diaz. “Human trafficking is currently found not only in brothels and sites for the sale of sexual services, but also in construction companies, hospitality companies, cleaning companies and agricultural farms.”

To connect with the Latin American community, the Mary Ward Centre has developed broadcasting programs as part of their “end human trafficking — a commitment of all” campaign in collaboration with the GTA-based station CHHA 1610 AM Radio Voces Latina. On the third Monday of each month, over 2,500 Spanish-speaking listeners in the GTA can tune in for an hour to hear information about the human trafficking industry in Canada, including input from experts on how to avoid targeted victimization.

Earlier in 2023, Rodríguez-Diaz worked to connect Radio Voces Latina with radio stations in Latin America to broadcast their anti-human trafficking awareness campaign. There are currently seven radio stations connected in six countries, two in Colombia and the others in Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, El Salvador and Toronto.

Rodríguez-Diaz says the strategy is to alert newcomers from Latin America of the dangers of human trafficking before they arrive in Canada.

“The radio station talks about human trafficking: what it is, how criminals operate to involve the victims, about the forms or categories of human trafficking, showing real experiences from Canada to people who are in Latin America, talking about how they were entangled by traffickers and the harm they suffered because of it,” she said.

Given their unfamiliarity with Canadian customs and the English language, labour exploitation most affects migrant workers and immigrants, a vulnerable population that is growing in Canada. In 2022, Canada shattered records, welcoming 431,645 new permanent residents. In 2025, that number is expected to rise to 500,000.

'Criminals and even legal companies take advantage of these vulnerabilities'

-- Eva Rodriguez-Diaz

Rodríguez-Diaz, who worked as an independent humanitarian consultant in Colombia prior to her current contract at the Loretto Sisters’ Toronto-based Mary Ward Centre, says that many human trafficking victims in Canada are from Latin America. The most recent Canadian census data reveals that over half a million people identify as Latin American, with the majority being newcomers looking for work.

“Here in Canada, I have been learning about labour exploitation and how it affects immigrants, many of them from my Latin American region. These are people who have experienced conditions of high vulnerability and are seeking a better life to come to the supposed developed countries,” said Rodríguez-Diaz, who was born and raised in Colombia. “We already see what the reality is and what happens, that criminals and even legal companies take advantage of these vulnerabilities. Trafficking people, moving them under illegal conditions to work in legal companies, under illegal and subhuman conditions.”

Sr. Sarah Rudolph is director of the Mary Ward Centre. She says ending human trafficking has always been an important commitment for the Loretto Sisters.

“The Loretto Sisters are committed to the elimination of human trafficking. Globally, this work takes many forms including prayer, education, prevention, advocacy, rescue and recovery care of women who have been trafficked and international cooperation,” said Rudolph.

To bolster their commitment, the Loretto Sisters — the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM) — adopted a statement at their general congregation in 2014 which pledges “to work for the eradication of all forms of human trafficking and its causes, particularly among women and children, wherever we live and minister.”

“Because Loretto Sisters operate schools for girls in many parts of the world, we are often in contact with those who are vulnerable and at risk of being trafficked or exploited,” explains Rudolph. “Human trafficking exists wherever IBVM members, associates and co-workers live and minister. We have a special concern for women and girls who live at the intersection of socioeconomic, racial, religious or other vulnerabilities.”

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