Monday, October 12, 2015

Book Review: Invisible Chains: Canada's Underground World of Human Trafficking

After reading Siddhartha Kara's book on Sex Trafficking, I wanted to learn about the situation in Canada.

Invisible Chains: Canada's Underground World of Human Trafficking
By Benjamin Perrin
298 pages

As intended, I got the sex trafficking story from a Canadian perspective. Shocking that the stories I'd read about in poorer nations was indeed happening in Canada. Shocking that men in Canada are also mega-assholes who make their money off buy, selling and abusing women and children, as well as buying sex from these victims. Shocking that law enforcement couldn't do much because the laws were poorly written and lenient. I wonder if this has changed though, as the book is five years old?

Perrin's book was useful in rounding out my knowledge of sex trafficking, but not as well written as Kara's.  Where Kara's book was compelling and engrossing, Perrin's book was just...well a bit boring. It was well researched, and the personal stories where there, but I felt like he talked in circles and sometimes repeated concepts. I skimmed a lot. However, it was still worth a read and I still learned stuff.

Reading these two books together has me examining my purchases, especially from a forced labor perspective. How do I know where my clothes come from? How can I make more ethical clothing/goods purchases?

Recommended from the internet on this issue was...

Shopping for Good
Dara O'Rourke
103 pages

I wanted information about ethical shopping: who/what/where/why/how. Instead I got a chapter from O'Rourke on why ethical shopping is good, followed by a number of essays from guest contributors essentially agreeing with O'Rourke: ethical shopping is good. Yeah, I know that. I wanted more than a preaching to the choir collection of essays. Oh well. At least it was short.

Book Review: Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery

The girls decided October's book club genre would be "unsettling" - because it's Halloween month but we've already done thriller and horror. I don't do scary but unsettling was sufficiently vague that I figured I could find something. And as I often bend towards nonfiction, there is plenty of unsettling stuff in the world. Someone suggested I read a new Scientology book, which led me to search out general cult books. I couldn't find a book that dealt with various cults, and the only real life stories recently seemed to be based off one particular cult. I knew I wanted to learn about multiples, and I knew I wanted to learn about facts as well as personal stories.

Somehow, I got on human trafficking - unsettling no doubt - and came across a book that sounded like the perfect fit. It contained researched facts, as well as anecdotal personal stories, and it presented a global perspective by including many countries around the world. And in the end it was exactly what I was looking for.

October 2015: Unsettling

Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery
By Siddhartha Kara
298 pages

Siddharth Kara left the business word to journey into anti-slavery research and advocacy. One of the reasons I chose to read this book was because all the reviews and websites generally considered Kara a renowned expert. This is his first book of a trilogy on modern slavery (Bonded Labour: Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia - 2012, the last yet to be published, as well as a report titled Tainted Carpets: Slavery and Child Labor in India's Hand-Made Carpet Sector - 2014). Kara not only provides the researched facts I was looking for, but also an analysis of the business side of human trafficking.

However, the strengths of this book are Kara's journey to the various countries and his descriptions of what he observes, and his retelling of numerous personal stories of predominantly the victims of sex trafficking, but also law enforcement and NGO workers. He travels to and writes about the situation in India, Nepal, Italy, Western Europe including Moldova, Albania and the Balkans, Thailand and the United States.

And it was unsettling. It's so hard to comprehend how in this modern world women and children are still being bought and sold into the sex trade. And millions of men around the world have so little respect and care for women and children that they make this happen by organizing and running the sex trafficking industry, but also by buying sex from victims. I can't even put it into words. Kara's writing was extremely visual, compelling and accessible. I read this book in 2 nights - I just couldn't put it down.

My only complaint about this book is it's not overly current, being published about seven years ago. However, I will read his second book and the third when it comes out. I highly recommend this book: it will open your eyes to a world long forgotten. It will inspire horror, compassion, and a desire to change. It's not an pleasant read but I left feeling like I learned, and feeling like I needed to learn more. It was a perfect unsettling book for October.

Tour of Alberta: Course Marshalling for the Win

I came across a tweet asking for volunteers for Tour of Alberta 2015. I'm an avid cyclist, but will admit I know little about bike racing. I did watch Tour of Alberta 2013 downtown when it was in Edmonton, and I intended to watch this year. But I'm perpetually drawn to volunteering, and am glad I clicked submit on that volunteering application because it was awesome.

I had to attend a short orientation held at City Hall the week before. I signed in, got a spot, and learned a bit about the tour. I would've like to learn more about my volunteer job, but received a handbook via email right before the event that helped. I was still a bit unsure about the whole day but I'll do anything for a (florescent high-vis yellow) free t-shirt. (Also a free sandwich and snack which was a nice touch.)

The most unclear part was the timing. I was given a time to sign in, but really, it was 2 full hours before the start so I just stood around for 2 hours. I get that you want all volunteers to be in place for the start time - but I was never told the start time, nor told what time I had to be in position. Only this ridiculously early time to hang around. It drives me nuts when I get treated like a tardy child. Don't give my a 2 hour early call time because you think I'll be late. I'm never late. Very annoying.

For awhile I stood around and watched the family ride (which I also never knew about, and would've participated if given an opportunity - not so fab marketing here). There were some cute kids out and just generally a lot of people have a fun time riding the course. This went on for an hour and then more volunteers started showing up. Were they told different times than me? Who knows.

Cute little guy on his glider - that there is the future of this sport!

I switched my spot so a couple could be together and it was the best thing that happened to me all day because my new spot was epic! I guess a course marshal's job is to keep people safe. To keep people off the road, to keep debris off the road, and to generally ensure the riders' safety from the crowd (and vice versa). We told people when to cross the road and when to not cross the road. We kept people well onto the curb and answered a few questions. Fortunately the race went off without a hitch and besides certain self entitled people ignoring our orders to not cross the road, all was well and no one got hurt.

The riders made 11 laps. We knew they were coming when the paid race marshals started blowing their whistles. Then the front cars swung around our corner, then the riders, then all the following cars. They went around the other part of the course and a few minutes later this was all repeated on the corner across from us. So we basically go to see each lap twice.

As usual the best part was chatting to the other volunteers. I was paired with a younger guy from the States, and he knew tons about bikes and bike racing so he was super informative. I learned a lot.

My spot was perfect. I got to see the riders up close. It was so cool - they were going so fast you could barely see them. And the noise, so neat.

This is what it was really like. The first bit is from across my corner, but watch till the end - that was my corner!

It was a really good day. I will definitely volunteer next time Tour of Alberta stops in Edmonton, and heck, maybe I'd volunteer other places too. And I'll certainly travel to see it next year - maybe in the mountains. That would be so cool...