Slavery survivors and researchers to speak at York conference

Slavery survivors, researchers and activists aim to put the issue of modern slavery on the map during tomorrow's conference at York University.

The second annual conference, organized by the Alliance Against Modern Slavery (AAMS), seeks to illuminate lesser known forms of contemporary slavery that are thriving at home and abroad. These include domestic slavery, debt bondage, child soldiers, hereditary slavery, forced servile marriage and human trafficking for forced labour.

Conference speakers will discuss ways to prevent slavery and human trafficking, as well as issues such as sex tourism and post-enslavement rehabilitation.

Above: From left, Ali Moussa Iye, chief of UNESCO’s Intercultural Dialogue Section; AAMS co-founders Jeffrey Gunn and Karlee Sapoznik. and Jean Augustine at the Harriet Tubman Summer Institute, which took place at York on Aug. 26

“Contemporary slavery has moved from being a marginal, underpublicized human rights issue to one that is now being acknowledged, particularly in the last decade,” says event organizer and York PhD candidate Karlee Sapoznik (MA '08).Speakers will include survivors of slavery and human trafficking as well as Ontario Fairness Commissioner Jean Augustine (Hon. LLD '11); MPs Judy Sgro (Liberal), Malcolm Allen (NDP), and Terence Young (Conservative); Diane Redsky of the Canadian Women’s Foundation; Carleen McGuinty of World Vision; York University psychology Professor Kyle Killian and members of York’s Harriet Tubman Institute; Jolene Stowell, human trafficking coordinator for the Women’s Support Network of York Region; Shae Invidiata of Free-Them; Will Postma of Save the Children; and law enforcement officials.

She notes that while trafficking in persons for the purposes of forced prostitution has been the primary focal point, it is important to illuminate and place less publicized forms of slavery in Canada on the agenda. These include forced servile marriage and human trafficking in the form of forced labour, as well as bonded labour and child labour, “classical” slavery and descent-based discrimination, forced labour for the state, wartime enslavement and servile marriage, as well as the severe exploitation of migrants and domestic workers.

“At the conference, we’ll be calling on federal, provincial and municipal governments to support the creation of an Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force steering committee in Ontario, the destination province for the majority of foreign trafficking victims and the locus of most trafficking prosecutions in Canada,” Sapoznik says.

The conference will be followed by a concert featuring Kate Todd, actress, singer and songwriter; Janelle Belgrave, and Jeff Gunn of Peace Concept.

“We’re all connected to slavery through the consumer goods we purchase and consume on a daily basis. There’s an urgent need to look into partnerships and avenues to counter this,” Sapoznik says.

The AAMS is incorporated and registered as a not-for-profit charitable organization. It was founded by students in York University’s Graduate Program in History, with a mission to end slavery through research, education and aid, in partnership with other organizations. AAMS has strong ties to York: Many of its executive members are York graduate students and York Distinguished Research Professor Paul Lovejoy, director of York’s Harriet Tubman Institute and Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History, is a board member.

For more information, visit the Alliance Against Modern Slavery website.