Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Liberties Taken, Freedom Forfeit

Human traffickers should be no given no quarter in the eyes of the law

In some of the darkest corners of the world a secret underground economy trades in human misery on a nearly unimaginable scope.

Human trafficking is a grisly practice in which women -- normally very young women -- are kidnapped, intentionally addicted to drugs then forced into prostitution.

If Taken accomplishes anything as a film, it will make the viewer positively hate human traffickers. The viewer may even excuse themselves for wishing the villains were killed a little more slowly and much more painfully.

Liam Neeson stars as Bryan Mills, a former CIA operative quietly retiring so he can spend time with his 17-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). When Kim wants to go to Paris with her older friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) Bryan has his reservations. Eventually at the urging of his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) Bryan relents and allows her to go.

Kim isn't in Paris for more than a few hours when she's kidnapped. Upon conferring with some friends from his days as a spy Bryan quickly concludes that Kim has been taken by human trafficking. He has 94 hours to get her back before she'll never be seen again.

Slowly but methodically Bryan violently dismantles the human trafficking ring that has kidnapped his daughter. No lives are spared, save that of Bryan's French intelligence acquaintance-turned-criminal-conspirator -- and even then only as a small courtesy.

Taken is an unflinching -- even if faintly gleaming with typical Hollywood polish -- look at the world of human trafficking.

The film reminds the viewers of the threat posed by human predators with no sense of morality. Countless lives are corrupted, destroyed and ultimately ended by these individuals in the name of petty monetary profit.

In Canada, Conservative MP Joy Smith is pushing to institute mandatory minimum sentencing for human trafficking.

However, in proposing a five-year mandatory minimum sentence of a mere five years in prison falls far short of the penalty this heinous crime should entail.

Considering the scope of the human misery caused by human trafficking, even if the current maximum sentence in Canada -- 14 years -- were the mandatory minimum proposed by Smith it would fall far short an appropriate punishment.

The mandatory minimum sentence for human trafficking should be life in prison. The maximum should be the death penalty -- a punishment that Canada hasn't practiced since the 1960s.

In lieu of the legislative tools to suitably end the lives of anyone caught engaging in human trafficking in Canada, Canadian courts should be provided the tools to do with such individuals as is fit: locking them away for the remainder of the lives they have forfeit by so horrifically taking liberties with the lives of others.


  1. Here in the Philippines, human trafficking is a crime that's made all the more prevalent by the droves of people from the province travelling to Manila, our capital, in the hopes of finding better employment. More often that not people are very young and completely unfamiliar with city life, making them easy prey for these people. While human traffickers here do get arrested, what irks me is that they are often released due to them having connections with the local politicos. Long jail terms? Fuck no - they'll most probably get off on a technicality. I prefer the method PACER (Manila's anti-kidnapping task force) developed when they caught guilty kidnappers - shooting them onsite.

    Their reasoning was that kidnappers here are almost always linked to local politicians, and throwing them in jail only gave them time to escape, and perhaps commit more crimes. However, if the said perps were caught in a "shootout" with the cops, then there's no way they'd weasel their way out of court.

    Vigilantiism? Yes, but it does send a clear message to the criminals - no amount of legalese will stop a bullet in the brain.

  2. Hmmm. Something along the lines of "ooops, I just shot this scumbag five times in the face".

    Call me uncompassionate, but I like it.

  3. Patrick I want to say I love this entry. I wholeheartedly agree that the 14 year maximum sentence here in Canada should be AT LEAST the minimum one.

    Human traffickers are the lowest of the low and I consider their lives to be almost worthless.

    The other commentor is right, these guys are usually very well connected. So jail may not be the answer...

    I remember hearing a few years back that Vancouver and Montreal had become some of the top tourism spots if you were looking for underage prostitutes. Something must be done in this country to make the lives of the ones who traffic in human misery very very difficult.

  4. Excellent post, Patrick. I'd disagree on the death penalty (otherwise, where would people like David Milgaard be?), and anyway forcing these sick sons of bitches to spend the rest of their lives with cellmates who'll show them what their slaves have to go through is more of a punishment.

    From everything I've heard, criminals who are convicted of pedophilia or crimes against children tend to get it worst from their fellow inmates, and I suspect it would be no different for human traffickers. Proof that there really is honour among thieves.

    You can guess why Paul Bernardo is kept in solitary confinement.

    Again, credit where credit is due-I've maintained that, whatever I might think of their long-term goals, the Harper Conservatives have done very well on the 'bread and butter' issues that don't make the front pages but are still very important, and their hard stance on crime is a good example of what they've done a genuinely good job on.

    Maybe we could contact our MPs and ask them to consider legislation like this as part of the crime bills the Harper government is probably going to re-introduce?

    Your synopsis of the film left me with one rather glaring question.

    I know nothing of human trafficking beyond the fact that it's a crime against humanity, and so maybe someone who might know more about it can clear it up, but would human traffickers really kidnap well-off tourists who might be missed, and who would have people looking for them?

    As sad as it is, and this makes it even worse, but I would think human traffickers would prey on poor women and illegal aliens who otherwise have no money or no understanding of city life, as Antonio pointed out. Whereas going after a well-off American tourist who's going to be missed by her family just seems foolish, since you'll be attracting unwanted attention that you could do better without.

    Regarding the child prostitution in Vancouver and Montreal, I'd be more inclined to think those would be illegal aliens who came to Canada through human smuggling and are forced to turn to prostitution to make ends meet, rather than middle-class people kidnapped and enslaved. Sadly, poor illegal aliens are much less likely to be missed, and would otherwise be much easier for traffickers to kidnap with minimal risk.

  5. Great post Patrick, and great comments.

    I have heard Joy Smith speak on this subject. I had no idea how wide spread this sick crime is.

  6. I think Joy Smith's heart is in the right place on this one, but certainly not her head.

    I think a mandatory minimum sentence of five years would be an absolute insult to the victims of human trafficking.

    I realize that there's a tendency for some of the opposition parties in Canada to prefer soft criminal law, but that isn't any reason to actually allow them to have it.

    If the opposition actually opposes harsh penalties for a crime of this magnitude, it's only going to show Canadians where their priorities really lie.

  7. @Jared

    The reason I don't want these scumbags getting a life sentence isn't just because of the possibility of them escaping.

    There's the matter of housing and feeding them - that's tax money I will NOT spend on their behalf.

  8. Personally, I've always considered that the death penalty is more humane than a life sentence.

    I think a lot of people would choose death over lifetime imprisonment.

  9. Personally, I've always considered that the death penalty is more humane than a life sentence.

    I think a lot of people would choose death over lifetime imprisonment.

    My point exactly. This way, those bastards have to spend the rest of their lives experiencing what they put their victims through, courtesy of their cellmates.

    I'd consider that tax money well spent.

    Like I said, there really is honor among thieves in this world, as proved by the death of Jeffrey Dahmer and the fact that if Paul Bernardo were kept among the general prison population, he wouldn't survive the night.

    More generally, pedophiles, traffickers in child pornography and other such criminals are at the bottom of the totem pole in prison, and I'd be very much astonished if the same didn't happen to the human traffickers.

    And again, if someone like David Milgaard was executed, and later on found to be innocent, what happens then? That's the clincher, in my view-as hellish as losing years of your life can be, you can still be released and regain your freedom. If you're executed, and later on the system realizes it made a mistake, it's already too late to fix it.

    I'd also note that no one has responded to my query regarding human traffickers kidnapping tourists vs. drawing in women who have few if any other alternatives. I find it hard to believe that traffickers would run the risk of kidnapping people who'd be missed by their families and who would set the authorities looking for them, when they can just as easily prey on women who, as sad as it is to say, few people would miss.

  10. I can certainly respect that.

  11. "I find it hard to believe that traffickers would run the risk of kidnapping people who'd be missed by their families and who would set the authorities looking for them, when they can just as easily prey on women who, as sad as it is to say, few people would miss."

    I agree with you on that point at 100%, when I was referring to Montreal as a place where pedophiles came to "dates" I didn't mean that people kidnapped tourists from PET airport.

    The girls exploited in these cases are probably almost ALL illegals which makes it even harder to track the smugglers.

    I think they used vacationing white girls in the movie because we (the north american public) as whole probably empathize better with a father losing his daughter then we would to girl coming out of a container who spoke a language we didn't understand. It's just an easier sell.

  12. You would think so, but you also have to remember that illegal immigrants often tend to suffer fro health and aesthetic issues that make them less valuable on the open market.

    I'd bet that the bulk of those kidnapped for human trafficking purposes are illegal immigrants. But attractive women from wealthier families are likely much more valuable for this purpose, and I'd have to imagine that the veteran human trafficker is quite adept at making someone disappear.


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