The light made him squint. Smoke thick, like the stove had backed up. Big Mike was standing in the doorway pushing two girls ahead of him. Good news! Except Big Mike had no kids—and the girls looked like they were freezing in their little skirts and skinny heels. Michael’s mind woke up. He’d looked through the magazines that Derwent’s father kept out back in his workshop.
from “Deadhead” in Facing the Other Way
While human trafficking is not the focus of this story – a parent who needs to take responsibility for his actions is – the plight of two exploited girls is an important part of what happens. The narrator, Michael, is the son. His father has taken him on an annual ‘boys’ weekend at the cabin in the bush with the rather crude buddies from the father’s childhood – when the weekend takes a surprising turn.
I had seen a film at the Atlantic Film Festival on exploitation of young women in Europe, and it disturbed me: the bleak apartment buildings that were home to the film’s teenage character, the lack of hope in her future, the seductive promise of a life in technicolour. I knew that such things did happen here, and I wanted to bring attention to it.
In truth, exploitation of young women happens at a much higher rate in their home countries, where desperate families still sell daughters into prostitution and sex tourists exploit them. In Canada, according to a Globe & Mail article in 2016, 94 per cent of trafficking in Canada is of Canadians and it is mostly in the sex trade. This article from the Huffington Post looks at the situation in Canada and beyond.
International trafficking, however, involves both labour and the sex trade. This is the most interesting article I found in my look around. It focuses on a town in the US on the Mexican border, but it also takes a thorough look at the global picture.
For my story, I wanted something bad enough to shock Ralph, Michael’s father, into paying attention, and I wanted to work with the kids and how they might take on such a situation. It gave the story a chance to highlight an issue that is growing again as we scatter across the globe with fewer checks and balances. And as I despaired of what to do toward the end, something quite compelling presented itself.