Trafficking women: Gendered impacts of Canadian immigration policies

  • Jacqueline Oxman-Martinez
  • Andrea Martinez
  • Jill Hanley


Women and men are subject to different forms of human trafficking; sexual exploitation is more common for women than for men, and the purposes of trafficking follow gender roles. This article argues that Canadian immigration policies have differential and discriminatory impacts according to gender. We define human trafficking before critiquing two Canadian immigration programs that leave women vulnerable to exploitation. Interviews, questionnaires, and a review of official documents were employed in exploring the government's response to this phenomenon. Our findings suggest that given the nature of the international trafficking and exploitation of women in Canada, the government's focus on border control is ineffective in protecting trafficked women's human rights and the rights of migrants generally.

Key words

Human trafficking immigration policy women/femmes gender/genre Canada 


Les femmes et les hommes font l'objet de trafic sous toutes sortes de formes mais on remarque que l'exploitation sexuelle est plus courante chez les femmes que chez les hommes et que les finalités du trafic humain ont une forte connotation de genre. Cet article vise à montrer que les politiques d'immigration canadiennes ont des impacts différentiels et discriminatoires selon le sexe. Nous y définirons le trafic des êtres humains avant de procéder à la critique de deux programmes qui rendent les femmes migrantes vulnérables à la critique de deux programmes qui rendent les femmes migrantes vulnérables à l'exploitation. Des entrevues, des questionnaires et une recension des documents officiels ont été utilisés pour explorer la réponse du gouvernement à ce phénomène. Nos résultats indiquent qu'étant donnée la nature du trafic international et de l'exploitation des femmes au Canada, l'accent mis par le gouvernement fédéral sur le contrôle des frontières est insuffisant pour protéger les droits humains des femmes ainsi que les droits des immigrants en général.


Trafic des êtres humains politiques d'immigration 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ad Hoc Committee for the Elaboration of a Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. (2000). Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children: Supplementing the United Nations Convention against transnational organised crime. Vienna: United Nations.Google Scholar
  2. Andrew, C., & Milroy, B. M. (1991). Gender-specific approaches to theory and method. C.M. Andrew & B. M. Andrew (Eds). Life spaces: gender, household, employment (2nd ed.), pp. 176–186. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.Google Scholar
  3. Caldwell, G. S., Calster, S., & Steinzor, N. (1997). Crime and servitude: An exposé of the traffic of women for prostitution from the newly independent states. Washington, DC: Global Survival Network.Google Scholar
  4. Centre for International Crime Prevention. (1999). Global programme against trafficking in human beings: An outline for action. Vienna: UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.Google Scholar
  5. Chossudovsky, M. (1998). La mondialisation de la pauvreté. Montréal, QC: Écosociété.Google Scholar
  6. Chun, C. (1996). The mail order bride industry: The perpetuation of transnational economic inequalities and stereotypes. University of Pennsylvania Journal of International and Economic Law, 17, 1155–1208.Google Scholar
  7. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. (1997). Sponsorship Retrieved February 2, 2001 from the World Wide Web: Scholar
  8. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. (1999). The Live-In Caregiver Program: Information for employers and live-In caregivers from abroad Retrieved February 2, 2001 from the World Wide Web: Scholar
  9. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. (2000a). Facts and Figures 1999—Immigration Overview: Family class sponsorship principal applicants by gender, 1999 Retrieved February 2, 2001 from the World Wide Web: Scholar
  10. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. (2000b). Facts and Figures 1999—Immigration Overview: Other class by principal applicants by gender, 1999 Retrieved February 2, 2001 from the World Wide Web: Scholar
  11. Coalition to Abolish Slavery and trafficking. (1999a). Fact Sheet on Trafficking of Women and Children Retrieved September 3, 1999 from the World Wide Web: Scholar
  12. Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. (1999b). What is Trafficking? Retrieved September 3, 1999 from the World Wide Web: Scholar
  13. Consulting and Audit Canada. (2000). Trafficking in women: Inventory of information needs and available information. Ottawa: Citizenship and Immigration Canada—Strategic Policy, Planning and Research.Google Scholar
  14. Côté, A., Kérisit, M., & Côté, M.-L. (2001). Sponsorship…For better or worse: The impact of sponsorship on the equality rights of immigrant women. Ottawa: Status of Women Canada.Google Scholar
  15. Fekete, L., & Webber, F. (1997). The human trade. Race and Class, 39, 67–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Global Challenges and Opportunities Network. (2000). Global Challenges and Opportunities Network: Policy Research Initiative Retrieved October 18, 2000 from the World Wide Web: Scholar
  17. Ghosh, B. (1998) Huddled masses and uncertain shores: Insights into irregular migration. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.Google Scholar
  18. Hughes, D. M. (1999). The Sex industry and the Internet industry: Partners in the globalisation of sexual exploitation. New Jersey: International Symposium on Technology and Society, Rutgers University.Google Scholar
  19. International Organisation for Migration. (1999). Traffickers make money through humanitarian crises (special issue). Trafficking in Migrants: IOM Quarterly Bulletin,_(19).Google Scholar
  20. International Organisation for Migration. (2000a). Counter-Trafficking service Retrieved June 15, 2001 from the World Wide Web: Scholar
  21. International Organisation for Migration (2000b). Migrant trafficking in europe: A review of migrant trafficking and human smuggling in Europe with case studies from Hungary, Poland and Ukraine. Geneva: IOM.Google Scholar
  22. Kattoulas, V. (2000). Bright lights, brutal life (women smuggled into Japan are forced into sex business by yakuza). Far Eastern Economic Review, 163(31), 50–55.Google Scholar
  23. Koser, K. (2000). Asylum policies, trafficking and vulnerability. International Migration, 38(3), 91–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kramer, J. M., & Johnson, C. D. (1996). Sustainable development and social development: Necessary partners for the future. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 23(2), 75–91.Google Scholar
  25. Labrecque, M.-F. (2001). L'économie politique de la construction des genres chez les Mayas du Nord du Yucatan au temps des maquilladoras. Anthropologie et Sociétés: Économie Politique Féministe, 25(1), 99–115.Google Scholar
  26. Langevin, L., & Belleau, M.-C. (2000). Trafficking in women: A critical analysis of the legal framework for the hiring of live-in immigrant domestic workers and the practice of mail-order marriage. Ottawa. Status of Women Canada.Google Scholar
  27. Macklin, A. (1999). Women as migrants in national and global communities. Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme, 19(5), 24–31.Google Scholar
  28. McDonald, L., Moore, B., & Timoshkina, N. (2000). Migrant sex workers from castern Europe and the former Soviet Union: The Canadian case. Ottawa: Status of Women Canada.Google Scholar
  29. Oxman-Martinez, J., & Martinez, A. (2000). Trafficking in human beings in Canada: Summary of Federal government practices and policy issues. Ottawa: Status of Women Canada.Google Scholar
  30. Oxman-Martinez, J., Martinez, A., & Hanley, J. (2001). Human trafficking: Canadian government policy and practice. Refuge, 19(4), 14–23.Google Scholar
  31. Philippine Women Centre of BC. (2000). Canada: the new frontier for Filipino mail-order brides. Ottawa: Status of Women Canada.Google Scholar
  32. Philippine Women Centre of BC. (2001). Filipino nurses doing domestic work in Canada: A stalled development. Vancouver, BC: Philippine Women Centre of BC.Google Scholar
  33. San Juan, E. (1998). From Exile to Diaspora: Versions of the Filipino experience in the United States. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  34. Schloenhardt, A. (1999). Organised crime and the business of migrant trafficking. Crime Law & Social Change, 32(3), 203–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sklair, L. (1995). Sociology of the global system. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Tenth UN Congress. (2000). New global treaty to combat ‘sex slavery’ of women and girls. Vienna: UN Dept of Public Information.Google Scholar
  37. Thobani, S. (1999). Sponsoring Immigrant Women's Inequalities. Canadian Women's Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme, 19(3), 11–15.Google Scholar
  38. Thobani, S. (2001). Benevolent state, law-breaking smugglers and deportable/exportable women. Refuge. 19(4), 24–33.Google Scholar
  39. Thornham, S. (1999). Feminism and film. in S. Gamble (Ed), Critical dictionary of feminism and postfeminism. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  40. UNDP. (1998). Overcoming Human Poverty. New York: United Nations Development Program.Google Scholar
  41. UNIFEM. (2000). Progress of the World's Women, 2000. New York: UNDP.Google Scholar
  42. Wichterich, C. (1999). La femme mondialisée. Paris: Solin, Actes Sud.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer SBM 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacqueline Oxman-Martinez
    • 1
  • Andrea Martinez
    • 2
  • Jill Hanley
    • 3
  1. 1.McGill UniversityMontréaCanada
  2. 2.Université d’OttawaOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Université de Montréal/McGill UniversityMontréaCanada

Personalised recommendations