Thank-you all who were able to come out to my launch of Dream Catcher in the Art Space, with the MB Writer’s Guild today. It was great to share what I have striven for, and how my body of publications has progressed to raise awareness around social issues.
DIO Press an equitable and socially-conscious peer reviewed publishing company
working with and for scholars and teachers to publish accessible and reasonably priced texts and monographs
Join Detective Jack Bondar and Dani Taylor on their continued journey to find her little sister Ali, abducted at 16 and missing for the past 14 years. This sequel to The River of Tears delves into the psyche of sex traffickers and their victims. It explores their internal and external conflicts and the trauma that trafficked people and their families endure. It also shows the post-traumatic stress that many police officers experience in their work. It is a story about our roots, and the way we all long at some point to come home.
Some early endorsements:
This sequel to The River of Tears continues the story of Dani Taylor and Detective Jack Bondar and their search for Dani’s trafficked sister Ali. The novel explores the trauma of the families of missing loved ones and the broad range of people working to counter trafficking and sexual exploitation of Indigenous women in North America. Young Indigenous women that are missing, trafficked, and murdered in Canada and the U.S. illustrate the prevalence of sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and violence directed against Indigenous women. Dani and Jack’s pain, caring, and compassion is evident throughout their search for Ali in the hope they will find her. The story illustrates the human dignity of family members, survivors, and those working to stop the violence. The novel points out that families and those working to counter trafficking suffer from trauma and like the survivors need to heal.
Dr. Sean Byrne, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Manitoba
As an effective story-teller, Dr. Chrismas sheds light on the tension between the vulnerable and police in Canada while tackling the complicated, harsh and shameful reality of human sex trafficking in Canada. Dr. Chrismas gives us a glimpse into a world where human rights abuses occur daily and locally. Prevention can only occur if we know what this world looks like.
Dr. Robert Chrismas continues to take real life experiences and adapt them into accurate and thoughtful fictional portrayals of human sex trafficking in Canada. This novel provides a portrayal into the hidden and unknown sex trafficking that has taken place in our shipping and ports entering and exiting Canada. Chrismas should be applauded for brining attention to this uncomfortable reality.
Dr. Susan McIntyre President The Hindsight Group
Over 30 years experience as an internationally recognized expert, research and policy advisor in sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation.
In this evocative and important story, Dr. Bob Chrismas reminds us that the violent, misogynist world of human trafficking is not a distant problem. It is happening everywhere, all around us. The author knows this world—he has spent his career fighting it. Dreamcatcher is a story about the everyday heroes who are battling human trafficking. The story highlights the agency of those working for positive change, both inside and outside the industry.
Dr. Amber Fletcher, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology & Social Studies
Academic Director, Community Engagement and Research Centre (CERC)
University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, (she/her)
Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 2020. 277 p.
Robert Chrismas’ Sex Industry Slavery: Protecting Canada’s Youth offers a unique contribution to the existing adolescent sexual exploitation and human trafficking discourse by presenting the author’s practical solution-based research using a comprehensive qualitative approach. Whereas much of the available youth sex trafficking research focuses on gathering headcounts of victims and providing ‘shock and awe’ estimates of the financial lucrativeness of the industry, Chrismas’ book helps to fill the persistent gap in effective responses to adolescent sex trafficking with first-hand perspectives of young sex trafficking survivors and the frontline service providers that are dedicated to helping them. The voice of each expert is qualitatively woven among the existing literature on this issue to answer Chrismas’ central thesis question: whatcanwe learnfromthoseworkingon the issue of youth sexual exploitation and from those most affected by it?
Although it is not explicitly organized using the United Nations’ “4Ps” pillars (i.e., prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership), Sex Industry Slavery achieves its purpose by compiling the collective knowledge of youth sex trafficking victims, law enforcement, social workers, policymakers, and other advocates to address challenges across the entire 4Ps continuum. From identifying at-risk and vulnerable youth to extricating youth who are entrenched in a life of sexual exploitation, to prosecuting traffickers and bolstering comprehensive aftercare supports for survivors, the book provides practical solutions for governments, law enforcement, and frontline service providers working to address this issue. Importantly, Chrismas does this by highlighting the narratives and insights of his research participants to offer a data storytelling approach to the practical solutions offered throughout.
Chrismas’ introduction positions child and youth sex trafficking in the larger sphere of various interrelated social and justice issues, including child maltreatment, child sexual abuse, social disparity, marginalization, prostitution, organized crime, and basic human rights. This is important as child and sex trafficking is a complex issue that has roots in all these issues. The author provides an in-depth discussion about the vulnerability of children that are victims of child abuse early in life, along with how social disparity, opportunistic exploiters, legislative shortcomings, and ongoing debates about victimization and agency in the sex industry continue to perpetuate opportunities for children and youth to be sexually exploited in Canada.
Leveraging these points, Chrismas’ book spans several important topics on youth sex trafficking in Canada, including the unique vulnerabilities and experiences of Indigenous women and girls, the strengths and weaknesses of Canada’s anti-trafficking legislation, escaping the grip of entrenchment in the lifestyle of youth sexual exploitation, and recommendations for next steps at the government and community levels to effectively prevent youth exploitation, protect survivors, prosecute exploiters, and remove barriers to service through strategic interagency partnerships. These themes already comprise a sizable portion of the larger body of human trafficking discourse, however, Sex Industry
Slavery can provide a fresh, Canadian-centered, problem-solving perspective that is often missing from academic research on youth sexual exploitation. For example, much of the American literature on youth sex trafficking addresses the ongoing criminalization of young victims across the country. Many local and state government bodies, child protection ministries, and law enforcement agencies have only recently shifted their perspective on youth sexual exploitation away from the view that these youth are ‘juvenile prostitutes’ that should be criminalized, toward the understanding that sexually exploited youth are victims of abuse. Consequently, systems have been slow to respond to youth sexual exploitation. In Canada, however, child and youth sexual exploitation has been treated as a form of child abuse for nearly two decades, and so the need to advocate for these youth as victims is unnecessary. What Canada needs – and what Chrismas argues throughout Sex Industry Slavery – is to let the voices of experts and individuals with lived experience inform the development and implementation of a well-overdue action plan.
Sex Industry Slavery contributes to the larger body of human trafficking scholarship with its emphasis on the inclusion of stories and insights from survivors and other subject matter experts. As author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once said: “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity” (Adichie, 2009). Through interviews with over sixty survivors of youth sex trafficking, Chrismas shares their raw and poignant stories, which serve to reiterate just how devastating and traumatizing sexual exploitation is for an individual.
These stories are critical to the discourse on youth sex trafficking as the available data both nationally and internationally on this issue does not adequately communicate the devastating impact on these youth, nor is it enough to solely serve as a catalyst for change among governments and systems. It often simply serves to inform rather than compel.
Chrismas’ research highlights the importance of telling the story behind the data to effect change. For example, a consistent underlying theme throughout Sex Industry
Slavery is that many survivors could have been protected from exploitation or saved from it much earlier if people or agencies knew what to look for and were able to respond. As Chrismas points out, “some survivors told gripping stories about how they could have been saved from trafficking and exploitation if someone in their care circle had recognized the signs and known how to intervene” (p. 124). Paying particular attention to the narratives of survivors is important, especially considering the persistent challenge of gathering accurate and reliable quantitative data that plagues research on human trafficking.
In addition to presenting survivor stories and insights to better understand and address youth sexual exploitation, Chrismas spends a considerable amount of time advocating for urgent action. He does not merely share survivor stories and insights from experts and practitioners as a way of lamenting all the challenges around addressing youth sex trafficking; instead, he compiles these perspectives into a full chapter of key findings and recommendations for responses that will lead to tangible impacts in the areas of prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership. With a focus on community-based, multidisciplinary approaches to youth sex trafficking, Chrismas provides his reader with a comprehensive roadmap for change that includes calls for increased funding, improved access to treatment and aftercare supports for survivors, increased law enforcement capacity to investigate and charge exploiters, strengthened community collaboration and partnership, and enhanced education, training, and awareness across sectors and stakeholder groups. Although Chrismas’ findings and recommendations do not deviate from much of the existing research on youth sexual exploitation, his research adds significant value to the growing – albeit slowly – body of Canadian literature.
Sex Industry Slavery is a worthwhile read for students, law enforcement officers, child protection workers, human trafficking advocates, policy makers, and any other stakeholder with an interest in understanding how to better respond to youth sexual exploitation. Anyone, regardless of their existing experience and expertise on human trafficking, can acquire new knowledge from the insights provided through Chrismas’ research.
CRYSTAL HINCKS (MA) FOURTEEN FIELDS INC. PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR (CALGARY, AB)
I am thrilled and proud to present my first novel, The River of Tears. It started in lock-down, quarantined with Covid; for a few days I wasn’t sure I would make it out. Part of my heart and soul went into this story, with the hope that some social good comes of it. Please distribute widely and read. I look forward to everyone’s impressions and feedback.
Foreword by Devon Clunis, Winnipeg Police Chief (ret.), the first black police chief in Canada and now the first Inspector General of Policing for Ontario.
Human history is replete with the horrors of social injustice and the valiant efforts of empathetic and courageous individuals to illuminate those injustices, heal wounds, and show the human family healthy ways to coexist in an equitable society. We have learned some lessons, but sadly, we continue to repeat painful mistakes that tear at the heart of civil society. We are at a critical juncture as we examine the social reckoning which has gripped the world in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and the divide which has developed between police and community.
Within the Canadian context, we are also reeling from the ongoing cultural atrocities committed against Indigenous peoples and the exposing and reawakening of deep wounds that must be attended to with integrity. Whether justified or not, police find themselves at the epicenter of these monumental social crises. The police have historically been the blunt instrument used to ensure the marginalized remained within socially constructed boundaries. We must take time to examine and understand these dynamics. We must allow ourselves to feel the historic pain which reverberates presently. We must tend to it with a view to our shared futures. We all have a part to play.
In his novel, The River of Tears, Bob Chrismas, takes us on an intimate journey into the struggle for understanding by connecting us to the historic and ongoing tragedy impacting Indigenous peoples in Canada and the strained relationship with police. He seeks not to blame, but to create awareness, which is foundational to the progress of real reconciliation and a better future for all Canadians. As a serving police officer, Bob paints an honest and compelling portrayal of the relationship between police and Indigenous peoples in Canada and points us to reconciliation. The social principles flowing through The River of Tears are much the same as those that led me into policing over three decades ago. Those same principles led to the intersecting of my life with Bob Chrismas.
In 1987, at the age of twenty-three, I joined the Winnipeg Police Service, driven by a strong desire to impact social change. I didn’t like the way relationships between people of colour and police were often portrayed in popular media at the time. It didn’t take long for me to see the parallel between people who looked like me and the lives of Indigenous people in Winnipeg. The relationship between police and Indigenous peoples closely mirrored what I saw on television respecting the relationship between police and black people. It was defined by negativity.
In my heart, I believed that policing could be an incredible tool for bridging the gap between social and cultural groups. I felt that we could break the established stereotypes resulting in destructive marginalization of many groups. As a rookie officer I experienced first-hand the societal dynamics that led to what I often saw on television. I saw how stereotypes were developed, reinforced, and institutionalized to the detriment of many. I saw the power entrusted to those with the uniform and the potential to reframe the narrative.
I can’t recall the exact time I first met Bob Chrismas, but I do recall that I immediately knew he was different. He was more cerebral than most and carried a kind, gentle, caring spirit on his exterior. Not your typical police officer who was expected to be visibly impermeable to emotion. Perfect in my estimate of what a police officer should be. Bob was fully aware, quietly determined, with the requisite intellectual skills to execute on a greater mission. This was a police officer who was changing the narrative.
As the years and our careers progressed, I was constantly aware of Bob from a distance. We never worked in the same unit, but I recalled the many times Bob was brought up in conversations about progressive police officers. His efforts on behalf of those being sexually exploited was the embodiment of the power and positive influence that policing could bring to bear in improving our collective human condition.
Bob was also one of the first police officers I knew who placed a high value on continuing education when most of us were satisfied with the training and development from within our respective organizations. Bob and I often spoke of his studies, and I would share my desire to further my studies as well. I encouraged Bob. He inspired me. As I rose through the ranks of the Winnipeg Police Service and found myself sitting in the role of Chief of Police in 2012, I harkened back to the desire that took me into policing in 1987.
Having strived towards it for twenty-five years, I now had a real opportunity to make meaningful change. I sought an architect to help us articulate this social impact message. I must thank then Deputy Chief Shelley Hart who advised me to have a conversation with Bob. He was in the process of completing his PhD and she felt he could help us. When Bob and I met to discuss my vision for evolving policing in our city, it didn’t take long to see how perfectly his passion and education would help us transform policing in Winnipeg.
With Bob’s help, Crime Prevention Through Social Development became the rallying cry for policing in my tenure. We were going to apply the full force and influence of policing to help change the social climate within our city. Bob helped me operationalize the message, resulting in a true transformation of policing in our city. It brought national and international recognition. We were one of the first Police Services in Canada to change the historic nature of dealing with prostitution by creating a Counter Exploitation Unit. This meant seeing those trapped in the sex industry as victims, rather than perpetrators. We sought to understand and help them find a better way. This became emblematic of the shift we instituted in policing. It resulted in a greater sense of satisfaction for those who served and those we served. The River of Tears highlights the need for more people-centred approaches in all we do in policing.
After retirement in 2016, I went on to consult with police leaders across Canada and the US sharing many of the lessons learned over the course of my career. Bob and I have collaborated on several projects, and I continue to rely on his wisdom as we work to advance policing and community relationships in North America. Today, Policing and community safety is at a significant crossroads. The societal and cultural pressures facing policing and the community are enormous and must be addressed with empathy and sincerity.
History does repeat itself. People often make the same mistakes because they are ill informed. My life and career have shown me that when given the opportunity to develop empathetic understanding, most of us tend to do the right thing. Over the years, I’ve come to know Bob Chrismas as a socially conscious, community minded, people centred, deeply caring and compassionate individual. He helped me to formulate a constructive path to policing in Winnipeg almost a decade ago. I believe his book, The River of Tears, will help us formulate the path to healing the present crisis in policing and community relationships, as well as the general challenges reflected in the many cultural schisms facing society today.
Bob has written a compelling book that speaks to our moment in time and calls us to become champions of social change. He welcomes us to see the world through another’s eyes as we engage with his two protagonists; Dani, a young Indigenous woman searching for her missing sister, and Jack, a seasoned police officer learning to overcome his cultural stereotypes.
The social constructs of race and class have been a burden for too many and for far too long. Policing has been used to maintain these boundaries resulting in a deep distrust between police and marginalized communities. Through Dani and Jack, we see our own struggle to listen, learn, grow, and forgive. We also begin to glimpse what is possible when we take time to understand and appreciate our respective paths on life’s journey. It is time to bring awareness and healing to these long festering wounds. It is time to build understanding and appreciation. It is time to begin to right these long standing social and cultural injustices.
The River of Tears awakens us to the part that we each can play in the historic challenges facing Canada as a nation, and how we can contribute fully to our shared future. I am confident that reading The River of Tears will help us as a society to begin to dry the many tears that have been and are being shed over the plight of those trapped in sexual slavery, the injustices visited upon Indigenous peoples in Canada, and the social constructs that have marginalized so many across our world. Prepare to be enlightened, encouraged, and emboldened to create a more equitable future as you read The River of Tears.
“Chrismas’s book represents a noteworthy contribution to the growing body of literature on human trafficking. The book complements the existing and more limited body of related literature on sexual exploitation and human trafficking within Canada. Perhaps, most importantly, the author offers a bevy of recommendations for policy reform and future research that should serve to inspire and guide our efforts to combat the enigma of human trafficking.”