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by Sara Shields
DELEGATES TO THE "OUT FROM THE SHADOWS" CONFERENCE, IN ASKING FOR A NATIONAL STRATEGY ON THE COMMERCIAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH, RECOMMENDED A PARTICULAR PROCESS FOR FIRST NATIONS PEOPLE.
The international summit of sexually exploited youth, held in Victoria in March, was the first of its kind.
"It was recognized that First Nations children and youth had a specific vulnerability to sexual exploitation," said conference co-chair Cherry Kingsley. "Obviously, if they are particularly vulnerable, there must be elements of racism."
The conference of about 200 young people, politicians, and community activists gave young people who had experienced sexual exploitation the chance to speak directly to the people who change laws and policies, create programmes and allocate resources, Kingsley said.
"As we heard the stories from the delegates from the South, about poverty and about homelessness, we thought 'yeah, well, we relate,'" said Kingsley, who is of First Nations ancestry. "It became clear that First Nations young people don't live as citizens of a developed country."
"The contributing factors to being exploited are abuse, marginalization, poverty and homelessness, and inaccessibility of education, especially high school. Basically that's the situation for a lot of First Nations people."
When asked about solutions, Kingsley said First Nations children and youth should know they aren't at fault for being exploited.
"They need to know that it is being recognized as a form of abuse so they don't need to feel ashamed and stigmatized. And, because it is being recognized as abuse, there is help," Kingsley said, adding. "What has to be talked about is the men buying the children. The majority of the people who are buying and selling children are men and males need to address and take ownership of the issue."
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