A new book detailing the harrowing ways Indigenous people are targeted by predators for sexual exploitation in Montreal was released Tuesday.
Written in collaboration with the city’s Indigenous community, its goal is to prevent it from happening to others.
“We’re not vulnerable, we’re targeted,” said Tina Pisuktie, a former intervention worker who now serves as the executive of the Southern Quebec Inuit Association.
Pisuktie read a passage she contributed for the book My Friend…My Abuser at its Montreal city hall launch.
“For me as a [intervention] worker the perception of sex work, of abuse was different. Because in the stories I would hear, it was a boyfriend, it was a friend, it was a trade off, and it was survival,” Pisuktie read in front of an audience of dozens, including Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Chief Ghislain Picard, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, and many others from the city’s Indigenous community.
My Friend…My Abuser is a compilation of interviews with Indigenous victims of sexual exploitation and the frontline workers trying to help them.
But the authors of the book are neither… rather they are police officers.
“Sometimes it’s important to have the humility of recognizing that we don’t necessarily hold all the best practices, and sometimes the people we work with are the ones that hold them,” said Josée Mensales, who co-authored the book along with Diane Veillette
Mensales and Veillette work for Montreal police’s survivors program where they are tasked with helping victims of sexual exploitation.
The program currently has three Indigenous survivors who work on prevention and education, which includes giving sessions to police officers.
But the sex worker advocacy group Stella says that’s not addressing the root cause.
“There’s at least one woman in our community who’s missing right now and the fact that she was criminalized and everyone around her is criminalized, not just for sex work but drugs, occupation of public space, for when they give us conditions that we can’t be outside after a certain time, obviously when you’re homeless that just attracts more police in your life, so that’s what we need to get rid of all together,” said Sandra Wesley executive director of Stella.
My Friend…My Abuser contains several passages recounting Indigenous women being targeted by predators at halfway homes, bus stops, and through social media.
In order to protect marginalized people, Wesley recommends that Montreal police take a page from Vancouver and cease enforcing laws with regards to consensual sex work and instead use pre-existing laws against kidnapping to end human trafficking.
As for Pisuktie, she just wants people to know that if they’re in trouble, there’s any number of organizations there to help. And perhaps now more than ever, they are cooperating with each other.
“[We’re] trying to figure out, how can we do things differently, how can we move forward. We can’t constantly be fighting one another. And so it’s not perfect but it’s better than what we had”