Invisible Chains, Benjamin Perrin

Benjamin Perrin‘s comprehensive look at human trafficking, Invisible Chains, the first book of its kind published in Canada, is important, timely, and helpful.  It is a clear call for Canada to return to its triumphant stand as a beacon of light as it was as the Underground Railroad during the slave trade in the United States.

Perrin writes an alarming story:

…human trafficking has taken hold across the country and is thriving due to a lack of a coordinated response from federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments.  Canada must take greater steps to ensure that traffickers are prosecuted, victims are protected, and this assault on fundamental liberties is stopped.  But government alone cannot solve the problem.  The solution lies in a community response–and the realization we all share in the responsibility to end trafficking and restore Canada as a safe and prosperous society for all of its citizens and newcomers (218).

Informative for legal experts, law enforcement, NGOs, anti-trafficking agencies, and laymen, the book is thorough in its assessment of the reality of trafficking in Canada, the extent to which it is being effectively addressed, and suggests plans of action all of the above can sink their teeth into.

Perrin gives Canada a failing grade for its efforts to combat trafficking and looks to countries like the USA, Sweden, and Italy as nations to learn from and implement similar strategies to in the fight against modern day slavery.

The book is not only critical.  It is a call to action with practical suggestions of ways address trafficking.  For instance, noting that police across Canada confirm that escort agencies and massage parlours typically front as legitimate businesses when in fact they are selling victims of human trafficking, Perrin suggests mayors, city councilors, and by-law officers should “remove licensing from these illegal enterprises and find less dreadful means of filling the community coffers” (157).

The book also examines the grooming techniques gangs, pimps, and exploiters use to prepare victims for lives of indentured sexual slavery within Canada.  “By showering a targeted girl [victims typically seeking love] with affection and fulfilling her material desires, the trafficker builds allegiance, eventually allowing him to manipulate her” (64).  The fact that pimps and traffickers publish and refer to literal hand guides on how to work their dark arts, Perrin emphasizes the national embarrassment of not having yet adopted a national plan of action: “traffickers in human lives have a plan, Canada does not” (218).

Not only does Invisible Chains include a very detailed approach to amending the national response to trafficking with suggestions for the federal government, provincial and territorial governments, local police, businesses, communities, and parents, it also includes a 10-point action plan for individuals.  Two of the helpful suggestions include 1) a blacklist of forced labour trafficking products released by the U.S. Department of Labor that ranks 122 common goods from 58 countries considered the worst for child and forced labour and 2) directions to Crime Stoppers and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection to report warning signs of trafficking or online sexual abuse, imagery, child luring or trafficking to authorities (1.800.222.TIPS and, respectfully).

Whether the reader knows much about trafficking or little, Invisible Chains will prove an informative and important read.  Its reliance on methodical research, insightful critique, thoughtful explication, and heroic reference to proven abolitionists – Martin Luther King Jr. and William Wilberforce of the past, present day abolitionists working in Canada, and survivors of horrific crimes – it will certainly usher many Canadians further in the urgent and noble pursuit of a Canada freed from slavery.


Benjamin Perrin, Invisible Chains.  Toronto: Viking Canada.  2010.