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Reflections on Cybersex Trafficking from a Canadian Dad


Reflections on Cybersex Trafficking from a Canadian Dad

Philip Calvert, a father of two, recently travelled with a group of IJM supporters to Cebu, Philippines to learn about how Canadians can put a stop to the hideous crime of cybersex trafficking.
Reflections on Cybersex Trafficking from a Canadian Dad

Meet Philip Calvert from Calgary, Alberta

Phil calvert blog post 1

Phil is the Director of Development and Mobilization for Alberta for IJM Canada. He is a husband and a father of two young children and has a special affinity for Australian football.

Recently, Phil travelled with a group of IJM supporters to the IJM field office in Cebu, Philippines to learn more about how Canadians can put an end to cybersex trafficking.

While visiting the Philippines, Phil got a chance to visit with IJM Philippines staff and local partners such as police, social workers and prosecutors. He also had a chance to visit an aftercare shelter for children rescued from cybersex trafficking.

Phil sat down with us to share his experiences visiting the field and about his passion for ending cybersex trafficking.

Tell us a bit about your role with IJM Canada

Most of my time is spent talking with individuals about combining their passions with their abilities to make a difference in the world.

What I mean by that is that a lot of people have the ability to make a difference in the world and passion to see those things come true, but don’t have time to pull it off. I have the privilege to meet with people and figure out what their passion is, and often it’s around issues of slavery, human trafficking and injustice. I help them see that the resources or abilities that they’ve been given can make a real difference in the world.

This means that someone in Alberta may not have the ability to work as an IJM investigator or social worker, but their support makes rescue operations possible and provides aftercare to our clients around the world.

You recently travelled to the Philippines with IJM supporters to learn more about combatting cybersex trafficking. What were some highlights from the trip?

The first one would be meeting with an IJM social worker who worked on Maarko* and Gabi’s* case. I mentioned to her that I’m using Maarko’s story in an upcoming TEDx Talk that I’m doing in Calgary. She showed me some colouring pages that Maarko and Gabi worked on shortly after their rescue. There was so much beauty and gentleness in the way that the social worker showed me these colouring pages. Much like a caregiver or parent would have for their own child’s artwork.

As a dad, I was struck by the concrete realization that these are real kids being abused. These are real kids colouring in a picture of a carrot, colouring in a picture of a Transformer. As a dad, it was a direct line to the fact that these are kids and these are things that kids want to do. But somehow, they were involved in this entirely different reality, which was hard to wrap my head around.

The second highlight was playing basketball with kids at the aftercare shelter we visited. It was great to play some three-on-three with them and the IJM supporters from Canada. We got to give these kids a time of fun and play and competition. Other kids watched and cheered them on and they ended up beating us. They probably felt like David taking on Goliath. It was just so much fun and a privilege.

John Tanagho video screenshot

Field Office Director John Tanagho and IJM Canada supporter Jody Klassen reflect on fatherhood and the crime of cybersex trafficking.

Could you tell us more about how this type of casework impacts you as a dad and how the trip to the Philippines affected you?

Seeing and meeting the kids at the aftercare shelter was hard, because my own kids are about the same age. It was an easy mental connection to make. For example, when a mango fell off a tree at the shelter, a bunch of kids ran over and screamed “mango!”, that’s exactly what my own kids would have done. I completely understood their love language of play and having fun together.

There was one little boy I met at the shelter who reminded me of my son a lot. He was running and jumping and doing lots of stuff that my son does, almost like he was saying “I’m athletic, look at me go!”. The sense of play stuck out to me so much. As a dad, processing the reality that these kids who are abused just want to play and be kids was hard.

On the supply side of cybersex trafficking, one of the IJM investigators we met said that one of the things that they really struggle with is the sense of breaking up a family. They feel as though taking a child out of the home is breaking up the family unit. But he went on to share that it’s the crime of cybersex trafficking that is actually breaking up the family. What IJM is breaking is the cycle of abuse that would have carried on if they had not rescued the child.

On the demand side of cybersex trafficking, I struggle with the concept of a person sitting at a computer directing the live-streamed sexual abuse of a child, knowing that what the child actually wants to do is to have fun, play and be a kid. Knowing that there is someone on the other side of the world who is finding sick enjoyment robbing a child of their innocence…it really upsets me as a man and as a father of young children.

My favourite thing to do with my kids is to play something we call the “Hug Monster”. I chase the two kids around growling “Hug Monster!”. Then they chase me around, tackle me, roll around on the floor and shower me with hugs. That’s what I love about being a dad - playing with my kids and showing them how much I love them.

As a dad, my heart just breaks for these kids being abused because this isn’t part of their experience. The language of play and acceptance and seeing their parents as safe is not something they understand. When their parents get home, or when a call comes in for a show, what these kids experienced was fear not acceptance, danger not safety, crying not laughter and abuse not joyful play.

It makes me really upset knowing that parents are causing this kind of trauma and knowing that it’s men in my own country directing this abuse online.

"There was one little boy I met at the shelter who reminded me of my son a lot.

He was running and jumping and doing lots of stuff that my son does, almost like he was saying 'I’m athletic, look at me go!'.

The sense of play stuck out to me so much. As a dad, processing the reality that these kids who are abused just want to play and be kids was hard."

- Phil Calvert

What would you say to Canadian men and fathers who want to do something about ending cybersex trafficking?

One of the things we have the privilege of doing, as men in Canada, is helping to shape the culture that we want our kids and the next generation to grow up in. Do we want our kids, nieces and nephews to grow up in a society where wonder is something that’s valued? The discovery of life, love and happiness happening through a relationship with a parent and a child? Or have we somehow used technology and the connected nature of our society to stop that from happening?

If you’re a man who is looking for child abuse material online, or you know someone who is viewing this material online, it’s directly impacting and hurting your own family. To quote MLK Jr. “injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.” When you reduce a tiny human life into an object of sexual gratification, it doesn’t just stop with that individual who is experiencing trauma. It also redefines who a child is.

A child should not be defined as a sexual object. A child should be defined as someone who is beautiful, someone to be valued, someone to be taught, respected and nurtured into a person who can thrive and have a full life.

When we abuse children, in any way, we redefine who a child is.


At IJM Canada, we believe that we can shut down cybersex trafficking.

We invite all Canadians, whether you're a father, mother, daughter or son to join our fight.

You can join the nationwide movement to raise awareness and help end online abuse perpetrated by Canadians.

Get your Sticker. Take the Pledge. Start the Conversation.

Visit to take action.

*a pseudonym

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