Part I of III
By Karen McCrae
Karly is a 21-year-old girl who was born in Calgary. When she was 12, her mother committed suicide and Karly and her siblings were placed in foster care and later moved to group homes.
When Karly was fifteen, she met Luke who lived near her group home. He began buying her gifts and allowed her to sleep on his couch. They soon became romantically involved. After a few months, Luke began pressuring her to turn tricks in order to help pay the bills. When she didn’t bring home enough money, he would accuse her of stealing from him and would verbally and physically abuse her.
When Karly turned seventeen, she met Max online. Max was sympathetic to her situation and invited her to stay with him in Vancouver. Max was fun and provided her with drugs. He soon convinced her to start stripping to pay for their bills. Within a few weeks she was turning tricks. In return for her earnings, Max provided her with meth and a place to sleep. When she told him she wanted to stop and go home, he told her that he knew where her brothers lived and that he would, “make them pay” if she refused to give him her money.
One night, one of Karly’s dates ran out without paying. When Karly told Max what had happened, he beat her unconscious and left her in an alley. A concerned bystander saw her and called the police. Karly told them her story and they arranged for Karly to fly back to Calgary. She was connected with a local service-providing agency that arranged for a safe place to stay.
In Alberta, victims of trafficking are subjected to exploitation in both legal and illegal sectors. Roughly 65 percent of the individuals assisted by ACT Alberta are forced into sexual exploitation in the commercial sex industry. One third are trafficked for their labour in agriculture, construction, processing plants, retail, restaurants, the hospitality sector, domestic servitude and gangs. A small but significant number of victims of trafficking in Alberta are trafficked for both labour and sexual purposes. For example, a nanny who is being trafficked for her labour may also be forced to provide sexual services to her employer.
Although this crime can involve the transportation of a victim, movement is not necessary for human trafficking to occur. In this way, human trafficking differs fundamentally from human smuggling. Indeed, the Action Coalition on Human Trafficking (ACT Alberta) reports that 60 percent of the victims of trafficking that are reported to them are trafficked internally within Canada. 40 percent have been trafficked across the Canadian border.
How can we spot the victims of this terrible crime? Anyone – men, women, or children, of any age group or ethnicity – may be a victim. However, traffickers tend to target the most vulnerable among us. They prey on hopes for a better life and make promises they have no intention on keeping. At particular risk are children and youth, those coming from a background of poverty and oppression, and those with mental health and addiction issues. Newcomers to Canada, including Temporary Foreign Workers, students, visitors, and illegal immigrants, are also at heightened risk of being trafficked and exploited.
Human trafficking is a serious crime and is illegal in Canada. As of May 2014, law enforcement has laid 15 human trafficking charges in Alberta.
If you know someone in imminent danger, contact 911 immediately. If you know or suspect someone is being trafficked, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) to report an anonymous tip.
ACT Alberta also provides free community presentations on human trafficking. To arrange for a presentation, leave a referral, get advice, or coordinate services for a victim of trafficking, call ACT Alberta at (780) 474-1104.