Human Trafficking: It Can Happen Right Across The Street Or Next Door – Part II

  • Dec. 3, 2014 7:00 p.m.

Pipestone Flyer

Part II of III

By Karen McCrae 

Monica’s Story

When Monica was 19, she was looking for opportunities to escape the poverty and political unrest in her birth country, Bolivia. A family friend offered her a position working as a nanny for his relatives, Beth and Joe, in Grande Prairie. The friend took care of all of the immigration paperwork and paid for her plane ticket, with the expectation that she would pay it back once she began working. He told her she could go to Canada with a visitor visa and his relatives would help her with the formal immigration process when she arrived.

When Monica got to Grande Prairie, Beth and Joe took her passport and forced her to provide sex services to clients they had found on the Internet. Joe and Beth controlled Monica by threatening to use their connections in Bolivia to hurt her family. Because her immigration paperwork was not in order, they also threatened to report her to authorities if she did not comply. Monica was not permitted to leave the home unless accompanied by Joe or Beth. She did not see any of the income she generated, as the couple kept it all.

Two years went by. A suspicious neighbour left an anonymous tip with CrimeStoppers. The police raided the home and arrested Beth and Joe.

Human trafficking is a violation of fundamental human rights: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that human trafficking is the second most prevalent illegal activity globally – second only to drug trafficking – and is the fastest growing global crime overall. While human trafficking often conjures up images of sex slaves in brothels in Thailand, this is an abuse that also happens right here in Canada. However, despite the enormity of this crime and importance of comprehending it’s reach, it remains poorly understood and often occurs unrecognized around us.

Human traffickers target the most vulnerable among us. Many victims come from backgrounds of poverty, substance abuse, and the child protection system. They may have dropped out of school, run away from home, or have mental health issues. Aboriginal peoples in Canada have been documented as being disproportionately represented amongst victims as a result of entrenched legacies of colonialism, residential schools, and racism. Newcomers to Canada, including Temporary Foreign Workers, students, illegal migrants and visitors, are also extremely vulnerable. They may lack language skills or be unaware of their rights under Canadian law and they often lack social connections in their new community. This leaves them isolated and vulnerable to exploitation.

Traffickers know how to twist vulnerabilities to their own advantage and often lure their victims with hopes and dreams for a better future.

Pimps, boyfriends, unscrupulous employers, drug dealers, and others in positions of power are well represented amongst traffickers. They coerce, deceive, manipulate, or force victims into engaging in sex or labour for their personal profit. They are able to use their positions of power over an individual in order to traffic them.

Unfortunately, this remains a hidden crime. Many victims never come forward. They may mistrust authorities and law enforcement officials and are often severely abused emotionally and physically. Traffickers often maintain control over victims through threats to them and their families, making it even harder for them to self-identify to authorities. Legacies of trauma and abuse further complicate providing assistance to victims of trafficking.

Fortunately, Canada is increasingly recognizing human trafficking as a serious crime and human rights abuse that requires immediate and concerted action.

In 2008, ACT Alberta was created with the goal of assisting victims of trafficking with their complex and individualized needs. ACT Alberta works with frontline service providing agencies, law enforcement and government in order to coordinate services and provide victims of trafficking with the full spectrum of care.

ACT Alberta also trains and educates the community about human trafficking. We offer free presentations on human trafficking to professionals working with trafficked persons in the for-profit and non-profit sectors, as well as community groups and agencies. The newly developed Youth Education Program (YEP!) in Calgary aims to educate and engage youth on human trafficking in Canada though a free, interactive and age-appropriate presentation.

ACT Alberta also provides direct assistance to victims of trafficking. They are actively involved in directly advocating for immigration status for victims of trafficking in Canada who are at risk of deportation. They also manage a Victim Assistance Fund which is drawn upon when victims of trafficking require assistance that they cannot find elsewhere. This fund has been used to pay for emergency dental and medical care, psychological trauma counseling, and transportation costs, as well as for emergency housing when a victim of trafficking is faced with living on the streets.

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer
City of Wetaskiwin cases rapidly climbing

City of Wetaskiwin reporting 11 active cases of COVID-19

Photo submitted/ Rita-anne Fuss
Distancing Diamond Project in Millet for mental health

Distancing Diamonds allow for social distancing community gathering.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed more than 1,000 cases over the weekend Monday afternoon. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

‘We’ve now crossed the tipping point,’ says Hinshaw

The death of 19-year-old Jacob Michael Chitze of Edmonton has now been ruled a homicide following an ongoing RCMP investigation.
UPDATE: RCMP arrest youth for second degree murder of 19-year-old Jacob Chitze

Arrest made for the murder of Jacob Michael Chitze, 19.

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join AUPE walk outs across the province Monday Oct. 26, 2020. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
City of Wetaskiwin health-care workers strike in protest of province-wide cuts

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join other front line hospital workers across the province in walk-outs.

Cases in Ponoka (East Ponoka County) as of Oct. 27. (alberta.ca)
Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at three Ponoka businesses

Town ‘strongly encouraging’ residents to wear non-medical masks in public

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
U.S. election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year

The survey polled 1,523 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25

Alberta’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday July 6, 2020. The Alberta government is hoping to get more Albertans employed by moving to limit the number and type of temporary foreign workers it allows into the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta to limit temporary foreign worker program to save jobs for Albertans

Temporary foreign workers already in the province won’t be affected

(Emily Jaycox/Bashaw Star)
Wreath laying ceremony held in Manfred, Alta.

Ceremony marks 64th anniversary of Hungarian revolution, honours settlers

Submitted
Montana First Nations councillor gives back to youth

By Chevi Rabbit For Ponoka News Reggie Rabbit is a newly elected… Continue reading

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Most Read