Slavery in British Columbia

Human slavery a widespread problem in B.C.

By Rachel Stern – Nanaimo News Bulletin

Published: March 26, 2010 1:00 PM
Updated: March 29, 2010 7:43 AM


You don’t have to live in a foreign country to become a victim of human trafficking.

Almost everyone is vulnerable at some point in their lives to the lure of predators.

In Canada and B.C., people from all walks of life have become victims, regardless of social status, education or family background.

Traffickers prey on a person’s insecurities and become a close friend at a time of need. They become a victim’s champion and offer gifts and trinkets.

Slowly, the predator erodes the support network of family and friends and gets them to sever ties. Once isolated, the trafficker exerts further control over victims and they disappear into an underground world of human exploitation in the sex trade, forced labour, domestic labour or organ harvesting.

The victim becomes property – a modern slave.

“Human trafficking is going on to a degree just about everywhere in British Columbia. I’d be surprised if it didn’t happen to an extent in Nanaimo,” said Delaine Milette, social justice coordinator for the B.C. division of the Salvation Army, who will speak at a special workshop on the issue next week.

“It’s not a hopeless situation. It can be prevented.”

There are no confirmed cases of human trafficking on the Island or Nanaimo, but that just means no cases before the courts or with charges pending, said Rosalind Currie, director of policy and stakeholder relations for the provincial Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Currie said the Island is an area of concern. One of the problems with trafficking is it is underground and because of its hidden nature, much of it goes undetected.

Traffickers often pose as a boyfriend or girlfriend to gain the trust of the victim. The trafficker gets the person to feel indebted to them and commonly gets them to work in prostitution.

People being trafficked are often controlled and it is difficult for them to ask for help and some have language barriers that makes it difficult for them to report the crime, said Currie.

The RCMP website states human trafficking is the second-largest criminal activity in the world, tied with illegal arms sales.

Canada is a transit and destination country. The majority of victims trafficked are women, but all ages and sexes can be lured. About 80 per cent of people trafficked are female and 50 per cent are children, said Milette.

And there is growing concern about Aboriginal girls, Currie said.

The OCTIP manages B.C.’s strategy on human trafficking and works with people across the province to identify gaps and raise awareness across B.C.

Parents, grandparents or any adult family member caring for a child or teen can get the tools they need to recognize warning signs at an upcoming forum.

Milette is speaking at the Salvation Army Tuesday (March 30).

The workshop, What Adults Need to Know to Protect Teens From Human Trafficking, offers advice on the signs to watch for so people’s children don’t become victims. It takes place from noon to 2 p.m. at the Salvation Army Church, 505 8th St.

For more information, please call 250-245-5778.

Anyone who believes someone is being trafficked or is being trafficked themselves can call the OCTIP help line at 1-888-712-7974 anytime. Language interpreters are available.

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