‘Heart­break­ing’ crimes

Anti-hu­man traf­fick­ing con­fer­ence held in Bar­rie; fastest-grow­ing crime on the planet

The Barrie Examiner - - FRONT PAGE - CH­ERYL BROWNE

The slave trade is alive and do­ing well in On­tario.

On Mon­day morn­ing, more than 200 law en­force­ment, so­cial ser­vice work­ers, court ser­vice work­ers, heal­ers and helpers agreed to work to­gether to de­ter­mine how to break through the chain of hu­man traf­fick­ing.

“It’s been de­scribed as the fastest-grow­ing crime on the planet and that’s pretty scary,” said OPP Deputy Com­mis­sioner Rick Bar­num at the kick-off of the an­ti­hu­man traf­fick­ing con­fer­ence at the Hol­i­day Inn in Bar­rie.

Bar­num told the crowded room that On­tario is rec­og­nized as a hub within Canada, for hu­man traf­fick­ing, today’s slave-trade in­dus­try.

“When you hear sto­ries, as you will in this con­fer­ence, from vic­tims who have been traf­ficked and vic­tims who’ve been ex­ploited and abused, they’re heart­break­ing, they are heart-wrench­ing,” he said.

“And I defy any pro­fes­sional per­son that’s com­mit­ted to their com­mu­ni­ties and com­mit­ted to help­ing peo­ple, to not have their heart ripped out of their chest when they lis­ten to th­ese sto­ries and un­der­stand how peo­ple have been vic­tim­ized and abused, their iden­ti­ties stolen from them.

“It’s in­cred­i­bly, in­cred­i­bly hard to lis­ten to and it in­creases our need to make sure we re­spond ap­pro­pri­ately,” Bar­num added.

The two-day con­fer­ence was opened af­ter a read­ing by an OPP of­fi­cer who thanked the Indige­nous na­tions and ac­knowl­edged the gather­ing in Bar­rie was on their tra­di­tional land on ter­ri­tory cov­ered by Up­per Canada treaties.

Cana­dian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion (CMHA) coun­sel­lor and Anish­naabeg el­der, John Rice, ex­plained Indige­nous peo­ple be­lieve their Creator sent peo­ple from the sky in a pure and clean form and that chil­dren are gifts from the creator and should be cher­ished as such.

“A lot of what I do in my work is about the spirit, about how we clean and keep our spirit pure,” Rice said.

“And when we think about what can go wrong in some­one’s life, es­pe­cially the very young, the very in­no­cent and es­pe­cially those ones we’ve made that prom­ise to, if they’re hurt and there’s so much dirt thrown on their spirit, that their spirit could float back to the spirit world. It’s how we worry about it,” Rice added.

“They could go back to where they came from, that their spir­its would leave us.”

Rice sang and drummed two tra­di­tional prayer­ful songs be­fore the speak­ers ap­proached the podium.

Funded by a civil remedies grant pro­gram, the con­fer­ence in­cluded sto­ries by sur­vivors of sex and labour traf­fick­ing, how to pro­vide ser­vice for vic­tims, nav­i­gat­ing the court process and pre­ven­tion pro­grams to pro­tect youth.

OPP Insp. Tina Chalk, a leader on the anti-hu­man traf­fick­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion co-or­di­na­tion team, and or­ga­nizer of the con­fer­ence, said by fo­cus­ing on a vic­tim-cen­tred ap­proach, of­fi­cers will at­tend train­ing to learn to ques­tion ev­ery­day oc­cur­rences to de­ter­mine if a per­son is held against their will.

“If you’re stop­ping a car to write a ticket, look past that and ask ques­tions of the child in that car,” Chalk said. “You can ask, ‘Is this your dad? Do you know where you are today? Where were you yes­ter­day?’

“It’s not a North Amer­i­can thing, it’s a Cana­dian thing. It’s hap­pen­ing right here and we can do bet­ter,” she said.

A few kilo­me­tres away, the Child Ad­vo­cacy Cen­tre of Sim­coe Muskoka opened its doors Mon­day af­ter­noon.

The new cen­tre joins its sis­ter fa­cil­ity in Oril­lia to of­fer a child­friendly ap­proach to help chil­dren who’ve been the vic­tims of child abuse.

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