New col­lec­tive cre­ated to fight hu­man traf­fick­ing

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - NICOLE O’REILLY

A col­lec­tive of com­mu­nity agen­cies work­ing to fight hu­man traf­fick­ing in Hal­ton Re­gion launched a new sup­port model Thurs­day that will give those on the front lines tools to stop sur­vivors from fall­ing through the cracks.

Cindy Stover, co-or­di­na­tor of the Hal­ton Col­lab­o­ra­tive Against Hu­man Traf­fick­ing, de­scribed their new client-cen­tred sup­port model as a “wrap­around ser­vice.” If used prop­erly, it will help more front­line com­mu­nity work­ers rec­og­nize hu­man traf­fick­ing, ask the right ques­tions to stop re-vic­tim­iza­tion and con­nect sur­vivors to the ap­pro­pri­ate ser­vices, she says.

In the past, sur­vivors of­ten de­scribed not be­ing be­lieved or feel­ing stig­ma­tized when they came for­ward. Care was scat­tered and agen­cies didn’t work to­gether.

This was true for Robin Zee Zil­berg, who shared her story through a per­for­mance art piece at the launch event in Oakville Thurs­day.

When she fled her traf­fick­ers the first time 30 years ago, she felt dis­missed. She re­mem­bers only one po­lice of­fi­cer once say­ing some­thing nice to her.

“All I re­mem­ber is be­ing on a bus,” she said of her es­cape, adding that when she got back to Mon­treal she was beaten.

She ended up back do­ing sex work in Ne­vada be­fore flee­ing to On­tario. It wasn’t un­til she learned, with the help of a ther­a­pist, to “self­par­ent” and take con­trol over her life, that she could be­gin to deal with years of sex­ual abuse that be­gan as a child.

The new model is the cul­mi­na­tion of a year’s work, speak­ing with those who have been traf­ficked and with the agen­cies that try to help them. It gives stake­hold­ers key ques­tions to ask and a con­tin­uum of rec­om­mended re­sponses that vary de­pend­ing on whether some­one is at risk of be­ing traf­ficked, is in cri­sis, or needs long-term sup­port af­ter flee­ing.

With the model, which can be ac­cessed on­line, a front-line worker can ask the ques­tions and im­me­di­ately see who is best suited to help.

Hal­ton is con­sid­ered a hot­bed for hu­man traf­fick­ing, with ma­jor high­way cor­ri­dors, plenty of ho­tels, lit­tle or­ga­nized crime com­pe­ti­tion and high-pay­ing clients, Hal­ton Re­gional Po­lice Ser­vice Det. Sgt. Raf Sk­warka said.

Last year, Hal­ton po­lice in­ves­ti­gated 75 cases of hu­man traf­fick­ing and laid 68 charges, well up from the 10 charges laid from 80 cases when Hal­ton’s hu­man traf­fick­ing unit was formed in 2013. Ev­ery­one agrees those num­bers are a drop in the bucket, com­pared with how many young girls and women are be­ing vic­tim­ized.

Sk­warka said Thurs­day morn­ing he checked a web­site where sex is sold in Hal­ton — and by 10 a.m. there were 33 ads for Oakville and Burling­ton. He noted a con­cern­ing trend of more and more young girls seem­ing to be the tar­get of traf­fick­ing.

Typ­i­cally, traf­fick­ers find vul­ner­a­ble young girls or women on­line or out in the com­mu­nity, ma­nip­u­late them into think­ing they love them and are their boyfriend, only to pres­sure them to then make money for them through sell­ing sex.

One girl can make a traf­ficker $250,000 a year.

Hal­ton is not the only com­mu­nity work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively, with coali­tions pop­ping up in ma­jor On­tario ci­ties over the past cou­ple of years.

The Hamil­ton Anti-Hu­man Traf­fick­ing Coali­tion formed three years ago with 67 mem­bers, with a smaller work­ing group cre­ated last year.

Wed­nes­day, Hal­ton MPP and Sta­tus of Women Min­is­ter In­dira Naidoo-Har­ris in­tro­duced the Anti-Hu­man Traf­fick­ing Act which, if passed, would give sur­vivors in On­tario the abil­ity to sue their traf­fick­ers and ap­ply for hu­man traf­fick­ing-spe­cific re­strain­ing or­ders.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.