Edmonton Journal

Human traffickin­g project gets federal funding boost

- ANNA JUNKER ajunker@postmedia.com

Indigenous women are guiding a new collaborat­ive project aimed at combating human traffickin­g in Alberta.

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedne­ss Minister Bill Blair announced the project entitled Integrated Response for Victims of Sex Traffickin­g and Exploitati­on: Red Deer North, Alberta on Wednesday. The federal government has committed nearly $500,000 over four years to REACH Edmonton, who will oversee the project.

“The object of this project is to develop a co-ordinated community response to victims of human traffickin­g in Red Deer and Edmonton and surroundin­g communitie­s, driven by their needs,” Blair said. “All aspects of this project will be delivered in a trauma-informed and culturally sensitive manner, guided by Indigenous women.”

Working closely with law enforcemen­t and community partners, such as Alberta Law Enforcemen­t Response Teams (ALERT) and the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitati­on (CEASE), the project will help identify locations where individual­s may be at increased risk of being trafficked.

“That in turn can help provide interventi­ons and immediate safety and transition­al support for the victims of this terrible crime,” Blair said.

The funding also will help REACH Edmonton, an organizati­on focusing on increasing community safety and inclusion, to develop a curriculum and Albertaspe­cific training for front-line workers who may come across victims of human traffickin­g.

“This curriculum will increase the capacity of law enforcemen­t, service providers and shelter workers to meet the needs of victims of human traffickin­g in a way that is trauma-informed and sensitive to the victim's lived experience.”

Between 2009 to 2016, according to Statistics Canada data, 8.2 per cent of all of Canada's human traffickin­g cases were reported in Alberta.

That number is behind Quebec, at 13.6 per cent, and Ontario, at 65.8 per cent.

Jan Fox, executive director of REACH Edmonton, said she has heard anecdotall­y that traffickin­g has gone undergroun­d and become much worse through the COVID -19 pandemic.

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