Steps to combat trafficking initiated

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Steps to protect local Indigenous people from human trafficking were initiated at a workshop July 25 in Swan River.

The Lesser Slave Lake Indian Regional Council hosted a workshop at Swan River First Nation for service providers and first responders.

“Human trafficking is not only in the cities, it’s starting to hit home in rural areas,” says Sandra Willier, LSLIRC opioid awareness co-ordinator.

“With drugs and alcohol come other bad decisions that invite anyone and everyone to join in.”

Drugs and opioids influence people of all ages.

“Opioids and human trafficking go hand in hand,” Willier says.

“Everyone should know the harms about opioid abuse and use.”

Action Coalition on Human Trafficking [ACT] Alberta led the workshop.

Speakers helped draft a guide to highlight key steps and contacts to respond to a case of trafficking.

“We realize that rural areas are also affected by human trafficking,” says ACT Alberta manager of training and education Jessica Brandon.

About three quarters of victims of trafficking that ACT Alberta assists are women and girls, she notes.

Traffickers undertake action using means for the purpose of exploiting people, she states the United Nations definition.

Brandon says 57 per cent of ACT clients are from Canada and 22 per cent of those from Indigenous communities.

“It’s become a buffet of exploitation,” says Frances Yarbrough, ACT manager of victim responses.

ACT supports clients who are exploited sexually or in labour or both, she says.

Nancy Chalifoux of Driftpile shared her story about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“Our women, girls, men and boys are being targeted, not just susceptible,” Willier says.

“We need to be vigilant and we need to take care of each other.”

Her mother Angeline Willier, 72, went missing in 2001 before her body was found 11 years later near Swan Hills, she says.

Willier says police did not promptly respond to the report of the missing woman, which angered the family and Indigenous community.

“If anything like this happens, get your message out,” Willier says.

LSLIRC hosts a youth opioid awareness workshop Aug. 31 at Slave Lake Inn.

For more information, contact Willier by phone at (780) 843-6226 or email to sandraw@lslirc. ab.ca.

More information about ACT Alberta is available on the website at www.actalberta.org.

The five communities in the LSLIRC include Swan River, Kapawe’no First Nation, Sucker Creek First Nation, Driftpile Cree Nation and Sawridge First Nation in Slave Lake.

What to watch for

Action Coalition on Human Trafficking Alberta manager of training and education Jessica Brandon provides more information about what to watch for in frafficking.

The grooming process:

-When being targeted, traffickers typically seek out those who they see as vulnerable [i.e. low self-confidence, troubles at home, etc.]
-Trafficker will attempt to gain your trust and personal information.
-That information gained allows the trafficker to fill a need in your life, making you feel dependent on them for something [gifts, friendship, love, drugs, alcohol].
-Isolation. The trafficker will create alone time with you and begin to have a major role in your life while attempting to isolate you from family and friends.
-Abuse is the final step, but can be ongoing.
-The trafficker claims that you need to repay them for the things they did for you, bought you, etc.
-New hair style or colour, nails or clothing that you would not be able to afford otherwise [especially seen in youth] and no explanation as to where/who it’s coming from.
-New friends, maybe older than what is normal.
-Change in behaviour.
-Coming home late or not coming home at all.

Some indicators of someone who is potentially being trafficked:

-Evidence of control, such as being escorted or watched; the person not speaking on their own behalf; passport or other identification being held and no healthcare benefits.
-Limited knowledge about how to get around in a community or the local language.
-Living on or near where they work, unable to leave.
-Lack of private space, personal possessions or financial records.
-Frequently moved.
-Receive little or no payment.
-Shows signs of physical abuse and fear.

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