As human trafficking is a criminal offence that still takes place across Canada, affecting individuals and families alike, one student at the University of Saskatchewan is addressing this issue and initiating a discussion.
Public Safety Canada defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation and control over a person’s movement in order to exploit them, typically through sexual exploitation or forced labour. Statistics Canada states that in 2014, Canadian police services reported 206 violations of human trafficking in Canada, accounting for less than 1 per cent of all police-reported incidents. Between 2009 and 2014, police reported 396 victims of human trafficking, 93 per cent of which were women. In 83 per cent of these cases, the accused were men.
Brittney Senger, third-year political studies student, wants to make U of S students aware of the existence of human trafficking in Saskatchewan and to give them a better understanding of the issue to help prevent the crime.
To do this, Senger organized a public lecture and panel on campus, titled “Neglecting to Protect,” which took place on Oct. 11. The lecture focused on domestic human trafficking, the means by which it can occur and the places from which both victims and survivors can obtain help.
Although Senger believes that social media can have a negative effect by placing people in danger of online predators, she also highlights the essential role that social media plays in raising awareness about human trafficking.
“Personally, I think it has more positive effects. I think that if you are responsible using social media, you can understand the risks better … I think that the pros outweigh the cons in the sense that it can be great for raising awareness and finding facts,” Senger said.
To Senger, there are very clear indicators that human trafficking occurs in Saskatchewan.
“I think there is evidence of human trafficking if you simply look for it. The amount of murdered and missing Indigenous people is appalling and we can’t just assume that they’re just disappearing. [There is] obviously … something going on behind it … if we don’t address it, it’s not going to get any better,” Senger said.
Lorna Dornstauder, a corporal with the RCMP in the Integrated Organized Crime North Unit and speaker at the lecture, explains strategies to recognize a subject of human trafficking.
“There’re some really obvious ones where the person doesn’t have either their own passport or their own identification, where they are working very, very, long hours and receiving either little or no pay … if they’re on a trip and [have] little or no baggage … if it’s like a child,” Dornstauder said.
Dornstauder recommends that students who directly or indirectly witness human trafficking should first contact the police. She also recommends outreach programs such as Saskatoon’s Egadz and Edmonton’s Chrysalis, non-profit organizations that provide programs and services to youth and families to improve their quality of life.
Senger hopes that students will understand that human trafficking is a terrible and ubiquitous crime and that the stepping stone to fight it is to acknowledge that it happens and to bring forward a discussion about the issue.
“I really hope that people will start to pay attention to the issue and honestly, I just hope that it will open up a conversation, and I hope that people will have less prejudice towards people they see on the streets. Maybe understand a bit more how they got there and their situation … but it’s important that people understand that it happens to people who are vulnerable … and it really could happen to anyone,” she said.
Dornstauder agrees wholeheartedly with Senger.
“I hope [students] understand a little more about human trafficking and maybe, if they do see something, hear something that they think is odd or out of place … call the police or they offer that person help and make a change,” Dornstauder said. “Anyone who is a survivor, I applaud them. Actually, I would applaud any of the students who come to this presentation because it shows that they are interested in becoming involved and maybe being part of a solution to a worldwide issue.”
Gabriel Siriany Linares
Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor