Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Recount of Trafficking Victims in Canada

From the Canadian Press:

The sex-slave market in Canada is feared to be much larger than existing official estimates, which has prompted authorities to recount the number of victims in the country.

Joy Smith, the Conservative vice-chair of the parliamentary committee on the status of women, said several analysts have been assigned to the RCMP's human trafficking unit to go over their figures.

The RCMP believes 800 to 1,200 people in Canada have been victims of human trafficking but some activists peg the figure as high as 15,000.

"There's a big gap in those numbers," Smith told The Canadian Press. "This needs-assessment is critical to finding out exactly what we're facing and exactly what we have to deal with here in Canada."

Smith pointed out that the RCMP's figures come mainly from arrest reports, which can provide a misleading snapshot of the situation.

"When the NGOs are saying 15,000, these are the people that take care of the victims," she said.United Nations tallies suggest 2.5 million people worldwide, including some 1.2 million children, are involved in forced labour through global trafficking.

The RCMP has noted several cases where Canadian girls have been taken abroad and sold.

One activist, who says he spent the past two years interviewing victims and pimps, says there is a particular demand for Quebecers. "They have a reputation for being good in bed," said Lawrence-Thierry Bernard, a former candidate for the provincial Action democratique du Quebec. "They created a demand so recruiters began to recruit in Montreal."

According to Bernard, many street gangs have taken to luring local women into prostitution rings by posting ads for overseas work on the Internet.

"The street gangs can recruit but they need contacts with larger organized crime networks to sell the girls," he said.

The Mounties acknowledge they have had difficulty putting a number to the amount of trafficking victims in Canada.

"In the beginning we didn't know if we had cases here," said Const. Magdala Turpin, a human trafficking investigator based in Montreal. "We didn't know what the problem was.

"She said measuring trafficking in Canada is further complicated by victims who are unaware of their rights and are often leery of police.

But with authorities in Canada and the U.S. slow to get a handle on the situation, criminal networks have a void they are keen to exploit.

"It's the crime of choice for criminal networks and enterprises because it's high-profit and low risk," said Laura Lederer, senior director for global projects at the U.S. State Department's office for human trafficking.

"So many countries have been focusing on drug trafficking... so traffickers have been moving over into this area where there are few laws and they're poorly enforced."

Read the full article

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