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Prostitution victims recruited young

Candice Magnowski (left) chats with Williams Lake RCMP Const. Sharon Forbes after a human trafficking seminar hosted in Williams Lake Wednesday. - Monica Lamb-Yorski photo
Candice Magnowski (left) chats with Williams Lake RCMP Const. Sharon Forbes after a human trafficking seminar hosted in Williams Lake Wednesday.
— image credit: Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

Girls are being branded with tattoos to show ownership by pimps and some have bar codes on their wrists, said B.C. RCMP human trafficking co-ordinator Corp. Jassy Bindra.

Speaking to more than 100 people gathered for a human trafficking seminar in Williams Lake Wednesday, Bindra told the crowd the girls are property, not people.

“Guess what pimps call their gaggle of girls? A stable,” she said.

Referring to the case of convicted human trafficker Imani Nakpangi, Bindra said one of his victims, a 14-year-old girl who earned him an estimated $360,000 in a year, had a tattoo depicting his name on the back of her neck.

After his conviction, the victim went back to school and started a new life. But it wasn’t until a tattoo artist skin grafted and replaced Imani’s name with a lotus, that she felt as if she owned herself again.

“Confiscating identities is the greatest control mechanism of human trafficking,” Bindra said.

The average age of recruitment for prostitution in Canada is 11 to 13, with even younger children being targeted.

Bindra has not had much success bringing education into the schools because her topic is considered “sex education” not “safety education,” she explained.

“There are some great programs out there for schools that invite the programs in to educate students, but they cannot be forced on schools.”

Safer community co-ordinator Dave Dickson, however, said the RCMP are working with School District 27 Superintendent Mark Thiessen to introduce some sort of human trafficking awareness program into the schools next fall.

Const. Sharon Forbes of the Williams Lake RCMP detachment is part of the team that will work with the schools.

Originally from Ontario, Forbes has been stationed in Williams Lake for six months, and said the prevalence of human trafficking inspired her to become a police officer in the first place.

“I was working in India with an organization and my boss told me this was happening in Canada. I thought we were a developed country and it didn’t happen here, so I started to do some research.”

Already she has heard of a “couple” possibilities of human trafficking cases in Williams Lake and said she wonders how many more are out there.

“We really want to create community awareness in Williams Lake,” Forbes said.

The next step is to revamp the existing human trafficking committee so members can be actively aware of anything that’s going on in the community.

“Everyone here is involved with different aspects of the community that will come into play,” she said as she looked around the room. “I need you, I can’t run a human trafficking case by myself.”

Besides, she added, communities can help victims holistically.

Anyone wanting to participate on the human trafficking committee is asked to contact Dickson at  250-392-8701.

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