Human trafficking happens everywhere, even in small towns like Williams Lake, said RCMP Corp. Jassy Bindra.
Bindra, who is with the RCMP Human Trafficking Unit for E Division, will be in Williams Lake March 12 to give a human trafficking seminar hosted by the Williams Lake RCMP and Community Policing.
She hopes parents will be inspired to attend because many minors are victims of human trafficking, she said.
“Of the forced prostitution files that have come about in Canada where there are convictions, it’s been close to a 50/50 split of involving minors.”
Citing a Vancouver Police Department file in B.C. Supreme Court right now, Bindra said it involves 11 victims who are under the age of 18.
Williams Lake RCMP safer community co-ordinator Dave Dickson said the RCMP and Community Policing invited Bindra to Williams Lake to give the seminar.
“The issue of human trafficking is rearing its head all too often in our community,” Dickson said. “We decided it was important to bring Jassy here to help our community address the problem.”
Dina Kennedy, who co-ordinates the Great Room in Williams Lake for women who have suffered abuse, said while girls are not standing on the streets selling themselves prostitution is happening here.
“They are selling themselves to buy designer clothes, alcohol and drugs,” Kennedy said.
In the last two years, Bindra has seen the awareness of human trafficking grow.
“Seminars are not only being attended by government organizations or individuals who work with victim services, but by regular citizens,” she said.
While prostitution may be the obvious human trafficking problem, another big one is human labour trafficking, specifically in the hospitality industry, Bindra said.
People arrive in Canada and immediately have their identification papers taken away by an employer, are paid less than they were promised or not at all, and are threatened not to tell anyone.
“How far can anyone get without identification?” Bindra said.
Unfortunately statistics are not a true indication of the problem of human trafficking in B.C. or in Canada.
In B.C. there’s only been one conviction for human trafficking and 24 Canada-wide.
“I think we need to keep in mind that often times, this is very much a clandestine offence that involves individuals who don’t necessarily realize their rights or understand that they are being trafficked,” Bindra explained.
“Or in some cases they put up with the situation because they feel they have no other alternative. They are scared or they are ashamed.”
The seminar will cover human trafficking laws, the burden of the threshold for convicting criminals, the signs of human trafficking people should look for, and case studies that have had success and/or failure.
Kennedy and Dickson hope the seminar will help inspire new interest in the city’s existing Human Trafficking Commitee.
Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity on our planet right now and will be the number one business world-wide, out ahead of drugs and guns in the very near future, Dickson said.
The free seminar takes place Wednesday Mar. 12, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at city hall.