Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Assault: 

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Support and Information Line 403–237–5888


Alberta's One Line for Sexual Violence 1–866–403–8000
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Mythbusting Monday: Human Sex Trafficking only happens in foreign countries

Human sex trafficking. It’s a problem that has reached an all time high in places like Cambodia and India. It is an ever growing problem in Eastern Europe and has the United Nations creating an international set of guidelines to help protect victims. It is estimated that 2 children are trafficked for sexual exploitation every minute throughout the world, but is it really happening in Canada?

As a society we believe that the illegal selling of drugs and weapons is happening and we understand that prostitution is going on as well. So why is it so hard for us to believe that human slaves are being sold for sex around the country? Maybe it’s just too horrible to consider.

As much as we don’t want to believe this really could be happening in our own backyard, it is a reality for far too many Canadians. The RCMP estimate that 800 foreign women are brought into Canada each year by human traffickers, an additional 1500-2200 are smuggled in through the US and countless others are trafficked within Canada. Human sex trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world; it is worth an estimated $10 billion annually and provides fuel to other criminal activities.

Often foreign victims believe they are being brought to Canada legally on working visas and arrive with promises of jobs as dishwashers or nannies. They are then forced into a form of sex slavery and told that if they go to the police they will be imprisoned and then deported for being illegal aliens. Human trafficking is very different from migrant smuggling as it involves an element of force, coercion, deception and exploitation.  It is believed that only 1 in 10 victims in trafficking ever report to the police, often because threats to their own lives or the lives of friends or family members are made.

This past September a victim of sex trafficking came forward in Calgary. An 18 year old girl allegedly escaped from a NE house where she was being forced to work as a sex slave. Late last year a hair salon owner was arrested for illegally trafficking women from China to Calgary and forcing them into the sex industry, attempting to sell them as sex slaves for $4,000. Another man lured several girls under 18 years old to Calgary using social media and then forced them to work as prostitutes.

Social media and online resources are becoming more and more popular for human traffickers to sell sex. The Alberta government recently joined other Canadian provinces such as B.C and Manitoba to petition Craigslist to remove the ‘erotic services’ ads from their classifieds section as it is known to be a source for human sex traffickers. Craigslist has already pulled these ads throughout the US where there have been a number of sex trafficking cases using Craigslist. One such case involved two Chicago women who were charged for selling girls as young as 14 years old on Craigslist. The girls were forced to have sex with as many as 12 men a day and brought in thousands of dollars.

The first step in stopping this form of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation is understanding that it does happen in Canada. Like all forms of sexual abuse it survives in silence and secrecy.

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