Yes, it is a fact!
Movie and television productions tend to highlight human trafficking as the abduction and imprisonment of individuals in a context of ransoms or global political intrigue. The reality is that scenario represents just 17 per cent of the international picture. 83 per cent of those forced into servitude around the world and exploited for financial gain are young people of all ages, primarily but not explicitly female and tied to drugs and prostitution.
In Brant, the lives of many young women, our neighbours, co-workers, family and friends have been devastated by this modern day version of slavery.
Human Trafficking is as prevalent in Brant as any city in North America. Families have been divided with children separated from their parents and grandparents. Much physical and mental pain has been inflicted by outsiders through a culture of victimization. Criminals have been flaunting our laws to create a lucrative business model at the expense of many we know and without a whit of caring to the consequence in our community.
Brantford Police Services has three separate operational divisions under Inspector Scott Williams dedicated to investigation and conviction of relevant local criminality: Child Abuse and Sexual Assault; Child Exploitation and Prostitution; Drugs Guns and Gangs. The common thread through each is Human Trafficking.
Brantford Police Services, O.P.P. from the County and Six Nations Police Services direct the victims of human trafficking to Victim Services Brant, charged with finding support for these victims, (hereinafter called survivors). These survivors are fragile even after being rescued and cynical of a system that seems to have forgotten them. Many having escaped the clutches of their captors still fear being stalked by these criminals including drug dealers and motorcycle gangs who desperately want their lost revenue stream to be repaired or arranging that the survivors are permanently prevented from serving others.
Now this is a business like no other. On any given day $1,400 worth of cocaine could be turned into individual bags of crack, and return about $4,000 each day. Not a penny comes to the trafficked individual but her/his handler was turning a $60,000 – $75,000 profit a month from the effort. Add to this the money taken through prostitution and it boggles the mind. Multiply that by the number of women… or men… in any criminal’s stable and you can see the incentive to beat the risk. In fact, world-wide this is projected to be an annual $150 billion dollar profit. Using Forbes Magazine statistics, there are only 21 global legitimate companies even approaching these numbers annually!
The Province of Ontario created an all-party piece of legislation, The Anti-Human Trafficking Act 2017 which received Royal Assent May 30th 2017, offering, with direction to the courts: certain protections for children and education for the general public; streamlined application for restraining orders; allowing a victim of human trafficking to bring a legal action against any person who engaged in their human trafficking, without proof of damage, and the findings to be made on the balance of probabilities.
The Provincial Anti-Human Trafficking Coordination Office and Ministry of Status of Women currently participate on the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Working Group on Human Trafficking led by Public Safety Canada. Responsibilities include providing updates on Ontario’s Strategy to End Human Trafficking and informing federal initiatives.
MP Phil McColeman, Conservative Shadow Cabinet Veteran’s Affairs Critic, used the ‘Missing and Murdered Women and Girls’ task force federally to demonstrate national awareness and provincial collaboration but adds, “I am not aware of any collaboration locally between all levels of government” legislatively to implement action on the national issue of human trafficking. McColeman adds, “There have been no inquiries or intelligence to my office from Six Nations.” on this issue when interviewed last year. Hundreds of documents over the past 5 years supplied by McColeman’s Office, from the Library of Parliament, show debate on tougher sentencing, individual MP’s setting up efforts to support survivors, ideological statements, public reviews and recommendations from social service agencies…but to date there have been few concrete actions to give sufficient tools to enhance local enforcement, survivor housing or provide for the extent of collateral damage to friends and families.
Brantford Police Services have three separate units under Inspector Scott Williams dedicated to investigation and enforcement of relevant local criminality: Child Abuse and Sexual Assault led by Sgt. Reeder; Internet Child Exploitation led by Detective Constable Bebe; and Street Crimes led by Sgt. Stanley. The common thread through each is Human Trafficking. Although Victim Services Brant receives funding initially to create awareness of human trafficking and establish a local network of service agencies, there have been no dedicated provincial funds allotted to local enforcement or emotional/physical needs of survivors in recent announcements. Ontario Provincial Police developed an Anti-Human Trafficking Investigations Coordination Team, which will enhance investigative capacity and police coordination, and support a team-based, victim-centered approach throughout Ontario.
Brantford Police Services, O.P.P. from the County and Six Nations Police Services direct the victims of human trafficking to Victim Services Brant, charged with supporting these victims, hereinafter called survivors. These survivors are fragile even after being rescued and cynical of a system that seems to have forgotten them. Many fear being stalked by their captors including drug dealers and motorcycle gangs who desperately want their revenue stream to be repaired or arranging that the survivors are permanently prevented from serving others.
The Ministry of the Attorney General in Ontario created a Victim Surcharge added to provincial convictions since 2003. The government has invested over $662 million from this Victims’ Justice Fund for supports and services benefiting victims of crime. The fund is slowly depleting and leaving the social service and policing organizations without needed funds: to house and protect the survivors for any extended time; offer limited emotional and psychological support for the extended family forever scarred and clouded by these travesties. Brantford Police Services cannot afford funding for operational costs toward a dedicated task force for human trafficking unless City Council increases their budget.
The downward spiral is inevitable despite the best of intentions.
In 2016, the Province of Ontario launched an $72-million program, spread over four years and divided among the mandates of several ministries This money will be used “to bolster support for culturally appropriate services for indigenous survivors of trafficking, establish a provincial anti-trafficking coordination centre and create a specialized prosecution team for human-trafficking crimes.” Under the Ministry of Community and Social Services in late 2016, the Anti-Human Trafficking Coordination Office was created at a very foundational level with the establishment of a network of over 160 organizations. The roll out for a call for proposals only began this past April. In September 2017, Ontario identified a total of approximately $18.6 million to 44 partners and agencies across the province for projects that aim to prevent human trafficking and support survivors. In addition, the Ministry of the Attorney General has made regulatory changes to help survivors of human trafficking. In addition to the Anti-Human Trafficking Act, community organizations, including those that support survivors of trafficking, are allowed to apply for grant funding under Ontario’s Civil Remedies Act. However, they estimate only a province-wide 2.8 per cent increase in funding for front line Victim Service agencies in 2018 despite the dramatically increased cost of repetitive case work, not funded, to support survivors of human trafficking.
MPP Dave Levac offers, “I have been aware of human trafficking, even before politics. However, I was not aware of the local, provincial or national extent until recently.”
Levac adds, “Once we have the public on side with information on what to look for, how to identify it, protect our youth and disenfranchised we stand a much better chance of destroying the chain. Most people still can’t believe it happens here…in our city.”
Finally, Levac has a poignant perspective on what next. “Stop pointing fingers, stop politicizing, stop talking and get busy tackling this very real and deadly problem!”
You are about to be introduced to a survivor from Brantford, pseudonym ‘Crystal’, her story and the consequence to her family. Some of the other women she solicited into her cycle of captivity and depravity still live in our community and to a great extent are striving to make a difference for others.
Warning! Her story should force you to look at those around you. You will become aware, with strangers or acquaintances, to the symptoms she similarly displayed. The community should be tuned to the appearance of unusual relationships, in restaurants, stores and hotels that suggest dominance and physical aggressiveness of another or coercive and degrading behavior in public. The police would rather apologize for following up on such a complaint than watch another soul and the ripple effect it has on Brant as it disintegrates our neighbourhood.
Listening to “Crystal’s” story. You should feel uncomfortable. You may very well know some of the other “Crystals” in Brant, without knowing their struggle. Obliviously, you may be attending events with people you know, who privately suffer as tormented families assaulted daily by the horrors of human trafficking.
You can make a difference 4BRANT.