Edmonton International Airport and singer-turned-philanthropist Paul Brandt are teaming up to bring the issue of human trafficking in Edmonton out of the shadows.
On Tuesday the airport announced it would partner with the Brandt-founded initiative #NotInMyCity to fight human trafficking and the exploitation of children in Edmonton and across Canada.
“This isn’t only happening somewhere else to someone else’s children,” said Brandt from the airport arrivals area. “It might seem like it’s a world away, but it’s not.”
Brandt first came face-to-face with human trafficking while in southeast Asia, but wants to dispel the notion that it only happens overseas.
The majority of trafficking victims are young women and children, some as young as five years old. In Canada, half of all trafficking victims are Indigenous, and law enforcement says that circumstances like poverty, disability and language can exacerbate someone’s vulnerability to being trafficked.
“These crimes leave devastating impacts on families and communities (and they) tend to stay in the shadows,” said John Ferguson, RCMP assistant commissioner.
In Canada, 93 per cent of human trafficking victims are Canadian. Between 2005 and 2018, there were human trafficking-specific charges laid in 531 cases across Canada, 510 of which were domestic incidents.
The airport is planning to run a public awareness campaign and ensure all employees are trained in how to spot potential victims of human trafficking. The #NotInMyCity yellow roses — which signal allyship with victims — will also be visible around the airport as a symbol of its commitment to ending human trafficking.
“EIA is a safe place for travellers, not for traffickers,” said airport CEO Tom Ruth.
Law enforcement is hoping that a cross-Canada movement among the public can strengthen its ability to catch traffickers and support victims.
Currently, police partner with the city and community organizations like the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation in the sexual exploitation working group. They say mistrust of authority, language barriers, stigmatization and humiliation can all stop victims from asking for help.
“The police is only as effective as the community,” said Edmonton police chief Dale McFee. “Any time we have more eyes and ears, I think policing becomes more effective.”
Brandt noted that the goal is not to turn the public into police, but to show that Edmontonians won’t tolerate trafficking in their city — or anywhere.
“Bullies get nervous when you stand up to them,” said Brandt. “This is a major human rights issue and Alberta is uniquely positioned to make a huge difference across Canada (and) to be an example of how we can stop this horrible crime.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019