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Samantha Ward 560Samantha Ward, HBSW, Abuse Prevention Coordinator with the Child Advocacy Centre for Simcoe/Muskoka, was the guest speaker during the CFUW Southport’s public meeting October 11 at Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre.

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Ninety-three percent of human trafficking cases are domestic according to Samantha Ward, Abuse Prevention Coordinator with the Simcoe/Muskoka Child Advocacy Centre. Ward was invited to speak at the Southport Canadian Federation of University Women’s (CFUW) public meeting on October 11 at the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre.

During an hour-long discussion Ward explained the four pillars of human trafficking, which do not all have to do with sex, as domestic servitude, illegal activities and labour are also forms of human trafficking; and statistically speaking, it can happen anywhere.

“Canadian people are being trafficked in Canada,” said Ward, explaining that the Domotor criminal organization trafficked 11 Hungarian men to Hamilton in 2010, exploiting them for use in the construction and renovation fields, where they were bought and sold as servants.

Ward explained that human trafficking almost always goes hand in hand with other illegal activities. For example, “if you're being trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation it’s also likely that you’re being forced to sell drugs, petty theft and break and enters.”

Domestic servitude is described as someone who has been put into a caregiving role, working upwards to 20 hours per day, and who is unable to leave, not having access to identification. “This is in our backyard 93 percent of the time,” said Ward, referencing the 2008 Liam Neeson film “Taken” as an unrealistic version of what human trafficking looks like in Canada.

“We see human trafficking in family homes, in a hotel, motel, in a condo setting, in adult establishments or it could be street level exploitation as well... this is an issue that’s in every community,” Ward said.

Although sexual exploitation mainly affects women and girls it can also involve men and boys. Ward said the most common scenario is caused by “opportunistic pimps” who use emotional and intimate relationships to gain trust, calling it “the boyfriend tactic”, and “grooming”, and touched on “peer-to-peer recruitment”, with the typical age of offenders being between 19 and 32. Ward cautioned parents and guardians about the dangers of Snapchat, adding that anyone - including offenders - are able to download the same application and save images.

“I know statistically it’s happening here in Bruce and Grey county because there are young people living in this community. There is a demand for the purchase of sex that no community is immune from,” said Ward. “When we have a young person who may be exchanging sexual activities for something in return, like a couch to sleep on or a ride or food or something like that the concept of consent goes out the window. It’s not sex work or prostitution, it is sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, there is no consent,” she added.

Ward said that through experience one can see signs of a person in these types of situations, if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend who has not met family or friends; or they keep their partner from communicating with family members or friends; a youth with more than one cell phone, or expensive gifts like purses or clothing but who is kept from basic necessities; someone who is not dressing for the weather, or does not live with a parent or guardian and is excessively familiar with sexual terms.

Ward said that if a youth is under the age of 16 to contact Victim Services Bruce Grey Perth, health care providers, or your local police department. “Police are very much getting on board with what this issue looks like and they're one of the number one people who can offer support. Reach out to Victim Services, or health care providers,” she added.

Children who have grown up in protective care or women who live in shelters are often targets for human trafficking. “They most often feel like they don't have a circle of support or a safe adult to talk to...and for an offender that’s a perfect target,” Ward explained.

As an Abuse Prevention Coordinator Ward said that child advocacy centres are best practise, but are not mandated, something she would like to change. Ward noted that the closest child centre to Saugeen Shores is in Kitchener. She added that children or adult victims should not have to be in the same building as their offender and suggested that Saugeen Shores councillors create a safe space away from the Saugeen Shores police station.

“My suggestion, if possible, is to have that interview space be off-site. The simple connection of taking a child to a police station connects the fact that a child has done something wrong. Even as adults, if a police officer pulls up behind us when we’re driving we instantly look at the speedometer, we get nervous and that doesn't change as we get older, and particularly not when we’re kids. So we want to remove any connection that a child victim is at fault of any kind. Doing an interview on site at a police station can sometimes create that feeling for a young person.” Ward explained that if that is not possible, then to include soft interview equipment, and have officers question victims in plain clothes and conduct the interviews as far away from the holding cells as possible.

Ward said that if she had one message to take away it would be that “You never know who’s listening”, that there is always another option and that this is not all that you deserve. Reach out for help, accept help. She encouraged parents and caregivers with concern for a child to make the call, don’t wait, just know that there is help and support out there for you.


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