Police, front-line workers and politicians are calling for human trafficking task force in Ontario, after a roundtable hosted by Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin on Monday.
“They cannot escape without our help,” said Conservative MPP Laurie Scott, whose private member’s bill “Saving the Girl Next Door Act” has passed second reading at the Ontario legislature.
The meeting discussed human trafficking with local stakeholders and frontline workers, how to combat the issue in Southern Ontario, and addressed Bill 158.
The Girl Next Door
Participants left the meeting almost unanimous, saying an official task force headed by the provincial government is key to tackling the problem in Ontario, where it is estimated that two thirds of all human trafficking in Canada occurs.
Ninety per cent of victims are Canadian born, dispelling illusions of female immigrants forced into the sex trade, and the Highway 401 corridor across Southern Ontario is highlighted as an accessible and frequent route for traffickers.
“So we really think there needs to be a provincial approach and have a provincial task force that can gather all that intelligence, follow the crime, so to speak.”
In late July, less than two weeks ahead of the roundtable, Waterloo regional police arrested and charged four adults for allegedly taking a 14-year-old girl to two Kitchener hotels, and selling her sexual services online.
Even earlier that same summer, Toronto police revealed another 14 year old girl from Kitchener had been forced to have sex with one of two men in a Toronto motel, and was also advertised online.
How to bring her home
Scott’s legislation would expand the provincial sex offender registry to include human traffickers, allow for the courts to issue a protective order for victims over the age of 15 against a trafficker for a minimum of three years, and also allow survivors to sue a trafficker as a form of restitution.
“The shocking part is that these girls are coerced within a week or two, and they’re gone without our reach,” she said.
As of August 2016, 151 municipalities across Ontario, including Kitchener and Cambridge, passed resolutions to support Bill 158.
Alongside her legislation, Scott says there is much more that needs to be done for the safety of young girls.
“Human trafficking is abuse,” she said. “They’re beaten, starved, sometimes addicted to drugs, and they can’t get out of any of that situation without our help.”
Scott said the taskforce would be multi-jurisdictional and multi-disciplinary, and include a permanent commitment of the province to provide funding for police and victim’s services.