Canadian province creates first victim-led trafficking 'brains trust'

August 31, 2017
Article Source

Victims of human trafficking will form a first-of-its-kind "brains trust" to advise policymakers in Canada's Ontario province how to combat the crime, authorities said on Thursday.

The initiative comes after human trafficking survivors voiced concerns about their exclusion from the mainstream debate on how to prevent modern-day slavery.

Human trafficking is the world's fastest growing criminal enterprise worth an estimated $150 billion a year, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), with nearly 21 million people victims of forced labor and trafficking.

Statistics Canada recorded 396 police-reported victims of human trafficking between 2009 and 2014 but experts fear the number is much higher with the crime under-reported.

Jennifer Richardson, who heads Ontario's anti-trafficking coordination office and was herself a victim of sex trafficking, said the measure signaled the provincial government’s desire to consider human trafficking victims as "experts."

"Their knowledge isn't really stuff you learn in a formal public administration degree," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview, describing the eight-member group that starts later this year as a “brains trust." 

Ontario, Canada's most populous province, accounted for nearly 70 percent of police-reported cases nationwide in 2015, according to government data.

Authorities said it was the first in Canada to put in place an advisory group composed of former trafficking victims.

Richardson said the concerns of survivors she had spoken with so far ranged from being sidelined from designing programs to fight trafficking to services specifically targeting trafficking victims being too few and far between.

Advocacy groups hailed the measure as a promising way to close the knowledge gap between survivors and authorities. 

Read more: Canadian province creates first victim-led trafficking 'brains trust'