Manitoulin Northshore Victim Services to raise awareness about human trafficking

MANITOULIN—Along with raising awareness of the issue of human trafficking, Manitoulin Northshore Victim Services wants to make sure people know, where to get help if they, or someone they know may be a victim of this.

“Anyone can become a victim of human trafficking, we know that for many this isn’t something that we think happens, especially on Manitoulin Island,” said Ashley Jewell, executive director of Manitoulin Northshore Victim Services. “We want to raise awareness of this issue, and make sure that people know where to turn if they themselves are a victim or they suspect someone they know may be. There is help available.”

Ms. Jewell explained, “the Victim Quick Responses Program is offered through Manitoulin Northshore Victim Services and can provide financial assistance in the aftermath of a violent crime. This program can help with safety expenses such as changing locks, window alarms or installing deadbolts. Practical assistance such as meals, hygiene products or replacement of government documents. It can also assist with the cost for counseling and related travel.”

Ms. Jewell pointed out the province of Ontario announced its strategy to end human trafficking in June, 2016. As part of the strategy Victims Services across the province have received funding to address human trafficking in their area. “Locally we are working towards the creation of an anti-human trafficking task force.”

“This has been a topic of discussion among all of our members and we held a meeting in June for community and service workers,” said Ms. Jewell. “We want to establish what human trafficking looks like in our area and what support and services we can provide to victims.”

“The main point is we want to provide effective services to people,” said Ms. Jewell. She pointed out as of yet “we don’t have a core group for the task force, but this is being set up.”

“We think human trafficking is like what we see in movies and that it is international, but it is happening in Canada as well,” said Ms. Jewell.

In statistics, facts about human trafficking from the Canadian Women’s Foundation, it is found that 98 percent of sex trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls; 93 percent of Canada’s trafficking victims come from Canada; and the most common recruitment is between the ages of 13-14. The average annual profit from each female trafficking in Canada is $280,000.

Over the past year Manitoulin Northshore Victims Services responded to 113 new occurrences providing emotional and practical assistance to victims of crime and tragic circumstance. Follow-up contacts in person or over the phone are offered to victims for continued support as needed. Manitoulin Northshore Victim Services works closely with police services but also take referrals from community partners and self-referrals.

Although the task force is in its infancy, “we have discussed our initial goals to be training for front line workers, as well as the community in general. We hope to improve supports for victims and work together across sectors to address this issue locally,” said Ms. Jewell. “Human trafficking is a complex crime that leaves victims fearful for themselves and their families. They often have a lack of trust in police services and other helping services. There is a  lot of guilt and shame, this leads to self-blame making it even more difficult for people to come forward and ask for help.”

“We are working towards a human trafficking task force and a community engagement session to provide facts and training with a focus on for front-line and community members, showing the signs-which are different in terms of domestic violence and human trafficking for instance,” said Ms. Jewell. “There is a lot of work that has to be done before we get the task force in place,” she added, noting the “consultation will include First Nations as well as non-aboriginal residents and communities.”

For more information about the services available through Manitoulin Northshore Victim Services or if you would like to become part of the solution by becoming a volunteer with Manitoulin Northshore Victim Services please contact them at victimservices@vianet.ca or 705-370-3378.