Conference Aims to Increase Human Trafficking Awareness

Calgary… Law enforcement members, crown prosecutors, government officials, and service providers are meeting in Banff next week to discuss human trafficking. The conference aims to better inform and equip individuals who respond to, investigate, or prosecute human trafficking cases. 


The conference, which runs April 15-17, is hosted in partnership between the RCMP, Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT), and the Action Coalition on Human Trafficking (ACT Alberta). The conference features global authorities on human trafficking and will explore such issues as prosecutions, investigations, and victim assistance. The conference will also feature keynote speaker Kathryn Bolkovac, known for blowing the whistle against the United Nations involvement in sex trafficking in post-war Bosnia.


“Human trafficking exploits some of our most vulnerable people,” said Jonathan Denis, Minister of Alberta Justice and Solicitor General. “This conference gives law enforcement and legal professionals an opportunity to discuss how to work together to prevent and stop this horrible crime.”


Human trafficking has been assessed as the second most profitable criminal business globally, behind only drugs. However, human trafficking is largely underreported due to the reluctance of victims to come forward and the clandestine nature of the business. ACT Alberta reported a 500% increase in identified human trafficking victims between 2011 and 2012 and the numbers continue to grow. 


“Victims of human trafficking require complex services, anything from immigration and legal support to long term counseling and employment training. But in order to first reach victims, we need law enforcement, criminal justice professionals and service providers to receive training like this. This conference will help us continue our collaborative work to identify and respond to human trafficking in Alberta” says Andrea Burkhart, Executive Director with ACT Alberta.


The human trafficking conference aims to dispel several of the many preconceptions surrounding the issue, as it affects men and women, young and old, Canadians and foreign nationals, and many, if not all ethnicities and cultural groups. Victims of trafficking are forced into the commercial sex industry, factory sweat shops, food services sector, construction industry, agricultural work, domestic servitude, and gang activities.


“Human trafficking affects every region in the world and Alberta is no exception,” said ALERT Chief Executive Officer Insp. Charmaine Bulger. “Collectively, we need to be more proactive in reporting and disrupting criminal networks that exploit men, women, and children and trap them in situations of forced labour and/or sexual exploitation.”


Human trafficking involves recruitment, transportation, or harbouring a person though abduction, force, threats, coercion, and/or fraud for the purposes of exploitation.