THUNDER BAY — A new website launched this week features various services and tools to support victims and survivors of local human trafficking, says the co-chair of the Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking.
Thunder Bay has been identified as one of the top six hubs in Ontario for human trafficking says Kristal Carlson, human trafficking youth and transition worker at Thunder Bay Counselling and co-chair of the Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking.
“This crime is rampant in Thunder Bay,” she said Monday, Feb. 22.
The website was created to provide victims and survivors of human trafficking with access to free services and to also spread awareness and education in the community about the crime.
“The Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking created the website to help community members, potential survivors and business people alike to be able to acknowledge, identify and potentially intervene if they should see human trafficking in young peoples’ lives,” Carlson said, adding the crime is often under-reported.
For women, only one in 10 will report and for men only one in 20 will report to police, Carlson said.
“It is such an under-reported crime so any sex-based crime we know that only six per cent will ever end in conviction so it is really hard to convince people to come forward when there is not the likelihood that something will happen,” she said.
And while groups such as the Thunder Bay Coalition To End Human Trafficking exist to support victims of the crime, it is important to note they do not classify themselves as a “rescuing people” group, Carlson said.
“We support individuals to move forward when they are ready in the way that is going to best suit them in their current situation,” she said.
Last year alone, through various programs across the Coalition more than 60 people were successful in leaving their current situation, Carlson said.
The creators of the new website also hope to address misconceptions around human traffickers that are often presented in media and movies.
“Human trafficking, more times than not, is somebody being exploited by the person they identify as their boyfriend, their best friend or somebody that they know so that happens in more than 85 per cent of cases,” she said.
The other most common form of trafficking is the exploitation of young people by family members, extended family members, caretakers or guardians.
“More times than not it’s happening by the person they believe to be their boyfriend, girlfriend or best friend,” Carlson said.
The website also teaches individuals how to identify signs and risk factors of human trafficking.
“We also want to raise the education in the city of Thunder bay because we are identified as one of the top six hubs in the province of Ontario and Ontario makes up two-thirds of all human trafficking that takes place in our country,” Carlson said.
Carlson also points out that coming forward doesn’t mean individuals have to report to the police.
“The Thunder Bay Police have started to do some really amazing work in being able to meet survivors exactly where they are at and not needing to move forward with charges but to support them for when they are ready to do that if they are ever ready to do that,” she said.
“We just want [survivors] to know they are not alone and that there are people to support you no matter where you are, whether you are currently at risk, entrenched, or you looking to exit, there are people here to support you.”
For more information, visit Thunder Bay Coalition’s new website by clicking here.
Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source