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New bill looks to protect survivors of human trafficking

"It is currently in the legislative process, the government had hoped that it would have been passed expeditiously."
Human Trafficking
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ALBERTA— Generating $150 billion annually, human trafficking is a crime that spans the globe robbing individuals of their basic human rights.

In 2019, roughly 25 million people fell victim to human trafficking worldwide, with 90 per cent of sex trafficked victims being Canadian-born.

Since 2009 Statistics Canada has reported a significant yearly increase in trafficking cases. From 2009 to 2016, it shows Ontario with the highest reported human trafficking violations followed by Quebec and Alberta.

In 2018, Police reported 228 incidents within Canada— 12 tied back to Alberta.

On Wednesday (April 7) the Protecting Survivors of Human Trafficking Act was introduced. If passed, Bill 8 would adopt internationally recognized definitions of human trafficking regarding forced labour, sexual exploitation and trafficking of organs and tissues.

The bill would also enable police to take quicker action to rescue survivors, allow survivors to sue traffickers, make it easier for survivors to get protection orders and create an awareness day in Alberta. 

"Supporting survivors is critical. It's a long path to recovery that requires very specialized support," said Kelly Schuler, executive director with BRAVE Education for Trafficking Prevention. "This legislation would make a difference in the lives of survivors and their families." 

Canada is one of the top three countries in the world for exploiting children online, Schuler said. She added that because a child/ individual can be sold over and over again, this has made human trafficking the fastest growing crime in Canada. 

On Thursday (April 8) one day after the bill was introduced it was spoken to in legislature, as the provincial government believes this is a pressing matter. The debate lasted until 4:30 a.m. with the opposition adjourning debate and stopping the process of where it could be voted on disclosed Jonah Mozeson, senior press secretary for the justice and solicitor general. 

"It is currently in the legislative process. The government had hoped that it would have been passed expeditiously. Unfortunately, it hasn't been done," Mozeson said.

NDP MLA for Calgary-Mountain View, Kathleen Ganley explains the passage of the bill is not being axed, but merely being looked at from all angles. 

"We are definitely in favour of the bill, I think the challenge is, is this is a really complex area as well. We wanted to take the time to hear back from stakeholders," she said. "I think this is a very important piece of legislation and it ought to be given the time and attention that it is owed."

The proposed Bill would include implementing a model that would allow for a warrant to permit entry to help remove trafficking victims from unsafe situations and include pet provisions that would allow any animals to be returned to the survivor as a condition of the trafficking protection order.

Although there haven't been any reported incidents of human trafficking close to home here in Cochrane, Corporal Troy Savinkoff with Cochrane RCMP believes the warrant measures in place with proposed Bill 8 would allow officers to quickly resolve a situation of suspected trafficking. 

"Environments are very fluid. Any situation that would give us additional authority for certain offences certainly is welcomed," Savinkoff said. "It's that balancing act that needs to be reached between people are protected from unlawful searches and seizures— There has to be rules in place to hold police accountable and ensure that we have appropriate grounds before we enter a persons home, but then that has to be weighed against the fact that we have a job to do, we're going after bad guys and it has to be done in an expedited fashion to allow us to do our jobs the safest that we can." 

Globally, Canada sits among the top seven as a major importer of organs. This refers to the country of origin of the patients going overseas to acquire organs for transplantation. Another name for this is "organ tourism." Due to the high demand for organs, minimal law enforcement, and prolonged wait lists, individuals are left turning to alternative methods including the black market.

Organ trafficking is not only going on in dictatorship countries, it is also happening right here in Canada, Mozeson said. 

"The government sees this legislation as very important to the victims of survivors of human trafficking - to try and empower them as well as the fact that we know that organs are being trafficked in Canada. This is becoming an increasingly bigger problem," he added. 

It is estimated 60,000 to 100,000 organ transplants happen each year in China - making it one of the world's top contenders in organ harvesting.

On October 31, 2017, Bill S-240— An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking in human organs) was subject to its first reading in the Senate. The act enlists changes to the criminal code for offences relating to organ trafficking and inflicts penalties on those who obtain, carry out or act on behalf of an organ being removed without consent. The bill is currently awaiting its final stages of approval. 

"I can only make an assumption that whether it's men, women, or children, organs are coming in through the coast. It is a problem, it's in our back door, and we want to make sure that we take the strongest measures we can under provincial law. The federal criminal code does have certain provisions as well, but we want to make sure we take every provincial step that we can take and that's what we are doing with this and we hope that other provinces follow our lead," Mozeson explained.