Human trafficking may seem like a distant dilemma, but some Regina residents say it's a problem that must be addressed in the city.

Freedom Catalyst Regina volunteers took to the streets on Saturday for the Walk for Freedom, an event that aims to bring awareness to the exploitation of women and girls. The annual walk takes place in cities all over the world and those involved want the public to know that slavery is still ongoing.

According to the organization, there are millions of slaves in the world — more now than ever before.

"I personally think this is the biggest injustice in the world that exists today," said volunteer Devon Hill.

Devon Hill and Tina Maki

Volunteers Devon Hill and Tina Maki addressing the crowd on Saturday. (Radio Canada)

Every 30 seconds, someone becomes a slave and only about 1 per cent are ever rescued. Hill said captors take their identification, threaten to hurt their families and move them from city to city to stay inconspicuous.

"We don't want anyone in slavery," said Hill. "So we want to give them a voice and encourage them to share their stories and to speak out to police, to speak out to their friends, their family. And to know that there are people out there who are willing to help them, stand with them."

Regina's massage parlour problem

Volunteer Tina Maki said human trafficking — the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world — often shows up in the form of sexual exploitation and unpaid labour. 

In Regina, Maki said it takes place mostly at unregulated massage parlours, which are known as fronts for prostitution rings. In recent years, there has been a major increase in the number of massage parlours.

The troubling part, said Maki, is that 90-95 per cent of the people who work in the sex industry are not choosing to, but are coerced into it behind the scenes.

Massage parlour sign

There are more signs like this around Regina than there were a decade ago, Regina Police say. (CBC)

"The side of it that really we are concerned about of course is the exploitive nature of the whole industry, but also how dangerous it is," Maki said. "We have read at least 85 per cent of workers have been assaulted in some way.

"So because of the nature of the work, we know there's a very high likelihood of women, girls and others who are being exploited and don't have the support of the public."

The federal government pledged to crack down on human trafficking with the protection of communities and exploited persons act, but Makis said only about 1 per cent of those who are caught are charged and incarcerated.

She encourages people to talk to police and politicians about enforcing the law.