Thunder Bay youth 'exploited' more than people realize
Former sex trade victim leads talk on how to recognize signs of child exploitation
An organization that tries to fight human trafficking has brought its campaign to Thunder Bay.
The Alliance Against Modern Slavery is holding a week-long course about working with youth who have been exploited or trafficked.
Jennifer Richardson teaches the course.
A victim of exploitation herself, Richardson says it's more widespread than most people think.
"I think Thunder Bay is a community that lots of kids and women are trafficked to or out of,” she said. “Most people are gonna go through Thunder Bay if they're driving through Canada."
That was made clear this summer, when a U.S. researcher reported the trafficking of First Nations women between Thunder Bay and Duluth.
Richardson said she was brought into the sex trade at 13, and spent more than 2 years in captivity.
She said she was taken to Thunder Bay several times during her years in the sex trade.
“Thunder Bay was one of the places that we would stop,” she said. “I was put in some houses here. Houses and dance clubs.”
‘Opportunities to change’
Richardson hopes her course will help people recognize the signs of exploitation in children.
Course attendee and Salvation Army worker Karen Puddicombe said exploitation of children is a particularly bad problem in Thunder Bay.
"There's a lot of issues right now in Thunder Bay of youth being exploited," she said. "It definitely is a ... high level of exploitation taking place in Thunder Bay.
She also said she sees a lot of women who have been exploited.
Puddicombe took the course because of her experience "seeing the situation of women being exploited and having a desire to change that — to give them opportunities to change."
Course organizers said 35 people signed up, but only about 20 were in attendance Monday.
The organization said in a news release that about 5,600 to 6,200 work as slaves in human trafficking situations in Canada.