Calgary

'As soon as we shine a light, it flees': Paul Brandt raises his voice against human trafficking

Calgary police have enlisted some star power to appeal to the public for help in identifying potential victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Country music star joins Calgary police in calling for public's help in combating sexual exploitation

Paul Brandt speaks about human trafficking in Calgary. (Kate Adach/CBC)

Calgary police asked the public last week for help in identifying potential victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking, and now they've enlisted some star power to help deliver that message.

Police have partnered with country music star Paul Brandt to bring help bring attention to the issue.

"When evil is allowed to not have light shine on it, it continues," Brandt said Wednesday.

"As soon as we shine a light, it flees. And that's what we want to see happen."

'We don't want that for our city'

Brandt made his comments while standing side-by-side with Calgary police Chief Roger Chaffin, who said the topic is particularly relevant in the lead-up to the Calgary Stampede.

"We're going to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors over a short period of time and we know these predators are going to use that opportunity of tourism here to get engaged and we don't want that for our city," Chaffin said.

The problem, he said, is that human trafficking and sexual exploitation are often hidden from sight — if you're not looking closely.

Calgary police Chief Roger Chaffin is asking the public to be aware of human trafficking and sexual exploitation and report it when they suspect it. (Kate Adach/CBC)

He urged the members of the public to be aware of the problem and report it when they see it. 

"Particularly in a hotel industry or restaurant industry, if you see this behaviour, let us know so we can do something about it," he said.

Chaffin said many victims are unlikely to come forward but that's something he hopes will change, too.

'You have to pay me back'

Joy Smith, a former MP who now works to end human trafficking, said victims are often blindsided by those who have given them gifts, fostered relationships and built up trust.

"And everything seems great, until the day — and it does come — when they sit them down and say, 'You have to pay me back for everything,' " Smith said.

Former MP Joy Smith created a foundation that bears her name and works to protect men, women and children from being manipulated or forced into the sex trade or forced labour. (Kate Adach/CBC)

She and Brandt were set to meet with victims Wednesday evening to hear their stories.

Anyone with information about human trafficking activity is asked to call police at 403-266-1234.

Adults looking to exit the sex trade can also contact the Calgary Police Service's prostitution exit initiative, which offers immediate help and is available by calling 403-428-8585.

With files from Kate Adach