Human trafficking charge in Yellowknife a first in the N.W.T., say RCMP
While the charge is a first, human trafficking is not new to the territory, according to YWCA and RCMP
For the first time, a man has been charged with human trafficking in the N.W.T.
That's according to Sgt. Dean Riou, who leads the Federal Investigations Unit at RCMP's "G" Division.
Last week, police rescued a woman in Yellowknife who was brought to the capital "to be exploited in the sex-trade industry," says Riou. Police describe her as an adult Caucasian. She has been moved outside the territory for her safety.
Human trafficking was added as a charge under Canada's Criminal Code in 2005. Despite this being the first charge in the territory, Riou says the N.W.T. has not been immune to human trafficking.
"We are aware of vulnerable women from the Northwest Territories who have been brought to other communities to be exploited in the sex trade," says Riou.
"We are also aware of women from other jurisdictions being brought up to Yellowknife for that same purpose."
At the YWCA NWT, about two women a year come to find help, says Lyda Fuller, its executive director. She says the last time was in September, and most women are in their 30s or younger.
"They're absolutely terrified, they often won't talk to the RCMP or even let us talk to the RCMP because they're just too afraid," explains Fuller.
The YWCA NWT tries to put a personal safety plan in place for each woman, then they send them somewhere safe — often to another shelter outside the territory.
"You send them off and you often don't hear what happens, so that's touchy as well," she says.
Fuller believes there are a lot more unseen cases. She says some women have escaped numerous times but the trafficker often finds them.
According to a 2014 report from Statistics Canada, 47 per cent of victims of human trafficking reported between 2009 and 2014 were between the ages of 18 and 24. About 25 per cent were under the age of 18.
Fuller says while human trafficking can happen to anybody, there are factors that put people more at risk.
"If you're vulnerable in some way, if you're by yourself, if you don't seem to have people around you that can be protective, if you're young, if you're gullible …They might approach you."
Fuller says the Status of the Women in Yukon did a study on trafficking in their territory and found many women in Whitehorse had been trafficked there from Yellowknife.
"I think there is a lot of transporting women from a location to another to keep them off kilter so that they don't know where to go for help, they don't maybe even know where they are."
Fuller urges any woman in Yellowknife who needs help to go to the YWCA's Alison McAteer House, the city's only family violence shelter.
"If any woman is feeling unsafe, just get into the nearest cab and have them bring you," says Fuller. "We will pay the taxi driver."