Nova Scotia

Advocates studying human trafficking 'corridor' between N.S., other provinces

Police agencies have long said human traffickers are moving people — mostly young girls — from Nova Scotia and the other Maritime provinces to Montreal and Toronto. But it's difficult to analyze the pattern in those stories as there is no national data collection mechanism for human trafficking.

Study aims to verify data collected by police agencies on human trafficking

People who work to end human trafficking in Canada say they hope to understand more about the problem soon. (Shutterstock)

Advocates for victims of human trafficking say they hope to soon understand more about how traffickers are moving people around the country for prostitution or forced labour.

Police agencies have long said human traffickers are moving people — mostly young girls — from Nova Scotia and the other Maritime provinces to Montreal and Toronto, but it's difficult to analyze the pattern in those stories as there is no national data collection on human trafficking.

"Our statistics are really not complete," said Barbara Gosse, the CEO of the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking (CCEHT). She hopes a study her agency aims to complete by the end of 2019 will start to change that.

The organization is working on a study of the "high-incident" human trafficking corridors in Canada, which includes the road between Halifax and Toronto.

"I think it's the first of its kind," Gosse said, explaining the study will try to determine where the problem areas are and what type of incidents happen along them.

"It means that we are sitting down with law enforcement in these various areas so that we can actually verify the data that would support us identifying where these high-incident corridors are around the country," she said.

Barbara Gosse is the CEO of the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

Gosse said police services do collect data on human trafficking, but those are usually kept within their jurisdictions. They may not be collected in a way that makes them comparable.

The study is being funded with a $90,000 grant from the Donner Canadian Foundation, which is based in Toronto.

'Greatly disturbing'

One stop on the road between Halifax and Toronto is the town of Truro, N.S., where the staff at the Colchester Sexual Assault Centre have started to track the number of clients who have been sexually trafficked.

They have recorded 20 cases in the last two years, all girls and young women between the ages of 14-22.

Sexual assault counselling therapist Margaret Mauger said some of the cases were referrals from a nearby residential centre where people exiting the sex trade live. Some self-referred after getting advice from other girls or women.

"It's greatly disturbing to think that this is happening five minutes from where we work and where we live," she said.

Margaret Mauger counsels sexual assault victims from all over Nova Scotia. (CBC)

Mauger said staff first realized they were dealing with victims of sexual trafficking about four or five years ago.

"Truro has become kind of like a stopping point; we're kind of in between Moncton and Halifax. It's known as the hub of the province, but unfortunately I think it's also become a hub for human trafficking as well."

She said most clients don't think of what's happened to them as sexual trafficking, so she tries to educate herself to understand what a client may be telling her.

More incidents recorded

Last year, a Statistics Canada analysis found a rising trend in the number of incidents of human trafficking reported by Canadian police services between 2009 and 2016. In 2009, fewer than 50 incidents were reported, while in 2016, police reported 340 incidents.

Statstics Canada cautioned that the apparent increase might not be due to a true rise in the number of incidents, but due to where police chose to concentrate their investigations or to public-awareness campaigns leading to more tips about human trafficking.

There were 63 incidents reported in Nova Scotia over the 2009-2016 time period, with 58 of them from Halifax. Of the provinces and territories, Nova Scotia had the highest rate of incidents at 2.1 per 100,000 people.

CCEHT recently announced a national hotline for victims or bystanders to report human trafficking and get help. The hotline will also collect data.

The hotline can be reached 24 hours a day at: 1-833-900-1010.

About the Author

Shaina Luck

Reporter

Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca