MMIWG commissioners in Saskatoon on same day human trafficking suspect in provincial court

Three commissioners with the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls were in Saskatoon Friday, the same day a suspect appeared in provincial court charged with human trafficking.

Chief Commissioner Marion Buller describes human trafficking as 'big business'

Marion Buller says human trafficking is an issue that emerged during the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (CBC)

Marion Buller says she knows the case.

Buller, the chief commissioner with the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, was in Saskatoon on Friday, where she spoke at the University of Saskatchewan.

As Buller and two other commissioners spoke at the campus theatre, a woman was appearing across the river at provincial court, facing allegations she engaged in human trafficking.

Dilshad Ali Zada, who lives in Saskatoon but is originally from Quebec, faces 10 charges including theft, kidnapping and uttering threats.

According to information filed in court Friday, Zada allegedly exploited and controlled the movements of three women: two 20-year-olds from Quebec and an 18-year-old from Moose Jaw.

Buller, who is originally from Mistawasis First Nation in Saskatchewan, says she read the news before coming to the U of S.

"I'm quite happy to see that the charges were laid, because one thing that I've learned doing this work for the national inquiry is the tremendous amount of human trafficking in Canada," she said.

She said that women and girls being abused and sold for sex is a reality in Canada, not an abstraction.

"I don't think it ever has been," she said.

Among the calls for justice in the MMIWG inquiry's final report, released on June 3, were calls to ensure signs of trafficking are recognized and victims are supported.

The Native Women's Association of Canada says RCMP statistics on human trafficking are unsettling.

As of 2016, the RCMP identified 330 cases of human trafficking, 94 per cent of which were domestic cases.

Of the domestic cases in Canada, Indigenous women are especially overrepresented. A 2016 Public Safety Canada report indicated that while Indigenous women only make up four per cent of the Canadian population, they account for roughly 50 per cent of trafficking victims.

Women under the age of 18 make up approximately a quarter of the victims of human trafficking.

Buller says it's a national issue.

"It isn't just one region, it's all across Canada, and how damaging it is and what an industry it is — it's big business."

About the Author

Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.