Soroptimists bring warning about human trafficking to Saskatoon

Women's organization says to beware the boyfriend who won't let a young girl speak for herself; She could be a victim of human trafficking — or about to become one.

Former MP Joy Smith tells public "anyone who's a girl is at risk"

Joy Smith, anti-human trafficking activist and former MP, spoke in Saskatoon Monday night. (Kathy Fitzpatrick/CBC)

Beware the boyfriend who won't let a young girl speak for herself, says a women's organization in Saskatoon.

They warn it's a sign that a woman could be a victim of human trafficking — or about to become one.

"We're trying to make sure that parents, teachers, professionals, nurses in the emergency room understand there are signs and symptoms for human trafficking," said Laura Van Loon, Saskatoon president of the service club Soroptimist International.

Isolation is another possible sign, Van Loon said.

"They don't want to share. They're out with a wonderful boyfriend who mom and dad may never meet."

Girls between the ages of 12 and 14 are particular targets, she said.

Former MP speaks

To help raise awareness, the Soroptimists brought former Conservative MP Joy Smith to Saskatoon to give a public presentation Monday night.

Smith, from the Winnipeg area, worked to bring in mandatory minimum sentences for traffickers of children, and a law to prosecute Canadians who traffic children outside the country. She also set up a charity, the Joy Smith Foundation, to support the front line work of agencies trying to help victims of trafficking.

"Number one, (people) have to know that anyone who's a girl is at risk," Smith told the CBC. "It's not just the kids on the street."

It's a very under-the-radar crime.- Joy Smith, former Member of Parliament

Smith said perpetrators want girls who look good and are not addicted to drugs. They gain the girls' trust by romancing them. The trap comes when the boyfriend becomes controlling.

"And the youth should be told never give your identification to anybody for any reason," Smith went on. "Because the traffickers always take their identification 'for safe keeping'. It controls them."

It's hard to quantify the extent of the problem, Smith explained.

"They sell what they call their 'herd' to somebody else and nobody can trace them. So it's a very under-the-radar crime, and it happens every day."

Smith hopes to break the cycle through education.


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