In Fort Frances, Ont., women and children are being sexually exploited too often by the very people and institutions that are supposed to protect them.
The impact of this is being felt in communities and on the streets of the border town where people say human trafficking is growing.
“For a long time what we saw is a lot of just survival sex. Sex for drugs, sex for money, sex for acceptance. But we’re starting to hear about individuals in the area, that whole trafficking aspect. It’s like it’s evolving,” said Traci Lockman, co-founder of The Family Centre, a Fort Frances drop-in centre.
“And a lot of these girls are vulnerable, they’re dependent on drugs and they’ll do whatever it takes to get them.”
Peggy Loyie, who runs the Rainy River District Victim Services Program, sees the victims up close.
“They’re coming through our front door. Yeah, they’re coming through our front door,” said Loyie.
“We know first-hand where people are being exploited. We’ve heard stories of people being exploited because they needed to get from Point A to Point B and what it cost them to do that.”
Like many towns, Fort Frances has seen a spike in addiction and homelessness.
“We are in a crisis. We are in a crisis when it comes to addiction and the types of addiction we are facing, like with opiates, fentanyl, meth – we are in a crisis. We are in a crisis right now with homelessness, but again it’s all so complex, it’s not just one thing, everything is so interconnected,” said Loyie.
And, according to Lockman, predators feed off this trauma.
“Just this morning, we had a man coming here. I don’t know whether he was looking for sex or drugs. He’s here often; we’ve kicked him off the property; we’ve called the police. The women depend on that, a lot of them,” she said.
In the latest episode of APTN Investigates we also speak to the victims, as well as identify convicted sex offenders and alleged abusers.