Growing human trafficking industry increasingly targets Indigenous youth in Alberta, non-profit warns

ACT Alberta is hosting seminars to raise awareness about the $150-billion global trade

Human trafficking is a quickly growing concern around the world, and in Canada the industry increasingly targets Indigenous youth, a non-profit group warns.

The Action Coalition on Human Trafficking Alberta, or ACT Alberta, are offering online seminars to raise awareness and offer help to those still trapped.

“There are reports and continue to be reports of indigenous women and girls and even boys and men coming to the city and being exploited,” said ACT Alberta acting executive director Jessica Brandon.

“Whether they are coming to the city for education or moving to the big city because it’s fun to do — it’s happening. And it continues to happen.”

Human trafficking worldwide is a very big business. It is estimated that over $150 billion per year is made from human trafficking in the sex and labour trades.

Each victim can provide as much at $350,000 in profits in Canada. ACT Alberta aims to stop the exploitation.  The non-profit is offering monthly online seminars to educate the public.

In Canada there were about 50 reported cases in 2009. There were over 500 in 2019.

That’s a tenfold increase. According to ACT Alberta, at least a fifth of victims are Indigenous.

Many victims become trapped by boyfriends, like Angela Morris, who was brought into the sex trade at 17 years old.

“That started with escorting and webcam work, which lead to massage work, which lead to escorting and working outside,” said Morris.

When Morris escaped decades ago she says there were no supports like ACT Alberta to help her.

She wants victims still trapped to know help is there. She now works as a certified life and mindset coach.

“I am dedicated and have dedicated my life to be of service, especially to this kind of movement, to the rescue and help, to be of guidance to people: women, even men, who are in my situation. To let them know that it’s OK and there is a safe place and there are resources to seek and not to give up,” said Morris.

Jessica Brandon says to reach out.

“If you are experiencing this, be safe and please reach out,” said Brandon. “Whether it’s ACT Alberta or another organization that has awareness of human trafficking or exploitation, reach out. If it’s safe to do so, please reach out.”

There is a 24-hour toll free national human trafficking hotline to call. The number is 1-833-900-1010.

ACT Alberta is offering another free seminar on Aug. 19

Video Journalist / Edmonton

Chris Stewart has been in the media for 20 years. He has worked at CBC, Global and CTV as a news camera operator and editor. Chris joined APTN in 2012 in the Saskatoon Bureau and moved to APTN Edmonton bureau in 2015 as a Videojournalist.