SEEKING THE VICTIMS

Tony Palermo
September 06, 2016
By Tony Palermo
Located at the RCMP's National Headquarters in Ottawa, the HTNCC was created in Sept. 2005 as a focal point for police efforts to combat human trafficking – that is, the recruitment, transportation, harbouring and/or exercising control, direction or influence over a person's movements to exploit them, typically for sex work or forced labour. Human trafficking is known as modern day slavery because of how severely it violates the basic human rights and dignity of its victims. The HTNCC creation coincides with the 2005 implementation of Canada's first human trafficking legislation under sections 279.01 through 279.04 of the Criminal Code. Public Safety Canada leads the Anti Human Trafficking Task Force; the RCMP represents law enforcement. It uses the four pillar approach of prevention, protecting victims, prosecuting controllers/offenders and creating domestic and international partnerships.

It's mid-morning and A/Sgt. Yves Brochu with the RCMP's Human Trafficking National Coordination Centre (HTNCC) is feeling the pressure. His comments on three high-priority human trafficking reports are due by mid-afternoon.

One report is for the Catholic Church's Santa Marta Group, an international alliance of police and bishops working together to eradicate human trafficking. Another deals with a new Citizen and Immigration Canada initiative and the third is for a UK theatre production.

All the while, the emails keep coming and the to-do pile continues to grow. Asked how he manages it all, Brochu laughs and says it's just a typical day.

"Whether you're at the HTNCC or working human trafficking in a municipal service, the subject matter and workload can be very demanding," he says. "Every police officer who I've met that works in human trafficking always looks at the work as more than just a job."

{Fighting slavery}

Located at the RCMP's National Headquarters in Ottawa, the HTNCC was created in Sept. 2005 as a focal point for police efforts to combat human trafficking – that is, the recruitment, transportation, harbouring and/or exercising control, direction or influence over a person's movements to exploit them, typically for sex work or forced labour.

Human trafficking is known as modern day slavery because of how severely it violates the basic human rights and dignity of its victims. The HTNCC creation coincides with the 2005 implementation of Canada's first human trafficking legislation under sections 279.01 through 279.04 of the Criminal Code.

Public Safety Canada leads the Anti Human Trafficking Task Force; the RCMP represents law enforcement. It uses the four pillar approach of prevention, protecting victims, prosecuting controllers/offenders and creating domestic and international partnerships. The HTNCC develops and coordinates anti-human trafficking initiatives under five main priorities:

• Develop tools, protocols and guidelines to enable investigations. • Coordinate national awareness/training and anti-trafficking initiatives. • Identify and maintain lines of communication, identify issues for integrated coordination and provide support. • Develop and maintain international partnerships and coordinate international initiatives. • Coordinate intelligence and disseminate information/intelligence.

"Essentially, the HTNCC is the portal between the Government of Canada and our other provincial and municipal policing partners, as well as NGOs and other stakeholders both domestically and internationally," explains Brochu. "We're involved in a lot of networking and intelligence and best practices sharing."

Brochu points to the June F1 Grand Prix in Montreal as an example. The HTNCC was part of the RCMP's Joint Operations Centre, supporting and sharing information with Justice Canada, CBSA, the Service de Police de la Ville de Montreal, the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security.

He also refers to the <I'm Not For Sale> human trafficking awareness campaign, a series of educational posters, videos and information packets the HTNCC developed in 2012 which are still relevant and in use today.

The material was distributed through a local NGO to recently arrived Syrian refugees, says Brochu, noting "it's another example of how we work with our partners to help create awareness."

{Challenges}

The HTNCC "must go beyond raising awareness and providing training to actively targeting and disrupting human trafficking operations in Canada," recommends author Benjamin Perrin in his 2010 book, .

Perrin said at the time that the HTNCC was led by a national coordinator and had only five police officers and two civilian analysts. Unfortunately, the unit now consists of only two sworn members – Brochu and a partner who recently joined. The other sworn position was vacant at the time of this writing. There are two civilians – an administrator and an analyst who develops intelligence products to identify trends, indicators and patterns.

Although Brochu has only been with the HTNCC for the last year himself, the 30-year-veteran officer has years of training and international experience dealing with similar types of crimes. Despite the reduced staff, Brochu is looking to invigorate the HTNCC so it can help identify and fight human trafficking.

"We're starting to facilitate most of the training to NGOs and local law enforcement now that awareness (about human trafficking) is catching on," explains Brochu. "As Canada's national law enforcement agency, I believe we need to take more of an operational role to be a more effective law enforcement portal."

Brochu says the RCMP has stepped up its participation in Operation Northern Spotlight, an anti-human trafficking initiative. More than 60 RCMP members participated in the last project, held in late-2015, and he expects a continued high level of involvement.

{Only as good as the available data}

Many people, including those in the legal system, believe human trafficking in this country mostly involves young foreign women but the HTNCC reports more than 90 per cent of sex trafficking victims are Canadian born and raised.

The HTNCC has identified 360 cases since 2005 where human trafficking specific charges – <s.279.01-s.279.03, s.465> (conspiracy to commit human trafficking), <s.467.11> (participation in a criminal organization to facilitate or commit human trafficking) and <s.118> (Immigration and Refugee Protection Act) – were laid. Of the 360 cases, 341 involved domestic victims.

Brochu is quick to caution, however, that the statistics do not necessarily reflect the true picture.

"One of our biggest challenges is that the reporting of statistics is not mandatory," he says. "Some agencies send us their stats, others don't. So, while these stats are at least something, they don't necessarily reflect the true picture of human trafficking in Canada."

The problem of interpretation becomes apparent when you look at other reported statistics. For example, out of the 360 cases, the HTNCC reports 102 human trafficking specific and/or related convictions (i.e. procuring, living of the avails of prostitution, forcible confinement, keeping a common bawdy house, etc.). In other words, while the reporting of the 360 cases is based on human trafficking specific charges, the 102 convictions also include much broader and/or related convictions.

One human trafficking team lead says he refuses to submit human trafficking statistics to the HTNCC. "I don't want to contribute to a picture that is already skewed," says the officer. "Unless everyone is submitting their stats and reporting it the same way, it's not accurate."

Brochu says he understands the concern.

"The officer is right, the reporting of the stats isn't obligatory so the HTNCC stats definitely aren't an accurate picture of what's happening. That's a major challenge... but at the end of the day, the stats are extremely important. The more participation we get, the more accurate the picture becomes."

Brochu says statistics are useful for establishing a baseline, detailing the scope of the problem and to identify trends. The HTNCC gets many requests for statistics from other government agencies, he notes, and NGOs use them to help develop reports and plan initiatives.

"Our senior management is aware of our limitations by not having all of the stats and are working on it," says Brochu, adding the CACP is helping the effort.

{A collaborative effort}

Brochu says it's not just a matter of mandating the reporting of statistics to the HTNCC but dealing with the "fatigue factor" in their capture. There are a number of competing databases and officers might view an additional one as "just another layer" to contend with. For example, he notes each municipality already has its own RMS system.

Fatigue doesn't just apply to the number of databases, he says, but the multiple points of potential data entry error that can occur as the same information is re-entered.

He suggests one solution might be to require human trafficking data be entered into major case management software like PowerCase. Ontario already requires agencies to enter certain major offences.

Beyond capturing accurate statistics, case management software could detect patterns, identify individuals and help solve crimes across multiple jurisdictions – useful since victims can be shuffled from city to city.

Several Ontario police services seem to agree and already use PowerCase to record their human trafficking cases. A June 2016 Police Service Act regulations monitoring report prepared by the Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS) shows other police services, including Toronto, Halton, Ottawa, and the OPP, are following the DRPS example.

It's working so well that the DRPS Human Trafficking Unit was recognized in 2015 with an award for innovation for "Achieving excellence in Major Case Management through the innovative use of technology."

DRPS reports that it received several "hits" both internally and externally in identifying possible links to individuals and criminal organizations involved in human trafficking.

PowerCase is not standard throughout the country, however, and agencies do not have to enter human trafficking cases or report them to the HTNCC – but Brochu remains optimistic that a solution will be found.

"There's strength in sharing information and taking a collaborative approach to law enforcement," says Brochu. "The stats are important to the HTNCC and we look forward to working with all of our municipal partners."

BIO

Freelance journalist Tony Palermo is Blue Line's Eastern Ontario correspondent. He is working on a book about Canada's domestic sex trafficking problem and how we're struggling to deal with it. Visit him at www.tonypalermo.ca, follow him on Twitter @TCPalermo or email him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

SIDEBAR A

Understanding human trafficking legislation

Known as modern day slavery, human trafficking is a complex crime that strips victims of their basic human rights and dignity.

A/Sgt. Yves Brochu of the RCMP's Human Trafficking National Coordination Centre (HTNCC) says law enforcement is recognizing that many people are either coerced or forced into the sex trade and are appropriately treating them as victims instead of criminals.

Brochu says it's important for officers to understand Canada's human trafficking legislation, introduced in 2005 under <s.279.01> to <s.279.04> of the Criminal Code:

Every person who recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds, conceals or harbours a person, or exercises control, direction or influence over the movements of a person, for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation is guilty of an indictable offence and liable:

(a) to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of five years if they kidnap, commit an aggravated assault or aggravated sexual assault against, or cause death to, the victim during the commission of the offence; or

(b) to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years in any other case.

Consent (2) No consent to the activity that forms the subject-matter of a charge under subsection (1) is valid.

Trafficking of a person under the age of 18 years <279.011 (1)> Every person who recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds, conceals or harbours a person under the age of 18 years, or exercises control, direction or influence over the movements of a person under the age of 18 years, for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation is guilty of an indictable offence and liable:

(a) to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of six years if they kidnap, commit an aggravated assault or aggravated sexual assault against, or cause death to, the victim during the commission of the offence; or

(b) to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of five years, in any other case.

Consent (2) No consent to the activity that forms the subject-matter of a charge under subsection (1) is valid.

Material benefit – trafficking <279.02 (1)> Everyone who receives a financial or other material benefit, knowing that it is obtained by or derived directly or indirectly from the commission of an offence under subsection <279.01(1)>, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years.

Material benefit – trafficking of person under 18 years (2) Everyone who receives a financial or other material benefit, knowing that it is obtained by or derived directly or indirectly from the commission of an offence under subsection <279.011(1)>, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of two years.

Withholding or destroying documents <279.03 (1)> Everyone who, for the purpose of committing or facilitating an offence under subsection <279.01(1)>, conceals, removes, withholds or destroys any travel document that belongs to another person or any document that establishes or purports to establish another person's identity or immigration status – whether or not the document is of Canadian origin or is authentic – is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years.

Withholding or destroying documents – trafficking of person under 18 years (2) Everyone who, for the purpose of committing or facilitating an offence under subsection <279.011(1)>, conceals, removes, withholds or destroys any travel document that belongs to another person or any document that establishes or purports to establish another person's identity or immigration status – whether or not the document is of Canadian origin or is authentic – is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of one year.

Exploitation <279.04 (1)> For the purposes of , a person exploits another person if they cause them to provide, or offer to provide, labour or a service by engaging in conduct that, in all the circumstances, could reasonably be expected to cause the other person to believe that their safety or the safety of a person known to them would be threatened if they failed to provide, or offer to provide, the labour or service.

Factors (2) In determining whether an accused exploits another person under subsection (1), the Court may consider, among other factors, whether the accused: (a) used or threatened to use force or another form of coercion; (b) used deception; or (c) abused a position of trust, power or authority.

Organ or tissue removal (3) For the purposes of , a person exploits another person if they cause them, by means of deception or the use or threat of force or of any other form of coercion, to have an organ or tissue removed.

SIDEBAR B

Understanding human trafficking

Despite what many people believe, most Canadian victims of sex trafficking are Canadian born and raised.

Understanding what human trafficking is – and isn't – is important to recognizing and fighting this modern day form of human slavery.

{Human sex trafficking and prostitution}

The term human trafficking has become more popular over the last few years and, when referring to human sex trafficking, has often been used interchangeably with prostitution. While on the surface they may appear to be the same thing or, at the very least, similar, it's important to understand the clear difference between the two. Most experts (including those who willingly work in the sex industry) agree that prostitution involves free-choice, where a person voluntarily, willingly and under their own control chooses to perform sex work. Human sex trafficking is when a victim is coerced or forced to perform sex work.

Since many sex trafficking victims don't initially self-identify as being trafficked – even believing that they are performing the sex work willingly – it's important to refer to and clearly understand the human trafficking legislation which recognizes and makes provisions to help address this challenge.

It is also important to remember that the general term human trafficking also refers to forced labour and organ/tissue harvesting.

{Human trafficking and human smuggling}

Although both terms may sound similar and involve moving persons, they are two distinct offences.

Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation, concealment or harbouring of a person for the purpose of exploiting them, usually for forced labour or sexual purposes. The victim is controlled through various methods, including coercion and/or force, and may even face severe consequences if they attempt to escape.

Human smuggling is a form of illegal migration where a person chooses to be willingly moved across an international border, sometimes under very dangerous conditions, in exchange for money or other considerations. When the final destination is reached, the smuggler and the individual go their own way.

According to the RCMP HTNCC, in some cases a person who has agreed to be smuggled into a country later becomes a human trafficking victim at the hands of the smuggler.

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