On Thursday September 13, 2012, a public meeting was held in the St.Catharines public library. The topic of this meeting “Human Trafficking in Niagara: A Ghost Crime” was something that has received much publicity as of late, considering the recent arrest of 12 individuals and consequent public exposure of human trafficking circles in Hamilton, ON. The speaker hosting the meeting was Detective, Sergeant Craig Labaune of the Niagara Regional Police Service. The goal of the meeting, as stated by Labaune, was to raise public awareness surrounding this typically hidden ‘ghost crime’ as it goes largely unseen by the general public. Discussed that evening was domestic human trafficking, that is, the trafficking that occurs within Canada and involves Canadian females. Some might be shocked to discover that it wasn’t until only six years ago that the Canadian government enacted legislation implemented against human trafficking. Defined by the Criminal Code of Canada, human trafficking includes the purposeful transportation, recruitment, relocation, obtainment, holding, concealment or harbouring of a person, by an individual or group of persons who exert control. When asked about the demographic of the targeted victims, Det. Sgt. Labaune asserted that in the great majority of cases, it is young women, approximately ages 12-25, that are being exploited by older men. In addition, Labaune referred to human trafficking as a form of modern day slavery, where women are being sold for sexual purposes by a pimp who proclaims ownership over them. Several steps that these pimps take before enslaving their female victims include: recruitment, where love and fear is used as a tool to get the female youth to believe she is in a trusting relationship. Next, the pimp will segregate the victim by isolating her from her support network (friends, family, etc). By doing so, she becomes completely reliant upon her pimp. Initial introduction into the human trafficking trade usually begins by these female victims entering the adult entertainment industry as strippers, but then eventually escalates to prostitution. The unfortunate reality of this particular crime, is that victims usually do not come forward to police or family members regarding their exploitation, as most of them have been heavily influenced into believing that their destiny is to be trafficked; a mind control tactic that these pimps use to sustain their business.
Popular culture, particularly in the form of mainstream music, also works to glorify the pimp/prostitute subculture with songs like P.I.M.P. by 50 Cent and published books in the stores such as “Pimpology: the 48 Laws of the Game”. Labaune states that the best way to combat this crime is by talking to our youth and making them aware of their rights. In addition, there are organizations whose entire platform is centered around ending human trafficking, such as the Walk With Me organization (www.walk-with-me.org) whose director, Timea Nagy, was once a victim of human trafficking herself. If anyone you know is at risk or currently a victim of human trafficking, they are urged to call the national hotline for victims 1-866-528-7109.