According to Statistics Canada, as of 2020, 96 per cent of victims of human trafficking in the country were women or girls.
The issue is well known to Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance, who recently told council about trafficking incidents that involved two young girls in 2021.
One was a 12-year-old, found alone in a hotel room, and the other was a young woman from Quebec who was found in a back alley. Both of them received help from RCMP and social service organizations. A third case, in 2022, involved working with Alberta law enforcement in locating a known trafficker.
“I highlight that because I don’t think many of us believe that this happens in our community,” added Triance.
She said the crime is difficult to track and it’s challenging to identify those who are responsible.
“The data is simply not there for human trafficking, and it’s absolutely marginalized individuals who don’t have a direct line to police.”
Kelowna RCMP is part of the #notinmycity campaign, which was highlighted by Canadian country singer Paul Brandt during a visit to the city last month.
RCMP has completed training in how to spot human trafficking at local businesses, bars, pubs and nightclubs, and recently hosted multi-agency training involving the Ministry of Children and Family Development, BC Prosecution Service and other law enforcement agencies.
“This issue does occur in our community and predators are in our community,” explained Triance. “We must do our best to educate our community of the signs and detect this crime.”
A free 30-minute course on spotting the signs of human trafficking is available on the #notinmycity website.
Community Safety Director Darren Caul noted that Kelowna is the first in the country to have select staff trained through the program.
“We have staff whose positions bring them into contact with the people or places that are susceptible to human trafficking.”