Article by The Sudbury Star

‘Sudbury is definitely a hub for human trafficking’

With nearly $400,000 in funding, the Sudbury Women’s Centre is getting ready to take a stand against human trafficking.

The SWC announced this week it has received $399,088 over four years from the federal government to fight human trafficking.

The money, funnelled through the Department of Women and Gender Equality, will be used to assist women to leave their situation, and to offer one-on-one counselling and group support for local survivors of human trafficking.

“We’ll be offering a 10-week support group quarterly,” Giulia Carpenter, executive director of the women’s centre, says. “We’ll also be assisting family members and friends who are being groomed for human trafficking.”

Carpenter said the money would also be used to offer training to businesses within the service industry, to enable them to identify the signs of trafficking.

Giulia Carpenter, executive director of the Sudbury Women’s Centre. The agency will help create the SOS alliance — Saving Our Sisters — to combat human trafficking in northern Ontario. PHOTO BY JOHN LAPPA /THE SUDBURY STAR

“We’ll also be creating an alliance, the SOS alliance — Saving Our Sisters — within Northern Ontario,” Carpenter said. “With the alliance, we’ll all be working together to provide services to any survivors who are living north of us. I’m a huge supporter of partnerships, so by working together we’ll be able to create more good, so we’ll be able to help more women in the future.”

The SOS alliance will focus on “advancing knowledge and enhancing empowerment supports for underserved at-risk populations and survivors of human trafficking in northern Ontario. The SOS alliance further aims to develop and implement an empowerment and healing program, including one-on-one counselling and/or cultural advising, and group support.”

The alliance will extend to Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins and North Bay. Carpenter said by forming a co-operative bloc, it will allow consistent messaging and will maximize the efficient use of resources.

“We are incredibly fortunate to receive this federal funding, which is sure to make a huge impact in the lives of women in our community who have experienced trafficking first-hand,” Carpenter says. “It will be put to very good use.”

The centre also plans to offer programming aimed at increasing awareness of human trafficking amongst vulnerable youth, in order to prevent victimization in the first place.

“It’s OK to ask for help and to seek advice. We are one of the places in Sudbury you can come to get the information from one of our support workers,” Carpenter says. “It’s not a bad thing to ask for help — that’s the main thing we always say.”

Despite strong laws and global protocols, it is estimated that human trafficking generates around $150 billion in criminal profits worldwide annually. It disproportionately impacts women and children. In Canada, 97 per cent of police-identified victims are women and girls.

It is not just a big-city problem. Human trafficking is knocking at the door and has become more common in Greater Sudbury than one may think.

“Sudbury is definitely a hub for human trafficking,” Carpenter said. “Within the last year, I think there were 50 human trafficking charges laid.”

The Greater Sudbury Police Service told The Star last December it had several trafficking investigations underway. While officers said it is an under-reported crime and “the number of victims is likely much greater than those we have been able to assist,” the police said it has laid more than 100 trafficking-related charges since 2018.

“We are aware human trafficking is a severely under-reported crime. Additionally, traffickers are established across numerous communities and jurisdictions. It is our opinion that one is too many,” Kaitlyn Dunn, a spokesperson for the police service, told The Star. “From April 2018 to March 2019, the GSPS entered into 56 new human trafficking investigations, resulting in 53 trafficking-related charges laid.

“During the same time period, 28 survivors were assisted and referred for relevant and appropriate support services. In 2019, GSPS investigated approximately 80 human trafficking and related occurrences, resulting in 75 trafficking-related charges. In 2019, seven survivors were assisted and referred to the appropriate support services. In 2020 from January to June, 38 trafficking and related occurrences have been/are being investigated, many of which are ongoing.”

To learn more about the Sudbury Women’s Centre, go to sudburywc.ca. Those who are interested in joining the alliance are asked to contact Kaylyn Edens at .

Sudbury Women’s Centre helps: In this fiscal year, the SWC served more than 3,000 women, even during the pandemic. There were 251 new intakes and the centre helped more than 25 women and their children find housing. The organization provided peer support to more than 350 women; assisted 1,800 people with food support; distributed 1,300 hygiene products; and helped 1,600 women find adequate clothing for all occasions.