Former high-level bureaucrat calls for national action plan on sex trade

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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WINNIPEG - A former federal adviser says Canada needs a national plan to combat human trafficking in the sex trade.
Police forces are inadequately staffed and trained to crack down on the underground system that ships young women and girls between controlling pimps, says Benjamin Perrin, who served as a senior policy adviser to the citizenship and immigration minister in 2006.
"You need committed people on the front lines, and there are some people like that but there are not enough of them," Perrin, who now teaches law at the University of British Columbia, told a human trafficking forum put on by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs on Wednesday.
While most people may not like to acknowledge the extent of the problem, girls are being constantly trafficked between provinces and prevented from leaving their pimps either through physical violence or threats.
"I had two friends who were involved in prostitution . . . and they glamorized it," said Natasha Falle, who slipped into the sex trade at 15.
"I was being verbally abused (at home), and I went home with the these two girls one night, not knowing where I was going to sleep. It was only a matter of time before it sounded like a good idea."
"It wasn't too long after that that a pimp did find me and did traffic me all across Canada."
Falle escaped her pimp and returned home after 12 years of violence and drug use. She now works with the sex crimes unit in Toronto's police force.
Perrin said he was saddened, but not surprised, when he flew into Winnipeg for the conference and ran a quick check for erotic services on the online auction site Craigslist. He found more than a dozen listings featuring photos of young women.
Canada could adopt measures like those taken in the United States, he said, where online auction sites are required to obtain credit card information from people making a listing. Police can then identify and track down the girls.
"It resulted not only in a decline in the number of ads, but also . . . they are less explicit, there's less evidence, particularly of younger victims."
Perrin praised some measures taken by the federal government, including a private member's bill tabled this year by Winnipeg Conservative backbencher Joy Smith that would impose a minimum five-year sentence on anyone convicted of human trafficking.

Organizations: University of British Columbia, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Geographic location: Canada, WINNIPEG, Toronto United States

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