The story of a Pictou County youth who had fallen victim to human trafficking in Halifax came as a shock to many.
“It shook us up,” said Stacy Dlamini, program director with Pictou County Roots for Youth. She said the realization that human trafficking was happening so close to home was a call to action.
The need for more awareness of the danger of human trafficking in Pictou County inspired her – and those working with her – to spring to action, to spread awareness.
Anti-Human Trafficking Week is planned for Nov. 5 to 12 with a number of services and activities meant to raise awareness about the prevalent problem – and how it’s not just limited to larger cities.
“There’s not a large extent of realization that it’s already happening to people in our community,” said Dlamini. “We, ourselves, were shaken into action when we learned of one young person who fell victim to human trafficking, locally – someone who was brought into the sex trade in Halifax.
Dlamini emphasized that Anti-Human Trafficking Week is not about stoking fear – it’s simply about making sure the community is aware and ready to take action when the warning signs arise.
“We feel like it’s something that happens in cities like Halifax or Toronto, but the reality is it happens in rural communities, too,” said Dlamini. “There’s sort of a methodology to how traffickers identify potential victims, and build relationships.
During Anti-Human Trafficking Week, Dlamini hopes that information will be able to help people spot signs of that methodology. If people know what signs to look for, “people can do something about this, when we are aware enough to recognize signs among young people,” she said.
“If we don’t know the signs, we’re not likely to do anything – but if we do know the signs, we can intervene,” she said.
Roots For Youth will be collaborating with the Open Door Women’s Care Centre, providing a week’s worth of activities throughout the community – all to educate, and create public awareness.
Representatives will be going to North Nova Education Centre and Northumberland Regional High School to educate students about human trafficking – in addition to the many public talks to be hosted over the course of the week.
Dlamini said taking an active role in raising awareness of human trafficking is especially important for her in her job working with vulnerable youth. She noted traffickers specifically seek out the exact kinds of young people Roots for Youth ends up helping.
“A lot of these young people have difficult relationships with family members at home. (Traffickers) might target them, because they feel that, perhaps fewer people are checking up on them,” said Dlamini. “That can create a space for someone with bad intentions.”
Dlamini hopes that educating the public will allow people to intervene. She noted that a lot of the time, the process of grooming, to the unaware, can look like a simple romantic relationship between the victim and the trafficker.
The Pictou County Women’s Resource and Sexual Assault Centre is partnering to help raise awareness during the week as well and will host a full day workshop on Nov. 10.
Executive director Shelly Curtis-Thompson said she hopes people will come to realize that human trafficking is not something that just happens in other countries.
Estimates are that 40 million people in the world are victims.
“A third happens at a local level in nations across the world,” Curtis-Thompson said. “Canada is no different.”
She hopes these events will help raise awareness about the warning signs.
“This workshop will be a really great opportunity to gain some local perspective on what’s happening in Canada and some work happening internationally.”
The following are the activities planned for Anti-Human Trafficking Week, taking place at numerous locations in Pictou County.
Nov. 5, 11 a.m. – A church service will be taking place at the Westville Salvation Army, 2011 Diamond St., Westville.
Nov. 6 at 8:30 a.m. – Tune in to East Coast FM News to get informed about human trafficking.
Nov. 9 – A public talk will be held at the Community Room of the New Glasgow Library at 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 10 – A full-day workshop by MORPH is planned. To register, call 902-755-4647. The workshop will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Nov. 12, 10:30 a.m. – There will be an information session at the Christian Fellowship Church, at 489 Abercrombie Road, New Glasgow.