Human trafficking will worsen in Canada, and Nunavut: RCMP expert
"If the request comes here, we would be more than happy to go assist and help"
The head of the RCMP’s Human Trafficking National Coordination Centre is warning that the human trafficking situation in Nunavut could get worse before it gets better.
“But that’s my own opinion. My personal perspective — it’s a growing trend. It involves organized crime,” Sgt. André Menoche told Nunatsiaq News.
And organized crime, which is generally concentrated in large southern cities, can become a factor in northern crime and exploitation, Menoche said.
“Nunavut is not an exception,” Menoche said. “We’re about to probably see more.”
Recently, consulting firm Roos-Remillard released a damning report on the state of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Nunavut.
The report detailed anecdotal stories of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Nunavut, many of them told by Inuit living in Ottawa’s Vanier neighbourhood.
Those stories include “reported experiences of grooming, baiting, conning and exploitation to perform forced sex work, either at the hands of their common law, partner, boyfriend, parent or pimp.”
Menoche isn’t new to Nunavut. He worked in Cape Dorset from 1997 to 1999 as a general duty police officer, and then in Iqaluit until 2001.
But during his time in the North, Menoche didn’t investigate human trafficking crimes.
In fact, only one charge of human trafficking has ever been laid in Nunavut — in 2013 — but it was later downgraded.
“Now with the awareness that we’ve been seeing in the last couple of years, of course this is most likely a growing trend we see from coast to coast,” Menoche said.
In fact, the Roos-Remillard report may prompt the human trafficking centre to pay more attention to Nunavut.
“This is the first time we are really involved in Nunavut because of this report. So if that generates a greater response we’ll definitely do that,” Menoche said.
“If the division in Nunavut feels that, yeah, it looks like we have an issue here and we need to tackle this, if the request comes here, we would be more than happy to go assist and help.”
Menoche’s job is to supervise a team of three — a sergeant, a corporal and an analyst — to “combat and disrupt individuals and criminal organizations involved in human trafficking activities” according to the HTNCC’s website.
That includes awareness and prevention: giving presentations and training sessions, as well as talking to youth and distributing pamphlets, fliers and various digital media which explain human trafficking.
Getting the message out that human trafficking exists in Canada, and helping people to recognize what it looks like, is a priority for Menoche.
“Someone who decides to prostitute themselves to make money for their school,” is different than a “13-year-old slowly brought into this ring of violence and drugs,” he said.
Menoche said people mix up smuggling people with human trafficking.
“Canadian people still believe or still have this vision of human trafficking being someone outside being brought in Canada. Whereas the reality is that very much close to — if not more than — 90 per cent of these young victims are actually Canadian,” he said.
Despite Menoche’s belief that human trafficking is increasing in Canada, the HTNCC has been forced to scale back positions because of budget cuts.
“So we are now rethinking our processes,” Menoche said.
“Especially in education and prevention. It is a bit of a challenge right now but we’re working on a solution to get these things going,” he said.
Menoche said there are a few RCMP members in different jurisdictions who are educated and informed enough to talk about human trafficking, and that the HTNCC is thinking about travelling to different communities across Canada if need be.
But losing HTNCC positions across the country is still a “big issue” Menoche said.
“As you can understand, the government is well aware that our youth and the Aboriginal and the native [people] are perhaps a bit more at risk sometimes,” Menoche said.
“And it comes with education, the background, the family, the culture, the financials, you have to consider everything as a global aspect of what makes a possible victim more than another person,” he said.
“Prevention is one of the key elements to fight this.”