Kelowna airport partners with Paul Brand's #NotInMyCity to fight sex trafficking | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna airport partners with Paul Brand's #NotInMyCity to fight sex trafficking

Canadian country music star Paul Brandt was in Kelowna to announce that Kelowna Airport is partnering with his #NotInMyCity to fight sex trafficking.
Image Credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/Buckspring

Human trafficking is such a dark and uncomfortable subject that many people shy away from talking about it.

That’s not the case with Canadian Country Music Hall of Famer Paul Brandt who is in Kelowna today, May 25, to launch partnerships with local organizations with his #NotInMyCity organization.

“There are a number of different types of trafficking,” Brandt told “Sex trafficking, where someone is forced to provide services or do sexual acts against their will that make them uncomfortable, that’s one form of trafficking that gets them a lot of attention. There’s also labour trafficking."

Labour trafficking can be in things like the hospitality and agricultural industries where foreign workers can be exploited because they don't know their rights and fear being sent back home if they don't do what they're told.

“There’s one other form of trafficking that doesn’t get talked about quite as much but Canada is a demand country when it comes to this kind of trafficking and that’s organ trafficking," Brandt said. "Canada would be a demand country in that there are people here in Canada who would travel abroad to illegally obtain organs if they needed a transplant.”

One organization in the U.S. has identified 25 different types of trafficking.

“What’s important to understand about the issue of human trafficking is that it’s force, fraud and coercion facilitated by a third party,” Brandt said.

Brandt and his wife Liz founded #NotInMyCity in 2017 after witnessing sex trafficking first hand in Southeast Asia.

What he’s learned is that it’s also not uncommon in Canada.

“I’ve met child trafficking victims here in Canada that were six, seven years old when they were first trafficked,” Brandt said. “I met a young women recently who was 10 years old when she was first trafficked in BC. She was found in her 30s on East Hastings (in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside), drug addicted and dependant and pregnant and her life was a shell at that time.”

Some of those victims are trafficked through airports to keep out of sight of law enforcement agencies in their home cities or to be moved to more lucrative markets.

That’s why #NotInMyCity is already partnering with Calgary and Edmonton airports since victims are often transported by air.

They are training airport staff and flight attendants to help identify victims and notify law enforcement.

Kelowna International Airport has now signed on to join that effort but in Kelowna it’s more than just the airport. The RCMP and the city’s Child Advocacy Centre are also involved in getting the message out.

While Kelowna is a much smaller city than Calgary or Edmonton, it has been identified as a trafficking route, Brandt said.

Data from Statistics Canada shows that 300 to 400 people are trafficked each year, he said.

“Most people who are the front line would say, that might happen in Vancouver in about a month,” Brandt said. “Numbers that come out of Stats Canada are helpful but we also receive numbers from the RCMP and people who are in the sector and doing the work on the front line and have the opportunity to interact with victims and survivors every day who would generally say those numbers are vastly under recorded.”

Trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in Canada in terms of the number of cases being reported, Brandt said, due, in part to efforts by #NotInMyCity to raise awareness.

“When we stated this work with #NotInMyCity six years ago, we were told by top law enforcement in Alberta that human trafficking doesn’t happen there,” he said.

He’s just turned in a report on the issue to the Alberta government who have responded with $22.8 million over four years for a new office to help combat trafficking.

For those who want to help, they can take a half-hour course on the #NotInMyCity website, here, to learn how to identify victims of trafficking.

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The website says that 93% of Canada’s trafficking victims are Canadian and 50% are Indigenous, even though they make up only 4% of the Canadian population. The victims are generally quite young with 26% being under the age of 18 and 72% are under the age of 25.

Globally, 98% of sex trafficking victims are women and girls.

Human traffickers in Canada make an average annual profit of $280,800 per year off each woman they exploit.

If you suspect someone is being trafficked, #NotInMyCity advises not to approach them or try to rescue them but to inform police or, if an airport, the airport staff.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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