Friday, September 19, 2008

ARTICLE #123) Risk of human-trafficking

Friday, April 16, 2008
Risk of human-trafficking
Edmonton Sun by Glenn Kauth

Known cases in Ukraine and Las Vegas some speculated Canada

The Ukraine may be a haven for human-trafficking rings, but Canada has its own cases, says a group holding an event on the issue next week.

“There’s a concern that it’s in Canada as well,” said Luba Bell, the president of the Ukrainian Women’s Organization of Canada’s Edmonton branch.

Next Saturday, the group will host Irena Soltys, the co-chair of the Stop the Trafficking Coalition.

She’s coming from Toronto to Edmonton to build support for action against what she calls human slavery.

“It really is something that we would think in this day and age would not be an issue that we would have to contend with,” Soltys said from Toronto. “It’s almost appalling that in this century, human slavery still exists.”

Soltys’s group is particularly active in cases of women and children tricked or forced into the sex trade in the Ukraine, where a poor economy has led more than 100,000 people into exploitative situations since Communism ended.

“Mostly, it’s an economic issue – poverty that forces people to look for jobs outside their homeland, which of course sets them up as targets for trafficking,” she said. In recent years, Canada has introduced laws to crack down on trafficking, but Soltys said officials could do more. In particular, some police forces need more training on how to recognize victims.

Often, when they raid massage parlours, for example, they stop at laying bylaw charges without checking whether some people may be working there against their will, said Soltys.

Here in Edmonton, police last year said they were investigating two suspected rings believed to be part of an international network enslaving hundreds of Albertans a year. Many of them end up in the sex trade in Las Vegas, something officials there believe happened to Jessie Foster, a Calgary woman who has been missing since March 2006. Soltys hopes those cases, as well as her presentation next week, will spur Edmontonians into action on the issue.

“Canada can be a leader in this area in terms of setting the standard internationally and providing aid (to victims),” she said.

Soltys will speak next Saturday at the Ukrainian National Federation at 10629 98 St. at 7:30 p.m. Admission is by donation.

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