The Canadian government, its national police force and two non-government organizations are teaming up to fight the smuggling of migrants and sex workers into Canada, Canada’s Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced Tuesday.
The announcement by Toews was made less than a month after the MV Sun Sea, a ship carrying nearly 500 Tamil migrants, arrived in British Columbia to a storm of Canadian public protest. The people aboard the Sun Sea have asked for refugee status in Canada.
At the time, the Canadian government said it would try to find ways to prevent a mass influx of migrants to Canada, and accused the Sun Sea’s owners and captains of smuggling people at a price of about 50,000 U.S. dollars each.
While cases like the Sun Sea receive huge media coverage here, most of the people smuggled in Canada are women forced into prostitution, either by foreign or Canadian organized crime gangs.
Many come from Eastern Europe, southern Asia and the Philippines.
“Most are women and children and their cases often go unnoticed and unreported due to threats from offenders, language barriers or mistrust of authorities,” Toews said at a news conference in the central Canadian city of Winnipeg.
He said the “Blue Blindfold” campaign, a partnership of the national government, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and two Canadian charitable organizations, will explain to Canadians how to spot human smugglers and tell them which police forces to call when they see something suspicious.
They will be able to report human smuggling and trafficking through the Crime Stoppers anonymous telephone tip program, which pays rewards for information that helps police catch criminals. An advertising campaign will be launched to raise awareness of the issue, Toews said.
“In order to save victims and apprehend those responsible for trafficking people, we need the public’s help,” said RCMP Sergeant Marie-Claude Arsenault of the Human Trafficking National Coordination Center. “Our partnership with Crime Stoppers allows people to anonymously report the abuse and be assured that the information will be communicated to the police.”
“The safety of our most vulnerable citizens, our children is of paramount importance, and our government takes it seriously,” said Joy Smith, a Conservative member of Parliament who introduced a piece of legislation last year that would give police and courts greater powers to crack down on the practice.
“Human trafficking and all forms of child exploitation is a horrific abuse of human rights that impacts all of us. Defeating it must unite us all as a nation in the fight to protect our most vulnerable citizens.” – PNA, source