Provincial grant to help Cornwall police combat human trafficking


Keynote speaker Jessica Desmond-Solomon, in Cornwall last March and describing the horrors of human sex trafficking at a community training and mobilization conference. Photo on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Cornwall, Ont. Todd Hambleton/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network

Todd Hambleton / Todd Hambleton/Standard-Freeholder

Cornwall has been selected for a provincial government grant that the police service says will help prevent human trafficking, and support victims of the trade.

It’s the Beyond Project Intervention grant, through Ontario’s Civil Remedies program, providing the CPS with just over $90,000.

“Human trafficking has been identified as a priority concern in Canada, and it continues to be a significant problem faced by law enforcement partners across Ontario,” Cornwall Chief of Police Danny Aikman said in a CPS news release.

“(The CPS is) grateful to be a recipient of this funding, which will aid us in preventing human trafficking from occurring and will assist in protecting vulnerable members of our community from victimization.”

The service said Beyond Project Intervention will provide a multi-level approach to address the issue locally, by providing education and training to police officers and stakeholders, building local partnerships, co-ordinating services, and conducting proactive public awareness campaigns.

Late this past summer, Pat Dussault, the former OPP constable out of the Long Sault detachment who’s been a leading local figure in human trafficking awareness, told the Standard-Freeholder that provincial funding to fight the problem has been promising, the latest announcement coming from Premier Doug Ford.

The government in Aug. pledged $7.65 million over five years, to support victims’ services organizations.

The government said two of every three police-reported human trafficking violations in Canada occur in Ontario, and that over 70 per cent of victims are under the age of 25 — and that the average age of recruitment into sex trafficking is 13.

Dussault, who for several years co-ordinated education efforts in Akwesasne and Eastern Ontario as the anti-human trafficking liason with the Akwesasne Family Wellness Program, said the problem was still very real even in a pandemic.

“It has to do with sex and money,” Dussault said. “If there’s a demand for that, the problem is there. . .not much has changed during the pandemic.”

Dussault called any funding “a step in  the right direction,” saying that awareness campaigns are beginning to work.

“More people in (the Cornwall and Akwesasne area) realize it’s here — it goes on in this area,” he said. “It’s not just a Toronto problem, it’s not just a Montreal problem.”

Last fall, Ontario announced a new strategy and financial investment, $20 million annually to strengthen victim supports and enforcement, MPP Jim McDonell saying that human trafficking “affects all levels of society, (it’s a) crisis that’s happening across the province and all communities, and it’s of particular concern in (SDSG).”

The CPS in its release said the service is an active law enforcement partner agency in “Ontario’s Strategy to End Human Trafficking.”

Human trafficking is known to be one of the most lucrative of criminal activities within organized crime, an industry that uses various forms of technology to operate, which makes it difficult to track the illegal activities of the traffickers.

Law enforcement agencies are also challenged when it comes to identifying victims, since the nature of the crime is insidious and difficult to detect, with those involved often trapped with threats of violence and distorted affection.

thambleton@postmedia.com

twitter.com/FreeholderTodd





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