Human trafficking: yes, it’s happening here in Alberta

Callie Hermanson
Lakeside Leader

When most people think of trafficking in humans, Canada is not the first place that comes to mind. But according to an expert in the subject who spoke in Slave Lake last month, it is happening right here in Alberta.

Jessica Brandon of ACT (Action Coalition on Human Trafficking) told attendees at the Sept. 27 Slave Lake Interagency Council meeting that many popular and successful businesses in Alberta are involved. A good example, she said, is the Econo Lodge case in Red Deer.

Brandon said the owners were charged with labour trafficking after a 10-month investigation into allegations of abuse of eight temporary foreign workers. She said the motel owners charged their workers to live together, $400 per month, sometimes four to a room.

It got worse. They were paid $10 an hour and $7.50 if they had to work overtime, as a kind of a punishment.

The wife was sentenced to community service and her husband was sentenced for failing to keep employment records as required by the Alberta Employment Standards Code.

He also received a conditional sentence, plus a $5,000 fine.

The province ordered the couple to pay back $91,600 in wages to the workers.

Brandon says 59 percent of the people that ACT has helped are Canadian born; the average age for females is 26 and the average age for males is 28.

Right now ACT only works with clients 18 years of age or older, but Brandon says that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t make appropriate referrals for anybody under the age of 18.

ACT offers a variety of services for people who are victims of trafficking. An example Brandon gave is the case of a woman trying to get away from a bad situation, but her trafficker kept finding her. She went from city to city and she finally came to ACT Alberta and they were actually able to look through her phone and see her trafficker had installed the tracking app on it.

She said they were able to use the victim’s assistance fund to buy her a new phone and get rid of the old one.

Brandon’s appearance in Slave Lake was courtesy of the Northern Haven Support Society, which operates a women’s emergency shelter.

For any more information, visit, email info@actalberta or call 780-474-1104.

Jessica Brandon

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