Helping People Caught in the Web of Human Trafficking

Calgary-based Avenue Living is helping three individuals caught in the web of human trafficking in Alberta by providing them accommodation for several months until they can land on their feet.

The case came to light in mid November, when it was identified by authorities that a group of foreign nationals were being exploited for labour. The group of workers were initially detained by the Canada Border Services Agency due to their irregular immigration status, but an investigation revealed they were victims of labour trafficking.

A total of 29 victims – all males – were identified and in late November, 12 were being supported by the Action Coalition on Human Trafficking in Alberta. The whereabouts of 17 victims was not known.

“This situation is still under investigation by CBSA,” says Ambere Porter, Director of Organizational Development with ACT Alberta. “Our focus is to always get justice for these individuals.

“Avenue Living was amazing from the get go. Fairly near the beginning, Avenue Living became aware of the human trafficking situation. Out of a very sincere interest to be helpful, the leadership [of Avenue Living] reached out to our staff . . . and we started to have a dialogue of what these individuals needed.”

Porter says one of the key things they needed was housing. So Avenue Living provided a home for three people to the end of January, “Which is absolutely amazing and incredible,” adds Porter.

Due to confidentiality, she could not reveal where in Alberta those individuals are being housed.

Since 2010, ACT Alberta has worked collaboratively with law enforcement, government agencies and non-profits to identify and respond to human trafficking in the province. ACT Alberta serves the needs of internationally and internally trafficked people and assists those trafficked for the purposes of labour exploitation, sexual exploitation and the removal of organs. It coordinates services for victims, manages a Victims Assistance Fund, provides education and conducts research on human trafficking in the province, while building capacity for community-based responses.

“In partnership with us we helped those individuals stabilize their Canadian status, because when you’re a temporary foreign worker your status is directly connected to your employer. Because they were no longer with an employer, because that employer was being charged with human trafficking, those three individuals we had to solidify their Canadian status with Immigration Canada,” says Porter.

“We got them into a co-op where they could get work . Avenue Living was very generous. Basically it’s given them this wonderful opportunity to stabilize their lives while they’re here.”