Service Hosts International Human Trafficking Conference
Dedicated professionals from around the world and across diverse sectors are in the city for the three-day Toronto Police Service (TPS) International Human Trafficking conference.
At the three-day event, they will explore a wide range of organizations and communities to enhance capacity in supporting victims and survivors of human trafficking and intimate partner violence.
Delegates will gain insight on human trafficking victims’ trauma and comprehend the effects that they endure as well as insight on current global issues that lead to victimization in their respective jurisdictions.
Chief Myron Demkiw said the conference provides an opportunity to share ideas and collaborate with some of the brightest minds and organizations working to combat a crime that puts far too many at risk.
“For us here in Toronto and for many communities across the country, human trafficking is not an abstract or distant problem,” he said at the opening ceremony on March 20. “The victims of this horrific crime are all around us. They are our brothers, sisters, children, neighbours and friends and they are suffering the most extreme abuses known to humanity. And they are calling out for help.
“We are here to answer that call. To find ways to enhance our capacity to support victims and survivors of human trafficking and intimate partner violence, to strengthen our investigative skills in human trafficking investigations and expand our networks with other police services and community organizations to improve victim support.”
Police-related human trafficking cases in Ontario are higher than the national average.
Demkiw said this is staggering and deeply worrying.
“Unfortunately, our major cities and urban hubs have created more opportunities for human trafficking crimes,” he pointed out. “With more people, more transportation options and more access to accommodations, it has become easier for traffickers to conceal their actions. If a trafficker starts their mission in Toronto, they could mobilize on a moment’s notice and travel right across the province in only a matter of hours. This is a common practice that allows criminals to access different customer bases and avoid law enforcement detention.”
Despite the insidious nature of the crime, Demkiw noted that Toronto Police is making progress to stem the tide.
Recognizing the need for a dedicated unit that is victim-centred and focussed on supporting individuals in their journey to escape the cycle of exploitation by their traffickers, the Service launched a Human Trafficking Enforcement Team nine years ago.
It includes the Children at Risk Exploitation Team that is integrated with the Service’s enforcement team and Toronto Children’s Aid child protection workers, focussing on youths between the ages of 12 and 17 who are at risk of being trafficked.
“This is just one example of work,” noted Demkiw. “But it underlines that the centrepiece of all our efforts to combat human trafficking is partnership. The Service is proud to be part of the province’s intelligence-led Joint Forces Strategy that has forged vital partnerships across jurisdictions. And we are seeing positive and direct results from this collaboration as it has been highly effective in providing specialized support for the investigations that are underway.”
Demkiw re-iterated the Service’s support for organizations engaged in the fight against human trafficking.
“We believe that every victim impacted by human trafficking and sexual exploitation deserves to be treated with respect, dignity, fairness and honesty,” he added. “And, to the best of our ability, we will fulfill our duty to identify, arrest and prosecute those responsible for this terrible crime.”
Inspector Susan Gomes of Specialized Criminal Investigations/Sex Crimes acknowledged Inspector David Correa for having the vision for the Service to host an international conference.
He was a Detective Sergeant in charge of the Human Trafficking Section a year ago.
“You planted a seed with your team at the time and it continued to grow under the leadership of Acting Detective Sergeant Earle Davies to what you see here today,” noted Gomes. “You will be proud of what they have accomplished as the conference unfolds over the next three days. Thank you for your dedication and compassion for this type of work and thank you for giving up your time this week away from your role as second in command at 55 Division to participate as the Master of Ceremonies.”
Staff Superintendent Pauline Gray and Superintendent Mark Barsky also spoke at the opening ceremony.