More than forty social service providers from both the surrounding area and from rural and remote communities gathered at Wi Na Wenjikaazo Anti-Human Trafficking Conference at the Best Western Nor’Wester today. The conference was hosted by Beendigen’s Healing Our Own Counselling Unit. 

“Beendigen recognizes that Indigenous women are not only at risk of abuse and human trafficking, but are targeted for it. We work proactively to offer services and supports to self-identified women to address issues related to trafficking,” says Katie Bortolin, Healing Our Own Program Manager. 

The goal of the conference today was to provide service providers with key information, strategies, and tools that can help them to navigate services for people at risk of trafficking in rural communities. 

Guest speakers at the conference included Karly Church, an anti-trafficking advocate and crisis counsellor, Kristal Carlson, a specialized youth-in-transition worker, and Sheila Wahsquonaikezhik, the founder of Indige-Spheres to Empowerment, a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples domestically and globally that is located in Thunder Bay. 

“Human Trafficking is an umbrella term,” explained Karly Church in her opening presentation. “There are many different forms of trafficking, including forced labour, forced marriage, organ harvesting, sex trafficking, and more. Sex trafficking is the form that occurs most often in Ontario.” 

She went on to provide the four elements that are always present in cases of human trafficking: “force, fraud, coercion, and it needs to be facilitated by a third party or group of people.” 

Cindy Paypompee, Beendigen Family Counsellor and Maya Mounayer, Beendigen Anti-Human Trafficking Assistant, spoke about the ways in which labour trafficking occurs and what it looks like. 

“In instances of labour trafficking, migrant workers and immigrants are often targeted. They are given false information, forced to work against their will, forced to stay in deplorable conditions, are guaranteed no safety and given no safety equipment, and they do not get to keep the money they make,” says Cindy. 

Events like the Wi Na Wenjikaazo Anti-Human Trafficking Conference are much-needed to spread vital information amongst service providers and continue the dialogue about how communities can work to support victims and combat this elusive crime.

    Cindy Paypompee and Maya Mounayer from Beendigen 

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