Stop turning a blind eye to human trafficking in British Columbia!
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British Columbia, the best place on earth? Other than the forced labour and sex trafficking.
BC's own governmental website states that human trafficking is a global problem and Canada is not immune. Canada has been identified as both a transit and a destination point for human trafficking, and Vancouver has been singled out by the U.S. State Department as a port of major concern. Canada is also a source of trafficked persons and has experienced cases of domestic trafficking within its borders.
The website also goes on to state that "Due to the hidden nature of the crime, most human trafficking activities are undetected or unreported. Human trafficking is a serious violation of human rights. In British Columbia, human trafficking is recognized as a problem that cannot be ignored."
However, BC's Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General has decided that it is o.k. to drastically slash budget cuts to the Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons. This occurred in July of 2011, and resulted in the termination of the Executive Director, Robin Pike. There is no longer an Executive Director position, and as it stands there are only 2 employees working in this office, period. Sign this petition to tell BC's Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Shirley Bond, and BC's Premier, Christy Clark, that this is unacceptable.
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B.C. slashes budget for human trafficking office
By Katie De Rosa, Postmedia News August 2, 2011 VICTORIA — The B.C. government has quietly slashed the office that deals with human trafficking, eliminating the executive director position and keeping just two full-time staff members to serve victims throughout the entire province.
Robin Pike, executive director for the Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons, had her position terminated effective Friday.
The office is also not hiring people to replace staff on maternity leave, effectively shuttering the Victoria office, according to Benjamin Perrin, a University of British Columbia law professor and expert on human trafficking, who was informed of the changes by Pike in an email on Thursday.
He said the two Vancouver-based employees will work with an annual budget of $300,000, down from $500,000.
"This has really gutted this office," said Perrin, who has worked with the office since it was formed in 2007, helping educate police and immigrant service agencies about the resources for trafficking victims. "This is really an under-funded office to begin with and I can't see how it will have the impact it needs to have."
Perrin said the department's "meagre" annual budget is about the same a sex trafficker earns by selling one victim.
Conservative MP Joy Smith, whose private member's bill amended the Criminal Code to prosecute child traffickers, issued a terse statement: "Gutting the B.C. Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons without any consultation is not only irresponsible, it's reckless. Victims of this heinous crime will suffer because of this short-sighted decision, while traffickers will benefit."
In a statement, Solicitor General Shirley Bond maintains the budget has not been cut. She said the office has joined the community safety and crime prevention branch, which has 100 staff members who are responsible for services to victims of crime, violence against women programs and crime prevention initiatives. She said the move will allow access to more resources and expertise.
"However it remains a distinct entity with a clear focus and mandate," Bond said.
While B.C. was once recognized as a leader in Canada by setting up the office in July 2007, Perrin fears it will now become a "laggard" compared to provinces such as Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.
In February of this year, Ontario announced $2 million over three years for enforcement and education around human trafficking.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also promised a $20-million National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking by 2012.
Vancouver has been identified as a "port of significant concern as both a destination and transit point" for sex trafficking and forced-labour trafficking, according to a three-year status report on the office released in 2010.
There have been several high-profile cases of trafficking in B.C.
In 1999, four dilapidated boats from China arrived on B.C.'s coast with 599 Chinese migrant aboard, including 134 unaccompanied children believed to be victims of human trafficking.
Earlier this month, police announced charges against a Vancouver couple who allegedly brought a women from Hong Kong into Canada, forcing her into domestic servitude.
The office, managed jointly by the Ministry of Public Safety and the Ministry of Children and Family Development, has a mandate to co-ordinate services for trafficking victims and provide a 24-hour victim help line.
The overarching goal was to better serve the victims of human trafficking, often women or girls living in poverty in foreign countries who are smuggled into Canada to work in the sex trade as well as vulnerable First Nations women forced into prostitution.
Since 2007, the office helped 100 victims find the services they need, Perrin said.
August 2, 2011
Experts accuse province of axing human trafficking office's budget
By ERICA BULMAN, 24 hours
As the federal government beefs up efforts to fight human trafficking, the province where most of it happens is cutting back, says a leading expert in the field.
UBC law professor Benjamin Perrin charged Tuesday that B.C.’s human trafficking department budget has quietly been slashed by 40 per cent and the position of a senior official axed. This happened, he said, in spite of the first-ever charges laid in B.C. for human trafficking cases involving allegations of domestic servitude.
The move, said Perrin, was made by the Solicitor General’s office, which reduced funding to the Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons (OCTIP) to less than $300,000 annually.
“That’s about the amount a sex trafficker earns per year from exploiting just one victim,” Perrin, a leading expert on human trafficking, told 24 hours.
The Solicitor General denied budget cuts but acknowledged OCTIP has joined with another department.
“However, it remains a distinct entity with a clear focus and mandate,” Shirley Bond said in a statement.
In an email obtained by 24 hours, a senior B.C. government official informed Perrin of the cuts and the elimination of executive director Robin Pike’s position.
“The Victoria office is closing,” the official wrote.
According to the official, the budget was cut by some $200,000 and OCTIP was reduced to a two-person operation in Vancouver, singled out by the U.S. state department as a hub for smuggling people into North America.
The move comes just months after Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised a $20-million National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking by 2012. Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario also launched major initiatives.
Started in 2007, OCTIP has helped more than 100 trafficked people across B.C.
Less than two months ago, Bond declared, “Human trafficking is unacceptable, and this is the reason the B.C. government created the Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons.”
In June, the RCMP reported 74 traffickers were being prosecuted across Canada.
“I’m used to pushing countries like Cambodia to improve its response,” Perrin said. “I never thought I’d have to be focusing on my own province.”
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