Cablegate: British Columbia Holds Conference On Trafficking in Persons

R 150007Z NOV 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: The BC Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons
(OCTIP) held its first ever conference bringing together law
enforcement, NGOs, academics, government and political
representatives to share ideas and best practices on addressing
human trafficking. DPO and representatives of the Consulate
Vancouver ICE office participated in workshops looking at issues
from trafficking for sexual exploitation to labor trafficking,
domestic trafficking, research and data collection and the
difficulties of prosecution. Most participants agreed that
Canada now has adequate legislation to address trafficking
issues. The big problems lie in cooperation between police,
NGOs and local government and the implementation of the
legislation in legal enforcement and victims' assistance. End

2. NGOs at the conference pushed hard on better treatment for
trafficking victims. It still remains the case that many
victims, especially in the sex trade, are treated as criminals
initially by police. This causes them to be uncooperative and
leads to missed opportunities for testimony against the
traffickers. Training has become key to overcoming this problem
Organization such as Servants Anonymous Society, have begun
regular sessions with local police and prosecutors to help them
learn to identify the signs of human trafficking and to develop
skills to work with victims and develop trust. Delegates at the
conference also looked at ways existing human rights legislation
can assist in better protecting trafficking victims in Canada.
Christina Harrison-Baird, from Persons Against the Crime of
Trafficking (PACT) noted that the law is most effective when it
promotes in victims a sense of security and safety. She stated
that many international agreements have very permissive language
allowing for "outs" for signatory countries. Still the
international agreements are tools that can and should be used
to push for government action.

3. An ICE official from the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver, along
with Seattle-based U.S. Attorney Ye-Ting Woo and representatives
from the Washington State NGO WARN, discussed cross-border
cooperation in trafficking cases. The ICE official described
several successful cases that highlighted the good cooperation
between U.S. and Canadian law enforcement on TIP. The WARN
representative discussed the importance of cooperation between
the law enforcement and NGO community and the successes
Washington State has had because they developed these all
important relationships.

4. In a key workshop entitled "The Elusive P - Prosecution,"
participants discussed the dearth of convictions under the 2004
Canadian trafficking legislation. BC is considered a major
transit area for TIP. Law enforcement and judicial officials
emphasized that because it's a transit area, it is difficult to
prosecute traffickers on anything more than human smuggling; the
actions that move the crimes into the TIP category (coercion,
imprisonment, abuse, etc) have often not yet occurred at the
time the trafficking is detected. Prosecutors are left with no
choice but to go with lesser charges because the victims don't
realize what is ahead, even if the criminals are known to engage
in trafficking. They also noted that trafficking laws are,
relatively speaking, new for Canadian law enforcement and police
and prosecutors are still learning how to craft cases that will
meet the standards of the legislation.

5. Comment: The conference marked a giant leap forward for
anti-trafficking action in British Columbia. Last year BC became
the first province in Canada to open its own TIP office. Since
then the organization has made huge strides in reaching out to
enforcement and assistance groups to develop a comprehensive and
cooperative approach on trafficking issues. BC historically has
had a huge gap between law enforcement and prosecution on one
side, and the NGOs working with the victims on the other. We
are starting to see this gap close. The presence of so many
NGOs and victims' assistance groups, as well as trafficking
victims themselves, at the conference showcased the success
OCTIP has had in bridging this gap and moving BC toward
effective actions in combating trafficking.


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