Human trafficking ‘alive and well’ here in Alberta, local audience hears

Information session hosted by Northern Haven Support Society

Katrina Owens
Lakeside Leader

“I’m here to tell you that human trafficking is alive and well in Alberta,” said Action Coalition on Human Trafficking (ACT) Alberta community engagement co-ordinator Cindy Kovalak. “This isn’t just happening internationally, it’s happening here at home as well. It’s modern day slavery,” she said.
Kovalak spoke with community members and victim outreach workers last week at an information session hosted by Northern Haven Support Society.
ACT Alberta is a government-funded program which helps victims of human trafficking.
“Our mission is to increase knowledge and awareness on human trafficking, advocate for effective rights-based responses, build capacity of all involved stakeholders, and lead and foster collaboration for joint action against human trafficking,” said Kovalak. “We co-ordinate services for victims, manage a victim-assistance fund, provide training and education, research and collect data, help develop policies both provincially and nationally, and build capacity for community-based responses.”
According to the RCMP Human Trafficking National Co-ordination Centre, as of 2015 there have been 151 individuals convicted of human trafficking or human trafficking-related charges in all of Canada. 30 of those individuals were situated in Alberta.
Kovalak said that 73 per cent of victims in Alberta were female and 27 per cent were male.
“These numbers represent victims 18-years-old and older and what we’ve found is 54.3 per cent are trafficked for sex, 35.9 per cent for labour, 8.7 per cent have been trafficked for both and one-point-one per cent have been trafficked for organs,” she said. “Males make up 68 per cent of all the victims for labour trafficking and 98 per cent of sex trafficking victims are female.”
The RCMP released key findings from ‘Project Safekeeping’ in which they found traffickers typically gain and maintain control over victims by establishing trust through false friendship or romance. Agreeing with this statement, Kovalak said young girls are mostly likely to be trafficked for sex.
“Victims are female and between the ages of 14-22,” she said. “Individuals are most susceptible to traffickers when they need financial support and gain, or they desire love and affection.”
As previously mentioned, part of ACT’s mandate is to educate the community at large about these statistics and debunk common misconceptions of human-trafficking.
“People tend to confuse smuggling with human-trafficking,” she said. “Smugglng is a voluntary relationship and is usually over once the trip is finished whereas human-trafficking is against a person’s will – nothing is voluntary and people are being forced to do things they don’t want to do.”
Attendees seemed to be surprised that one out of four victims is male and that labour trafficking makes up nearly half of all referrals ACT receives.
Your Leader reporter was flabbergasted to find out that human-trafficking often happens right out in the open.
“In Alberta trafficked persons have been found working in legal businesses, such as construction, agriculture, hotels, restaurants, nail salons, and in private homes as care-givers or nannies,” said Kovalak.
Another interesting point made was victims usually know their abusers and that their freedom is controlled by threats, physical violence and fear.
How does one recognize human-trafficking anyway?
“There are three elements of human-trafficking,” said Kovalak. “The United Nations says human-trafficking involves an action, means and purpose – if one condition in each of these categories is met, the result is human trafficking.”
The RCMP national hotline for human-trafficking is 1-855-850-4640.


As mentioned in the article above, there are three elements that make up human trafficking. Pictured are those three parts further broken down into sub-sections. To learn more about ACT Alberta, go to

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