Canadian airports and #NotInMyCity collaborate to end human trafficking

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An education and awareness program for airport staff about human trafficking has been developed in collaboration between sexual exploitation awareness organization #NotInMyCity and a collection of Canadian airports.

The airports that have joined the initiative include Fort McMurray Airport Authority, Calgary Airport Authority, Toronto Pearson International Airport, Ottawa International Airport, Kelowna International Airport, London International Airport, Halifax Stanfield International Airport, Vancouver International Airport and Edmonton International Airport.

#NotInMyCity has provided these airports with human trafficking awareness materials and access to a customized e-learning course to help staff identify the risk factors of those being trafficked and moved through airports across Canada. In this program, the organization has developed a customized educational program to help airport employees identify individuals who may be victims of trafficking and take action with a “do no harm” approach.

The Fort McMurray Airport Authority has implemented the #NotInMyCity educational course into its onboarding process, shared information and training materials with its terminal partners and have placed #NotInMyCity human trafficking awareness materials on digital screens, posters and in washrooms throughout the terminal. Every employee who has completed the e-learning course wears a yellow pin and has a lanyard card with the operations phone number and risk factors to watch.

The Calgary Airport Authority initially launched awareness campaigns with #NotInMyCity in 2018. In 2021, it launched the #NotInMyCity e-learning course to approximately 50 employees and has future campaigns in the works using #NotInMyCity human trafficking awareness materials.

Toronto Pearson International Airport launched its awareness campaign on February 18 with an awareness event and presentation for employees and terminal partners, which will be followed by an external campaign within its terminals using #NotInMyCity human trafficking awareness materials.

At Kelowna International Airport, the #NotInMyCity e-learning program became part of the onboarding process for all new airport employees on January 1, 2022. #NotInMyCity human trafficking awareness materials will be launching in the terminal in the upcoming months.

Ottawa International Airport also started an awareness presentation in conjunction with #NotInMyCity on February 17 as part of its monthly security tabletop meeting. London International Airport is now promoting the #NotInMyCity e-learning course to its employees and are in the process of launching an awareness program leveraging the #NotInMyCity human trafficking awareness materials.

According to the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, transportation corridors are frequently used by traffickers, and once a victim has been recruited, traffickers will often move them from city to city to maximize profits, access new markets and avoid competition. It also helps keep control of the victim who may not know where they are, or how to get help, making it easier for traffickers to evade detection by police. Victims of labor trafficking may also enter Canada by way of air travel, under the false promise of a job or educational opportunity.

In Canada, 21% of trafficking victims are under the age of 18. Despite Canada’s Indigenous population accounting for just 4% of the country, it is estimated that 50% of all Canadian trafficking victims are Indigenous.

RJ Steenstra, president and CEO of Fort McMurray Airport Authority, said, “We want to do everything we can to ensure the safety and well-being of all passengers and visitors. By working with #NotInMyCity, we are able to leverage the well-researched e-learning already in place, while adding enhanced screening tools and skills for our airport employees to use in their daily duties, staying vigilant and taking action when appropriate.”

Deborah Flint, president and CEO of Toronto Pearson International Airport, commented, “As Canada’s largest airport we have a responsibility to take action and do our part to help vulnerable passengers as they travel through Pearson. By partnering with #NotInMyCity, we’re able to educate airport workers on how to spot human trafficking as it’s happening and step in to respond appropriately. We’re happy to be joining other airports across Canada in this important cause.”

Scott McFadzean, president and CEO of London International Airport, said, “It is sadly not uncommon for airports to be used as transportation hubs for human traffickers, making it all the more important for airport staff and passengers to be aware of signs of human trafficking and also how to safely report a suspected case. We are proud to support and partner with #NotInMyCity as they do invaluable work to disrupt and end human trafficking in Canada.”

“Trafficked/sexually exploited people aren’t always hidden in dark rooms, away from the public eye,” said Steve Maybee, vice president of operations and infrastructure at Edmonton International Airport. “They’re often transported from one place to another and use public transportation. At EIA, safety and security is our top priority. We’re proud to continue our work with #NotInMyCity to make sure our airport is a place where traffickers are not welcome.”

Natalie Muyres, program manager at #NotInMyCity, added, “Creating broad awareness and educational opportunities lead to positive change. We want awareness of human trafficking risk factors to become second nature to airport staff. By working with their safety teams, embedding human trafficking education into their culture and providing skills and confidence, teams will know what to do if they see something that doesn’t seem right. It could very well save lives.”

One Indigenous survivor of sexual exploitation, said, “As a youth, I was moved from city to city and was targeted, groomed and sold to men because of what they desired as an “exotic” look. Their fantasy became my trauma. Exploitation of people just like me is happening in our cities, and it must end.”

One mother, Jennifer Holleman, whose daughter Maddison was a victim of sexual exploitation, indicated that her daughter was moved by her traffickers throughout Canada: “What started as new friendships for my teenage daughter turned into a life of pain, coercion and exploitation, and eventually led to her death. My daughter was a victim of human trafficking, right here in Canada. No human should have to go through what she went through.”

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