On Canada’s National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on February 22, #NotInMyCity announced that a number of airports across the country are standing in solidarity to help raise awareness about sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
#NotInMyCity has been working with airports to provide #NotInMyCity human trafficking awareness materials and access to a customized e-learning course to help airport staff identify the risk factors of those being trafficked and moved through airports across Canada.
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.
Based on experiences shared by survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, many were regularly transported throughout the country and from city to city by their traffickers. Says one Indigenous survivor of sexual exploitation, “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 lured into sexual exploitation, indicated that her daughter was moved by her traffickers throughout Canada. She says, “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.”
National Human Trafficking Day brings attention to Canada’s fastest growing crime and second largest source of illegal income worldwide. In Canada, 21 percent of trafficking victims are under the age of 18. Despite Canada’s Indigenous population accounting for just four percent of the country, it is estimated that 50 per cent of all Canadian trafficking victims are Indigenous.
#NotInMyCity has developed the customized educational program leveraging North American best practices, helping airport employees identify individuals who may be victims of trafficking, and taking action with a “do no harm” approach.
“Creating broad awareness and educational opportunities lead to positive change,” says Natalie Muyres, Program Manager at #NotInMyCity. “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.”
The Fort McMurray Airport Authority has implemented the #NotInMyCity educational course into their onboarding process, shared information and training materials with their 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 wears a yellow pin and has a lanyard card with the operations phone number and risk factors to watch.
“We want to do everything we can to ensure the safety and well-being of all passengers and visitors,” says RJ Steenstra, President & CEO of Fort McMurray Airport Authority, “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.”
The Calgary Airport Authority initially launched awareness campaigns with #NotInMyCity in 2018. In 2021, they launched the #NotInMyCity e-learning course to more than 50 employees, and has future campaigns in the works using #NotInMyCity human trafficking awareness materials.
Toronto Pearson International Airport recently launched its awareness campaign on February 18, with a kick-off 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.
Says Deborah Flint, President and CEO of Toronto Pearson International Airport, “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.”
At Kelowna International Airport, effective January 1, 2022, the #NotInMyCity e-learning program became part of the onboarding process for all new airport employees. #NotInMyCity human trafficking awareness materials will be launching in the terminal in the coming months.
Ottawa International Airport kick started an awareness presentation in conjunction with #NotInMyCity on February 17 as part of their monthly security tabletop meeting. They provided security and other Airport Authority personnel with an overview of the e-learning program which they are rolling out to the rest of their team effective today.
London International Airport is now promoting the #NotInMyCity e-learning course to their employees and are in the process of launching an awareness program leveraging the #NotInMyCity human trafficking awareness materials.
“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” says Scott McFadzean, President & CEO of London International Airport. “We are proud to support and partner with #NotInMyCity as they do invaluable work to disrupt and end human trafficking in Canada.”
The Edmonton International Airport has launched a number of awareness programs in collaboration with a number of agencies. Says Steve Maybee, Vice President, Operations and Infrastructure, Edmonton International Airport, “Trafficked/sexually exploited people aren’t always hidden in dark rooms, away from the public eye. 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.”
Additional airports who have initiated partnerships with #NotInMyCity to deliver the e-learning course and posting #NotInMyCity human trafficking awareness materials broadly include Halifax Stanfield International Airport and Vancouver International Airport.
In December 2021, #NotInMyCity launched an allyship with Flair Airlines, which included the launch of the #NotInMyCity e-learning program for all employees, drawn on international aviation best practices. The airline currently employs more than 500 people.
For the general public, #NotInMyCity offers a free interactive e-learning course for anyone interested in learning more about the issue of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Canada. It was developed in collaboration with provincial, national and international thought leaders. Upon completion of the free 30-minute e-course, participants are awarded with a certificate. Thousands of individuals have completed the course so far.