Nova Scotia has the highest rate of human trafficking incidents in the country, with 2.1 in 100,000 people, according to the province.
Government spokesperson Lynette MacLead said the number is from 2016 Statistics Canada data.
In response to the rising number of human trafficking incidents, the government is investing an additional $1.4 million per year over the next five years to support programs and services that will raise awareness, prevention and directly help victims and survivors, with an added focus on Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian communities.
The Department of Community Services and Status of Women says that $100,000 will be provided to the Association of Black Social Workers to focus on human trafficking and sexual exploitation within African Nova Scotian communities.
The province will also provide $150,000 in funding to re-open the Jane Paul Indigenous Women’s Resource Centre in Sydney, N.S. It was closed last May due to lack of funding.
“It means the world to us, it’s exciting,” said Annie Bernard Daisley, president of Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, which runs the centre.
“We’re able to have a place for them to drop up have a hot meal, get some clothing, wash up or even just be with their own people, be with Mi’kmaw speakers,” she added.
Kelly Regan, Minister of Community Services and Minister responsible for the Status of Women, announced the initiative Thursday.
“Human trafficking and sexual exploitation have a devastating impact on all our communities,” she said in a press release.
“They are crimes that disproportionately affect women and girls. It will take the combined efforts of government, non-profit and community organizations to create meaningful change.”
The newly announced funding includes the cost of two municipal officers and two RCMP officers, as well as operational costs for the Nova Scotia Human Trafficking Unit.
The province has also partnered with the YWCA Halifax to provide resources and community supports to youth and families across Nova Scotia who have been affected by sexual exploitation or human trafficking. This gets $375,000 in funding — the biggest chunk.
Moreover, the province says it will hire family and victim support navigators for Halifax Regional Municipality, Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the South Shore. These navigator roles will provide additional support to African Nova Scotian and Indigenous victims and survivors.
“We work closely with some of the most vulnerable women and girls in this province who often find themselves criminalized as a result of trauma, violence and exploitation,” said Emma Halpern, executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia.
The Society is getting $300,000 in funding for the delivery of the NotA#Number program and housing support.
“This funding will allow us to offer evidence-based programming that addresses the risk factors that make girls vulnerable to being trafficked and provides safety and support to wrap around young women who have been harmed,” she added.
As part of the announcement, the Department of Justice says it will be designating six province-wide positions to be dedicated investigators for gender-based and sexual violence.
According to the province, more than 500 social workers, foster parents and residential care staff have received training to increase their awareness and understanding of human trafficking so they may better support young people.
The free online training course, Supporting Survivors of Sexual Violence, is available to any Nova Scotian concerned about sexual violence who would like to learn how to support someone who has survived it.