Announced Tuesday, the task force’s job is to find ways to prevent human trafficking in Alberta and protect and empower survivors.
The seven-member task force, which also includes Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee, will provide guidance and recommendations on how to best implement the government’s nine-point action plan to combat human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is a terrible crime,” Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday.
“Alberta should be a place where people can live safely, free from exploitation and coercion. Sadly, human trafficking exists in our province, and it is our duty to bring these human rights violations to light and do more to protect those at risk. This provincial human trafficking task force brings together knowledgeable and dedicated individuals to provide advice on protecting and empowering some of Alberta’s most vulnerable.”
In 2018, police reported 228 human trafficking incidents in Canada, 12 of which were in Alberta, according to the provincial government.
The task force will work with stakeholders, law enforcement and other community agencies that work with survivors of human trafficking in order to protect and ensure their safety.
The group will also work with experts to identify what actions are needed to bring “transformational and sustainable change,” according to the province.
Brandt, who grew up in Calgary, is the founder of #NotInMyCity, an organization that focuses on disrupting human trafficking by raising awareness, creating a platform for action and mobilizing communities to act.
He said he was honoured to be named chair of the task force, which will meet for the first time Wednesday.
“Traffickers measure the worth of others by dollars and cents, without thought or concern for an individual’s dignity, safety or life,” Brandt said.
“Today we are standing up and saying, ‘We will not tolerate human trafficking in Alberta.’ We’re making a commitment to protecting those who have fallen victim or are vulnerable to these crimes.”
Through his work with humanitarian organizations around the world, Brandt said he has seen the devastating and horrific effects of human trafficking first-hand.
“Human trafficking is an issue without borders, with perpetrators secretly victimizing the lives of others for profits, which their victims never see. While this is very hard to imagine, it’s even more inconceivable that it happens here in Alberta, but it does,” he said.
“Learning about the atrocities of human trafficking motivated me to do something about it. As a father, a husband and someone with a voice, doing nothing was simply not an option.”
Brandt shared that the youngest victim of human trafficking he’s met was just seven years old. He said she’s a Canadian citizen who he met here in Alberta.
“She was trafficked by her own father, forced into a life of abuse and drugs, causing severe physical and emotional damage. Police services have confirmed to me time again that trafficking and exploitation victims are some of the most traumatized individuals they deal with in their work,” he said.
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Despite this, Brandt said there is hope.
“I’ve spoken with former trafficking victims who are now assisting others to exit and escape and watched as their confidence, dignity and sense of self-worth has been restored. The need is great, the stakes are high, but there is hope if we act now.”
In April, the provincial government passed legislation aimed at protecting survivors of human trafficking.
The task force is made up of the following members:
- Paul Brandt, chair — country music superstar, founder of #NotInMyCity and anti-human trafficking advocate
- Heather Forsyth — former solicitor general and former minister of children’s services
- Dale McFee — chief of police, Edmonton Police Service
- Jan Fox — executive director, REACH Edmonton
- Douglas Reti — director, Backwoods Energy and former RCMP director-general
- Patricia Vargas — director, Catholic Social Services
- Tyler White — CEO, Siksika Health Services