A Lethbridge organization called Not4Sale is doing what it can to draw attention to what it says is an international issue with local impacts: human trafficking.
“It’s such a hidden crime,” said founder Joy-Lynnn Stickel, adding it’s hard to know exactly how many victims there are globally or locally.
“A lot of it is hidden online, a lot of… the kids never get found,” she said.
Stickel created Not4Sale 11 years ago. It focuses mostly on women and children in the sex trade, but she said human trafficking can be in many forms.
“That encompasses anything that happens to a human against their will that they’re being exploited in,” Stickel said.
Jennifer Tribble is a local advocate for Not4Sale. She said the community would be shocked to know just how big the issue is here.
“For us personally, and even for what we’ve seen working in the downtown, there are people we see every single day that are affected by human trafficking,” she added.
Stickel said prostitution is a common type of human trafficking, one that also exists in Lethbridge.
“We are wanting to start programs that help women out of prostitution or out of the sex trade in town here — just downtown right outside our window here — and their needs are definitely a lot of physical needs. Just a shower, they need food, they need clothes, they need hygiene care,” she said.
Not4Sale is holding a pop-up shop next to Bread Milk and Honey until next Friday, giving people a chance to stop and ask questions and buy merchandise that will help with fundraising and awareness.
“When you come down and purchase a sweater or a t-shirt, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but you are advocating on behalf of that cause for the community, you are standing up and being a voice for the voiceless and for those who don’t have a voice to fight for themselves,” added Tribble.
Alberta launched a task force in June aimed at finding ways to prevent human trafficking in the province and protect and empower survivors.