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Human trafficking being fought with controversial campaign

EDMONTON – Posters seemingly recruiting child sex workers began popping up on boards all over Edmonton two days ago, with the invite to “Start a Rewarding Career Today at SexWork4U.com.” Not surprisingly, the ads quickly started to draw concern and outrage.

It wasn’t until Thursday that bright yellow banners were plastered across the posters, with a link to the site stoptraffic.ca and facts about human trafficking.

Some of the facts about sexual exploitation. StopTraffic.ca

The organization behind the campaign, the Chrysalis Network, is making no apologies for choosing this method to bring people’s attention to a topic some consider too taboo to talk about.

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“Our goal was to generate awareness. The outrage that comes with it should be directed at the exploitation of children,” said Jacqueline Linder, with the Chrysalis Anti Human Trafficking Network.

She admits that some of the backlash to the campaign is coming from local organizations also working to fight human trafficking.

“In our community we’re receiving a lot of criticism, lots of people thought we went too far, lots of people thought it was in poor taste..where I stand on this issue, is that exploitation of kids is a crime against humanity; and there is absolutely no line I will not cross to protect children.”

But is the message getting across? One public relations expert argues a potential risk of “shock advertising” is that the controversy can sometimes overshadow the message in the long term.

“People actually forget the message you’re trying to send out because the shock value was so great – they’re more concerned with that than the message itself,” explained Colin Babiuk, Chair of the MacEwan University Public Relations Faculty.

It’s the first campaign of its kind Norman Cameron, a detective with the Edmonton Police Service’s VICE Unit, has seen. He believes it’s an effective one, though.

“For us to do something about it, people need to be aware. It’s not something the police can deal with on their own. It’s something that the community has to get involved with,” he said. “By the time that the kids get to us, it’s too late.”

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The Edmonton Police VICE Unit says every year its officers rescue about 12 underage sex trade workers.

You can see some of the signs that a child is being trafficked on the Chrysalis Network’s StopTraffic website.


With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News

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