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Cracking down on human trafficking

Victims of a "modern-day slavery" will be more easily identified by emergency-room nurses and doctors in one B.C. health region under a new provincial program meant to crack down on human trafficking.

The Fraser Health Authority is developing a tool kit named Help, Don't Hinder that will assist frontline health workers in identifying the "red flags" of human trafficking, such as specific injuries and signs of abuse, long work hours, and a lack of money, documents or permanent homes.

The program is part of B.C.'s Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking announced at Surrey Memorial Hospital Friday and is being funded by money collected under the civil forfeitures process.

"Human trafficking is a modern day slavery that is a serious violation of human rights that inevitably leaves men, women and children with health consequences that can last a lifetime," said Tara Wilke, a forensic nurse and member of the human-trafficking team at the Surrey hospital.

She said at some point, human-trafficking victims will seek medical care, but health officials haven't been equipped to recognize signs of the problem or even offer appropriate support.

She said the tool kit will include an online training program, a DVD and education sessions.

To help pay for the tool kit, the provincial government granted $18,000 to Fraser Health, a fraction of the $145,418 handed out earlier this month to community groups across the province engaged in similar work.

The provincial program is expected over the next three years to raise awareness about the crime across B.C., work with First Nation communities to prevent human trafficking, and increase research and legislative responses.

More than 130 groups across the province were consulted on the program, and discussions included several ministries, according to the ministry.

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