The City of Kelowna, Kelowna International Airport (YLW), RCMP and Child Advocacy Centre are partnering with an initiative called NotInMyCity to raise awareness about human trafficking and sexual exploitation of youth in the Okanagan.
Kelowna has been identified as a destination within a known human trafficking circuit in Western Canada, where victims, as young as 13 years of age, are being sexually exploited.
Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in Canada and is the second largest source of illegal income worldwide. In Canada, 21 per cent of trafficking victims are under the age of 18.
“We have trained our frontline police officers to look for the signs of human trafficking and exploitation, and to ask the questions when things don’t appear as they should,” said Insp. Beth McAndie of the Kelowna RCMP.
“We are grateful to be partnered on this important awareness campaign to shine a light on these activities and strengthen our community through partnership."
According to the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, transportation corridors are frequently used by traffickers, and once a victim has been recruited, traffickers will often move them from city to city to maximize profits, access new markets and avoid competition.
In 2021, YLW partnered with NotInMyCity to implement a mandatory training program designed specifically for individuals working in aviation, educating employees to identify and respond to signs of human trafficking.
"When it comes to addressing and suppressing human trafficking, awareness and education are a priority,” said Paul Brandt, founder and CEO of NotInMyCity.
“We are pleased to work alongside Kelowna International Airport staff and partners. An effective response to human trafficking requires collective action from the entire community, and these critical community partners are leading the way by example. We welcome them to our robust and growing network of allies across Canada.”
To date, more than 600 employees at YLW have completed the training.