Kingston and its community partners unveiled a new protocol to address human trafficking in Kingston and surrounding areas on March 7 at City Hall.
The protocol document aims to increase collaboration between community resources and serves as a “roadmap” for survivors looking to access support, according to Lana Saunders, chair of the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) anti-human trafficking working group.
“[Survivors] suffer from a lot of complex traumas, and in order to meet all their needs we need to work in a group, not in silos and we need to ensure that we’re offering the best available supports for them,” Saunders said in an interview with The Journal.
Kingston’s location between Toronto and Montreal, and proximity to Highway 401, make the city a potential target for traffickers.
“For the most part the victims are our own girls,” Saunders said.
“The misconception is that somebody is brought from another city. It doesn’t always work that way. Often times people can be trafficked within the same city, at night or on the weekends.”
The protocol is specific to Kingston because all the partners are local agencies, including Queen’s.
“The goal of participating in the community conversation is to make sure that we’re starting to work towards students being aware that there are services and supports available if they find themselves in [a trafficking] situation,” Barb Lotan, sexual violence prevention and response coordinator, said in an interview with The Journal.
“We’re also trying to make our community partners aware that way we can work better together and have way more collaboration.”
For students wanting to disclose concerns related to trafficking, Lotan emphasized the best place is wherever the student feels safest.
“There are some potentially very important safety concerns and anybody who’s coming forward to talk about their experience needs to feel safe,” Lotan said.
International students, individuals with substance dependencies, Indigenous students, and racialized students are at a greater risk of being trafficked, according to the protocol.
“We’re always assessing red flags,” Lotan said.
“For some students, they’re new to Kingston, [so] they don’t have a support network locally, which may increase vulnerability to certain things. Others may not have a support network in Canada at all, because they’re international students and that may increase vulnerability.”
Lotan has been involved in anti-human trafficking efforts before her time at Queen’s with secondary education, health, and justice.
“The first time I actively came across a young woman who was being trafficked was in the 1990s, and I didn’t recognize what I was seeing at the time,” Lotan said.
“For me that was sort of the start of my interest in learning a bit more and figuring out how to do better.”
According to Lotan, she has distributed the protocol “far and wide” across campus.
“[At Queen’s] we’ll talk about safety planning if there appears to be an ongoing risk of harm from the person that has harmed [a survivor] in the first instance. We also move beyond [that], we get students connected—we have Student Wellness Services and community supports,” Lotan said.
While this isn’t going to change the police approach to anti-human trafficking efforts in the Kingston area, it does increase the coordination between community services, according to acting Chief of Kingston Police Scott Fraser.
“The collaboration is key. We can’t police the whole area. All the services that are [part of the protocol] are key,” Fraser said.
“When we use the protocol, and everyone follows what’s on the protocol, we’re more effective.”
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