Alberta RCMP Step up the Fight Against Human Traffickers

Alberta RCMP has stepped up the fight against human traffickers by training hundreds in law enforcement and other sectors at the Edmonton International Airport to identify potential suspects and victims.

“Human trafficking happens across Canada and traffickers move their victims to avoid detection and to make as much money as they can,” says Cst. Kristin Appleton, a member of the missing persons unit at the Alberta RCMP’s serious crimes branch. “This is why training is crucial.”

Despite Ottawa outlawing human trafficking in 2005, criminals continue to exploit thousands of vulnerable people across Canada.

While many of the victims are trafficked for sexual purposes, individuals are also exploited for their labour.

Appleton designed the new training program, which began in January, in partnership with The Action Coalition on Human Trafficking Alberta. It teaches law enforcement officers, such as RCMP, CBSA, and U.S. customs officials, and airport staff and workers in support industries to recognize human trafficking activity.

Cst. Morroco Johnson, who works at the RCMP detachment based at the airport, says the training will help officers identify suspected trafficking victims.

“When you talk to some of these people at the gate, there’s not a lot of honest conversation,” says Johnson. “But it’s hard. You can’t just go up to someone and ask ‘are you being trafficked against your will?’ You have to establish a rapport and some trust.”

Appleton says some of those include: improper luggage, someone being unaware of their location and looking scared.

“One of the tell-all signs is when people say they’re staying for a week or two, but are only carrying a small bag. They don’t know where they are and they seem a little nervous,” says Appleton.

She adds that having a conversation with someone who you suspect is being trafficked can also reveal a lot of information. “It’s like they’re giving a rehearsed speech that doesn’t provide any details,” says Appleton. “They’ll say they’re going to see friends, but they don’t provide any details about where these friends live or what they do. Then we’ll start to get concerned.”

Some other indicators of human trafficking include:

  • being unaware of local surroundings;
  • not being able to move or leave a job;
  • having tattooing/branding to indicate ownership;
  • being afraid;
  • being frequently accompanied by their trafficker;
  • not speaking on their behalf;
  • children giving far too mature answers.


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