Fort Erie and Hamilton to see new Indigenous programs to prevent human trafficking

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Fort Erie will be the first place where the Ontario Native Women's Association (ONWA) will expand its program to support Indigenous women, youth and girls affected by human trafficking.

It follows a $46 million provincial investment announced on Thursday dedicated toward anti-human trafficking community supports and Indigenous-led initiatives funds.

ONWA says Fort Erie was chosen to be the first location for expansion because it is a "priority area" with a current lack of programming, high tourism and proximity to the US border.

Wendy Sturgeon, executive director of the Niagara Chapter- Native Women Inc. (part of ONWA) said in an interview on Thursday there are few details on when and how the program will run, but that it is exciting news.

"We anticipate the program will be built around those youth aging out of child welfare and the vulnerabilities that some of the families involved in child welfare face. So, it's partly around strengthening families and ensuring some of those preventative pieces are put in place so people are not becoming vulnerable," she said.

Paul Koscinski, staff sergeant from the NRPS special victims unit, said the program will be a huge help in preventing human trafficking.

"It's one of those crimes that is underreported and clandestine and we have a difficult time investigating it because of that … it takes quite a bit of effort on the part of responders and investigators to support victims to enable them to deal with that trauma and get proper supports."

Sturgeon said NRPS has been working closely with her group throughout the process.