THUNDER BAY - The Thunder Bay Police Service has received more than $900,000 from the province over the next three years to fund a human trafficking project, but the service is still waiting to learn if grants specifically aimed at addressing the growing issue of guns and gangs in the city will be awarded.
The funding was announced during the Thunder Bay Police Services Board meeting on Tuesday by police chief Sylvie Hauth.
The funding, which includes $318,000 for the first year, was part of the provincial priorities of the Community Safety Grants and will be used to fund a human trafficking project in Thunder Bay.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Hauth said. “Right now the three priorities we were approved for total just a little over $900,000. They are specifically targeting our Joint Mobile Crisis Response Team Project, our Floodway Patrol Project, and now human trafficking. There is a connection between human trafficking and guns and gangs, that $900,000 isn’t specifically earmarked for guns and gangs.”
The JMCRTP and the Floodway Project received funding under the local priorities of the Community Safety Grants from the province.
Over the next three years, the three projects will receive a combined total of $2.7 million.
“I am pleased to hear that we received grants,” Thunder Bay Police Services Board chair, Georjann Morriseau said. “It means there is somewhat of a priority out there to build capacity and fund some necessary areas, actually critical areas in the north and here in Thunder Bay.”
The human trafficking project includes four key aspects, including training for frontline officers and crisis workers, implementing a specific and dedicated staff member for investigating human trafficking cases, public awareness and education campaigns, and the inclusion of a ‘soft interview room.’
“We are working with the Sexual Abuse Centre to ensure that we can implement a room for interviewing purposes that is more conducive to a victim-centred and trauma informed and really ensuring they are comfortable coming forward,” Hauth said. “That is often the most difficult first step.”
And while human trafficking is closely connected to the issue of guns and gangs, which has been increasing in the city for the past several years, Hauth said the Police Service is still seeking funding to address that specific issue.
“We have two that are through the Civil Remedies Grants,” she said. “The maximum for us to apply for those grants is $100,000. So even if we are successful for a guns and gangs project, the total amount we can receive is $100,000.”
“The other two we just recently applied for with a deadline of yesterday was through the proceeds of crime as well. Those also have a limit as well. They are $100,000. The only way that amount goes up is if we partner with another agency.”