Edmonton's dirty little secret is that sex trafficking and sexual exploitation are rampant in the city and are likely proportionally worse in the Alberta capital than in other Canadian cities, says a new campaign.

Sexual exploitation and trafficking has permeated into all fabrics of Edmonton society, with children serving as its foundation, states a short documentary at the centre of the campaign launched by Edmonton's Sexual Exploitation Working Group (SEWG).

Teen sex trafficking in Edmonton begins between the ages of 12 and 14, states the film entitled Dirty Little Secret, which along with a social media campaign, aims to increase awareness of the pervasive nature of the problem in the city.

"We all get touched by this kind of exploitation in one way or another. If we turn a blind eye to it it's going to happen to someone we know," says Bryan Lefeche, president Crystal Kids, on the film.

Edmonton probably has a higher proportion of providers because it's a "service centre to the north," John Walker, a psychotherapist who for 12 years has worked with survivors of sexual exploitation, told the Edmonton Journal.

Edmonton is the service hub for the Alberta oilsands, where lucrative pay but mundane lives for camp workers has led to a rise in drug use and sex trade rates that are much higher than the provincial average.

The reason why Edmontonians may not see the full extent of the problem is because as much as 80 per cent of sexual exploitation in the city takes place indoors and over the Internet, stated The Edmonton Sun, citing figures from SEWG.

Coun. Amarjeet Sohi told the Sun that most sex workers were forced into the trade and that 75 per cent of them were forced into it as children.

According to the Edmonton Journal, Edmonton police arrested 591 johns and seized 440 vehicles between 2007 and 2013.

The city is also host to 44 licensed body rub centres, four licensed escort agencies, 35 escort agencies, three exotic entertainment agencies that book the dancers, six licensed strip clubs and two licensed peep shows, adds the Journal.

"It is in every neighbourhood, although it may not be obvious to the eye, it is all around us, and we as a community need to wake up and realize that it's happening," Walker says in the documentary.

Walker says the problem can only begin to be addressed with a change in perception and a healthy doze of acceptance.

"People need to care about people who are different from themselves, on every level, gender, sexual orientation, race, social and economic status. If we can...generally care about one another and open our eyes to this issue, then the solutions are not difficult."

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  • Kinshasa, Congo

    A 12-year-old prostitute cries in a medical center in Kinshasa, Congo, on Nov. 7, 2010, after she was stoned by another child prostitute. More than 20,000 children live in the streets of Kinshasa, a city of about 10 million. About one-third have been accused of witchcraft and rejected by their families -- a recent development in a society being undermined by poverty. (Photo credit: Gwenn Dubourthoumieu/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Thailand

    On Aug. 18, 2009, a bar girl waits for customers outside a bar in Sungai Kolok in Thailand's southern province of Narathiwat. The sun hasn't set, but already the music is pumping and the disco ball is rolling in the Sumtime Bar, where Malaysian men are enjoying the drinks and women available on this side of the Thai border. (Photo credit: Madaree Tohlala/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Bangladesh

    A Bangladeshi sex worker takes an Oradexon tablet in a government-registered brothel in Faridpur, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) outside Dhaka on June 20, 2010. Whenever Bangladeshi brothel owner Rokeya, 50, signs up a new sex worker, she gives her a course of steroid drugs often used to fatten cattle. For older sex workers, tablets work well, said Rokeya, but for younger girls of 12 to 14 -- who are normally sold to the brothel by their families -- injections are more effective. (Photo credit: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images)

  • China

    Chinese police watch over a group of massage girls suspected of prostitution during a June 21, 2011, raid in Beijing, part of a vice crackdown ahead of celebrations for the founding of the Chinese Communist Party 90 years ago. Rapid social and economic changes have made China "prone to corruption." and the ruling Communist Party faces a major challenge stamping out deep-rooted official graft, an official said on June 22. (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • New York City

    New York City Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito places a child's shoes onto a stack children's shoes, used as a symbol for child sex trafficking, during a protest rally outside the Village Voice on Thursday, March 29, 2012 in New York. A coalition of religious and civic leaders demanded that the Village Voice stop running their adult classified section. The protesters say the section is being used by sex traffickers peddling underage prostitutes. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • New Mexico

    This undated photo provided by New Mexico Attorney General Gary King

  • England

    A newspaper advertising board outside a corner shop in the Lancashire town of Rochdale, England, after nine men were arrested for child sexual exploitation on Jan. 11, 2011. Greater Manchester Police arrested nine men as part of an investigation into sexual exploitation and questioned them on suspicion of rape, inciting child prostitution, allowing premises to be used for prostitution and sexual activity with a child. (Photo credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • Guatemala City

    Firefighters help rescue a prostitute after she became trapped in a tunnel from an offensive against human trafficking at the Super Frontera bar late on April 21, 2012, in Guatemala City. (Photo credit: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images)

  • United Kingdom

    Undated handout composite image issued Tuesday May 8, 2012, by Greater Manchester Police showing eight of the nine men who have been convicted for luring girls as young as 13-years old into sexual encounters using alcohol and drugs, top row left to right, Abdul Rauf, Hamid Safi, Mohammed Sajid and Abdul Aziz, and with Bottom row left to right, Abdul Qayyum, Adil Khan, Mohammed Amin and Kabeer Hassan. The nine men aged between 22 and 59 are convicted of charges including rape, assault, sex trafficking and conspiracy and will be sentenced Wednesday May 9, 2012 at court in Liverpool, England. The ninth man in the group, a 59-year-old man cannot be named for legal reasons. (AP Photo / Greater Manchester Police)

  • Paris

    A man demonstrates with prostitutes and members of the Union of Sex Workers on June 2, 2012, at Paris' Pigalle square, asserting their rights to work with dignity and respect. (Photo credit: Bertrand Langlois/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Nicaragua

    Wendy, a Nicaraguan sex worker and member of NGO Girasoles Nicaragua (Nicaragua Sunflowers), waits for clients on a street in Managua on April 18, 2012. (Photo credit: Elmer Martinez/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Virginia

    In this Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011 photo, Holly Smith, 33, looks out form her porch after talking about her experiences when she was caught up in a child sex trafficking ring during an interview in her home in Richmond, Va. A new report says 41 states have failed to adopt strong penalties against human trafficking, and advocates say a patchwork of differing state laws makes it difficult for authorities to target the crime. Smith said a man at a mall promised her a job after she ran away from home at age 14. She said she was swiftly brought to a motel where two adults gave her a dress, put makeup on her face and dyed her hair.

  • Next: States With Strongest Human Trafficking Laws

  • California

    The Polaris Project, a nonprofit combatting human trafficking in the United States, has ranked the 10 most important state statutes that should be enforced to prevent or end human trafficking. Having implemented 7-9 of the 10 statutes, California is one of the states that does the most to stop trafficking.

  • Connecticut

    The Polaris Project, a nonprofit combatting human trafficking in the United States, has ranked the 10 most important state statutes that should be enforced to prevent or end human trafficking. Having implemented 7-9 of the 10 statutes, Connecticut is one of the states that does the most to stop trafficking.

  • Florida

    The Polaris Project, a nonprofit combatting human trafficking in the United States, has ranked the 10 most important state statutes that should be enforced to prevent or end human trafficking. Having implemented 7-9 of the 10 statutes, Florida is one of the states that does the most to stop trafficking.

  • Georgia

    The Polaris Project, a nonprofit combatting human trafficking in the United States, has ranked the 10 most important state statutes that should be enforced to prevent or end human trafficking. Having implemented 7-9 of the 10 statutes, Georgia is one of the states that does the most to stop trafficking.

  • Illinois

    The Polaris Project, a nonprofit combatting human trafficking in the United States, has ranked the 10 most important state statutes that should be enforced to prevent or end human trafficking. Having implemented 7-9 of the 10 statutes, Illinois is one of the states that does the most to stop trafficking.

  • Minnesota

    The Polaris Project, a nonprofit combatting human trafficking in the United States, has ranked the 10 most important state statutes that should be enforced to prevent or end human trafficking. Having implemented 7-9 of the 10 statutes, Minnesota is one of the states that does the most to stop trafficking.

  • Missouri

    The Polaris Project, a nonprofit combatting human trafficking in the United States, has ranked the 10 most important state statutes that should be enforced to prevent or end human trafficking. Having implemented 7-9 of the 10 statutes, Missouri is one of the states that does the most to stop trafficking.

  • New York

    The Polaris Project, a nonprofit combatting human trafficking in the United States, has ranked the 10 most important state statutes that should be enforced to prevent or end human trafficking. Having implemented 7-9 of the 10 statutes, New York is one of the states that does the most to stop trafficking.

  • Texas

    The Polaris Project, a nonprofit combatting human trafficking in the United States, has ranked the 10 most important state statutes that should be enforced to prevent or end human trafficking. Having implemented 7-9 of the 10 statutes, Texas is one of the states that does the most to stop trafficking.

  • Vermont

    The Polaris Project, a nonprofit combatting human trafficking in the United States, has ranked the 10 most important state statutes that should be enforced to prevent or end human trafficking. Having implemented 7-9 of the 10 statutes, Vermont is one of the states that does the most to stop trafficking.

  • Washington

    The Polaris Project, a nonprofit combatting human trafficking in the United States, has ranked the 10 most important state statutes that should be enforced to prevent or end human trafficking. Having implemented 7-9 of the 10 statutes, Washington is one of the states that does the most to stop trafficking.

And Edmonton Police Service vice unit Staff Sgt. Jerry Nash wants men to be the first ones to make the change.

"It's going to take men becoming mentors, teaching their sons, their nephews, their brothers, that this is what it takes to stop sexual exploitation," says Nash in the film.

"It's about getting involved, it's about making a stand and saying this is not acceptable behaviour."

More on the campaign is available on Facebook and on Twitter, using the hashtag #YEGsecret.

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