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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
NOTL’s Peter Warrack earns Meritorious Service Cross
Peter Warrack, seen here with Gov. Gen. Mary Simon in Rideau Hall, Ottawa, led the creation of a partnership that targets human trafficking. SUPPLIED/SGT. ANIS ASSARI

His work targeting human trafficking honoured by Governor General

Michel Maisonneuve
Special to The Lake Report

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Peter Warrack has been formally presented with the Meritorious Service Cross by Gov. Gen. Mary Simon for his work in addressing human trafficking in Canada and beyond.

Warrack’s citation for the award notes he “led the creation of Project Protect, a partnership that targets human trafficking by focusing on money laundering.”

“Financial institutions, regulators and law enforcers collaborate their efforts to identify financial patterns that indicate criminal activity linked to human trafficking,” the citation says.

“Unique to Canada and a model for international agencies, the project has furnished information used to identify trafficking rings and to rescue victims trapped in desperate circumstances.”

He was originally awarded the honour in May 2021 but his investiture was delayed by COVID.

Warrack spent more than 30 years as a financial investigator and in 2016 he turned his skills toward chasing the money behind human trafficking and launched Project Protect.

“I was in an anti-money laundering conference in Toronto. At the end of the day a victim of human trafficking, Timea Nagy, basically confronted the audience of bankers and said, ‘Help us to try and put an end to human trafficking. You guys can see the money,’ ” Warrack told The Lake Report in 2022.

“And it just hit me as a reality, ‘Yeah, you’re right. We probably could (help stop human trafficking),’ ” he said.

He said he knew next to nothing about human trafficking at the time and set about working with Nagy and other victims of the crime to learn all he could.

His investigative team at the Bank of Montreal researched the issue and Project Protect was born.

It follows the money that funds human trafficking in Canada and abroad.

“You would think that this type of industry is all cash based, and a lot of it is, but the bad guys, the pimps, still need to use the traditional banking system of credit cards, debit cards, accounts to put money in or take money out,” he said.

“If they want to book a hotel, for instance — unless it’s like a minus-five star hotel or something — the hotel’s not going to accept cash. There’s going to be a credit card involved.”

Warrack also is known to many in NOTL for his work on the town’s cenotaph fundraising campaign.

Work on restoring the landmark will start Sept. 3 and be finished in time for Remembrance Day, he said.

He is also an active member of the Rotary Club, a member and supporter of the Royal Canadian Legion and most recently was appointed to the senate of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s) Infantry Regiment in Hamilton.

Less well-known is that Warrack, as an early board member, together with former premier Bob Rae of the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, helped ensure the federal government’s establishment of the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-833-900-1010.

In an interview, Warrack said that, prior to his investiture on March 21, he and his wife Bonita had a private tour of Parliament Hill courtesy of Niagara Falls MP Tony Baldinelli. They also met with Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre.

The formal ceremony at Rideau Hall was “surreal,” he said. “It is a beautiful building and like entering the palace of Versailles.” 

“The staff, soldiers and Mounties were resplendent in their finery and really added to the occasion. We were made to feel honoured and special.” 

The importance of the occasion and the significance of the award started to sink in as they rehearsed where they needed to stand, the etiquette involved and the logistics of the ceremony, he said.

Eight people received the Meritorious Service Cross and 56 of the Meritorious Service Medal.

“It struck me as I read the citations that I was in the company of giants, everyone being honoured was so deserving and proudly Canadian.”

He is still an adviser with Project Protect, which he proudly notes “has gone from strength to strength.”

Tens of thousands of intelligence reports related to human trafficking have been submitted to Canada’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FINTRAC),” Warrack said in an interview.

That has led to numerous arrests, identification of missing persons and the rescue of victims of human trafficking, he said.

Of equal importance and a source of personal pride for Warrack is the creation of projects related to elder abuse, child sexual exploitation, fentanyl trafficking, wildlife trafficking, mortgage fraud and organ trafficking.

“Many of these projects are international in their reach and adopted by countries and agencies globally,” he said.

As well, the United States Financial Intelligence Unit (FINCEN) has joined Project Protect.

“This is huge as it brings onboard potential intelligence generated over 13,000 U.S. financial institutions,” he said.

While human trafficking hasn’t been an issue in NOTL, “We do have exposure to child luring as evidenced by the recent arrest and charging of 13 individuals in Niagara Falls, one of whom is from NOTL.”

As well, “in Niagara Falls and St. Catharines there have been a number of human trafficking arrests. Often human trafficking, drug trafficking and other crimes go hand-in-hand,” he said.

The Meritorious Service decorations were created by Queen Elizabeth II and recognize Canadians for exceptional deeds that bring honour to the country.

The cross was originally created in 1984 and, in 1991, the cross and medal were introduced for civilians.

Meritorious Service decorations (civil division) recognize outstanding achievements in any field, from advocacy and health care services to security, research and humanitarian efforts.

The decoration is not intended to recognize longevity of service, but rather an achievement that was accomplished over a limited period of time.

The cross is awarded to a person for the performance of a deed or activity in an outstandingly professional manner and an uncommonly high standard that brings considerable benefit or great honour to Canada.

A recipient of the cross is entitled to use the letters “M.S.C.” after their name. In terms of precedence, the M.S.C. is just below the Star of Courage and above the Medal of Military Valour.

Army veteran Michel Maisonneuve has 45 years of service in uniform and as a civilian. He resides in Port Dalhousie.

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