by Emma Elshaw
With the start of a new year, there is a sense that the troubles and worries of the old year fade away, replaced with hope as people look to new things that are on the horizon. But some things are not fading away, and human trafficking is one of them.
Human trafficking continues to be an ongoing issue, and sadly, many Canadians are unaware of the signs of human trafficking. James McLean, Director of Research and Policy at The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, said that “Canadians are shockingly unaware of the realities of human trafficking or how to make a difference.” Two surveys were conducted on behalf of The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, which showed that that 77% of Canadians would not be able to tell if someone is being exploited by trafficking, despite the fact that 73% said that they recognize that human trafficking is a significant issue in Canada.
In addition, “many Canadians continue to have the perception that human trafficking mostly involves people from other countries being shipped across borders”. In reality, most of the trafficking in Canada comes from within Canada’s borders, which is why trafficking has continued to persist, and in some ways rise, even amongst closed borders during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Over 90 per cent of [those exploited by trafficking] in Canada are Canadian women and girls, and more often than not the traffickers are also Canadian.” Though the majority of those being trafficked are women and girls, boys and men are not exempt from being exploited by trafficking.
Furthermore, many have the perception that trafficking happens by being lured by strangers, whether on the street or online. However, the reality is that, in many cases, the person exploited is lured by someone they know: “anyone can be a trafficker — including boyfriends, family members, friends and neighbours.”
Unfortunately, trafficking is continuing to occur locally, nationally, and globally. At the end of last year, a man was charged with over 100 offences related to human trafficking. In another case, six people are facing charges related to human trafficking in the GTA after a year-long investigation. Clearly human trafficking is not an issue that is subsiding.
Education about the signs of trafficking - that is, how to recognize if someone is being trafficked - is key to the prevention of trafficking. Julia Drydyck, the Executive Director of The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, says that education is vital: “If people aren’t educated about what human trafficking really looks like in Canada, they’re going to be looking for all the wrong things.” Arnold Vierson, the MP for Peace River-Westlock in Alberta, also says that “education is the best tool we have to fight human trafficking.” He cited the Joy Smith Foundation, which launched a National Human Trafficking Education Centre in October, with the goal of having vital information readily available for educators to share with their students.
If you suspect someone is being trafficked, please call the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-833-900-1010.
To find out more about the Joy Smith Foundation, visit: https://joysmithfoundation.com/