Human Trafficking

24 Nov, 2022

As I’ve said in earlier blogs, human trafficking is VASTLY different from what you see on tv and in movies. In the entertainment industry, human trafficking is often glamourized or depicted as an over-the-top, obvious crime. It’s also often presented as an international issue, with immigrants or those smuggled into the country being the primary victims. In fact, many Canadians still believe that human trafficking Ontario involves victims crossing international borders or being kidnapped from parks, but that isn’t always the reality of the situation. Human trafficking is not only a foreign problem; it’s happening right now in communities across Canada.

Who does it affect?

Some groups have described human trafficking as a modern-day form of slavery that takes place worldwide but isn’t always noticed. When it comes specifically to human trafficking for sexual exploitation, women and girls are dispositionally affected, but it should be noted that at-risk men and boys can be victims, too. The risk of becoming a victim of human trafficking is often higher in specific groups due to social or economic marginalization.

Here is a broad (but not limited) list of people who are at risk:

  • Indigenous (First Nation, Inuit, and M├ętis) women and girls
  • Minority women and girls
  • 2SLGBTQI+ persons
  • Vulnerable children and youth in the child welfare system
  • People who are socially or economically disadvantaged
  • Refugees, new immigrants, and migrant workers
  • Youth in care
  • Runaway and homeless youth
  • Persons with disabilities

How does human trafficking happen?

There are several ways traffickers can pressure their victims into doing things they would never usually do. These include physical force or threats of violence, but often it doesn’t begin with violence. Promises of a better life, wealth and protection are often enough to pull someone in a disadvantaged state to trust a dangerous person. In other cases, intimidation with threats of deportation, emotional abuse or manipulations may be used to get those who targeted persons to comply. Victims are often isolated from family and friends, so they don’t have a trusted support system or anyone they can turn to for guidance. They also may be living or working in unsafe conditions, making it difficult to escape.

Human trafficking is categorized as low risk / high reward because it is so secretive and difficult to detect or investigate. Since many people don’t truly understand what human trafficking is or what signs to look for, it can often go unnoticed right in front of people. Those impacted are often understandably unwilling or afraid to take a stand against their traffickers, making it harder to prosecute and bring those leading the operations to justice. Modern justice systems still rely heavily on witness testimony to prove that the trafficking has occurred.

The high reward description of human trafficking comes from the large profits that traffickers accrue. They pay their victims little to nothing for their services and keep most of the money for themselves. This differs from the sale of drugs or guns because humans can be sold over and over for financial or material benefit.

Why don’t victims file reports?
There are a variety of reasons why victims don’t approach the police or organizations for help:

  • They don’t recognize that they are victims of human trafficking
  • They don’t know their human rights
  • They don’t have documentation, or a timeline of their time being trafficked
  • They are unable to ask for help due to language barriers
  • They fear law enforcement due to past experiences or events in their community
  • They have a lack of trust in organizations that provide assistance
  • Threats have been made to them, people they know, or their families
  • Those who are undocumented or in the country illegally may fear being deported
  • They don’t want to put others at risk
  • Due to the trauma experienced, they may not remember everything that happened or are afraid to relive the experience in court.

As you can see, human trafficking is an intricate web that traps its victims and creates an unimaginably difficult life. Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple of a fix as many tv shows, movies or media outlets lead us to understand it is. In our next blog, we will identify the stages of human trafficking and how you can become more aware of what may be happening in your community.