Human Trafficking

8 Sep, 2022

We’ve all heard about human trafficking on the news, on tv, in movies or from family and friends, and I think we can agree it’s terrifying. However, while watching the events unfold in movies or tv shows, I’ve noticed that although I cringe and feel terrible watching, I can’t help but question if what I’m “learning” and watching is accurate. The problem is that Hollywood and word of mouth have made it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. So, it’s no surprise that discussing information with others leads to more confusion and fear. If you’re like me and decide to dive head first into understanding exactly what trafficking is, you may become overwhelmed with anxiety and more questions.


Don’t read any further until you take a breath; maybe give yourself a bit of a shake and recognize that with information comes power and better understanding.

This series of blogs aims to be an easy-to-understand deeper look at FACTUAL information surrounding human trafficking. Each blog will address a different topic asked by real people in the public while offering as much information as possible without creating overwhelm.

Let’s start with a general overview.


In 2000, the UN’s Palermo Protocol defined human trafficking as:
“Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

Currently, there are two branches of Canadian legislation that deal with human trafficking in Canada:
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and The Criminal Code of Canada
Trafficking is defined by these organizations as:

  • Using abduction, fraud, deception, threat of force, or coercion to accrue, transport, receive, or harbour persons into Canada (Immigration and Refugee Protection Act).
  • Recruiting, transporting, receiving, holding, concealing, harbouring, exercising control, direction, or influence over the movements of a person for the purpose of exploiting them – making them feel that their lives or the lives or online safety of others are in danger (Criminal Code of Canada).

As I said before, it’s essential to recognize that human trafficking is NOTHING like you see on your screens. Unfortunately, we don’t often see an accurate portrayal of trafficked people as they are often misrepresented in terms of race, identity and age. In actuality, this human rights abuse issue thrives in situations of inequity, and it’s important to understand that trafficking doesn’t always involve kidnapping. It’s a slow process of manipulation, deception and coercion thriving in situations and atmospheres of unequal power and inequality. (Aurora Freedom)

The simplification of  human trafficking information in this blog is not meant to negate or reduce the importance or heaviness of the issue. Instead, it is meant to help others become aware and educated while providing hope to those affected and those looking to support.

What does Human Trafficking involve?

  • Human trafficking involves: recruiting, moving or holding victims to exploit them for profit, usually for sexual reasons or forced labour
  • To date, the most common sex trafficking scenario is being exploited by a man that the victim thought was their boyfriend or intimate partner
  • Relationships such as “Sugar Daddies” or “Travel buddies” are high risk and can lead to sexual exploitation or human trafficking due to the substantial power imbalance, social stigma and isolation, and laws that create barriers for coming forward
  • Youth can be exploited by peers who are posing as close friends or best friends
  • The trafficker is often exploiting these “friends” to recruit new people
  • Family members can traffic and exploit other family members for profit
  • Doctors, police, professionals etc. can and do traffick people


  • Traffickers can control and pressure victims through force or threats, including mental and emotional abuse and manipulation
  • Human trafficking is extremely underreported due to the secrecy of its nature
  • Sex buyers are not only older men; women and girls who are also being exploited may also participate in recruiting or buying

Victims and Survivors

  • Many survivors will never report their trafficker to the police for fear of retribution from their traffickers or due to mistrust of police
  • Based on research conducted by Aura Freedom, both traffickers and victims are getting younger
  • It has been observed that youth in high schools are working with older traffickers and exploiting their own classmates
  • Victims between the ages of 12-17 are at particular risk of being lured and groomed
  • The 18-25 age bracket is also at risk
  • Girls and women make up the majority of victims of sexual exploitation due to gender inequality and patriarchal views
  • Indigenous and racialized girls are targeted at higher rates due to the intersecting inequities of gender and race
  • Young men and boys are also trafficked in the sex trade, although in much lower numbers
  • Gender diverse and trans youth are also at risk of sexual exploitation due to a lack of community and family support and increased homelessness

The Statistics
** Please note that any human trafficking statistics will never bring a complete picture, only highlight police activity.

  • 96% of victims of human trafficking were women and girls
  • 28% of victims were under the age of 18
  • 45% of all victims of police-reported human trafficking were between the ages of 18 and 24
  • 26% were 25 years of age or older
  • 65% of police-reported human trafficking incidences between 2010-2020 were reported in Ontario
  • 92% of victims of police-reported human trafficking incidents knew their trafficker
  • 57% of the incidents involved human trafficking offences alone
  • 43% involved at least one other type of violation, most often related to the sex trade
  • 81% of people accused of trafficking since 2009 have been men
  • The majority of victims in human trafficking cases in Canada are Canadian
  • Members of vulnerable or marginalized groups are at greater risk of victimization in Canada
  • Police services in Canada reported 2,977 incidents of human trafficking—that is, recruiting, transporting, transferring, holding, concealing and exercising control over a person for exploitation—between 2010 and 2020
  • 75% of these accused had previously been implicated in other criminal activity
  • Between 2009/2010 and 2019/2020, there were 834 cases completed in adult criminal courts that involved at least one charge of human trafficking
  • Human trafficking cases took almost twice as long to complete than violent adult criminal court cases
  • The median amount of time it took to complete an adult criminal court case involving at least one violent charge was 176 days. In contrast, it took a median of 373 days to complete a case involving at least one human trafficking charge
  • As the most serious decision in adult criminal court, a finding of guilt was less common for cases involving human trafficking (12%) than for those involving sex trade charges (33%) or violent charges (48%)

Information was gathered from:
Collaborative Community Solutions-
Aurora Freedom-
Government of Canada-
Statistics Canada-