Human Trafficking Awareness Day: Get the Facts, Talk About It

In 2020, the federal government proclaimed February 22nd as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Canada.

The crime of Trafficking in Persons was added to the Canadian Criminal Code in 2005, less than 20 years ago. The law criminalizes forced organ removal, forced marriage, indentured servitude, labour exploitation, and sexual exploitation. These crimes are commonly known as human trafficking.

Trafficking exploitation exist in many forms and usually entails victims being caused to provide sexual services or labour through force, coercion, deception and/or abuse of trust, power or authority. Human trafficking therefore results in substantial physical, psychological, and emotional trauma to the victims.

Human trafficking is still happening in Canada, and continues to take advantage of systemic issues such as poverty, inequity, and legislation focused on prosecuting criminals, as opposed to empowering communities and supporting survivors.

Underreported and unnoticed

Due to the reluctance of victims and witnesses to come forward and the difficulty in identifying victims, it is still difficult to assess the extent of human trafficking in Canada, but, according to the RCMP, between 2005 and December 2018, human trafficking specific charges were laid in 531 cases, with 327 victims involved. Of these cases 510 were domestic (primarily sexual exploitation), and 21 were international (primarily forced labour).

Labour trafficking is an especially underreported and unnoticed crime. Victims of labour trafficking are often with precarious status, afraid to come forward and extremely vulnerable to exploitation. Often, they are recruited before coming to Canada in their country of origin with a promise of legal documents and a new future in Canada. They work in inhumane conditions, underpaid or not paid at all and feel that they have no other options to leave. They work in all sectors. They work in farms, factories, restaurants, hotels, cleaning industries and may be your neighbour, your co-worker, or your contracted employee.

Labour exploitation happens here in Canada, and it happens here in Ontario, and the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted even more the social inequalities that allow human trafficking to continue.

You can help fight human trafficking by staying informed and informing others about the extent of the problem. Get the facts and talk about it:

  • Stay Awake Campaign: Here you can find content that raises awareness around the issue of human trafficking amongst precarious migrant youth, including information about labour trafficking, sex trafficking, the problem of isolation and how to become better allies for precarious migrant youth, service providers, etc.
  • It Happens Here: Labour Exploitation Among Migrant Workers During the Pandemic: A new research by FCJ Refugee Centre and the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking shows that employer discrimination, unsafe working conditions and gaps in government policy put migrant workers at risk of being exploited once they arrive in Canada.
  • Human Trafficking news and events on the FCJ Refugee Centre website.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be a victim of forced labour or sex please contact the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-833-900-1010.