What Is Human Trafficking?Human trafficking is an offence under Article 279 of the Criminal Code of Canada and Article 118 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Canada’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking states that:
“Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation, harboring and/or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person in order to exploit that person, typically through sexual exploitation or forced labor.”Following Canadian law and United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in persons, especially Woman and Children, (Palermo Protocol), there are three elements to human trafficking: the Act (what is done), the Means (how it is done) and the Purpose (why it is done).
- Receipt of Persons
- Exercise of control, direction or influence over the movements of persons
- Threat of force
- Use of force
- Abuse of a position of trust, power, or authority
- Sexual exploitation
- Forced labour
- Slavery or servitude
- Organ removal
- Forced marriage
Who Is Most At Risk?
Although women represent the majority of human trafficking victims in Canada, men and children can also be victims. Those who are most likely to be at-risk include:
- Persons who are socially or economically disadvantaged, including Indigenous women, youth and children, migrants and new immigrants, and runaway/homeless youth
- Girls and women who may be lured to large urban centers or move there voluntarily
- Additional factors that may make someone more vulnerable include but are not limited to histories of abuse, intergenerational trauma, poverty, lack of safe housing and lack of community resources and infrastructure.
What Are The Red Flags Of Human Trafficking?
There are very few clear black-and-white indicators of human trafficking. An individual may be a potential victim of human trafficking if they:
- Exhibit a sudden change in behavior
- Rarely respond to phone calls and/or messages and disappear for long periods of time
- Move frequently and often change addresses
- Bear injuries and/or bruises
- Are unfamiliar with the neighborhood they live/work in
- Do not have a passport or other major pieces of identification, or their passport, visa or travel documents have been confiscated by their employer
- Do not speak on their own behalf
- Show signs of malnourishment and being overworked
What You Can Do
Service providers across multiple sectors play a significant role in supporting persons who have been trafficked. Strategies grounded in human rights approaches are key to addressing human trafficking. Service provision rooted in intersectional trauma-informed strategies, that decolonize trauma approaches that are strengths-based, and that recognize and respect persons autonomy and self-determination that is essential to address the human impact of human trafficking. Equally important is an awareness that human trafficking is at once a unique personal experience and a social issue.
Practical Tips for Service Providers
- Be non-judgmental
- Support people where they are at on their journey, even if their choices do not align with your personal views
- Ensure policies & programs are designed with the input of persons with lived experience
- Work to reduce stigma around sex work
- Advocate for resources, funding & fair laws
- Be aware of how your own experiences and views might shape the work you do
If you, or someone you know, could use support because you experienced violence or exploitation, or are at risk of either, we can offer a number of direct intervention supports.
You Can Also Contact At Any Time
The Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline is a confidential, multilingual service, operating 24/7 to connect victims / survivors with social services, law enforcement, and emergency services, as well as receive tips from the public.