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The true scope of human trafficking in Canada is underestimated. Between 2010 and 2020, police services in Canada have reported 2,977 incidents of human trafficking—however, these figures don’t consider the unknown number of victims that are not reported.

The Global Slavery Index estimates that on any given day there are 17,000 people living in modern slavery in Canada. Human trafficking is difficult to detect and subject to underreporting to police. Victims of human trafficking may be: 

  • unaware that they are being trafficked
  • in precarious or vulnerable situations
  • fearful or distrustful of authorities
  • fearful of deportation or loss of employment
  • facing threats from the traffickers

All of these factors contribute to the underreporting of human trafficking incidents to police.

Members of vulnerable or marginalized groups are at the greatest risk of human trafficking.

This includes: Indigenous women and girls; migrants and new immigrants; LGBTQ+ persons; persons living with disabilities; children in the child welfare system; at-risk youth; and those who are socially or economically disadvantaged.

Canadian Human Trafficking Statistics

  • 96% of trafficking victims in Canada are female
  • 71% of trafficking victims in Canada are under the age of 25
  • 91% of human trafficking victims in Canada know their trafficker
    • 9% Stranger
    • 31% Friend or Acquaintance
    • 27% Criminal, business, or other relationship
    • 31% Spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or intimate partner

The majority of sex trafficking victims are reportedly Canadian-born teenage girls, some as young as 13, who are recruited in various ways, including at school, through social media, and at shopping malls. Techniques used by traffickers include building dependence by buying gifts and posing as boyfriends. Younger male members of street gangs simulate affection as a tool to recruit young women.

Forced Sexual Exploitation of Adults and Children

Trafficking within Canada for the purpose of sexual exploitation is reported to be the most common form of modern slavery detected by authorities. 93 percent of identified sex trafficking victims are Canadian citizens, not foreign citizens. 

Note: It must be emphasised that these figures do not necessarily reflect the small numbers of foreign nationals being subject to exploitation in Canada, but rather, they are a reflection of the numerous reasons foreign victims do not report to authorities, such as being tied to their employer through their visa while trying to get permanent residence, or fear of deportation.

Forced Labour

In Canada, forced labour exploitation affects migrant workers. Workers employed under these streams may work in restaurants, hotels or other hospitality services, agriculture, food preparation, construction, manufacturing, or domestic work. Migrant workers reportedly experience a wide range of abuse including verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.

Specific examples include working without pay, performing tasks outside the scope of the employment contract, not receiving vacation or overtime pay, working extremely long hours, deduction of “fees” for food or accommodation from pay cheques, and particularly for women, sexual violence.

Take Action

  • Connect with community-based mentorship programs for youth such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
  • Donate to support an anti-trafficking organization such as Ally Global Foundation.

Sources: Public Safety Canada National Strategy To Combat Human Trafficking | Statistics Canada Trafficking in Persons in Canada | Statistics Canada Police-reported Human Trafficking in Canada | Walk Free Global Slavery Index

Help survivors of human trafficking heal from trauma and build healthy, independent futures.

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5 Ways to Recognize Human Trafficking in Your Community 

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Though trafficking can look different in different countries, one thing remains the same: traffickers always prey on vulnerability.

The more children, youth and parents understand how trafficking takes place, the better chance we have of stopping trafficking before it even happens.

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