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