Human Trafficking Awareness Day

January 7, 2021

Slavery was officially abolished in Canada on the 1st August 1834, however, human trafficking is growing at an alarming rate and despite the fact that Canada is considered one of the safest countries in the world, human trafficking is still happening in our society. Human trafficking is a complex and ever-changing issue, taking place in a wide variety of settings, and is often difficult to detect.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is the process of trapping people through the use of violence, deception, or coercion and exploiting them for financial or personal gain. Public Safety Canada defines human trafficking as "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. It is often described as a modern form of slavery.

Human trafficking can manifest itself in several forms either by grooming and forcing women or girls into sexual exploitation; men duped into taking risky job offers and trapped in forced labor; and women hired to work in private homes only to be trapped, exploited, and abused behind closed doors with no way out.

Those who are most likely to be at-risk include:

  • Indigenous women and girls; migrants and new immigrants; LGBTQ2 persons; persons living with disabilities; children in the child welfare system; at-risk youth; those who are socially or economically disadvantaged; and
  • migrant workers who may be particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse due to many factors, such as language barriers, working in isolated/remote areas, lack of access to services and support, and lack of access to accurate information about their rights.

Some Statistics on Human Trafficking in Canada

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Canada

Human trafficking in Canada has become a significant legal and political issue. It is a largely hidden but pervasive issue in Canada, and Indigenous women and girls are affected at disproportionate levels. RCMP statistics from 2016 reveal that while Indigenous women represented only four percent (4%) of the Canadian population, they comprised nearly fifty percent (50%) of victims of human trafficking.

Trafficking does not only occur when people are travelling across borders. In fact, the transportation or movement of the victim does not define human trafficking: it can occur within a single country or even within a single community.

According to The Native Women's Association of Canada, the overrepresentation of Indigenous women and girls in sexual exploitation and trafficking in Canada are rooted in the impact of colonialism on Indigenous societies such as:

  • the legacies of the residential schools and their inter-generational effects, family violence, childhood abuse, poverty, homelessness,
  • lack of basic survival necessities,
  • race and gender-based discrimination,
  • lack of education,
  • migration,
  • and substance addictions.

Colonization in Canada has taken and maintains the form of systemic discrimination, embodied in harmful policies and legislation that have greatly damaged Indigenous societies.

How can you help?