New legislation – the Anti Human Trafficking Act – was proposed in Ontario, where about two thirds of all police reported cases in Canada occur. It would permit survivors and those at risk, to apply restraining orders and also take their traffickers to civil court. In addition, it would proclaim February 22 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Human sex trafficking is the most common form of modern day slavery, numbering in the millions, mostly females and children. It’s big business. According to the UN, it is the third most profitable criminal industry in the world, next only to drugs and guns and the fastest growing.
Detective Thai Truong from York Regional Police told a stunned audience at the National Council of Jewish Women: “I’ve spoken with hundreds of girls in the US and Canada,” he said. There is no difference anywhere. It can happen to anybody. Young teen aged girls as young as 12.”
Tamara Cherry, crime reporter for CTV. first became aware of the problem in 2007 when she investigated a trafficking story. A woman from Eastern Europe had answered an ad for a model. When she got there, he took away her documents, put her under lock and key and forced her to prostitute herself. “I couldn’t believe it,” she told the audience. “This was right here in North York in Thornhill.”
“They’re in hotel rooms, motel rooms, strip joints. Fifteen to 20 guys a day. Every penny goes to the pimps. No day off. The clients are the Bay St. boys, the SUV’s of suburbia… anybody and everybody.” She urges talking to young girls in schools about the issue, even before high school, in grade seven. “It’s easier to manipulate a 12 year old than a 17 year old.”
Statistics fail to paint an accurate picture of the problem. Human sex trafficking is a dramatically under reported crime, because of the reluctance of the victims to talk to police. They fear for their lives and for their families and loved ones. Some don’t understand they are victims of human trafficking. Foreign victims have limited language skills and are afraid of being deported. They don’t trust the police and don’t understand about Canadian human rights.
In June, the Trudeau government, announced a $72 million dollar campaign to end human trafficking. It includes the creation of a provincial anti-trafficking, co-ordination office which would encourage collaboration between police, social services and child welfare. They pledged also to create a specialized provincial prosecution team.
“Human trafficking exploits the most vulnerable people in our communities,” stated Indira Naidoo- Harris, Minister, Status of Women. “It is a deplorable crime and we must do everything we can to protect and support survivors. This legislation helps survivors live without fear and access the services they need to recover.”
Doris is a multimedia journalist with many years of experience. She has worked in radio, television and print journalism and writes on a variety of topics, especially the crucial issues in Canadian and Jewish life.