Frequently Asked Questions

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Understand the Issue

What is human trafficking?

Human Trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation or harboring of persons for the purpose
of exploitation (typically in the sex industry or for forced labor). Traffickers use various methods to
maintain control over their victims, including force, sexual assault, threats of violence and physical or
emotional abuse.
Transportation may also be considered one of these methods as it is used to isolate the trafficked
person by putting them in an unfamiliar environment. This transportation does not have to be across
borders, movement can be from one side of the city to the other. Research has even shown that
domestic trafficking (within borders) is more common in Canada than international trafficking (across
Human trafficking can take many forms. These include sex trafficking (exploitation in the sex industry);
labour trafficking (exploitation through forced labour); and organ trafficking (the trade of human
organs for the purpose of transplantation).

What is the difference between human trafficking and smuggling?

Human trafficking and human smuggling are not the same thing. Domestic human trafficking refers to
any victim of human trafficking who is trafficked within Canada (regardless of the victim’s citizenship
status). International human trafficking refers to any victim of human trafficking who, in the process
of being trafficked, crossed an international border (regardless of the victim’s status).
Human smuggling is a form of illegal migration involving the organized transport of a person across an
international border, usually in exchange for a sum of money and sometimes in dangerous conditions.
When the final destination is reached the business relationship ends, and the smuggler and the
individual part ways. In some cases, a person who has agreed to be smuggled into a country becomes
a trafficking victim at the hands of the smuggler.

Why don’t victims escape when they have the opportunity?

Traffickers and pimps use physical, emotional and psychological abuse to coerce young women and girls into a life of sex trafficking. Traffickers are master manipulators and employ tactics to create trauma bonds with victims. Traffickers often use the threat of violence against victims or victim’s loved ones to secure their submission.

What makes a child vulnerable to child sex trafficking?

1. Age
Age is the primary factor of vulnerability. Pre-teen or adolescent girls are more susceptible to the calculated advances, deception, and manipulation tactics used by traffickers/pimps – no youth is exempt from falling prey to these tactics.
Traffickers target locations youth frequent such as social media sites, schools, malls, parks, bus stops, shelters and group homes. Runaway or homeless youth, as well as those with a history of physical and sexual abuse, may have an increased risk of being trafficked.

2. Internet Safety Threats
Pimps are continually trolling the internet posing as a teen girl or boy interested in friendship. The relationship is developed without threat until the unsuspecting child agrees to meet them, to send compromising photos or shares their deepest secrets with them.  That’s when the predator can move in and begin to separate them from their safety nets.

What is the scope of human trafficking in Canada compared to internationally?

Canada has been identified as a transit and destination country for human trafficking. The extent of
human trafficking is difficult to assess due to the clandestine nature of these offences, the reluctance of
victims/witnesses to come forward to law enforcement and the difficulty in distinguishing between
human trafficking victims and illegal migrants. Canada is also a country where domestic trafficking for
sexual exploitation prevails and 90% trafficking cases are domestic (within borders).

Understand Who and How?

Who are the victims of human trafficking?

In Canada, vulnerable populations at risk of becoming trafficked include migrant workers, new
immigrants, youth, Indigenous women and girls, those who are socially or economically disadvantaged,
or those who may have been lured to urban centers or have gone of their own free will with the hopes
of bettering their lives. Convictions for human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation
demonstrate that Canadian girls and women are often victims. At least 80% of trafficked persons
exploited in the sex trade are Indigenous and the average age of entry is 13.

Who are the traffickers?

Often people are trafficked by organized crime groups such as gangs and by the people closest to them, such as boyfriends, husbands, parents and other family. Some victims of trafficking were first exploited as children by family members. Individuals working independently also traffic persons for profit/personal gain.
The involvement of transnational organized crime groups in human trafficking is part of a growing global trend. Human trafficking generates huge profits for criminal organizations, which often have operations extending from the source to the destination countries. These transnational crime networks also utilize smaller, decentralized criminal groups that may specialize in recruiting, transporting or harboring victims.

How are victims recruited and controlled?

Traffickers approach potential victims in a variety of ways, including through direct contact with the person; family and relatives; scouts who represent themselves as a sponsor, love interest, friend or peer; misleading advertisements promising jobs and opportunity; or on the internet.

While it is true that traffickers sometimes forcibly kidnap their victims, this is not the most common way in which an individual becomes a victim of human trafficking. More frequently, traffickers manipulate and take advantage of an individual’s position of vulnerability in order to establish coercive control. For example, they may influence their victim with the false incentive of a job or better living conditions. In manipulating individuals’ vulnerabilities, traffickers will often also use physical force to establish dominance and control.

Traffickers use a variety of tactics to intimidate and control their victims, including:

  • Physical violence, torture, and starvation
  • Rape and other sexual abuse
  • Psychological abuse, coercion, and blackmail
  • Drug addiction
  • Threats of violence against their family or loved ones
  • Confiscation of passports or other important documentation
  • Prospects of opportunity
  • Romance
  • Debt bondage

In international cases, victims may be transported by plane, boat, train or any type of vehicle, and often a combination of them, using genuine and/or fraudulent documents that are usually removed from them upon arrival at their destination. Victims may be isolated and/or taken to illicit businesses
where they may be subjected to physical and sexual abuse and concealment.

How would you identify a trafficked person?

There are very few definitive clues for identifying a trafficked person, but often includes a combination of a variety of indicators.

  • they may be controlled or intimidated by someone else (i.e. being escorted or watched)
  • they may not speak on their own behalf and may not be English/French speaking
  • they may not have a passport or other I.D.
  • they may not be familiar with the neighborhood they live/work in
  • they may be moved frequently by their traffickers
  • they may have injuries, burn marks, cuts and/or bruises from beatings and/or weapons
  • they may show visible signs of branding or scarring (indicating ownership by the trafficker)
  • they may show signs of malnourishment
  • they may express fear and intimidation through facial expressions and/or body language
  • Unexplained absences from class
  • Less appropriately dressed than before
  • Sexualized behavior
  • Overly tired in class
  • Withdrawn, depressed, distracted or checked out
  • Brags about making or having lots of money
  • Displays expensive clothes, accessories or shoes
  • New tattoo (tattoos are often used by pimps as a way to brand victims. Tattoos of a name, symbol of money or barcode could indicate trafficking)
  • Older boyfriend or new friends with a different lifestyle
  • Talks about wild parties or invites other students to attend parties
  • Shows signs of gang affiliation? (ie: a preference for specific colors, notebook doodles of gang symbols, etc.)
Who buys sex?

The buyers of sex from juveniles can be anyone – professionals, students, tourists, military personnel, a family member. Because buyers often pay in cash and may interact with a victim for as little as five minutes, buyers are increasingly difficult to identify.

How does pornography affect the trafficking industry?

Viewing pornography may be a solo act; however, the production of the material and the social and relational consequences of the behavior extends far past the individual. Children and adults endure brutal rape and abuse at the hands of pornographers and may require years of specialized therapy to heal from the intense trauma inflicted on them. The effects of pornography can skew the viewer’s perception of healthy sexual behavior and boundaries, impacting the viewer’s personal relationship with a spouse or significant other. Trafficked women and children may face an increased risk of violence or degradation due to the normalization of deviant sex acts propagated through pornography.

Recognizing Human Trafficking

Where would you find someone who is being trafficked in the sex industry?

Victims may be found anywhere in Canada. Some basic examples include:

  • nightclubs/bars
  • modeling studios
  • hospitals
  • pornography
  • escort services
  • massage parlors
  • shelters
  • private residences
  • on the internet
  • hotels
  • on the streets
Where would I find someone who is being trafficked for forced labour?

Victims can be found anywhere in Canada. Some basic examples include:

  • non-unionized industries
  • restaurants
  • commercial agriculture sites
  • construction sites
  • domestic servitude
How Can I Help?

Make sure you understand the issue and learn as much as possible about what life is really like for sex trafficking victims. Then educate others.

Links to information on signs of trafficking are included in this site. Save the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline number in your cell phone today: 1-833-900-1010. 

3. ACT RESPONSIBLY. You should not attempt direct interaction/intervention without training, from an expert. Without proper training you can put the child at increased risk of violence, not to mention the matter of your own safety. Never pay a child for time to talk in the hopes of rescuing them. Go through the appropriate and proper channels to assist victims.

4. WRITE ABOUT IT. If you write a personal blog, like to post on social media, or develop other forms of media, consider addressing the topic of child sex trafficking and exploitation in your writing.

5. VOLUNTEER AND MENTOR. Look for opportunities to serve in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, etc. These kinds of places serve trafficking victims sometimes without realizing it.

6. DONATE PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANCE. Shelters and outreach organizations may need doctors, therapists, or dentists to provide pro bono services for victims of sex trafficking. The organization may need a lawyer, accountant, or marketing expert to assist them on a project. Contact your local human trafficking coalition, shelters, and/or organizations to see how you can provide your expertise.

7. DONATE TO LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS TO FIND OUT WHAT THEY NEED AND HELP RAISE THE NECESSARY FUNDS. Organizations that assist victims and prevent abuse have little funding available to them. Any generous donation will go a long way in efforts like conducting research, fixing a leaky roof, or buying a van to reach children in crisis who call for help. Some traffickers engage in the horrific practice of tattooing their victims, “branding” them like property. Raising funds for tattoo removal is also a way to bring healing.

8. TALK ABOUT IT; LEAD BY EXAMPLE. Educate your fellow community and neighbors at local events and fairs. Engage your community in a dialogue about the sex trafficking of children and the broader topic of commercial sex and the sexualization of children. You don’t have to be an expert – just get out there and spread the word.

9. SCHEDULE A SPEAKER. If you are interested in having guest speaker come out and address your group, you can contact us here:

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