PALMERSTON – Human trafficking is a human rights abuse that requires victims to provide sexual services or labour through force, coercion and deception.
Feb. 22 will mark the third annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Ontario, which officials say is a major centre for human trafficking, making up two-thirds of all reported cases in Canada.
Traffickers control people in many ways, including manipulation, emotional abuse, addiction, threats, violence and isolation.
Human trafficking causes substantial physical, psychological and emotional trauma to the victims. Survivors often need intensive, specialized services and supports to rebuild their lives.
In 2018, Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis (GWWIC) launched a program to meet the complex needs of women and girls impacted by human trafficking in Guelph and Wellington.
The Anti-Human Trafficking Program was implemented to provide services to individuals who have been or are currently being trafficked and to build community partnerships, outreach and awareness.
Services offered to clients include immediate telephone support, counselling, crisis intervention, practical assistance, risk assessments, safety planning, emergency shelter support, court support and assistance accessing the Victim Quick Response Program.
Two bedrooms were established at Marianne’s Place (GWWIC’s women’s shelter) specifically designed for individuals who have been or are being trafficked.
According to a recent evaluation of the program, 742 direct service counselling hours were provided to those seeking support and 52 victims were able to access safety using these dedicated rooms.
Staff of the Anti-Human Trafficking Program also conducted public education training and targeted outreach in the community.
This was intended to be both a preventative measure for individuals who may be at risk of human trafficking and to bring awareness to the community and community service providers.
According to Public Safety Canada men, women and children fall victim to this crime, although women represent the majority of victims in Canada.
Those who are likely to be at-risk include Indigenous women and girls; new immigrants; LGBTQ2 individuals; persons living with disabilities as well as homeless and marginalized youth, specifically between the ages of 13 and 25.
The Ministry of Community and Social Services has outlined possible signs that someone is being groomed for sex trafficking.
These include changes such as:
– withdrawing from family and friends;
– being secretive about their activities;
– having a new boyfriend, girlfriend or friend who they won’t introduce to friends and family;
– wearing more sexualized clothing;
– having new clothing, jewelry etc. that they can’t afford to buy;
– suddenly having a new or second cell phone with a secret number;
– the person shows signs of abuse, such as bruising, cigarette burns, fractures, etc.; and/or
– the person has tattooing or branding symbols, particularly names.
There are different ways to get help if you or someone you know is being trafficked or is at risk:
– if there is immediate danger or if you suspect a child under 18 is being trafficked, call 911 or your local police service;
– for information and support, call Canada’s Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-833-900-1010 or visit www.canadianhumantraffickinghotline.ca. This hotline is a confidential, multilingual service, operating 24/7 to connect victims and survivors with social services, law enforcement and emergency services, as well as receive tips from the public; and
– for assistance or information about the program call Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis’ 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-265-7233 or GWWIC head office at 519-836-1110 and ask to speak to a Human Trafficking counsellor.