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Most Canadians say they can’t tell if someone is a victim of human trafficking: survey

By Jennifer Ferreira, CTVNews.ca Producer

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    TORONTO, Ontario (CTV Network) — A majority of Canadian adults don’t feel they can recognize the signs of human trafficking, according to a new survey conducted on behalf of The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking.

According to the survey conducted by Angus Reid, 77 per cent of respondents said they would not be able to tell whether someone is a victim of human trafficking. The survey took place from Nov. 15 to 17 and involved a sample of 1,514 Canadian adults.

Still, 73 per cent of Canadians said they are concerned that human trafficking is a significant issue in Canada, according to a separate survey also conducted on behalf of the centre. This online survey was conducted by NielsenIQ in September and involved 1,503 Canadians.

Julia Drydyk is the executive director of The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, based in Toronto. The results of both surveys highlight the critical need for public education on human trafficking, she said.

“If people aren’t educated about what human trafficking really looks like in Canada, they’re going to be looking for all the wrong things,” Drydyk told CTV News Channel on Sunday. “[Education] is so vital.”

Drydyk said that many Canadians continue to have the perception that human trafficking mostly involves people from other countries being shipped across borders and into Canada. In reality, she described human trafficking as a domestic issue.

“Despite border closures and lockdowns, human trafficking continues to be alive and well in Canada,” she said. “Over 90 per cent of victims and survivors in Canada are Canadian women and girls, and more often than not the traffickers are also Canadian.”

According to Statistics Canada, 95 per cent of human trafficking victims in 2019 were girls and women, while 89 per cent of victims were under the age of 35. Between 2009 and 2019, nearly 2,500 incidents of human trafficking were reported. The majority of these cases (66 per cent) were reported in Ontario, with a total of 1,624 incidents. Meanwhile, at least 29 per cent of these cases involved crossing the Canadian border.

Even with these statistics, the actual scope of human trafficking in Canada is still believed to be underestimated.

IDENTIFYING THE SIGNS

When trying to tell whether or not someone is a victim of human trafficking, Drydyk pointed to a multitude of signs to look for. The more obvious indicators can be an older boyfriend or group of friends for young women, as well as wearing expensive clothing or receiving gifts that “don’t quite make sense,” said Drydyk.

But typically, the more telltale signs are seen in victims’ behaviour.

“More often than not, you’re looking for signs that someone is withdrawing and being controlled,” said Drydyk. “They might be really secretive about where they’re going…who they’re seeing and what’s going on in their lives.”

This can include pulling away from friends and family, or not being as engaged with school, said Drydyk. It can also involve the victim providing canned responses and not being honest about how they spend their time. Other common signs include cuts or bruises on the body, as well as some form of branding or tattoos. Victims are also likely to be defensive or anxious towards having their personal devices inspected, and often don’t have access to identification.

Drydyk said that friends and family members of victims are especially crucial in helping victims get the help they need. This makes education to be able to recognize the signs of human trafficking especially important for these groups, in order to prevent it and supporting those impacted by it.

“They are instrumental both in terms of being able to see the signs and…have honest communication with the people that might be victims, but they’re also so important in terms of exiting and accessing needed supports,” she said.

Anyone with questions or concerns can contact the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-833-900-1010.

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ctvnews.caproducers@bellmedia.ca

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