No doubt many of us will be shocked by the human (sex) trafficking element in the charges laid against five people in little old rural Caledonia.

Human trafficking is a crime and human rights abuse that’s sometimes called “modern day slavery.”

A quick look on-line abuses us of the notion this can’t happen here.

There are different types of human trafficking that take place in Ontario, including sex trafficking and labour trafficking. Forced marriage is also considered a form of human trafficking.

Traffickers control people in many ways, including psychological manipulation, emotional abuse, lies, addiction, threats, violence, isolation, and taking control of ID/documents and money.

Because this treatment can cause severe trauma, survivors often need intensive, specialized services and supports to rebuild their lives.

Sometimes human trafficking is confused with human smuggling (across borders). In reality, most of the people trafficked in Ontario are girls and women who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

While human trafficking is a vastly under-reported crime, Ontario is a major centre for human trafficking in Canada, with about two-thirds of reported cases arising in Ontario.

Facts about sex trafficking

Language like “pimping,” “the game” and “the life” is sometimes used when talking about sex trafficking. 

Most police-reported cases of human trafficking in Ontario involve sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is different from consensual sex work – in trafficking situations, the trafficker is in control.

A person can be trafficked anywhere, including in their home community. When a person under 18 is advertised for sex, it is a criminal offence – legally no one under the age of 18 years old can consent to engaging in sex work.

Sex traffickers often control every aspect of the person’s life: when they eat and sleep, what they wear, who they talk to, etc.  People who are being trafficked, as well as people come into contact with them, may not know or understand that a crime is taking place.

Most often, sex traffickers purposely develop a bond with the person they are trafficking, in order to manipulate them and make them believe they are better off staying than leaving. For this and other reasons, the trafficked person may fear and resist police intervention.

It can be very difficult for a survivor to leave a trafficking situation. It can take several attempts before they are able to find assistance.

Canada has a dedicated, confidential, 24/7 human trafficking hotline: 1-833-900-1010. The hotline is a resource for everyone from victims seeking help, to individuals with a tip to report on a potential case, to members of the public wanting to learn more about the subject – and it provides information on services available across Ontario.