Human Trafficking: Modern-day Slavery in York Region

Human Trafficking is not only an international issue, it is occurring within our own community,” police said in a recent statement. Police say human trafficking occurs when a group or individual recruits, transports, receives, holds, conceals or harbours a person—or exercises control, direction or influence over the movements of a person—to exploit them.

Human trafficking, it appears, is on the rise everywhere.

According to Statistics Canada, human trafficking violations in Canada doubled between 2013 and 2014. Between 2009 and 2014, police reported 396 victims across Canada, of which 93 percent were women. Of those women, 47 per cent were between 18 and 24 years old.

While most people associate trafficking with sexual exploitation, victims may also be coerced into providing forced labour.

Human trafficking is often described as a modern form of slavery. In Canada, this modern-day slavery happens primarily to Canadian kids, and their traffickers are mostly people the kids already know, said Fiona Jack, a sex trafficking prevention trainer at Toronto’s Covenant House. “They’re lured from their parents’ homes, the library, high school, the local shopping mall.”

The average victim is 17, but some are as young as 12 — the younger, the more money traffickers earn — servicing 45-year-old to 60-year-old men, she said. Their traffickers — most of them in their 20s — are master manipulators, romancing the girls, complimenting them, adept at seeking out vulnerabilities. And the victims, in Canada, number in the thousands, she said. “Police say that for every one victim they identify, there are likely 100 victims they don’t know about. Traffickers “can make $250,000 with one girl. It’s more lucrative than drugs or guns.”

They choose kids who feel isolated, whose parents don’t know their friends, or girls who may have experienced something in their past that leads them to believe they don’t have a voice or value. “They could have phenomenal parents, but are struggling with an untreated mental health issue or bullying.” Homeless youth are most vulnerable, but it happens to kids living at home, too, she said.

Convictions in sex trafficking cases are extremely difficult — only 23 per cent of traffickers are sen-tenced to custody.

Victims’ silence starts in neighbourhoods, schools and young people’s lives, Jack said, when we raise kids to believe their voices don’t matter, that tattling is bad, and by not being aware that this is happen-ing in our own backyard.

Police say there are signs that may indicate that someone is a victim. They include:

  • Isolation from family and friends
  • New circle of friends
  • More than one cell phone
  • Possession of expensive items with no source of income
  • Change in style of dress
  • Unexplained bruises/cuts/injuries
  • Secretive
  • Erratic sleep behaviours

Police say that parents who are concerned about sexual exploitation can take note of the following tips:

  • Monitor social media and internet use
  • Stay current with apps and social sites their child is using
  • Know their child’s (children’s) friends
  • Educate their child(ren) on healthy relationships


Women’s Support Network York Region 24-7 helpline:
Provincial Help Line:

Sources: and