Be aware

The trafficking and sexual exploitation of young women is a scary reality in Canada, and specifically Ontario, including right here in Chatham-Kent.

When a message is important, it bears repeating. Often.

Ending human trafficking is one of those messages. Thanks to Courage for Freedom, founded by Kelly Franklin, the message is getting out to an area frequented by human traffickers with their victims – the Highway 401 corridor.

Project OnRoute involved a video about and by survivors, and was shown at OnRoute locations in Ontario along the 400 series highways for the month of July. The video tells people what to look for so that traffickers can no longer hide with their victims in plain sight while getting gas, food or switching cars to move on to the next location where they will force our young women and men to perform sex acts for money.

Shining a light on traffickers – their methods, their movements, preferred locations – it all helps to stop it from happening in our community, to our young people.

Statistics compiled by Courage for Freedom indicated that 60 per cent of all human trafficking in Canada is initiated along the 400 series highway, and the 401 from Windsor to Montreal. Traffickers can move their victims easily from city to city, soliciting clients through online advertising.

Human slavery is the fastest growing organized crime in the world. It is a billion-dollar industry that is often hidden in plain sight, and no community is immune to its existence. These are our daughters, sisters, nieces, and neighbours, and we need to know what it is we are fighting when we fight to keep them safe.

Project OnRoute encourages people to know the signs of trafficking and report any suspicious persons or activities to the police, Crime Stoppers or the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline.

Read up on the subject, make yourself aware, get angry at the degrading and dehumanizing acts of traffickers and most of all, act on your gut instinct that something is wrong. Even if your tip doesn’t pan out this time, maybe the next one will save a girl trapped in a horrific situation. Remind men who buy the services of these young women that the women may not be there willingly and may be younger than 18.

We can be the eyes and ears to help law enforcement end the sexual exploitation of our girls and boys, and we can’t give up until traffickers are in jail where they belong.


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