There is good news in the fight against human trafficking in Ontario, including funding for specialized services for survivors.
The Ontario government is developing a new strategy to combat human trafficking that will be co-led by Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General and Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues. The strategy is part of Ontario’s commitment to protecting women and children and combatting gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and abuse.
As a first priority, Ontario is committing $20 million in annual funding for victim supports and anti-human trafficking enforcement initiatives.
According to statistics compiled, approximately two-thirds of police-reported human trafficking violations in Canada occur in Ontario and more than 70 per cent of human trafficking victims identified by police are under the age of 25.
The Highway 401 corridor is used to transport young women and men to different locations where they are forced to provide sexual services to johns for money. The average age of recruitment into sex trafficking is 13 years old.
“Every day across Ontario, young women and children are being lured into human trafficking by criminals who rob them of their safety and dignity,” said Premier Doug Ford in a media release. “I want to thank Solicitor General Jones and Associate Minister Dunlop for leading the development and implementation of our new, stronger, cross-government strategy to raise awareness of these disgusting crimes, ensure survivors get the supports they need, and bring their traffickers to justice.”
“During discussions across the province, frontline workers and survivors of human trafficking told us there is a need for consistent and reliable funding,” said Dunlop. “We are taking action to respond to what we heard. This annual investment for dedicated anti-human trafficking initiatives will ensure victim supports are available on an ongoing basis, and that critical prevention and enforcement actions continue.”
Over the summer, the province hosted a series of 13 roundtable meetings on human trafficking with survivors, Indigenous partners, law enforcement and frontline service providers. As the government works toward a new anti-human trafficking strategy, Jones and Dunlop will continue to look for ways to collaborate across government, across sectors and across jurisdictions to raise awareness, help survivors, keep children and youth safe, and hold offenders accountable.
Funding announced includes $7 million for wraparound support for survivors, $2.9 million to law enforcement for specific anti-trafficking initiatives and $4.8 million for victim quick response programs and for the specialized provincial human trafficking prosecution teams.
Sgt. Kimberly Miller with the Chatham-Kent OPP detachment works on human trafficking cases and said that the public can help by looking for signs that a person may be being trafficked, often led by the feeling that something just isn’t right, including:
- Young individual in the back of a car with an older person and then another person driving the car.
- Individual not taking eyes off companion, watches like a hawk.
- Person wearing inappropriate clothing for the weather or situation.
- There is an age gap between the individual and their companion.
- Individuals seems afraid, anxious or depressed.
- Another person controls the individual’s conversation.
- Signs of poor health, hygiene and/or nutrition.
- Individual who makes no eye contact and keeps head down.
- Individuals who have no idea where they are, or in what city.
If possible, the public can take down licence plate numbers and discretely take photos to give to police, however, approaching the victim or trafficker is not advised for everyone’s safety.