A hidden threat: Human trafficking on the rise in Canada
By Rodion Isakovich, Tinashe Mukono & Maria Santos, Contributors
It is unnoticed, it is hidden, and it affects us all. This global epidemic is spreading like never before. In current times, human trafficking has reached unparalleled heights — a criminal industry worth upwards of $150 billion dollars.
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is the act of exploiting and selling people for forced labor, sex and other illegal purposes. Currently, it is estimated by the International Labor Organization (ILO) that 40.3 million people are victims of modern day slavery worldwide. Even though the numbers are frightening, most of us think that human trafficking is an issue that is distant from us — that it happens mostly in foreign countries. But the Canadian government reports that human trafficking is on the rise — even within our own country.
When asked about the issue, an MRU student replied, “I personally don’t see human trafficking as a direct threat to myself, however I do think that it does affect other people globally on a bigger scale. I don’t say it’s a direct threat because I find that the university is a fairly safe space, and most of the time I’m very aware of my surroundings.”
In reality, North America is a major hub of human trafficking. Statistics show that an estimated 403,000 people are trafficked in the United States each year, mostly for sexual exploitation, and 17,000 people are currently living in modern slavery in Canada. That said, it is extremely difficult to obtain accurate measurements from police reports because of the hidden, widespread nature of this crime.
Not only does human trafficking affect a lot of people, it most regularly targets the most vulnerable of populations. Homeless people, immigrants, Indigenous people and women face the highest risk. NATO Canada reports that in Canada, “Aboriginal and First Nation women and youth [are] primary targets for coerced recruitment into the industry.” The discrimination, poverty, language barriers and other challenges faced by these groups make them especially vulnerable to trafficker’s tactics of manipulation, false promises and deception.
Christina Morgan, PhD, an instructor at Mount Royal commented on this issue by saying, “Anyone can be a victim of human trafficking, anyone may come on contact with a person who has been trafficked and therefore needs to know the signs. MRU students should also care about this issue as it is a social justice issue and a major human rights violation that is not well understood, particularly the extent.”
The likelihood of you being affected is higher than you would expect. While Canada is an overall safe country, it is not isolated from the threat of human trafficking. Knowing this, it is more important than ever to be aware of this issue in order to defend ourselves from recruiters, and prevent human trafficking from spreading. Shared Hope International and many other websites provide information on how to spot recruiters, or victims of modern day slavery. Some of them include looking for signs of violence, abuse, abnormal behavior and isolation from others.
Even though human trafficking happens mostly outside of Canada, it is still a worldwide problem that affects more than 40 million people. As Canadians, we are not isolated from it, so it is our responsibility to take action and put an end to human trafficking. If we do not do anything, these numbers will only grow, and modern day slavery will no longer seem that distant from us.