THUNDER BAY – The Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking hosted an awareness event at Intercity Shopping Centre to provide the public with information about human trafficking and affiliated community resources. The goal was to engage the public about human trafficking and the importance of specific and specialized services.
Since 2007, February 22 is annually recognized as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, which is a day to promote awareness regarding the severity of modern day slavery in Canada and internationally, with the intention to encourage action to combat human trafficking. This year there will be an emphasis on a collective community response to human trafficking and creating a specialized service model for victims.
“Human trafficking is a crime and considered an abuse of human rights that unfortunately our community is not immune to,” said Kris Carlson, Co-Chair – Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking. “There are different forms of trafficking that people need to be aware of, including sex trafficking and labour trafficking where traffickers restrict victims from accessing basic human rights and freedoms.”
Traffickers will often prey on homeless and marginalized youth and control them through psychological manipulation, emotional abuse, lies, addiction, threats, violence, isolation and taking control of ID/documents and money. Youth who struggle with low self-esteem, bullying, discrimination, poverty, abuse, isolation and other social or family issues are especially at risk, as are Indigenous women and girls. People struggling with substance use challenges, mental health issues and developmental disabilities are also targeted by traffickers. Due to the complexity of traumatic impacts of human trafficking, individuals often need intensive, specialized services and supports to rebuild their lives.
While human trafficking is a vastly under-reported crime, in reality, Ontario is a major centre for human trafficking of women and girls who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents, with about two-thirds of reported cases in Canada arising in Ontario.
“Thunder Bay is one of the top six hubs in Ontario for Human Trafficking,” said Cindy Paypompee, Co-Chair – Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human trafficking. “That is why the Coalition hosted this awareness event – to draw attention to this issue locally.”
The Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking is relatively new in the community, and it already has nearly 30 partner organizations.