The Story of Human Trafficking of Indigenous Women is Long and Complex

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human trafficking

OTTAWA – NEWS – “Close personal networks, particularly parents, are among the most trusted allies in combating human trafficking. They have direct contact with persons being groomed, exploited and who have survived this horrible crime. Services can be really hard to navigate, and friends and family members can play a vital role in helping them access the supports they need to exit and heal from their trafficking situation. Put simply – the more equipped Canadians are to spot the signs of human trafficking and how to respond, the more likely they are to fill gaps and save lives,” said Julia Drydyk, Executive Director, The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking. “We have to help them to know human trafficking and how to access available services to protect their loved ones.”

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The report states that “The story of trafficking in Indigenous peoples is long and complex. It is also well hidden in Canada, where the reality of settler colonialism is obscured so that dominant myths about Indigenous peoples can be perpetuated, and settler privileges can be protected. Breaking through the dominant, colonial narratives about violence in our society is a challenge – but progress is being made. Increasingly, anti-trafficking advocates and allies are contesting dominant frameworks that erase Indigenous peoples, include them as minorities, or portray the exploitation of Indigenous women, girls, and gender- diverse through the lens of criminalization”.

Data gathered during the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline’s first year of operations shows that sex trafficking is a gender-based crime that predominantly impacts Canadian women and girls.

The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking’s report, Human Trafficking Trends in Canada (2019-2020), also reveals that transgender and gender non-conforming individuals experience trafficking at disproportionately higher rates relative to their population. This group represents 2% of all victims/survivors calling into the Hotline despite comprising 0.24% of the Canadian population.

In 2019-20, the most common type of trafficking identified by the Hotline was sex trafficking (71%), followed by labour trafficking (7%). Approximately 20% of cases were identified as “not specified,” which indicates situations where someone contacts the Hotline without specifying the nature of the trafficking situation.

A small proportion (2%) of human trafficking cases were classified as “Other.” This category includes cases that were identified as both sex and labour, and/or where the situation involved other crimes such as forced begging, fraud, and other crimes.

The Centre’s report is a first of its kind in Canada in that it does not rely on police-reported statistics. Instead, The Centre has used non-attributable data collected from the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline to identify six broad trafficking trends in Canada.

The Report’s other findings include:

  • COVID-19 has had a major impact on the social services that victims rely on to escape trafficking and heal. Approximately 1 in 5 service providers who responded to a survey indicated that they were no longer able to offer any or all of their services at the beginning of the pandemic (April-May 2020).
  • The survey found that service providers have had to significantly adjust their operations during the pandemic, including reducing hours and moving services online. These changes can act as a barrier to victims who need in-person services or don’t have consistent access to the Internet.
  • Anecdotal evidence has found that service providers themselves are often overwhelmed and burnt out, due to the stress of the pandemic and years of chronic underfunding.
  • Between 2019-20, 415 cases of victims/survivors were reported to the Hotline.
  • Approximately 1 in 3 callers were victims/survivors, the highest percentage of caller types to the Hotline. This indicates that the Hotline is directly supporting those who are most impacted by this heinous crime.
  • The vast majority of victims/survivors were Canadian; only 14 per cent of victims/survivors were foreign nationals.

The report also found that while accessing support for human trafficking is a complex process, family and friends play a vital role in supporting victims and survivors.

Thanks to our continued partnerships with 900+ service providers and law enforcement agencies, the Hotline was able to support those impacted by human trafficking, even during the pandemic.

Since 2019, The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking has operated the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline, a confidential, multilingual service, operating 24/7 to connect Canadians with over 900 social and legal services nation-wide.