To raise awareness about sexual exploitation and human trafficking among children, the province has launched two educational resources. These new tools are part of the government’s $307-million comprehensive anti-human trafficking plan.
Ultimate goals of the plan are to reduce incidences of human trafficking in Ontario and assist survivors in rebuilding their lives.
As the plan is implemented, greater awareness may lead to an increase of police-reported cases. Yet human trafficking remains a vastly under-reported crime and if more victims feel supported in coming forward to find perpetrators, an increase in reported cases will be an indication of the strategy’s effectiveness.
As a key commitment these new educational tools aim to raise awareness of the issue, to protect victims and to intervene early.
The tools launched are part of the efforts in place to help prevent human trafficking by teaching kids how to recognize if a trafficker is targeting them. Furthermore, the tools inform the children where to get help if being targeted.
“Young people across Ontario need to know what human trafficking is and how it happens, so they can stay safe,” said Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, adding that grooming occurs at a young age and it is vital to educate children.
“These tools can give them the knowledge to spot the danger signs, teach them the skills to avoid it, and point them to help if they need it – so we can stop this crime before it happens.”
According to records from the provincial government, over two-thirds of police-reported human trafficking violations in Canada occur in Ontario.
Furthermore, more than 70 per cent of known human trafficking victims identified by police are under the age of 25 and 28 per cent are under 18. The average age of recruitment into sex trafficking is 13.
The new awareness resources and tools launched were developed with input from a roundtable discussion made up of survivors who share their perspectives on initiatives to combat human trafficking in Ontario.
Designed to provide innovative ways to engage youth in discussions about human trafficking, the new tool “The Trap” is a digital education tool designed to raise awareness about sex trafficking among middle and high school aged children.
This interactive tool provides the experience of what it feels like to be targeted and it features scenarios based on real-life experiences.
“Human trafficking is a serious crime that is on the rise across Ontario and we are committed to holding human traffickers accountable,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.
Furthermore, Jones explains that through building education and awareness of how human trafficking happens children and youth can be protected from predatory activity.
She adds: “These new tools are vital components of our government’s comprehensive plan to combat human trafficking, bring traffickers to justice and end this heinous crime.”
The educational tools complement the province’s updated Health and Physical Education curriculum for grades 1-8. The new curriculum implemented last September also equips children with important skills to help protect them selves against sex trafficking.
In addition to funding and launching new educational tools the Ministry of Education provided funding to White Ribbon – the largest movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls.
Funding will help create digital resources aligned with the provincial secondary school curriculum containing lesson plans to prevent child sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.
Victim Services of Huron County received $3,000 funding from the Ministry of Attorney General. These funds will be used for education and awareness initiatives as well as prevention strategies pertaining to human trafficking recruitment in the region.
“Traffickers prey on the vulnerabilities of others and manipulates those vulnerabilities to control and exploit the victim to follow their demands,” added Deborah Logue, executive director of Victim Services.
Social media is a breading ground for recruitment as many users do not have privacy settings high enough and share large amounts of personal information.
Logue added: “This is especially important for our youth to know and parents to be double-checking the sites their children are on as well as accepted friends that have access to information posted.”
Within 2020, from January to August, Huron County has supported three identified human trafficking survivors, but Logue said during the pandemic it has been difficult to seek support.
“We support seven survivors in 2019. We know there are many more unreported cases and individuals unable to seek support,” she said, while explaining that the rural area of Huron County follows the trend of the recruitment of victims, who are then moved to larger urban areas where there is potential to earn money in the trade.
According to Logue, Victim Services Huron have worked hard over the last few years to bring awareness on this subject to the community. She said rural sex trafficking can look different than urban areas and that, “it remains imperative that people understand that human trafficking does take place in smaller communities.”
During the last six months Victim Services had to adapt how preventative information was delivered due to the pandemic. This includes the ability to have in-person training sessions.
Victim Services continues to offer services to all of the schools in the area to ensure preventative information on what sextortion and human trafficking is, what a healthy relationship is, consent and cyber safety.
‘The Trap’: https://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/htapp/
Ontario’s anti-human trafficking strategy 2020-2025: https://www.ontario.ca/page/ontarios-anti-human-trafficking-strategy-2020-2025