March 10 was Manitoba Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Every year, thousands of Canadian families are affected by human trafficking, including many right here in Manitoba. What begins as a seemingly innocent conversation online or in person can become sinister and cause long-lasting trauma.
Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation and harbouring of persons for the purpose of exploitation, typically in the sex trade or forced labour. It is the fastest growing, third-most lucrative criminal enterprise globally, producing annual profits as high as $36 billion per year and affecting approximately 30 million people. This means more people are enslaved today than at any time in history. With 93 per cent of Canada’s sex-trafficking victims born in Canada and becoming involved at an average age of just 12 to 14 years old, sex trafficking happens in our own communities when traffickers target our children and grandchildren.
Trafficking victims are carefully ‘groomed’ either in-person, often by a perceived friend or boyfriend, or online via popular social media, where traffickers can reach as many as 100 children an hour. Using face-changing software to appear as teenagers, traffickers make their young victims feel comfortable and gain their trust in the hope that they will confide in them and share information about their lives, interests and location.
Once a relationship is established, victims are exploited through manipulation, fear, dependency, favours or debt bondage.
This is why, just a few months ago, the National Human Trafficking Education Centre opened right here in Winnipeg. An extension of the Joy Smith Foundation, this unique online hub offers educational resources to help Canadians both young and old understand and fight human trafficking.
Numerous courses are available for a variety of audiences and contexts, many are free, all are available at joysmithfoundation.com Know the signs, know the facts. Human trafficking is real and happens closer than we might think. Education is our greatest weapon as we work together to end human trafficking for good.
To receive help if you think you may be a victim of human trafficking, to report a suspected trafficking or to find out more information, visit http://www.joysmithfoundation. com or call 204-691-2455.
I would like to thank Cathy Cox (Kildonan- River East) for presenting this private member’s statement in the legislature while I was serving as acting speaker.
The National Human Trafficking Education Centre, an extension of the Joy Smith Foundation, recently opened in Winnipeg.