Human Trafficking Trends In Canada Today

Author: Bailea Tayler


As we emerge from the depths of the pandemic, it is becoming clear that more than COVID-19 has rapidly plagued our world. Throughout the pandemic, sexual exploitation has spread across the globe with more force and has become more invisible. Human trafficking is a violation of human rights and a cruel reality for thousands of people worldwide. Studies have found that emergency situations, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, create heightened vulnerability to human trafficking and gender-based violence and impact the ability of countries to address the crime and adequately protect victims and survivors effectively. 

Trafficking in persons can be expressed in several ways. According to the government of Canada, it involves the recruitment, transportation, harbouring, and/or control of persons’ movement for exploitation. The three major categories for human trafficking are sex trafficking, labour trafficking, and trafficking for organ removal.

With strained resources and isolation, victims and survivors have significantly decreased access to safety and support. The 2020 OSCE human trafficking COVID-19 report found that human trafficking disproportionately affects women, with 72% of all victims detected worldwide being female. Additionally, trafficking for sexual exploitation represents the majority of all detected trafficking cases and generates two-thirds of the global profits from trafficking (OSCE, 2020). 

As governments and agencies work toward meaningful response, some considerations intensify conditions of vulnerability for victims of trafficking and survivors. The effective recovery processes of survivors depend on their ability to receive long-term support that fits their specific needs; this is what NSM works to do. As an organization, NSM’s work centers around creating safe access to services and long-term support through immediate housing and long-term after-care programs and partners to support the healing and recovery of survivors.

Economic Conditions That Exacerbate the Issue 

1. Demand and Financial Incentive 

Sexual exploitation is a financially motivated crime. It is also the most economically profitable form of trafficking globally. 

With generated income increasing from $32 billion in 2005 to $99 billion in 2014, it is evident that the financial incentives of sex trafficking have not been adequately addressed. Therefore, addressing the demand that cultivates a space for sexual exploitation to exist is vital. The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) calls state parties to “take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.” In alignment with CEDAW, demand must be understood expansively to address sex trafficking effectively. 

2. Poverty 

Perpetual poverty can often be a traumatic experience and exposes an individual to vulnerability and socio-economic danger. Those who find themselves living in poverty for any reason are in a particularly vulnerable position. A trafficker knows how to capitalize on situations of economic dependency and coerce a woman or child into a job that exposes them to risk and sexual exploitation.  

Canada’s National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking (2020-21 Report) 

Human trafficking affects the most left behind and marginalized. In Canada, this issue disproportionately impacts Indigenous women, migrants and immigrants, and people living with disabilities, among others. As part of Canada’s National Strategy, the government has integrated five pillars to combat human trafficking domestically. Empowerment, prevention, protection, prosecutions, and partnerships.

As an organization, NSM focuses its efforts on four of these five pillars – empowerment, prevention, protection, and partnership. Victims and survivors of human trafficking require a wide range of support and services that address their specific needs and assist them in their recovery and healing. 

The pandemic has particularly affected the vulnerability of children to trafficking, especially online. In Canada, 21% of reported victims were girls below the age of 18, and 43% of victims were young women aged 18 to 24. Just over one-fifth (22%) of victims were women aged 25 to 34. Human trafficking continues to be a rampant crime against human rights in Canada and across the globe. The pandemic has made it harder to detect incidents and has left victims struggling to obtain help and access to justice. Furthermore, the economic downturn has amplified existing socio-economic disadvantages for at-risk populations, making them more susceptible to sex and labour trafficking. 

How You Can Help Today!  

  • Be an advocate in your everyday life. Bring awareness to your social spheres!  
  • Be a friend to someone who is alone and vulnerable 
  • Host a fundraiser 
  • Volunteer with a local anti-trafficking organization 
  • Donate to an organization that works on the front lines 

NSM is committed to increasing its capacity to serve the needs of survivors and advocate with them in allyship for protection and equitable access to social and economic life. Each survivor is important and deserves empowerment, justice, redemption, and healing. That is why we incorporate a trauma-informed lens into our work and have a person-centered approach. At NSM, we work towards meaningful collaborative partnerships with like-minded organizations to provide a continuum of care for survivors.