Human Trafficking

Human trafficking means making someone do something (exploitation) by using force, coercion, deception, fraud, or threats. Exploitation can take the form of forced labour, forced sexual service, or both. In Canada, human trafficking is a criminal offense.

Human trafficking has three parts to it:

  • Recruiting, transporting, sheltering, or receiving people so that they can be exploited
  • The person or people are controlled by someone else: for example, through force, coercion, fraud, threats or deception
  • The person (or people) are forced into providing a service or type of work.

Human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation involves forcing, coercing, deceiving or threatening someone to provide sexual services. The trafficker benefits from the services provided – for example, they get money or other valuables from it.

Human trafficking is not the same thing as providing sex work for pay. It is a misconception that sex work is a kind of sexual exploitation, or that all people who do sex work for pay are trafficked victims. Learn more about how sex work differs from human trafficking.

Who does sexual trafficking affect?

Sexual exploitation through human trafficking is a crime that affects women, girls, trans and gender-diverse people more than others.

Some groups, like youth, people living with poverty, isolated people, and Indigenous people, can become more vulnerable to sexual trafficking. This is because these groups are seen by traffickers as having less supports and resources available to them:

“Some of the factors that make someone more vulnerable [to trafficking] are social (e.g., gender inequality, history of colonial exploitation, poverty, lack of access to education, restrictive immigration policies resulting in forced migration), economic (e.g., supply and demand for labour in many sectors, low risk – high reward for perpetrators), and political in nature (e.g., wars and other situations resulting in displaced persons/refugees). Results include increased economic vulnerability, isolation and forced displacement, all of which contribute to the push and pull factors underpinning human trafficking.” (The Learning Network. Trafficking at the Intersections: Racism, Colonialism, Sexism, and Exploitation in Canada. Learning Network Brief 36.)

Risk is created when you don’t have enough money to survive, a safe place to live, or a community that you are connected to.

People without these everyday kinds of supports are more likely to get trapped in jobs or relationships that are exploitative because they have few options.

How can we prevent trafficking?

We can reduce the risk of sexual trafficking by:

  • Increasing awareness about sexual violence
  • Increasing awareness about sexual exploitation and human trafficking: for example, you can become aware of the tactics and practices used by traffickers
  • Increasing awareness about healthy relationships, as well as unhealthy relationship “red flags”
  • Telling people about their sexual, workplace and human rights
  • Holding up workplace and human rights in our communities

We can also prevent sexual trafficking by:

  • Working to end childhood abuse, including childhood sexual abuse: studies show that many people who are sexually trafficked have past experiences of childhood abuse (World Health Organization)
  • Working to end poverty in our communities
  • Having more safe and affordable housing in our communities
  • Having more community supports for people struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, including harm reduction supports
  • Making access to social support systems easier. This can include: access to community services, supportive programs and groups for isolated people; outreach to isolated people; helping community leaders, friends and family members to know how to help someone who discloses sexual violence or other kinds of abuse
  • Increasing social supports, such as community services and programs, for vulnerable or isolated people in our communities
  • Improving the criminal justice system’s response to survivors of sexual violence and sexual trafficking