Sex trafficking is one of the fastest-growing and most profitable crimes worldwide. It is predatory and damaging to victims, survivors, their families and communities. Action by schools, families and community partners will help prevent, identify and recognize sex trafficking to act quickly to ensure appropriate interventions.
Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline (available in a number of languages). Support is available 24/7 at 1-833-900-1010.
Resources for Students and Families
What is sex trafficking?
Sex trafficking is a form of sexual exploitation and is a crime in Canada. It can include recruiting, harbouring, transporting, obtaining or providing a person for the purpose of sex. It involves the use of force, physical or psychological manipulation or deception. Most individuals who are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation are women and girls, but all genders may be targeted. For additional information please see Ministry of Education Policy Program Memorandum 166.
How do sex traffickers lure children and youth?
- Traffickers approach and groom vulnerable children and youth by fulfilling their unmet needs – such as love, affection, a sense of belonging and other basic needs like housing or food security – and/or by using threats, physical violence and control.
- Traffickers can use different ways, such as becoming friends with youth online and luring/hooking them through promises of love, friendship, money, fame and more.
- Youth can come from rural communities to bigger cities or can be trafficked within their own cities.
Why are some students at risk?
- Systemic racism and discrimination have led to a higher number of Indigenous and Black children and youth in care than other populations being targeted.
- Indigenous peoples are especially vulnerable to sex trafficking due to historic and ongoing systemic discrimination, including intergenerational trauma resulting from residential schools.
- Language barriers, isolation, economic disadvantage, or a lack of community and social supports may leave newcomer youth with increased vulnerability to trafficking.
- Students with disabilities may experience bullying and isolation in addition to having difficulty understanding the intentions of others.
- Students who are LGBTQ2S+ experience high rates of bullying, assaults and sexual abuse, and they may face isolation and experience homelessness if they are rejected from their family or the community.
Why the urgency to act?
- Ontario had the most police-reported incidents of human trafficking in the country occurring within the province in 2019.
- Due to our geographic location, transportation links, and socio-demographic factors, human trafficking is a major concern within our DSB1 catchment area.
- Students are spending more time online on different social media platforms that traffickers may use to recruit students.
- The average age of recruitment into sex trafficking in Canada being 13 years old, school-aged children and youth are prime targets for traffickers for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
What are some facts and myths about sex trafficking?
- Sex trafficking happens in most major cities in Canada. Ontario is a hub.
- Many youth are lured in with false promises of security, love and acceptance.
- Many victims do not have prior addictions, nor are they working in the sex industry prior to exploitation.
- Trafficking affects more females, but boys and men are also trafficked.
- Although males make up the larger part of traffickers, 30 per cent of offenders have been found to be women.
- Only females are trafficked.
- Only men can be traffickers.
- Sex trafficking only happens in less developed countries.
How do I protect my child from risks presented online?
- Cyber-safety is about setting clear expectations with your child around online use. Students need to be made aware of the risks of certain apps and how to protect themselves from unwanted contact, as well, as who to turn to when they suspect they may be at risk.
- Families and schools are encouraged to continue to work together to educate students about both the positive and negative potentials of the internet, including the harmful effects of violent sexually explicit images.
- Popular social media platforms (e.g. Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, POF, sugar daddy websites) are new ways traffickers target their victims.
What are some of the possible signs that a student is being trafficked?
- Drop in grades
- Withdrawal from social activities
- A noticeable change in behaviour (e.g., Is tense/hyper vigilant, nervous or anxious)
- Change in attire/expensive clothing
- Change in lingo (e.g. ‘telly time’ or ‘being in the game’)
- Carries one or more cells phones with blocked/private phone numbers
- Makes references to boyfriend (often older) as “daddy” or self as “mama or baby”
- Increased drug/alcohol use
What can I do as a parent or guardian to support my child if you suspect or they have disclosed they have been trafficked?
Be a supportive listener by:
- Listening to your child without judgement or blame.
- Trying to understand some of the choices your child makes and the pressures they are experiencing, even if you don't understand them.
- Being aware of and softening your body language.
- Using their language e.g. if they say “boyfriend,” use this term.
- Letting them take the lead in sharing, avoid leading the conversation.
- Contact your child’s Principal with your concerns.
- Look for organizations in your community that have outreach programs.
What supports will be provided to students who disclose that they have been trafficked?
The DSB Ontario North East has created a protocol for school to help students who disclose that they have been or are being trafficked are supported and have access to appropriate resources (i.e. school social worker, community agencies). The goal is to keep the student safe, both physically and emotionally.
Students may also use the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline (available in a number of languages) to receive 24/7 support at 1-833-900-1010.
What is the DSB1 doing to educate and raise awareness in the system?
- DSB1 is working with community partners to develop required training for staff to learn about sex trafficking and next steps if a students has shared they are being trafficked.
- A protocol has been created for teachers and administrators when supporting students who have shared that they are or have been trafficked.
- Curriculum-based learning about healthy relationships, consent, mental health and well-being, coping skills, personal safety and online safety, particularly in elementary and secondary.
- Physical and Health Education classes will support students in raising awareness about sex trafficking.
- DSB1 is building relationships with community partners to support families, educators and students in the classroom (e.g. evening presentations, professional learning, class presentations).
Where can I find out information about the new Ministry of Education policy?
The Keeping Students Safe policy – the first of its kind for an education sector in Canada – sets a strong ground work for Ontario school boards to build upon to create local anti-sex trafficking protocols. This new policy will ensure every school board has a plan in place to protect students and school communities to play a key role in fighting sex trafficking and keeping children and youth safe from sexual exploitation. From Policy Program Memorandum 166.
What is DSB1's Anti-Sex Trafficking Protocol?
Reach out to these community partners for more information.