Advocates call for national anti-human trafficking hotline

TORONTO, Sept. 19, 2017 – Advocates for human trafficking victims are calling on the federal government to help establish a Canada-wide hotline to connect victims to critical support services and help law enforcement better combat this heinous crime.

Covenant House Toronto, among the country’s few agencies providing comprehensive services to young, sex trafficking victims, and The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking (CCTEHT) have taken their campaign to the Prime Minister’s office.

“While the federal government has taken steps to combat trafficking, we are urging the Trudeau government to take a leadership role in establishing a vital resource that is accessible and available for all victims across Canada,” Bruce Rivers, Covenant House’s executive director said. “We are committed to do more for victims and promote prevention and early intervention. A national hotline would be invaluable in furthering the fight against trafficking.”

Sex trafficking is the most common form of human trafficking in Canada. It is primarily domestic in nature and a growing public issue. Most victims are female, Canadian citizens, on average they are aged 17, and can be as young as 13. While homeless youth are at high risk of being trafficked, victims may be lured from local malls, schoolyards or online by traffickers who often pose as potential boyfriends. Once ensnared, traffickers subject their victims to the horrors of forced prostitution.

“Canada is the only country in North America that currently lacks a national hotline for trafficking victims”, Barbara Gosse, CCTEHT chief executive officer said. A tested model has been operating in the U.S. for almost a decade and has recently been implemented in both Mexico and the United Kingdom. This model has identified more than 50,000 cases, has provided one of the largest databases on human trafficking globally and, has identified over 20 different types of human trafficking operations.

Establishing a national toll-free hotline through a partnership between government, service agencies and police would:

  • Assist victims and families with 24/7 support and connect them to service referrals using a national network of agencies.
  • Equip stakeholders like police and governments on all levels to target anti-human trafficking efforts and resources.
  • Expand security in Canada by serving as the go-to tip-line and general resource for all Canadians, while raising the profile of trafficking through data analysis and information sharing.

Currently there is no national data collection mechanism in Canada to capture comparable statistics on human trafficking, nor are individual police services required to report incidents to a centralized agency. A national hotline would help put in place this critical process and make valuable information available for proactive action. The National Action Plan Combatting Human Trafficking expired in Spring 2016, and to date, there is no other strategy to address this crime.