Opinion

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Human Trafficking Awareness Day is February 22

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Human Trafficking Awareness Day is February 22. What does it have to do with Oxford County? #rightthing

When you hear about human trafficking do you think, wow that is truly horrible. Such a thing would never be allowed or tolerated in Oxford County? Clearly it is a crime that only happens overseas and in the United States? If those are or have been your thoughts, that is okay. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know until it is explained to us.

To be very clear, human trafficking “is slavery in the modern age. Every year thousands of people, mainly women and children, are exploited by criminals who use them for forced labor or the sex trade. No country is immune. Almost all play a part, either as a source of trafficked people, transit point or destination.” - United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

Many people still do not see just how prevalent this issue is, not only in Canada in general but right here in Ontario. Ontario is a major centre for human trafficking in Canada, accounting for roughly 69 per cent of police-reported cases nationally in 2015. In Ontario, approximately 70 per cent of known cases of human trafficking are related to sexual exploitation.

Given the proximity to the Hwy 401 corridor alone makes some areas of Oxford County prime spots for human sex-trafficking. Women and girls are taken from hotel to hotel on the highway, often without knowing what city they are in, and forced to have sex. The statistics are that 50 per cent of victims are between 18 and 24, and 25 per cent are under 18.

In 2017, a neighbouring police department reported that during a ‘John sting’ which is conducted in hopes of catching men buying sex from trafficked women, they get 50 to 70 people in an hour trying to arrange dates. Seriously! That many in one hour. And that is just in this area of Ontario. With numbers like this there can be no doubt that there is a very real need to do something to help end this crime and to find ways to help the victims themselves.

Bringing awareness to any issue is certainly one of the best ways to help. The Human Trafficking Awareness Day Act 2017 proclaimed Feb. 22 of each year as Human Trafficking Awareness Day. This day will be an opportunity to not only condemn, but to shine light on the severity and prevalence of human trafficking, and help everyone to identify and report potential trafficking incidents when they see them.

I believe that once the greater public becomes aware then they are more likely to also become engaged. And how might that happen? To begin, learn more about the issue; become aware of the indicators of human trafficking, the vulnerabilities, grooming and luring practices used by traffickers. Speak Up! Become an advocate for those who are exploited in the commercial sex industry. If you suspect this is happening in your community or to someone you know, call police, crime stoppers or a sexual assault line.

Linda Armstrong,

Coordinator/Public Educator,

Oxford Domestic Assault Review Team (DART)