Canada recorded a record-high number of incidents of human trafficking in 2019, but an advocate for women and girls calls that number the “tip of the iceberg”.
New figures released by Statistics Canada on Tuesday show that the number of police incidents has increased by 44 percent over the previous year. More than 500 incidents occurred in 2019. The rate of 1.4 incidents per 100,000 people is also the highest since the data became available more than a decade ago. Human trafficking is a crime that mostly targets girls and young women. More than 1 in 5 are 17 or younger.
Although the numbers are significant, human trafficking is less frequent and more likely to occur.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” said Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women’s Center. “Most women or girls who are trafficked or sexually abused do not report to the police for several reasons.”
Ms. Walker said one of the main culprits could hear about the experience of other women who have reported to the police and worked through the criminal justice system, where they often resurface. She said that she hears women who ask why they did not just leave the situation, without understanding the situation they did not face.
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Ms. Walker said, “If those systemic issues can be addressed meaningfully that provide the necessary support for women to undergo this process, then the number reported to the police will be over 500.”
He said that 481 women and girls who were being trafficked in five years from 2015 to 2020 arrived at an event at the London Abused Women’s Center alone. “So we know that 500 is not really a number,” she said.
Although the latest figures may not represent the full picture, the 2019 number is an increase from previous years. The Statscan report suggests that although the change may be an increase in human trafficking, it may be the result of increased efforts to fight crime, and police may be better able to detect it.
“I believe the increase can be directly related to the education, awareness and great involvement that law enforcement, non-governmental organizations and advocates are making to combat this heinous crime,” RCMP’s Human-Trafficking Coordinator Corporal David Lane in Nova. Scotia said in an e-mail statement. “When we start to shed light on how these smugglers operate, it is more difficult for them to hide.”
Julia Drydick, executive director of Canada’s Center for End Human Trafficking, said the new data shows the need for more support.
“A trauma-informed approach to dealing with human trafficking and increased access to services empowered many victims of human trafficking to report their condition, seek available help, and come forward to overcome the devastating effects of trafficking Is, “Ms. Dryduck said in an e-mail. “This growth shows that the services of the victims must be in place to help the victims be prepared to get out of the human trafficking situation.”
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