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Human Trafficking Awareness Day

On February 22, 2018, Ontario’s Provincial Anti-Human Trafficking Coordination Office launched its first Human Trafficking Awareness Day. And this year – in 2020 – there is advocacy to recognize this day nationally. At Restorations Second Stage Homes, we use the opportunity to highlight a variety of other awareness days throughout the year to address issues or topics that intersect with human trafficking. However, having a national day dedicated specifically to the awareness of human trafficking is important for the following reasons: 

1.     Naming and addressing issues in our own country, region and communities

When I speak in public settings about human trafficking, I still receive surprised comments like “human trafficking doesn’t happen in Canada!” I say this without judgement, though, because this was one of my first thoughts when I was first expanding upon my own understanding of modern-day slavery. Many still think of slavery as a historical travesty, something that was addressed during the abolitionist movement in the 1800’s. However, the Global Slavery Index estimates that there are over 40 million people who are victims of modern-day slavery.

Modern-day slavery is happening in Canada. We are not immune from this global travesty. We have statistics to prove that it is happening in our country, but because of underreporting, ongoing misunderstanding of what trafficking looks like in this country, and the hidden nature of this crime, the statistics we have are only a glimpse of the reality in our communities. The Global Slavery Index states that “on any given day in 2016 there were 17,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Canada.”

A national awareness day gives us the opportunity to hold up a mirror and take a good look at the way our country is contributing towards the global concern of slavery and human trafficking

2.     Addressing myths and misconceptions

We still have a long way to go to understand exactly what human trafficking looks like in our communities. When I speak in public settings about human trafficking, I typically spend most of my time combatting misconceptions about what trafficking is, misunderstandings like: 

  • Only women and girls are trafficked
  • Human trafficking only happens in large urban cities
  • Human trafficking only happens in the “sketchy” or “seedier” parts of our cities where we can better imagine this type of crime happening
  • Human trafficking and human smuggling are the same things
  • Human trafficking only happens to at-risk youth
  • Drug and substance addictions is always a factor
  • It’s easy for victims to get help if they really wanted to leave
  • Only sex trafficking happens in Canada

Human trafficking is a complex issue (and I encourage you to read other Do Justice posts about human trafficking to learn more about the nuances and complexities), and a national awareness day would give a bigger platform for people to learn more about what human trafficking really looks like in our communities and in our country.

3.     Highlighting the important work being done

There are incredible organizations across the country working to address human trafficking including raising awareness and providing education, developing prevention efforts, supporting and serving victims and survivors, and advocating for positive change. In recent years, increased funding has been provided by municipal, provincial, and federal governments to address trafficking. However, in other ways, funding has also been cut from agencies who regularly work with trafficked individuals and those at risk of being trafficked.

Organizations and agencies need greater support to better address issues of human trafficking and support those who have suffered from this crime or are at risk of being trafficked. A national awareness day would allow for organizations to highlight the unique efforts they are making to address trafficking issues and garner greater financial support from their communities and stakeholders. 

“I’ll tell you what it really means to worship the Lord. Remove the chains of prisoners who are chained unjustly. Free those who are abused. …

Then your light will shine in the dark; your darkest hour will be like the noonday sun.” 

Isaiah 58:6, 10 (CEV)

As it says in our Action Alert calling for support for a national awareness day: 

“As the church, we are called to be light by standing with people who are marginalized and vulnerable - the same people who are targeted for exploitation. This includes refugee claimants in a foreign country without a way to support themselves, homeless youth, children in care, and too many Indigenous women living with the effects of intergenerational trauma. Let’s stand against this injustice and this evil that devastates lives.”

This week, as we head into Ontario’s Human Trafficking Awareness Day on February 22 (and, hopefully, one day, Canada’s National Human Trafficking Awareness Day), what will you do to commemorate this day?

Some suggestions: 
  • Pray for those affected by modern-day slavery including victims and survivors, perpetrators and exploiters, the justice system, and those at risk of being targeted for trafficking. 
  • Explore the ways you are complicit in global slavery.
  • Learn more about trafficking.
  • Use the sharing function at the top of this article (or one of the articles you find from the “learn more” link above!) to share on social media. When sharing, consider also sharing what moves you about this particular topic – make it personal! 
  • Donate to an organization working to address human trafficking.
  • Ask your MP to support a National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Canada.

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