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Justice… On Every Occasion

February 22 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Canada. (In the United States, January 11 is dedicated to addressing human trafficking.)

After much advocacy for its existence, members of Parliament unanimously agreed on the motion to adopt the day just last year, making this year the second annual awareness day. Awareness days provide an amplified platform and opportunity to highlight issues of great importance and concern. 

Why, then, am I using this opportunity to highlight other issues and awareness days on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day? 

Human trafficking is complex in that so many contributing factors, issues, and concerns lend to its existence. There are many root causes and intersecting issues that contribute to the ability for human trafficking to disrupt the lives of individuals and communities. (I wrote about some of the intersecting topics in a blog post a couple of years ago leading up to a federal election).

As we recognize National Human Trafficking Awareness day, I invite you to do what you can to participate in opportunities where you can learn and share information about the complexities of human trafficking. And by learning about some of the intersecting issues, you’ll be able to engage with and share about this issue not just on February 22, but many times throughout the year.

Gender Equality and Gender-based Violence

Human trafficking is a form of gender-based violence and disproportionately affects women and girls around the world and in our own communities. 

  • In Canada, approximately 95% of human trafficking victims were women and girls. 

  • Globally, approximately 92% of victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation are female.

  • Globally, for every 10 victims of human trafficking of all forms (e.g. labour, sex, etc.), about 5 are adult women and 2 are girls.

Days of awareness relating to gender equality and gender-based violence: 

March 8: International Women’s Day
October 11: International Day of the Girl Child
November 25: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (also the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence)
December 6: National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women (Canada)


If we wish to address human trafficking, it is crucial that we recognize the importance of amplifying efforts for gender equality and addressing issues of gender-based violence.

Indigenous Justice

Indigenous women and girls are at higher risk of being exploited and trafficked, stemming from the legacies of colonialism, racism, residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, and other injustices towards Indigenous peoples. There is a high rate of Indigenous women and girls trafficked and sexually exploited in Canada (some statistics suggest at least 50%) despite the fact that Indigenous people make up a small percentage of the Canadian population (about 4.9% including men and boys). Human trafficking is one form of violence against Indigenous women and girls, intersecting with the broader concern of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). 

Days of awareness relating to Indigenous justice:

June 21: Indigenous Peoples’ Day (Canada)
September 30: Orange Shirt Day or National Truth and Reconciliation Day
October 4: National Day of Action for Mission and Murdered Indigeous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQ+ people (Canada)
October 10: Indigenous Peoples’ Day (United States)


In the spirit of truth and reconciliation, we can acknowledge the long history of injustices towards Indigenous women and girls and amplify concerns for how human trafficking disproportionately affects this demographic. 

Climate Justice 

The United Nations identifies climate change as a factor that “exacerbate[s] the vulnerabilities and desperation that enable trafficking to flourish.” This is because climate change is directly linked to an increase of global climate concerns like droughts, water shortages, rising water levels and flooding, and intensified storms. These climate events can ultimately lead to an increase in poverty, political instability, displacement and migration. Natural disasters displace many people who are left vulnerable. The 2017 Global Report on Internal Displacement states that there were “24.2 million new displacements by disasters brought on by sudden-onset natural hazards in 118 countries and territories in 2016.” That year, displacement due to natural disasters was three times more than the rate of displacement due to conflict and violence.

In the wake of natural disasters when people are left more vulnerable, traffickers are more easily able to identify individuals to exploit. Human trafficking flourishes in the chaos and desperation left behind after natural disasters strike.

Days of awareness relating to climate justice:

April 22: Earth Day
June 5: World Environment Day

Caring about God’s creation includes caring for the earth and for people. When we address climate concerns, we are being proactive in caring for people and preventing harm to God’s creation. 

Migration and Refugees

The UNHCR reports that at least 82.4 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced at the end of 2020. (This is a 11.6 million person increase since I last addressed this intersecting issue in 2019!) Out of this number, 26.4 million people are refugees.

Displaced people face precarious realities like lack of housing, economic instability, war and violence, trauma, disrupted support systems, and food insecurity - all vulnerabilities that can be preyed upon by traffickers. A trafficker might appear as someone providing assistance with migration - documented or undocumented - and a dispaced person or family who is desperate for a safer life is incredibly vulnerable to the deception of a manipulative trafficker. Refugees who are awaiting resettlement or who have recently settled in a new country face social and economic challenges that leave them vulnerable to being exploited and trafficked. 

Days of awareness relating to migration and refugees:
June 20: World Refugee Day
December 18: International Migrants Day

Migrants and refugees face enormous challenges. Many migrate to flee violence. Their challenges often leave them vulnerable to further violence and exploitation. May we work to provide communities of care and belonging.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

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