Human trafficking

...right here in Durham Region!

Watch the Human Trafficking in Durham Region Awareness Video

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is a crime and human rights abuse that’s sometimes called “modern day slavery.” Traffickers control people in many ways, including psychological manipulation, emotional abuse, lies, addiction, threats, violence, isolation, and taking control of ID/documents and money. Because this treatment can cause severe trauma, survivors often need intensive, specialized services and supports to rebuild their lives. Sometimes human trafficking is confused with human smuggling (across borders). In reality, most of the people trafficked in Ontario are girls and women who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents. While human trafficking is a vastly under-reported crime, Ontario is a major centre for human trafficking in Canada, with about two-thirds of reported cases arising in Ontario.

Signs to look for:

Organizations that work to end human trafficking have identified a number of signs that may point to human trafficking:

>    The person is not allowed to speak for themselves and their activities are controlled by someone else.

>    The person is under 18 and involved in prostitution or sex work.

>    The person is unpaid or paid very little to work, and seems to be treated poorly (long or unusual hours, not allowed breaks, forced to live in poor conditions, etc.).

>    The person is repaying a large debt through labour or sex.

>    The person seems fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid. They may avoid eye contact, seem fearful around police, etc.

>    The person shows signs of abuse, such as bruising, cigarette burns, fractures, etc.

>    The person has tattooing or branding symbols, particularly names.

>    The person doesn’t have their own things or money, and doesn’t control their own passport or other documents.

>    The person seems malnourished or lacks medical care.

>    The person is moved frequently and may not know their surroundings well.

>    The person has been reported missing.

Myths about human trafficking

Myth: Human trafficking is an international crime

that involves sneaking someone across a border.
FACT: Human trafficking is sometimes confused with human smuggling, but in reality it may or may not involve moving someone across a border. In most reported cases of human trafficking in Ontario, the person trafficked is from Canada and is recruited within Canada.


Myth: Human trafficking happens in

developing countries, not in places like Ontario.
FACT: Human trafficking occurs throughout the world, including here. According to the RCMP, there have been 269 cases in Ontario since 2005 where human trafficking specific charges were laid.  Since human trafficking is an underreported crime, the actual number of cases is likely much larger.


Myth: Sex trafficking can only happen to people

who use drugs or have other serious risk factors.
FACT: While some groups have been identified as at-risk, there are also cases in which no known risk factors are present. In those cases, traffickers often target very young people and may build trust during a "grooming" period before exploitation begins.


Myth: If a person isn’t kept locked up

or in chains they can always just leave.
FACT: Some people who are trafficked are controlled and monitored constantly and don’t have the opportunity to ask for help. Others may not realize or acknowledge what is happening to them or that it is a crime. In some cases, they may fear their trafficker or law enforcement too much to risk seeking help. They may also be manipulated to believe that the trafficker is the only person who cares about them and that they are best off staying with their trafficker.

Who is at risk?

>    Most people who are trafficked for sex are women and girls,
but boys, men and people who are LGBTQ’S are also targeted.

>    The age of recruitment is as low as 12 or 13.

>    Homeless and marginalized youth are targeted by sex traffickers.

>    Youth who struggle with low self-esteem, bullying, discrimination, poverty, abuse, isolation and other social or family issues may be targeted.

>    Indigenous women and girls are especially likely to be trafficked.

>    Addiction, mental health issues and developmental disabilities are also risk factors.

>   Schools

>   Malls

>   Libraries

>   Group homes




>   Bus Stops

>   Parties at Hotels

>   On-line social media

The recruitment “grooming” process

Sex traffickers often recruit and groom people for trafficking by becoming a trusted friend or boyfriend. Possible signs that someone is being groomed for sex trafficking include changes such as:

>    Withdrawing from family and friends

>    Being secretive about their activities

>    Having a new boyfriend, girlfriend or friend who they won’t introduce to friends and family

>    Suddenly spending time with an older person or people

>    Staying out more often and later

>    Absences from school or a decline in school performance

>    Wearing more sexualized clothing

>    Having new clothing, jewelry etc. that they can’t afford to buy

>    Suddenly having a new or second cell phone with a secret number

HT facts:

>    Sex traffickers often control every aspect of the person’s life: when they eat and sleep, what they wear, who they talk to, etc.

>    Most often, sex traffickers purposely develop a bond with the person they are trafficking, in order to manipulate them and  make them believe they are better off staying than leaving. For this and other reasons, the trafficked person may fear and resist police intervention.

>    It can be very difficult for a survivor to leave a trafficking situation. It can take several attempts before they are able to find assistance.

>    Language like “pimping,” “the game” and “the life” is sometimes used when talking about sex trafficking.

>    Sex trafficking is different from consensual sex work – in trafficking situations, the trafficker is in control.

>    A person can be trafficked anywhere, including in their home community.

>    When a person under 18 is advertised for sex, it is a criminal offence – legally no one under the age of 18 years old can consent to engaging in sex work.

>    People who are being trafficked, as well as people who come into contact with them, may not know or understand that a crime is taking place.

You can help stop it before it starts.

HT is happening
in Durham Region.

Below is a list of partners that form stopHT (The Durham Region Human Trafficking Coaltion). Please take a moment and review the list to learn the services each of our partners offers. You can play a vital role in stopping human trafficking it before it starts.

Steering Committee Members:

Durham Regional Police Service

The DRPS Human Trafficking Unit is dedicated to conducting criminal investigations to hold the individuals that are involved in these serious crimes accountable and also to provide immediate support to the victims of human trafficking through our many community partnerships which includes the Human Trafficking Coalition.


SafeHope Home

SafeHope Home offers a unique and comprehensive long term recovery program for young women and their children.  Our commitment to every young woman who has escaped the sex trade is 3 to 7 years.  During this time the women receive housing & childcare service, counseling, recover, life skills & job preparedness classes, job shadowing & on-the-job training.


Set Free Durham

Set Free Durham is a group made up volunteers from various churches across Durham Region specifically designed to combat Human Trafficking through education and awareness.  We hope to mobilize the Church of Durham to action and to use their passion, gifts, skills, and resources in putting an end to this exploitation.


Victim Services Durham

Victim Services provides survivors of human trafficking crisis response, access to funds for immediate needs, case management, advocacy, court support, brief counselling and connection to longer term service needs. We provide prevention and intervention trainings to communities stakeholders such as law enforcement, service providers, teachers, young people, etc.


Victim Witness Assistance Program,

Ministry of the Attorney General

VWAP offers assistance and support to victims of crime as they are involved in the Criminal Justice System. Victims of: Sexual assault, child physical and sexual abuse, elder abuse, hate crimes, domestic violence, human trafficking, guns and gangs, homicides, criminal harassment.  Supports include: Crisis intervention and emotional support; Needs assessments and referrals; Court orientation, preparation and accompaniment; Advocacy; Court orders and court updates.  We work closely with the Crown’s office and HT police unit and provide these services to victims of HT.



Coalition Members:

Bethesda House

Bethesda House provides a wide range of services to women, youth and children living with issues of domestic violence, elder abuse, human trafficking, sexual violence and familial violence. We provide shelter, support and advocacy to abused women, with and without children, by offering temporary, secure accommodation and woman-based counselling empowering them to make their own choices and exercise their right to live free from fear and violence.


CAREA Community Health Centre

In line with the CHC Model of Health and Wellbeing, we support survivors by providing holistic care, support, and wraparound services that empower clients to improve their health and wellness.  Some of our services for survivors include comprehensive primary care, youth outreach, dietitian support, yoga fitness through health promotion, etc.


Catholic Family Services of Durham

We work with Victims of Human trafficking in Durham region, providing counseling and trauma therapy.  We strive to provide a specialized and timely response to these victims. We are providing trauma therapy to HT survivors.  We also encounter parents and teens during our intake process who are being groomed or are worried about their child being groomed for HT.


Durham Children’s Aid Society

Durham Children’s Aid Society is responsible for providing child protection services to children and youth under the age of 18, and their families, who live in Durham Region. We have become increasingly aware of sex trafficking in the Durham Region and are committed to working alongside our community partners to assist youth and families facing this concern.


Durham Mental Health Services

Durham Mental Health Services (DMHS) is a charitable not-for-profit agency providing services and supports to individuals and families who are living with mental health concerns.  Through community resources and involvement with the Human Trafficking Coalition we gather information and share internally within our agency so staff members are aware. Knowledge, information and resources are shared with clients who may be affected by Human Trafficking.


Durham Rape Crisis Centre

We offer free individual and group counselling, advocacy, and accompaniment, for up to a maximum of 16 sessions to women 16 years and older, who have experienced any form of sexual violence, including historical and recent sexual assault. We work from a client centered, trauma informed perspective, and work closely with many other community agencies.  Over the years we have worked with a number of young women who have identified as having being trafficked or exploited.



DRIVEN provides access to multiple services at one location for women dealing with gender-based violence. DRIVEN supports women who have experienced/ are experiencing human trafficking by providing access to various supports at one location in order to have a multitude of needs met.  We connect women to our on-site partners, who are available to provide direct service, as well as our off-site partners who we help women to connect to over the phone.


Herizon House

Herizon House provides services to women & their children who are fleeing violence and abuse.  We offer an emergency shelter as well as Outreach counselling support as well as a transitional housing support program.  For women experiencing human trafficking we work to support her to access and connect with resources she is interested in working with.  We work from a harm reduction approach and attempt to work with women where they are at in regards.



Lakeridgehealth is a 5 hospital system serving Durham Region. We provide counselling and therapy for sexual assault and domestic violence. Our services are OHIP covered.  Our hospital has child and Youth Program for adolescents 10-18 with mental illness. We provide assessments, treatment, consultations, collaborate extremely closely with our community partners and work as a multi-disciplinary team.  We have had several patients who have/are involved  with Human Trafficking.

Murray Mckinnon Foundation.

Murray McKinnon has several different locations. 3 in Oshawa and  1 in Millbrook. Male (Oshawa) and female (Millbrook) open custody, Supportive Reintegration housing for males and the Attendance Center  which houses both Attendance Counsellors an Independent Study Program and Reintegration Support Outreach Workers. All programs are probation mandated.  Working with some of the most vulnerable population in Oshawa, young females and males often fall victim to exploitation to meet a need; either to feed a drug habit, to make money or to just feel wanted by someone.


Niijkiwendidaa Anishnaabekwewag

Services Circle

We provide supports for Indigenous women and their families who have, are at risk of or are experiencing violence. We encounter and respond to clients who have been involved as victims of human trafficking by providing supports (usually counselling, referrals, advocacy and accompaniment to court).  We are not usually the first point of contact.  However, we have several youth in care through our AYIT, and so we are working to do a lot of prevention work so that we will not being seeing them on the other side of the equation.


Region of Durham Social Services,

Income and Employment Supports Division

Ontario Works funding assists with basic needs and shelter costs to those who financially qualify for the program. Ontario Works is often the first point of contact for abuse victims.  We provide timely services and will assist with direct links to all relevant community resources, regardless of eligibility. Our representation on the Human Trafficking Coalition ensures that our staff are sensitive, well trained, informed, resourceful and highly responsive to the needs of HT victims and survivors.


Women's Multicultural Resource and

Counselling Centre of Durham (WMRCC)

WMRCC of Durham provides supportive counselling, programs and services to women, youth and children from diverse backgrounds with lived experiences of violence and abuse. The organization also provides settlement and integration programs to newcomers and immigrants, including programs for women's entrepreneurs.  In regards to HT we work in community collaboration with the Western University Learning Network and other organizations, one on one counselling, workshop and public education awareness campaign.


Youth Justice Services, The Ministry

of Children and Youth Services (MCYS)

MCYS has a mandate that includes the detention, incarceration and community supervision of young persons aged 12 to 17 at the time of offence.  We work to provide a continuum of rehabilitative programs addressing criminogenic-risk factors, in partnership with the community to reduce youth re-offending rates and meet public safety and young person reintegration needs.  We have clients that are supervised by Probation Officers that are directly involved at various levels in Human Trafficking. We are very invested to contribute towards a better solution for our clients and our community.


YWCA Durham

YWCA Durham is a trusted community leader that provides high-quality programs, services and resource that responds to the needs of women, children, youth and families. We are an inclusive community where women, children, youth and families are safe, inspired and empowered to grow. We have always and continue to provide a wide range of services to women involved in the sex trade and or who are victims of Human Trafficking. Services include emergency shelter, 2nd stage housing, transitional /outreach supports, long term counselling and RGI Housing.

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