Advocates call for national anti-human trafficking hotline

TORONTO, Sept. 19, 2017 – Advocates for human trafficking victims are calling on the federal government to help establish a Canada-wide hotline to connect victims to critical support services and help law enforcement better combat this heinous crime.

Covenant House Toronto, among the country’s few agencies providing comprehensive services to young, sex trafficking victims, and The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking (CCTEHT) have taken their campaign to the Prime Minister’s office.

“While the federal government has taken steps to combat trafficking, we are urging the Trudeau government to take a leadership role in establishing a vital resource that is accessible and available for all victims across Canada,” Bruce Rivers, Covenant House’s executive director said. “We are committed to do more for victims and promote prevention and early intervention. A national hotline would be invaluable in furthering the fight against trafficking.”

Sex trafficking is the most common form of human trafficking in Canada. It is primarily domestic in nature and a growing public issue. Most victims are female, Canadian citizens, on average they are aged 17, and can be as young as 13. While homeless youth are at high risk of being trafficked, victims may be lured from local malls, schoolyards or online by traffickers who often pose as potential boyfriends. Once ensnared, traffickers subject their victims to the horrors of forced prostitution.

“Canada is the only country in North America that currently lacks a national hotline for trafficking victims”, Barbara Gosse, CCTEHT chief executive officer said. A tested model has been operating in the U.S. for almost a decade and has recently been implemented in both Mexico and the United Kingdom. This model has identified more than 50,000 cases, has provided one of the largest databases on human trafficking globally and, has identified over 20 different types of human trafficking operations.

Gosse, who has initiated the design, development and implementation of Canada’s first trafficking hotline, says the federal government’s leadership is essential to ensuring the success and sustainability of this vital service.

She explained that the hotline/tip line would connect callers with necessary resources and critical service providers, like Covenant House, law enforcement and advocates from across the country “so that we can do more to end this human rights abuse.” The hotline would also serve as a confidential source for the public to report tips and intelligence on suspected trafficking incidents.

CCTEHT has established the initial foundational funding for the national hotline’s infrastructure development and outreach to law enforcement and community partners throughout Canada.

Earlier this summer, the two agencies delivered their online, national petition, signed by more than 18,000 supporters of a Canada-wide hotline to Prime Minister Trudeau to urge federal involvement in the plan.

Last year alone, Covenant House saw 81 young, female victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking from a range of backgrounds -- an increase of 300 percent in the past four years. Local police estimate the number of victims may be in the thousands.

Establishing a national toll-free hotline through a partnership between government, service agencies and police would:

  • Assist victims and families with 24/7 support and connect them to service referrals using a national network of agencies.

  • Equip stakeholders like police and governments on all levels to target anti-human trafficking efforts and resources.

  • Expand security in Canada by serving as the go-to tip-line and general resource for all Canadians, while raising the profile of trafficking through data analysis and information sharing.

Currently there is no national data collection mechanism in Canada to capture comparable statistics on human trafficking, nor are individual police services required to report incidents to a centralized agency. A national hotline would help put in place this critical process and make valuable information available for proactive action. The National Action Plan Combatting Human Trafficking expired in Spring 2016, and to date, there is no other strategy to address this crime.

Covenant House Toronto is Canada’s largest agency serving at risk, homeless and trafficked youth offering a wide range of services to as many as 250 young people daily.

The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking is a national charity dedicated to mobilizing collective action and system change to end human trafficking in Canada.

For more, contact:

Michael Sheiner
Communications Manager
416 204-7094

Barbara A. Gosse
Chief Executive Officer

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