If you are driving back and forth along Highway 11 you might glimpse a new initiative to thwart human trafficking.
The OPP in partnership with Muskoka Victim Services, is launching an Anti-Human Trafficking Awareness Campaign in Muskoka today, on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, which takes place February 22 this year.
The goal of the campaign is to shine a light on human trafficking and how prevalent it is in our communities.
Traffickers use major highways to transport their victims throughout Ontario. Billboards along Highway 11 in Muskoka will be utilized during the campaign to help spread awareness of human trafficking to passing motorists, including human trafficking victims being transported by their traffickers.
It is common for victims to believe that their traffickers are helping or caring for them, and therefore, they may show their loyalty to their traffickers. This does not mean that they are not victims says an OPP release.
Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation or harbouring of persons for the purposes of exploitation, typically in the sex industry or for forced labour. Victims are often from extremely vulnerable populations, including migrant workers, new immigrants, Indigenous women and youth, at-risk youth and those who are socially or economically disadvantaged.
The billboards will feature comments made by human trafficking victims, highlighting how normalized they believed their situation may have been. The campaign also encourages members of the public to utilize the hashtag #KnowHumanTrafficking or visit opp.ca/humantrafficking to learn more and join the conversation.
Meanwhile, the Ontario government introduced the Combatting Human Trafficking Act today, new legislation, and amendments to existing legislation to build upon the province's $307 million Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy.
"Our government is taking deliberate steps to put an end to human trafficking and protect victims and potential victims of this terrible crime," said Premier Doug Ford. "This tough new legislation builds on our Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy we introduced nearly a year ago, giving law enforcement additional tools to help prevent and deter human trafficking."
"Human trafficking is happening in both urban centres and small communities across Ontario," said Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women's Issues. "This proposed legislation further supports our cross-government approach, as well as our work with partners across jurisdictions and various sectors, to combat human trafficking. This includes providing tools to improve the ability to identify and appropriately respond to suspected instances and connect survivors to supportive services."
The signs of human trafficking are not always obvious. Although the presence of one sign doesn't necessarily identify human trafficking, a variety of indicators may point to the fact that an individual is being trafficked and needs help. These indicators may include:
- Refusing to disclose information or provides false information.
- Unable to indicate where they are living, or give their address.
- Unable to identify their last location or their upcoming destination.
- Traveling with a lack of or limited luggage.
- Wearing clothing that is inappropriate for the weather or situation.
- Allowing someone else to take control of the conversation for themselves and others.
- Not having possession of their own identification or money.
- The individual seems afraid, anxious, or depressed.
- Another person controls the individual's conversation.
- Showing signs of abuse, malnourishment, or sleep deprivation.
For more information click here.
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day takes place on February 22 this year and helps bring awareness to the magnitude of modern-day slavery in Canada and abroad.
- Muskoka Northbound Location - 2016 Highway 11, Gravenhurst
- Muskoka Southbound Location - 1261 Highway 11 S, Severn Bridge