Human trafficking of women and girls is happening here and educators are critical to its prevention

By Beverley Wybrow
May 31, 2013

You might hear it called modern day slavery.
It’s an extreme form of violence against women, and it’s hiding in plain sight.

Human trafficking of women and girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation is an international problem, but many of us don’t realize that it’s happening right here in our own communities:
women and girls are being trafficked inside Canada, to Canada and across Canadian borders. Experts estimate that thousands of women and girls are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation in Canada every year.

The women and girls who are bought and sold in Canada are most often marginalized, and include Aboriginal, racialized, and immigrant women, abuse survivors and vulnerable young girls.

Women and girls who become trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation are recruited by organized crime groups, gangs, pimps, peers and sometimes by family members.

Traffickers use deception and coercion to lure their victims, with promises of a better life, romantic relationship, false job opportunity or by abduction.

Young girls are at especially high risk of sexual exploitation because traffickers receive a higher financial gain for girls under 18. The average age of a trafficked girl is 13 and getting younger.

Diane Redsky is the Project Director for the Task Force on Trafficking of Women and Girls in Canada at the Canadian Women’s Foundation. She says that educators have a critical role to play in the prevention of trafficking of young girls.

“One of Winnipeg’s largest sexual exploitation trafficking rings was discovered by a principal who had been trained on the warning signs and trusted her instinct,” she says.

In 2005, it was discovered that twenty girls between the ages of 11 and 16 had been recruited on their way to school by a Winnipeg resident, then sold to adult men and forced to perform sex acts (this case was also the catalyst in Manitoba for redefining child prostitution as sexual abuse of children).

“Twenty girls, and possibly many more who had not yet been recruited, were saved, because someone was paying attention,” says Redsky. “There is a huge opportunity for teachers to be educated on both the issue and the warning signs to protect young girls from being trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.”

What can educators do?

1. Learn about the issue

2. Educate

Share the resources below with colleagues, parents, and students, build them into your curriculum and encourage your school’s administration to provide training for all staff.

  • The Canadian Centre for Child Protection has developed “Kids in the Know” an interactive safety education program for increasing the personal safety of children and reducing the risk of sexual exploitation (includes age-appropriate materials for kindergarten through to grade 9):
  • The BC Ministry of Justice Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons offers a free online training program on how to recognize, protect and assist a person who may have been trafficked:

3. Learn the warning signs

4. If you suspect that someone in your school or community is being trafficked

  • Take notes about what you’ve witnessed: identifying information, times, dates etc.
  • Contact the local police. When you make a report, be sure to ask for an incident or reference number. This means it’s in the police system and they are obligated to respond
  • Do not put your own safety at risk.


Beverley Wybrow is the President and CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation.

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