Canada’s dedicated organization to ending human trafficking has launched a first-of-its-kind hotline for victims and witnesses of sexual exploitation.
On Wednesday, the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking launched the multilingual hotline that will be monitored 24-7, as part of its efforts in eradicating the exploitation of people through prostitution and forced labour.
“People find it hard to believe, but human trafficking is a real threat to vulnerable individuals across this country,” CEO Barbara Gosse said during a news conference. “We all have a moral and an ethical obligation to make a positive difference, and the hotline is a vital step in this process.”
Witnesses can call the confidential number, 1-833-900-1010, and leave tips that will be directed to police.
Victims who call will be referred to social service providers or local law enforcement agencies when appropriate.
Data from Statistics Canada shows 35 human trafficking violations were reported in B.C. between 2009 and 2016. This crime, which carries up to 14 years in prison, is often under-reported, the organization warned.
Typically, human traffickers target women and girls – specifically of Indigenous or minority background, including immigrants.
The number of victims has been on the rise, according to Sgt. Maria Koniuck, a member of the Winnipeg Police Service’s Counter Exploitation Unit.
“Demand is increasing and traffickers are using technology to increase profits,” she said. “Canadians need to be informed and aware that this crime is happening in small, remote communities as well as big cities.”
The initiative is backed by support from the federal government and donations.