Insight Series: Human Trafficking
Written by YES Summer Student, Alex Hooke-Wood
Human trafficking, unfortunately, is a common problem throughout the world, in Canada, and in Peterborough. Let’s go over some of the important facts around human trafficking, and understand what is being done at the YES Shelter for Youth and Families to address the issue.
What is Human Trafficking?
Put simply, it is the illegal moving or coercing of a person or people to exploit them in some way.
The purpose of trafficking is consistent: the exploitation of the person being trafficked. But what that exploitation actually looks like is very broad. Some common forms of human trafficking include sex exploitation, forced labour, and forced criminal activity.
Are youth at risk?
Youth are at a high risk of being trafficked; globally, about 1/3 of all people trafficked are children. Youth experiencing homelessness are at particular risk of trafficking. Where basic needs are lacking, vulnerability to human trafficking increases.
In Canada, rates of human trafficking have been rising. In 2011, there were fewer than 100 cases reported, while in 2021, there were over 550 cases of human trafficking. Human trafficking among youth is also very high; almost 75% of all human trafficking cases in Canada involved youth (24 and under).
Human trafficking in Peterborough
From 2011-2021, Peterborough had the third highest rate of human trafficking in Canada. In 2021, it was the second highest rate of human trafficking in the nation.
With the high rate of human trafficking in Peterborough, and given that youth are at a particular risk of being trafficked, the YES Shelter for Youth and Families is in an important position to provide support.
When someone comes to YES
Whenever a young person comes to shelter, they are assigned a case manager from our Outreach Team. The case manager first sits down with the young person to find out what has caused their homelessness and to come up with a plan to get them stably housed as soon as possible.
This includes exploring natural supports in the young persons life, connecting them with financial aid, housing programs and the list goes on and on. If a young person shares that they’re involved in sex work and wishes to stop, the case worker provides the support needed to exit that work.
When a client is being trafficked
First and foremost, we do our best to provide the basics to youth, both through shelter, our food programs, and our RISE Youth Housing Program. With their basic needs met, youth are much less likely to fall victim to trafficking.
Secondly, where trafficking is happening or is suspected, we ensure the client feels supported in knowing their options. From there, YES Staff might assist the client to access Victim Services with the Peterborough Police Department and enact a safety plan. Or depending on the wishes of the client, YES staff might support them to stay as safe as possible in their current situation.
If there are ever occurrences where the client is trafficking another client in shelter, the trafficker is immediately discharged from shelter. Protecting the safety of clients is paramount at YES.
Human trafficking is a very serious issue both throughout the world, and much closer to home than some of us realize. The YES Shelter for Youth and Families plays an important role in supporting youth who are being trafficked or have been trafficked.
We will continue to do the best we can in supporting youth who have been involved in trafficking.