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PEEL REGION IS A HOTSPOT FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING

*Press release* Human trafficking – one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, a modern-day form of slavery that robs victims of their self-esteem – it is a growing problem in Canada and especially in Peel Region. Research by Family Services of Peel concludes that the region, which encompasses Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon, has a rate of human trafficking that is significantly higher than the rest of the country. “Human trafficking is a $150-billion industry with nearly 21 million victims across the world,” says Sandra Rupnarian, Director of client services for the agency. “People think it's something that happens in other faraway parts of the world, but our research has found that it's occurring right here in our own backyard. Our findings show the Region of Peel, in fact, has become a particularly hot spot for the illegal activity.” Data collected by the Peel Institute on Violence Prevention, the research arm of Family Services of Peel, revealed that the rates of human trafficking in Peel Region have grown steadily and continue to rise. Across Canada, the rate of police-reported human trafficking violations rose from 0.12 persons per 100,000 population in 2009 to 0.65 in 2016. However, the rate of human trafficking in Peel Region was found to be much higher at 1.14 persons per 100,000 population in 2016, compared to 1.0 for Ontario, and 0.79 for Toronto. Over 62 per cent of police-reported human trafficking cases in Canada originate in Peel. The clandestine nature of human trafficking in Canada has made it hard to quantify, but it's one of the most profitable crimes, with underworld syndicates benefiting from trafficking people for sexual exploitation. In Canada, victims are Canadian citizens as well as foreign nationals. They are lured and exploited, often through fear, violence, intimidation or coercion. The most vulnerable targets are Indigenous women, girls in care, migrant workers and people with mental health and addiction issues. Research in Ontario has shown that 90 per cent of victims are female and 42 per cent were first trafficked before the age of 18. Usually, individuals under 18 are engaged in dancing or prostitution, but in recent years women with relatively stable backgrounds have increasingly become victims. The trafficking victims can come from any neighbourhood. The ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds of the girls are varied. A report by the Canadian Women's Foundation found that 51 per cent of trafficked girls were or had been involved with the child welfare system, 50 per cent of trafficked girls and 51 per cent of trafficked women were Indigenous, and 17 percent of girls and 42 percent of women were women of colour. As for traffickers, researchers found the majority are male Canadians between 19 and 32 years old, but adult females and individuals under the age of 18 are increasingly becoming involved as human traffickers for sexual exploitation. Traffickers often build a relationship with their victims by first pretending to be a friend or significant other. In many cases of trafficking for sexual exploitation, trafficked persons may develop “trauma bonds” with their traffickers and may not view themselves as victims. While many initiatives are underway, Rupnarian says there is a need to educate the public and make society more aware of the human tragedy that results from permitting human beings to become commodities, as well as conduct further research to identify the most cost-effective areas of intervention. Research has shown that mothers of trafficking victims often feel powerlessness to help their daughters, and that there are healthcare inadequacies, lack of adequate assistance and safe housing for victims. Peel Region has a strategy that provides collaborative services to help victims recover. About 40 human service agencies are working together to offer services to the survivors. “The rates of human trafficking are increasing and it is integral that we do as much as we can to help unravel the pull of the human trafficking industry,” says Rupnarian. ”We need to raise awareness of the issue amongst the public and draw more attention to the fact it is a crime and dehumanizing to its victims.” Anyone with information about human trafficking in the region should call Peel Regional Police at 905-453-3311. There is information about trafficking under the “Safety Tips” tab on the police website at www.peelpolice.ca. About Family Services of Peel Family Services of Peel is a multi-service, community-based agency that provides professional counselling, educational programs, employment support services, and support for people with developmental disabilities and their families, as well as support for victims of violence and abuse.




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