Combatting local human trafficking begins with a strong prevention plan

Human trafficking is prevalent and thriving in Durham Region, as documented in the Chronicle’s human trafficking series by Shanelle Somers and Shana Fillatrau earlier this year.

The Provincial Government says Ontario, specifically the GTA, is an epicentre of human trafficking. Two-thirds of the cases in Canada happen in our own backyard.

By its nature, human trafficking is difficult to measure because of its hidden nature. According to Statistics Canada, police reported 723 cases of human trafficking violations in Ontario between 2009 and 2016. The number of reported cases is on the rise each year.

While there are different prevention programs in place, such as Daughter Project Canada and Roots of Character run by the Durham District School Board, not enough is being done to inform young girls and their parents of this form of modern-day slavery.

Prevention is the key to fighting human trafficking. Parents must be educated about human trafficking and the dangers of the digital age. Schools should communicate with parents alongside educating kids. Young girls need to be reached before they enter high school and general community awareness must be raised.

While it is every parents’ intention to protect their kids from strangers and dangers, online accessibility is a lot like leaving the metaphorical front door unlocked. Children can easily access information on the internet and have open channels to communicate with friends and strangers on social media.

While some may argue prevention begins at home with engaged parents who pay close attention to what their children do on electronic devices, school programs need to work with parents.

Prevention strategies should be communicated through a newsletter, email, or school app, so parents are on the same page as their children.

The Durham Regional Police Services human-trafficking unit give presentations to girls in high schools about human trafficking. This is a great starting point but doesn’t educate everyone who may need the knowledge and empowerment.

Girls being targeted for human trafficking are between 11 and 15 years old, with some cases being reported with girls as young as 9.

High school presentations may come too late for potential victims.

It is imperative adults as well as students are informed about what is happening in our community and gain the skills and knowledge on how to spot any warning signs to prevent this from occurring.

Sharing knowledge about this important issue can help the community.

Five girls who attended a program called Roots of Leadership, a summer program run by Roots of Character, put their artistic talents to good use and created informative posters about human trafficking.

It was proposed the posters be put up in bathroom stalls in schools, theatres, malls and fast food restaurants across Durham Region. This campaign should go forward because it would open the public’s eyes about an issue not on the social forefront.

Serious issues in our community, such as human trafficking, require preventative measures. There are programs in place but more could be done to help keep girls in our community safe.

From home to school, our community must commit to protecting our children. Parents, students and the public need to learn about human trafficking in order to know how to best deal with it.

Prevention strategies in the community and school system can help girls, rather than human traffickers, thrive.