February 22, 2018 marks Ontario’s first Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Last year, May 18th, the Anti-Human Trafficking Act1 was passed making this an annual observance. The Act also includes provisions for survivors to apply for restraining orders against their traffickers and for them to pursue compensation.
While it is clear to see how the provisions concerning the restraining order and compensation would benefit survivors of human trafficking, it may be a little more unclear how an Awareness Day would benefit victims of human trafficking.
Although human trafficking exists all over the world, many people are still not aware of it happening in their own communities. Many Canadians think that human trafficking is an issue that victimizes non-Canadians and is not very prevalent here. However, Ontario’s Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment confirm that 90% of identified victims have been Canadian-born2. News reports prove that Ontario is a hub for human trafficking3. The problem of awareness is so real that one Peterborough County OPP detective says that most Johns he’s spoken with are largely unaware that the girl is being trafficked (vs. choosing to do sex work) and unaware that under Bill C-36, buying sex is illegal4.