New Human Trafficking Campaign Launched in Waterloo Region

February 20th, 2020

The Waterloo Region Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre, in collaboration with the Waterloo Regional Police Service and St. Mary’s General Hospital, has launched a human trafficking educational campaign.

The campaign, entitled It Happens Here, focuses on human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The aim of the campaign is to prevent human trafficking by raising awareness on the issue from a local lens through posters and online resources.

“Human trafficking knows no boundaries,” says Julia Manuel, Director of Community Programs for the Waterloo Region Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre. “We want this campaign to educate our community on what human trafficking is, how and where it happens, how to recognize the signs, and how to get help.”

Waterloo Regional Police have seen an increased number of localized human trafficking cases. The collaborative effort between community partners is essential to track and prevent cases.

“The trauma caused to the victims of human trafficking can be so harmful that they refuse to come forward to ask for help,” says Bryan Larkin, Chief of Police for the Waterloo Regional Police Service. “We must all work together to support survivors and raise awareness to prevent future victims of this heinous crime.”

Posters are being hung in 19 high schools with the public school board, community centers, libraries, bars and hotels throughout Waterloo Region. A new website called ithappenshere.org provides comprehensive information on human trafficking in Canada and Waterloo Region, as well as a toolkit to help spread awareness.

“As a school board, our role is to understand, educate and increase the awareness of our students and staff on important issues like human trafficking and how it impacts our communities,” says Barbara Ward, Mental Health Lead for the Waterloo Region District School Board. “We are grateful for the opportunity to learn from and to work collaboratively with our community partners on this comprehensive resource that shines a light on a topic people are shocked to learn happens in Waterloo Region.”

The It Happens Here campaign launch is in lead up to International Human Trafficking Awareness Day taking place this Saturday, February 22.

Backgrounder – Human Trafficking In Waterloo Region

Waterloo Regional Police report that in 2019 there were:

  • 90 investigations of human trafficking
  • 40 criminal charges laid through these investigations
  • More investigations of human trafficking cases compared to previous years
  • Most trafficked individuals who come to the attention of Waterloo Regional Police are young women and girls and have ranged in age from 14 to 47 years old. Youth face the highest risk, from the age of 12 to 24. 
  • Remember! Human trafficking is a vastly under-reported crime, and these statistics likely only show a small glimpse into the real problem of sex trafficking in Waterloo Region.
  • Human Trafficking is when a person is manipulated, controlled and/or forced to do things against their will (i.e. being forced into sex work). They are exploited in some way to benefit someone else.

Waterloo Region Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre
The Waterloo Region Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre is a 24/7 on call team of forensic nurses and social workers who respond to the needs of individuals who have experienced sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking.  The centre offers emergency and short-term follow up care to those accessing the team and operate through the Emergency Departments of St. Mary’s General Hospital and Cambridge Memorial Hospital.

 

Contact
Arianna Ongaro
Communications Specialist, St. Mary’s General Hospital
aongaro@smgh.ca
519-749-6578 ext. 6412