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    September 2020

    Girl, 12, among sex trafficking victims Toronto police identified

    A 12-year-old girl.

    She’s the youngest among the more than 215 sex trafficking victims the Toronto Police Service came into contact with since forming the human trafficking enforcement team in 2014.


    The 16-member team, headed by Det. Sgt. David Correa, has laid about 2,500 charges against 300 people to date.

    “Most victims who have been recruited (to sex trafficking) talk about being recruited in the 14 to 17 age range,” said Correa, adding roughly a third of the victims police see are under 18.

    Correa said sex trafficking victims need healing as a result of the trauma they experienced so having to “navigate the need to give them support and collect evidence” is always a delicate balance. “These investigations are obviously emotionally taxing on investigators,” he noted.

    Collecting evidence in sex trafficking investigations is a daunting task.

    “A lot of cases require long hours sifting through text messages and phone data,” Correa said. “The court process is also very challenging, making sure that the victims after long periods of time still can recall the incidents and remain credible.”

    Correa said offenders target vulnerable youth such as those in group homes or who have “unstable family dispositions.”

    Barbara Gosse

    Within a very short period of time the "relationship will turn,' says Barbara Gosse. - Dan Pearce/Torstar

    Barbara Gosse, who was CEO of The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking at the time of this interview but has since left her position, said predators could find their victims through social media, at parties or even in schools. “There has been known to be peer-to-peer trafficking happening in high schools in the GTA.”

    The “Romeo” pimp will initially shower his victim with gifts and pretend to be her boyfriend.


    “They will treat them very well, but within a very short period of time that relationship will turn and they can then start to exploit them, start to expect that they are going to be serving them in different ways, including having sex with men for money,” Gosse said. “They (victims) do get transported, and it’s also a way to keep these individuals isolated, away from family or friends.”

    Correa said many pimps are “cross trained” in different types of criminality. “A lot of them are involved in the drug tradeSome of them have experience with street gangs. A lot of them have violent tendencies.”

    Heather Fry

    Heather Fry is former Canada Director of Truckers Against Trafficking. - Truckers Against Trafficking photo

    Some victims are even branded with tattoos, signaling they’re making money (crowns, dollar signs, diamonds), signaling they’re already owned (trafficker’s image, name or initials) or signaling they’re for sale. “Oftentimes this will be on their neck,” said Heather Fry, former Canada director of Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT). “Oftentimes the trafficker or the pimp will put their name right on the victim. We’ve seen barcodes, we’ve seen things that just say ‘Property of … ’”

    In the US, TAT has trained about 900,000 truckers to spot signs of human trafficking, resulting in about 2,500 calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which has resulted in 663 “likely cases generated” and the identification of 1,230 victims.

    Truckers Against Trafficking

    A window decal that truck drivers put on the cabs of their truck, showing the Canadian and U.S. Human Trafficking Hotline numbers. - Truckers Against Trafficking image

    TAT launched in Canada in October 2019 with the hopes of replicating the work it does in the U.S. here.

    “Truck drivers are uniquely positioned to be able to spot signs of human trafficking as they’re out on the road (and) when they’re at truck stops, hotels, motels (and) rest areas,” Fry said. “This is modern day slavery, and the trucking industry can be a major asset in helping law enforcement recover victims and having pimps arrested just by taking a second look and making a phone call.”

    Barbara Gosse

    Barbara Gosse says education is key to combatting trafficking. - Dan Pearce/Torstar

    The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking launched Canada’s National Human Trafficking Hotline in May 2019; the hotline, 1-833-900-1010, has received more than 1,600 calls from victims and family members of victims seeking help.

    “The hotline also has almost 800 frontline service providers located in every province and territory who work with victims and survivors of human trafficking,” Gosse said. “Our hotline could actually reach out and do a warm transfer to them if somebody calls in and would like a referral to such an agency.”

    Gosse said education is key to combating trafficking. “Having a really informed public is your best defence against human trafficking. Having curriculum pieces in the schools for both boys and girls I think is really important so that we can educate our children on what to look out for,” she said. “When law enforcement and frontline service providers are doing these education sessions, they tell us in every case they have individuals come forward disclosing either that they are being trafficked or they know somebody who is, so this is a much bigger problem than we actually know.”

    Gosse is also advocating for standardized human trafficking training for workers in the health care, transportation and hospitality industries. “We need to do a better job in our judicial system to make sure that victims and survivors … feel comfortable and protected (so) that they could come forward and identify the abuses that they have been subjected to,” she added.

    Also important is educating teachers and parents, Gosse stressed. “Families need to have kitchen table conversations,” she said. “It’s not an easy subject to talk about but there are ways to talk about it.”

    For more information, visit canadiancentretoendhumantrafficking.ca


    Published on: August 17th, 2020

    Retrieved from: https://www.toronto.com/news-story/10070049-girl-12-among-sex-trafficking-victims-toronto-police-identified/

    • Posted By: Andrew Palamarchuk - Toronto.com
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    • Comments: 1
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