A number of airports across Canada are standing in solidarity to help raise awareness about sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
#NotInMyCity, a facilitative organization, has been working with airports to provide #NotInMyCity human trafficking awareness materials and access to a customized e-learning course to help airport staff identify the risk factors of those being trafficked and moved through airports across Canada.
According to the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, transportation corridors are frequently used by traffickers, and once a victim has been recruited, traffickers will often move them from city to city to maximize profits, access new markets and avoid competition.
It also helps keep control of the victim who may not know where they are, or how to get help, making it easier for traffickers to evade detection by police.
Victims of labour trafficking may also enter Canada by way of air travel, under the false promise of a job or educational opportunity.
Based on experiences shared by survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, many were regularly transported throughout the country and from city to city by their traffickers.
Says one Indigenous survivor of sexual exploitation: "As a youth, I was moved from city to city and was targeted, groomed and sold to men because of what they desired as an "exotic" look. Their fantasy became my trauma. Exploitation of people just like me is happening in our cities, and it must end."
One mother, Jennifer Holleman, whose daughter Maddison was lured into sexual exploitation, indicated that her daughter was moved by her traffickers throughout Canada.
"What started as new friendships for my teenage daughter turned into a life of pain, coercion and exploitation, and eventually led to her death. My daughter was a victim of human trafficking, right here in Canada. No human should have to go through what she went through," she says.
National Human Trafficking Day was on Feb. 22 in Canada, bringing attention to the country's fastest growing crime and second largest source of illegal income worldwide.
In Canada, 21 per cent of trafficking victims are under the age of 18. Despite Canada's Indigenous population accounting for just 4 per cent of the country, it is estimated that 50 per cent of all Canadian trafficking victims are Indigenous.
#NotInMyCity has developed the customized educational program leveraging North American best practices, helping airport employees identify individuals who may be victims of trafficking, and taking action with a "do no harm" approach.
"Creating broad awareness and educational opportunities lead to positive change," said Natalie Muyres, program manager at #NotInMyCity. "We want awareness of human trafficking risk factors to become second nature to airport staff. By working with their safety teams, embedding human trafficking education into their culture and providing skills and confidence, teams will know what to do if they see something that doesn't seem right. It could very well save lives."
To learn more, visit notinmycity.ca.