Sex trafficking is one of the fastest growing and most profitable crimes worldwide. It is predatory and damaging to victims, survivors, their families and communities and Ontario is no exception.
The vast majority of victims are under 24 years of age and approximately 30% are reported to fall between 13-18 years of age. This is why the Ontario Ministry of Education is requiring school boards to educate students and staff about sex trafficking and promote safety by taking meaningful, culturally responsive and consistent action to prevent and respond to issues of safety and inappropriate behaviours. Action by schools, families and community partners will help prevent, identify and recognize sex trafficking to act quickly to ensure appropriate interventions.
HDSB Anti-Sex Trafficking Actions
Halton Anti-Sex Trafficking School Board Protocol
Administrative Procedure: Anti-Sex Trafficking
- Annual Staff Training and Education: Education, for staff and for students, is part of the government policy/program memorandum on anti-sex trafficking.
- HDSB education staff have been learning how to recognize, prevent and respond to sex trafficking in order to spot the warning signs and safely connect those who are, have been, or are at risk of being trafficked to the appropriate supports and culturally responsive community programs and services.
- HDSB students learn explicitly and implicitly about sex trafficking based on their age and grade. The elementary
Health and Physical Education curriculum (2019), Grades 1-8, helps students learn skills to identify, develop and maintain healthy relationships, to identify and respond to exploitative and coercive behaviour, and how to seek help as needed. These skills will help protect our young people from exploitation and/or sex trafficking.
- In Grades 1-3, students begin to learn skills to identify, develop and maintain healthy relationships, to identify and respond to physically and mentally harmful behaviours, including exploitative behaviours, and how to seek help as needed.
- In Grades 4-8, students continue to develop the skills they need to stay safe (in person and online), and how to help themselves and others. Learning about sex trafficking is explicitly included in the examples and sample teacher prompt/student responses of learning expectations in Grades 7 and 8.
Resources For Families
What is Sex Trafficking?
“Sex Trafficking” is a form of human trafficking but not its only form (i.e., labour exploitation). Sex trafficking is a form of sexual exploitation and is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada. It can include recruiting, harbouring, transporting, obtaining or providing a person for the purpose of sex. It involves the use of force, physical or psychological coercion or deception. Sex trafficking can also include online sexual exploitation through social media platforms, sexual imagery and/or video.
Is Sex Trafficking an issue in Ontario? Why the urgency to act now?
In July 2021, the Ontario government issued
Policy/Program Memorandum (PPM) 166, Keeping Students Safe, in response to the growing incidence of sex trafficking in Ontario.
Ontario accounts for 39% of the total Canadian population yet accounts for over two-thirds (68%) of all police-reported human trafficking incidents since 2009. Most victims of sex trafficking are between 13-18 years of age.
Effective Jan 31, 2022, every Ontario school board must have a plan with core components in place to protect students and empower school communities to play a key role in fighting sex trafficking and keeping children and youth safe from sexual exploitation.
Are some students at higher risk?
While anyone can ultimately be a victim, some people are at higher risk than others.
Young women and girls are particularly at risk, though trans persons, men, boys, gender variant and gender non-conforming individuals can also be targeted.
Indigenous and racialized individuals are especially vulnerable to experiencing sex trafficking. The intersections of colonization, intergenerational trauma, systemic discrimination and barriers to accessing service compound this and increase the vulnerability of being targeted by traffickers.
All people may be vulnerable as a result of other general risk factors such as:
- Current or past involvement in Child Welfare System
- Developmental disability
- Family dysfunction
- Gang involvement
- Lack of social support/network
- Low self esteem or belonging
- Mental health challenges
- Number of adverse experiences
- Sexual abuse
What can parents/guardians do to support their children or others if they suspect or know of trafficking?
Halton Anti-Sex Trafficking Protocol supports coordinated action by all stakeholders to prevent, identify and recognize sex trafficking and develop responses to facilitate early and appropriate intervention. This protocol reflects a multi-sector partnership and collective commitments to statements of principles, strategies to raise awareness, directions on response and support procedures for students who are at risk of or are being sexually abused/exploited/trafficked or who might be forced/coerced into the recruiting of other victims, as well as for students reentering school after exiting a trafficking situation.
Anti-Sex Trafficking Administrative Procedure outlines the operational steps our staff and school administrators are undertaking to ensure coordinated action to:
If, or when, a student discloses or is suspected of involvement in sex trafficking, school staff are obligated to report this information. For more information, please see Administrative Procedure:
Child Abuse Reporting Procedure Duty to Report.
- Prevent, identify and recognize sex trafficking and develop responses to facilitate early and appropriate intervention.
- Raise awareness amongst staff and students on the signs a student is being targeted, lured, groomed, trafficked or is trafficking another student, and how to bring concerns (formally or anonymously) about luring, grooming, recruitment or exiting sex trafficking to the school without fear of reprisal.
- Raise awareness to prevent the recruitment of students for sex trafficking, including through curriculum-based learning about healthy relationships, consent, mental health and well-being, coping skills, personal safety and online safety, as well as through work with local community-based organizations and survivors.
- Raise awareness among parents and caregivers about cyber-safety, the signs that a student is being targeted, lured, groomed, trafficked or is trafficking another student; how to get help safely, how they can report concerns to the school board (including anonymous reporting) and the school board's process for responding to concerns.
Supporting the student may take many forms including support from child protective services, community agencies or national organizations). At the school level, students have access to a Safe Schools Social Worker in addition to other Student Services personnel.
The HDSB is fortunate to have many community partners. Some that may be of most use if you are aware of, or suspect, sex trafficking include:
- Crime Stoppers: a non-profit, non-police organization that encourages members of the public to anonymously provide tips about criminal activity in exchange for cash. Learn more about Crime Stoppers through the
Crime Stoppers website or by contacting Crime Stoppers via phone at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS). This Tip Line is available 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week.
- Halton Regional Police: for emergency assistance, call 9-1-1. This service quickly links callers to Police, Fire and/or Ambulance Services. For non-emergencies, call 905-825-4777. Halton Regional Police also includes
Victim Services and this includes Sexual Assault support.
Halton Womens’ Place: an organization providing shelter and crisis services for physically, emotionally, financially and sexually abused women and their dependent children.
Sexual Assault & Violence Intervention Services of Halton (SAVIS): offers free, confidential, one-on-one crisis counselling services, with no judgment, just support to survivors of sexual assault and violence. Services can be short- or long-term in nature and are open to female-identified, male-identified and transgender people aged 12 and over who are survivors of violence, including childhood sexual abuse. Call 905-875-1555.
SAVIS also offers public education programs, a Mens’ Ally Network, and chairs
The Halton Collaborative Against Human Trafficking (HCAHT)
which exists to create and support a unified Halton community and regional response to combat human trafficking.
Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline
exists to support victims 24/7. Call 1-833-900-1010
The Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline connects victims and survivors of human trafficking to law enforcement, emergency shelters, transition housing, long-term supports, counselors, and a range of other trauma-informed services. Services are offered in 200+ languages and are accessible to the deaf, hard-of-hearing and nonverbal.
Questions about Safe Schools should be directed to:
Brent Coakwell, System Principal, Safe & Healthy Schools