Human Trafficking

What Families Need to Know About Human Trafficking

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is a form of sexual exploitation and is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada. Often referred to as domestic sex trafficking, it can include recruiting, harbouring, transporting, obtaining or providing a person for the purpose of sex. It can involve the use of force, physical or psychological coercion or deception.

Most individuals who are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation are women and girls; however, individuals from all genders may be targeted. For additional information, please see Ministry of Education Policy Program Memorandum 166.

How do traffickers lure children and youth? 

Trafficker’s approach and groom vulnerable children and youth by fulfilling their unmet needs – such as love, affection, a sense of belonging and other basic needs like housing or food security – and/or by using threats, physical violence, and control.

Traffickers can use different ways such as becoming friends with youth online and luring/hooking them through promises of love, friendship, money, fame and more.

Youth can come from rural communities to bigger cities or can be trafficked within their own cities.

Why are some students at risk?

Systemic racism and discrimination have led to a higher number of Indigenous and Black children and youth in care than other populations being targeted.

Indigenous peoples are especially vulnerable to sex trafficking due to historic and ongoing systemic discrimination, including intergenerational trauma resulting from residential schools.

Language barriers, isolation, economic disadvantage, or a lack of community and social supports may leave newcomer youth with increased vulnerability to trafficking.

Students with disabilities may experience bullying and isolation in addition to having difficulty understanding the intentions of others.

Students who are 2SLGBTQ+ experience high rates of bullying, assaults and sexual abuse, and they may face isolation and experience homelessness if they are rejected from their family or the community. 

Why the urgency to act? 

Ontario had the most police-reported incidents of human trafficking in the country occurring within the province in 2019.

Students are spending more time online on different social media platforms that traffickers may use to recruit students.

The average age of recruitment into sex trafficking in Canada is 13 years old.  School-aged children and youth are prime targets for traffickers for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

What are some myths and facts about sex trafficking? 


  • Sex trafficking happens in most major cities in Canada. Ontario is a hub.
  • Many youth are lured in with false promises of security, love and acceptance.
  • Many victims do not have prior addictions, nor are they working in the sex industry prior to exploitation.
  • Most individuals who are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation are women and girls; however, individuals from all genders may be targeted.


  • Only females are trafficked.
  • Only men can be traffickers.
  • Sex trafficking only happens in less developed countries. 
How do I protect my child from risks presented online? 

Cyber-safety is about setting clear expectations with your child around online use.  Students need to be made aware of the risks of certain apps and how to protect themselves from unwanted contact, as well, as who to turn to when they suspect they may be at risk.

Families and schools are encouraged to continue to work together to educate students about both the positive and negative potentials of the internet, including the harmful effects of violent sexually explicit images.

Popular social media platforms  (e.g. Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, POF, sugar daddy websites) are new ways traffickers target their victims.

What are some of the possible signs that a student is being trafficked?

There are a variety of factors at play when it comes to trafficking.  Some, or all, or none may be present for a young person; so while we want to be mindful of these factors, we don't want to treat this as a checklist.

  • drop in grades
  • withdrawal from social activities
  • a noticeable change in behaviour (i.e., Is tense/hyper vigilant, nervous or anxious)
  • change in attire/expensive clothing
  • change in lingo i.e. ‘telly time’ or ‘being in the game’
  • carries one or more cells phones with blocked/private phone numbers
  • makes references to boyfriend (often older) as “daddy” or self as “mama or baby”
  • increased drug/alcohol use
What can I do as a parent or guardian to support my child if you suspect, or they have disclosed, that they have been trafficked?

Be a supportive listener by:

  • Listening to your child without judgement or blame.
  • Trying to understand some of the choices your child makes and the pressures they are experiencing, even if you don't understand them.
  • Being aware of and softening your body language.
  • Using their language e.g. if they say “boyfriend,” use this term.
  • Letting them take the lead in sharing, avoid leading the conversation.
  • Contact your child’s principal with your concerns.
  • Look for organizations in your community that have outreach programs.
What supports will be provided to students who disclose that they have been trafficked? 

DDSB has created a response procedure to help students who disclose that they have been or are being trafficked and have access to appropriate resources (i.e. school social worker, community agencies).  The goal is to keep the student safe, both physically and emotionally.

Students may also use the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline (available in a number of languages) to receive support.

National human trafficking hotline at 1-833-900-1010 (24/7) 

What is the DDSB doing to educate and raise awareness in the system?
  • In partnership with the Durham Catholic District School Board (DCDSB), the community consult committee and the First Nation, Metis and Inuit Education Advisory Circle, DDSB has developed a Human Trafficking School Board Protocol to identify, recognize and prevent human trafficking and develop responses to facilitate early and appropriate intervention. 

DDSB Human Trafficking School Board Protocol

  • In collaboration with community partners, DDSB has developed training for all district staff to learn about human trafficking, as well as a response procedure for supporting students who are exhibiting one or more warning signs/red flags, or have disclosed that they are being, or may have been, trafficked.
  • DDSB continues to provide ongoing professional development on topics such as building healthy relationships, humanizing education and living in the age of social media


Community Partners

Reach out to these community partners for more information: