One of the first steps to making a difference and preventing Human Trafficking is knowing what it is, who is most at risk and learning the signs so you can identify it.


Though many believe Human Trafficking to be an issue that only happens in foreign countries or that it always involves the crossing of borders, it is a problem that happens here in Canada, likely in your own community. It’s a pervasive issue that happens almost everywhere.

Human Trafficking is a crime that involves recruiting, transporting and/or holding persons so that Traffickers can exercise control over the victims for profit, usually for forced labour or sexual exploitation. 


Human Trafficking doesn’t discriminate and can happen to anyone, however, there are some who are more vulnerable and at risk than others.

  •  Female
  •  Youth
  •  Black, Indigenous and People of Color
  • LGBTQ2+

Although anyone can be a victim of human trafficking, vulnerable youth/Indigenous and members of the LGBTQ2S community are at an increased risk of being trafficked. Homeless youth are among the most vulnerable. Traffickers are able to provide/promise shelter, food, love, and the ability to meet their basic needs. They often are in survival mode, and this makes them a perfect target for traffickers

Other common factors in being at risk are:

  • People who have suffered abuse
  • Newly immigrated or migrant workers
  • Economically or socially disadvantaged


Grooming is a stage of Sex Trafficking where the trafficker may lure someone into a reliance or trust that they will provide for an essential need of theirs or makes promises to them so that they can then coerce or pressure their target to earn it or pay them back.

Here are some signs that may indicate someone is being groomed:

  • They begin being secretive about their activities and whereabouts
  • They withdraw from their friends and family
  • There is a new friend, boyfriend or girlfriend that they will not introduce to their friends or family
  • They begin where more sexualized clothing, often included clothing and jewellery that is new and that they wouldn’t be able to afford on their own
  • They begin spending time with someone much older than them or a group of people older than them
  • They possess a second or new phone with a phone number they won’t give out
  • They begin going out later and more often


Though situations of trafficking vary with the different methods the traffickers employ and the different types of traffickers there are (you can read our post about that here), here are some signs that may indicate that someone is being trafficked:

  • They seem to be under the control of someone else and are not allowed to speak for themselves.
  • They are paid very little or not at all for their work and are treated poorly, this can include poor living conditions that they are forced to live in, working unusual or long hours and/or not allowed to take breaks
  • They are repaying a large debt through sex or labour
  • They seem fearful, anxious, depressed, tense, nervous, submissive or paranoid and may avoid eye contact or appear fearful around police
  • They have branding or tattooing, particularly if those branding and tattoos include names
  • They aren’t in control of their belongings, money or identification
  • They seem to lack medical care or are malnourished
  • They appear not to know their surroundings very well and are moved around a lot
  • They’ve been reported as a missing person
  • They should signs of abuse including bruises, cigarette burns or fractures


Need Help?

Please contact the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline, which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is an option to call or use the chat function on their website, with a quick ‘exit’ button if you need to leave the page suddenly.


Learning materials from other Anti-Human Trafficking organizations

Ontario Native Women's Association


A member of our staff attended a training where they were provided with this informative Indigenous Anti-Human Trafficking Report.

In Canada, more than half of Human Trafficking Survivors are Indigenous. If this is a topic you’ve been looking for further information on, click the link below and read the PDF.

There is hope.