Human trafficking is not just something that happens in the movies and far-away countries. Most victims are not even aware that what they are experiencing, or have experienced, is called human trafficking, and it is happening in our communities.

There are four types of human trafficking:

Sex Trafficking

Most police-reported cases of human trafficking involve sex trafficking. If you have been forced into sex work or performing sexual acts, including exotic dancing or pornography, that is human trafficking.

Unlike consensual sex work, human trafficking involves the use or threat of manipulation, coercion, psychological and/or physical violence to control and exploit victims. No one can consent to being trafficked, and children and youth under the age of 18 cannot consent to engaging in sex work.

You are probably thinking this would never happen to you. The reality is that nobody thinks that it will ever happen to them – until it does.

How does this happen?

*Trigger warning* The following stories may be triggering for some readers. Discretion is advised.

Here are a few examples to illustrate how this can happen:

Still not sure you’re a victim?

  • Is he controlling, threatening you, or dishonest?
  • Is he giving you expensive gifts and telling you to look sexy?
  • Does he try to prevent you from spending time with your friends or family?
  • Is he forcing you to have sex for money and keeping the money you make?

Labour Trafficking

A form of human trafficking in which people provide labour or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion. It includes situations of debt bondage, forced labour, and involuntary child labour.

Labour traffickers use coercion, threats, and violence to force people to work long hours for little or no pay, often in unsafe working conditions, in industries such as:

  • Construction
  • Agriculture
  • Restaurant
  • Manufacturing
  • Food processing
  • Live-in caregiving

Labour Trafficking Facts

  • Debt Bondage is a form of labour trafficking where a person is told they must work to pay off a large, unexpected, and illegal debt.
  • Newcomers and people in other countries may be recruited by someone from their home country or from Canada who makes false promises about the requirement of a job and its pay.
  • The person may not know their rights, may not know how to get help, or may fear reporting to the police.
  • Labour traffickers often take away passports and other documents, and sometimes control where the person stays.
  • Language barriers may affect someone’s ability to seek help or access services.

Forced Marriage

A forced marriage is when someone makes you get married when you do not want to. It is not the same as an arranged marriage, where both people consent to the marriage.

Family members might believe that the marriage is the right thing for the person and for the family. In some cases, people are taken abroad against their will to be married. Forced marriage may include:

  • physical violence
  • threats of violence
  • sexual violence
  • abduction
  • emotional and psychological abuse

Forcing someone to marry against their will is a crime in Canada.

Organ Trafficking

The organ trade includes three broad categories:

  • traffickers who force or deceive victims to give up an organ
  • people who sell their organs out of financial desperation, often only receiving a fraction of the profit, or they are cheated out of the money altogether
  • victims who are deceived into believing they need an operation and the organ is removed without their knowledge

Organ trafficking mainly takes place through “transplant tourism,” in which a Canadian visits another country to receive an organ transplant in a foreign hospital.

There is no law in Canada prohibiting Canadians from taking part in transplant tourism – travelling abroad and purchasing organs for transplantation and returning home to Canada.

Signs someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking:

Not everything listed below is present in every human trafficking situation, but here are a few signs to watch for:

  • sudden change in behaviour – may be acting fearful or anxious
  • suddenly has expensive purses, clothes, jewelry or shoes they cannot afford
  • escorted or driven to and from locations
  • may be dressed in clothing inappropriate for the weather, situation, or their age
  • no control over their own money and/or identification
  • showing signs of abuse, malnourishment or sleep deprivation
  • having multiple cellphones or a cell phone with a tracking or screen mirroring application installed
  • tattoos or branding by a trafficker
  • travelling with limited or no luggage
  • trafficker taking control of the conversation for one or multiple persons
  • unable to indicate where they are living, including an address
  • unable to identify their last location or upcoming destination

Signs for parents to look out for:

  • new friends or boyfriend who provide gifts, expensive clothing, jewelry, or drugs
  • loss of connection to family and friends
  • skipping school and staying out late or all night
  • behaviour changes and mood swings – anxiety or depression, secrecy, and lying.
  • reluctance to engage with teachers, youth workers, social workers, and other adults in their life
  • chronically missing / reported missing repeatedly

What can you do if you suspect this is happening to someone you know?

  • reach out to any of the resources below
  • do not confront a suspected trafficker directly – contact local police, if needed
  • identifying victims and reporting tips is doing your part to help – it is up to police to investigate
  • if it is an emergency, call 911


Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline

Get confidential help 24/7 in several languages by calling the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline.

Call toll-free 1-833-900-1010 or chat online.

The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking

The Canadian Centre to End
Human Trafficking
24/7 toll-free


A free, confidential, voluntary support service for youth aged 13-18, of all genders and all orientations, who are, or are at risk of, being sexually exploited. Young people can access Onyx on their own, through a friend, family member, MCFD, other youth serving agencies, their school or the police.

Toll Free: 1-877-411-7532

Children of the Street

Children of the Street offers children, parents, caregivers, and service providers the information and practical tools they need to keep young people safe from all forms of sexual exploitation.


Family Services of Greater Vancouver

For over 25 years, Family Services has delivered victim services to women and children who have experienced domestic violence, sexual violence, and human trafficking. takes tips regarding the online sexual exploitation of children under 18 years old.

Province of BC

24/7 toll-free

Ending Human Trafficking
604-347-9500 or
toll-free 1-855-332-4283 24/7

Crime Stoppers

Report crime anonymously to Crime Stoppers or call 1-800-222-8477.

Vancouver Police Foundation

This awareness campaign is possible thanks to the generous support of the Vancouver Police Foundation.