Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Know the signs of human trafficking

On this page

  1. Human trafficking
  2. Human smuggling
  3. Types of exploitation
  4. Domestic and international trafficking
  5. Recruiting tactics
  6. Risk factors
  7. Warning signs
  8. The law in Canada
  9. Role of the RCMP
  10. Investigation sources

Human trafficking

Human trafficking is when people are tricked, kept or moved by criminals in order to use them for making money. The victims are often forced into sex or work without choice.

Human smuggling

Human smuggling is different from human trafficking. Human smuggling involves moving people across international borders in exchange for money. Once they reach their destination, the smuggler and the person part ways. In some cases, people who agreed to be smuggled have later become victims of human trafficking.

Types of exploitation

Victims of human trafficking are exploited in different ways:

Sexual exploitation
Victims are forced to provide sexual services, or work in massage parlors, for escort agencies or the adult entertainment industry.
Forced labour
Victims are made to work under harsh conditions, such as long hours, low or no pay, or unsafe environments (such as in the construction industry or in agricultural work). It can also include working as caregivers with unreasonable hours and unrelated duties.
Organ removal
Victims are trafficked for their organs, due to issues of low supply and high demand. This type of trafficking is not prevalent in Canada.

Domestic and international trafficking

Human trafficking can happen anywhere, like between countries, inside a country, or even in a small community. It may also involve organized crime networks.

Domestic human trafficking
In these cases, victims are trafficked within Canada. It does not matter if the victim is a citizen, visitor, student, or work permit holder.
International human trafficking
This refers to cases where victims are moved across international borders. Again, the victim's status in Canada does not matter.

Recruiting tactics

Human traffickers meet their victims in person, online, or through mutual connections. They identify vulnerabilities, such as:

Traffickers may use tactics on their victims, such as:

  • showering victims with affection and gifts (like jewelry, designer clothing and designer bags)
  • promising an exciting lifestyle and money
  • offering work, education, or financial support for their families

They approach potential victims in various ways, including:

  • pretending to be a love interest, friend, or sponsor
  • advertising jobs and opportunities in newspapers or online
  • resorting to threats or kidnapping
  • connecting through social media platforms

Risk factors

Human traffickers can target anyone, as they are skilled manipulators and predators. They exploit the vulnerabilities of potential victims, such as:

  • the desire for love or belonging
  • substance addiction
  • financial struggles
  • language barriers

Certain groups face higher risks due to factors beyond their control, including:

  • migrant workers
  • new immigrants
  • youth
  • indigenous individuals
  • women and girls
  • people living in poverty
  • people with substance use disorders
  • survivors of abuse and trauma
  • individuals who identify as 2SLGBTQI+
  • people facing cultural or societal inequities

No one willingly chooses to be exploited.

Warning signs

Victims of human trafficking may:

  • not be able to explain their circumstances
  • be unaware of the location of their docu­ments (that is passport, identification)
  • unaware of surroundings despite having been in the area for an extended period of time
  • not be able to move or leave their job
  • have tattooing, or branding to indicate ownership
  • from a foreign country and neither speak English nor French and/or not speak on their own behalf
  • have bruises, show signs of abuse and/or malnutrition
  • show evidence of being controlled, intimidat­ed, or afraid
  • frequently moved or accompanied by their trafficker

The law in Canada

Human trafficking is a criminal offense under multiple sections of the Criminal Code. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act also includes provisions against cross-border trafficking. To learn more about the legislation, you can visit the Department of Justice website.

Role of the RCMP

The RCMP plays a crucial role in combating human trafficking:

  • enforcing the law
  • identifying potential victims through awareness initiatives and investigations
  • assisting with crime prevention initiatives
  • collaborating with other police and government agencies to share information and coordinate approaches

Investigation sources

To investigate human trafficking cases, the RCMP relies on various sources, including:

  • public reports of suspicious activities, missing persons, or children
  • government agencies and non-government organizations, such as those working at ports of entry or dealing with health and social services
  • international agencies dedicated to fighting human trafficking
  • victims who escape from traffickers
  • other law enforcement agencies' investigations
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