Toronto is the “most common destination” of human trafficking in Ontario, and a hub on the larger map of national and international trafficking routes, according to a new study released Saturday at a conference on modern slavery. 

The 50-page report, released at the annual Alliance Against Modern Slavery conference, looked at 551 human trafficking cases that involved Ontario in 2011 through 2013. 

Toronto acted “as a hub for a number of human trafficking routes,” as victims of sexual exploitation, forced labour and forced marriage were moved between provinces or brought into and out of Canada, according to the report’s authors. 

Those cases saw people brought in from 18 different countries including Afghanistan, the U.S., Ukraine, the Philippines and India. People were also trafficked out of Canada to Afghanistan, England and the U.S. 

Earlier this month Toronto police arrested eight people and filed more than 40 human trafficking charges, alleging that gang members recruited girls as young as 14-years-old to work as prostitutes under the threat of violence.

Another separate arrest in May appeared to involve human trafficking between Ontario and Nova Scotia.

Young, female, Canadian citizens

Roughly 63 per cent of the victims described in the report were Canadian citizens. The same percentage were between the ages of 15 and 24, and 90 per cent were female. The victims were trafficked for the following reasons:

  • Sexual exploitation (68.5 per cent).
  • Forced labour (24.5 per cent).
  • Forced marriage (7.7 per cent).
  • Petty crime (6.3 per cent).

"The findings in this report reveal that the province of Ontario urgently needs to invest in system changes," said Karlee Sapoznik, one of the report’s four co-authors and president of the Alliance Against Modern Slavery.

These changes include a province-wide plan to combat human trafficking, a long-term task force to act on that plan, and changes to Ontario’s child welfare laws. 

The report says the biggest challenges faced by those who work with victims of human trafficking included lack of funding and housing, and difficulty providing financial support and counselling for the victims. 

See below for a summary of statistics in the report.