Timea Nagy’s story is one familiar to those who work to help victims of human trafficking.
Brought to Canada from Hungary 14 years ago for what was billed as a summer job, she was forced against her will to work as an exotic dancer. Nagy was held in a motel for months, and had her money taken away. She was starved and abused physically and sexually before she managed to escape and contact police.
"Human trafficking is happening in Toronto every single day, right now as we speak," she said. "Look around at the hotels, motels, restaurants, massage places. Human trafficking is all around you, it's just not seen."
Nagy, along with about 500 others, took to the streets of Toronto on Saturday to speak out against human trafficking while raising money and awareness to help its victims.
Adorned in purple shirts and balloons, they marched as part of the third annual Walk of Freedom.
The event began with speeches and a rally at the Royal York Hotel followed by a march to Queen’s Park.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was among the speakers and said human trafficking remains a problem despite the government’s efforts to stop it.
"It's a huge problem globally, millions of people are trafficked, bought and sold like property," said Kenney. "In Canada it's a significant problem but hard to quantify."
Kenney said most of the victims are women; many are entrapped into sex work by organized criminals.
Shae Invidiata is the founder of [free-them], a group dedicated to help victims of human trafficking in Canada.
She said in the past 18 months, the group has helped rescue 130 victims.
"The average age of entry in Canada is 13 years old, so this is a major injustice and we need to make Canadians aware of it."