Nova Scotia

Human trafficking hotline a 'really good first step': trauma therapist

A Halifax trauma therapist says a new hotline to help victims of human trafficking is a good way to raise awareness of the growing issue.

The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking launched the hotline on Wednesday

A new national hotline to help victims and survivors of human trafficking has been launched in Canada. It can be reached 24 hours a day at: 1-833-900-1010. (Shutterstock)

A Halifax-based trauma counsellor is applauding a new hotline to help victims of human trafficking.

"It's been long-awaited," said Pam Rubin, a founder of NS End Demand: Nova Scotians for the Prevention of Prostitution and Human Trafficking. "It's great to have one number that all Canadians can call, and I think it's a really good first step."

The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking launched the multilingual, 24-hour hotline on Wednesday.

Rubin said not only can it help victims access the help and support they need, it can help raise awareness about the issue itself.

"A lot of times, we tend to think that trafficking is only about crossing borders. But actually, trafficking can happen within families, within communities," she said. 

"So I think it's going to help Canadians understand that this is something that's happening next door, to our next door neighbours. It's not a problem that's imported from elsewhere."

Pam Rubin is a trauma therapist and one of the founders of NS End Demand: Nova Scotians for the Prevention of Prostitution and Human Trafficking. (CBC)
 

According to Statistics Canada, 95 per cent of police-reported human trafficking victims were women. Further to that, 72 per cent were under the age of 25, and 26 per cent were younger than 18.

The study also said the practice has been steadily on the rise since 2010.

While the hotline is a good foundation, Rubin said more needs to be done to support survivors. She'd like to see more exiting strategy supports, such as witness protection programming for people after they've escaped.

"Traffickers don't want to see a quarter of a million dollars a year walk away," she said. 

"They're often connected to organized crime, they're often violent and highly controlling. And that means that the very tiny percentage of victims who can come forward are in grave danger."

'Right to live a life free of fear'

Ashley Franssen-Tingley, a program co-ordinator with the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, said the new hotline is a "missing piece of critical infrastructure" for victims to access help outside of law enforcement.

"We know that trafficking victims are often moved from town to town and interprovincially, and so this is a really critical way for them to access services and supports, especially because they often don't even know where they are," she said.

Franssen-Tingley told CBC's Information Morning that the hotline takes a victim-centred approach to helping the people that phone in.

She said the staff follow the caller's lead, and will answer questions and connect them to resources.

"We know that this type of crime really operates on fear," said Franssen-Tingley.

"We know it's scary to call, but everyone in this country has the right to live a life free of fear, and violence and coercion, and human trafficking is one of the most extreme versions of this type of violence."

Franssen-Tingley says hotline staff are trained to follow the victim's lead. (The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking)
 

Indigenous women and girls, members of the LGBTQ community, newcomers, children in care and other vulnerable groups are the most susceptible to human trafficking.

It can be very difficult for a victim of human trafficking to escape their situation, said Rubin.

People forced into sex slavery are often afraid of their trafficker, she said, and may fear what repercussions might be in store for them if they try to get away.

Others might be brainwashed and closely monitored, or convinced that nobody can help them.

That's why it's important for people to learn what the signs of human trafficking looks like, said Rubin.

"Such as somebody who looks scared, somebody who seems out of place, somebody who looks monitored and controlled ... certain tattoos, unwillingness to speak," she said.

End the demand

On top of that, she said it's important for people to be aware that pimps aren't the only ones who are contributing to the issue of human trafficking, noting there wouldn't be a supply if there wasn't demand for these services.

"The other thing is to start giving feedback to the men in our communities who are buying young people for prostitution, that that is not OK," she said.

"We'd also like to see a lot more education about trafficking, its impact, and how it's not cool to buy other human beings for your sexual needs."

The new hotline can be reached 24 hours a day at: 1-833-900-1010.

Deaf and non-verbal hotline users should dial 711 in any province or territory, then ask the relay service to connect them with the main hotline number.

About the Author

Alex Cooke

Reporter/editor

Alex is a reporter living in Halifax. Send her story ideas at alex.cooke@cbc.ca

With files from Information Morning Nova Scotia