The Current

Ont.'s anti-human trafficking director knows first-hand about 'hidden' crime

Ontario's new anti-human trafficking office is being led by a woman who knows exactly what it's like to be trafficked across the country. Jennifer Richardson gives voice to the hidden crime in Canada.
The province of Ontario accounts for 65 per cent of human trafficking cases reported to police nationally. (Shutterstock)

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It's called a hidden crime.  Girls and young women lured into drugs and prostitution by men promising them love and a better life.

Jennifer Richardson lived that nightmare, trafficked from the age of 13 to 16.  As Richardson becomes Ontario's point person in the fight against trafficking, she's using her experience to try to save the lives of those who are most vulnerable.

Ontario is considered a major hub of human trafficking in Canada — accounting for 65 per cent of cases reported to police nationally.

But Richardson tells The Current's Friday host Laura Lynch that there's a lot more than people see because trafficking is hidden.

"Most people that go forward to the police, there's usually a lot more that did not."

She tells Lynch that Ontario's strategy is to put forward better ways to reach the people who have been trafficked and provide services to help them escape.

 ... It usually takes, you know, years to heal and be okay.- Jennifer Richardson

Richardson was the first person to graduate high school on her mother's side and wanted to become a lawyer.

"We didn't have the money for me to go to university and so I ended up actually begging someone in Winnipeg at a homeless shelter to give me a job because I figured I could work with street people because I knew street people."

After working for a few years, Richardson saved up enough money to study social work, specifically looking at addictions.

"I started working with children and women who had been affected by addiction issues and started seeing a lot of exploited people and I could identify them very easily."

She says a lot of the women and children she'd seen were not successful in completing treatment and it led Richardson to explore the reasons why.

Richardson points to a slew of reasons like long wait lists and not having access to people who had made it out.

"Sometimes it isn't a matter of you know the police rescuing you or the police locating you or a service provider providing services to you one time — that it usually takes, you know, years to heal and be okay from that experience."

Listen to the full conversation the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Samira Mohyeddin.