Public Safety Canada’s Webinar Series: Education and Awareness of Human Trafficking

Press Release

Hosted by Public Safety Canada, 2023


Public Safety Canada hosts an annual webinar series on combatting human trafficking as part of the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking.

The 2023 series was held from January 2023 to March 2023. A total of 632 participants from different sectors and levels of government across Canada attended. The webinars had two main goals:

  • To improve awareness of emerging trends, current issues and best practices in the fight against human trafficking.
  • To improve networks and relationships with other stakeholders working to advance efforts in addressing human trafficking.


Please be aware that the information and opinions presented in this report may not reflect the Government of Canada’s official stance on human trafficking or related issues.

Content Warning

This report contains information and details about human trafficking, which can be upsetting and challenging to read for some readers.

If needed, you can contact the Government of Canada’s mental health supports or the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-833-900-1010.

Main Themes from the Webinar Series

Public Safety Canada organized three webinars to examine human trafficking with key experts:

  • Webinar 1: Addressing the Root Causes of Human Trafficking in Youth on February 9, 2023, discussed how to address the underlying causes of human trafficking in youth.
  • Webinar 2: Identification and Support of Victims of Labour Trafficking in Canada, Current Trends and Best Practices on February 23, 2023, explored the identification and support of victims of labour trafficking in Canada, as well as the best ways to combat it.
  • Webinar 3: Technology-Facilitated Human Trafficking on March 9, 2023, focused on how technology is used to facilitate human trafficking.

Each webinar focused on a different topic related to human trafficking, there were three common themes that surfaced:

1. Human trafficking is a complex crime that involves the powerful exploiting the less powerful.

  • Human trafficking occurs when traffickers with more power exploit victims with less power.
  • There are different forms of power that can be used by traffickers, including financial and social control.
  • It is possible for victims and survivors to regain their power if they are given the right support.

2. Technology can be used both to help and hinder human trafficking.

  • Traffickers use technology to recruit, pay, and carry out trafficking.
  • Technology can also be used to fight trafficking by helping investigators track and analyze data.

3. The needs of victims and survivors must be at the center of addressing human trafficking.

  • Building trust with survivors, especially in the case of labour trafficking, is key to intervening and ensuring that they feel comfortable sharing their stories.
  • Survivors should be in control of their own healing process.

Webinar 1: Addressing the Root Causes of Human Trafficking in Youth – February 9, 2023

Discussion Highlights

  • Human trafficking happens when people in power exploit others who have less power. Victims and survivors of human trafficking can get their power back when they get the opportunity to access resources, make their own choices, and get involved in their communities.
  • It is important to create safe spaces where victims and survivors can connect with their communities and have control over their own healing process. For Indigenous survivors, culture and ceremony are important parts of healing. Survivors should be able to access services when they need them, and they should be the ones in charge of their healing journey.
  • Technology makes it easier for human trafficking to happen. It allows the crime to happen faster and on a larger scale, and it can have a greater impact on child victims.

Presentation 1: Human Trafficking, Power & Control – Zina Chernowas, SPARK Program Manager, The Salvation Army Illuminate

  • Understanding human trafficking requires understanding power dynamics, privilege and oppression. People who have more power because of their social identities can misuse that power and exploit others. Trafficking occurs when a person or group abuses their power to control others, often by promising to meet their basic needs. This type of power is called supremacist power and it crushes victims’ autonomy and value systems.
  • Survivors are often manipulated into accepting and believing the abuse or violence they face. They may try to reclaim power by using favours to build up intangible debt or drawing undue attention to their situations. Service providers have a responsibility to address these behaviours in a way that does not further marginalize survivors. They can help by bringing awareness to power dynamics in relationships and offering access to choice, autonomy and resources. This type of power is called liberatory power.
  • Survivor-led best practices that support empowerment include protecting confidentiality and data security, providing training in trauma-informed mental health standards, opening access to legal and medical services, and supporting survivors in being active and integrated members of their communities.

Presentation 2: Implications of Technology in Child Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking – Dr. Jennifer Martin, Associate Dean and Professor at Toronto Metropolitan University

  • Technology has made it easier for people who commit human trafficking to do it on a larger scale and in more extreme forms. They can target millions of children from anywhere in the world and can operate from different places at the same time. Nowadays, almost every case of child trafficking involves the use of the internet. The problem is made worse by the fact that technology is changing very quickly, while the laws that regulate it are not keeping up with the pace of change.
  • Human traffickers use technology to help them commit their crimes. They use digital tools to find children to traffic, advertise them to potential buyers, convince them to go along with the trafficking, and silence them. They can even use technology to pay for the trafficking. The speed and scale of trafficking are increased by the widespread use of social media and gaming platforms and other communication tools like phones. Traffickers are able to remain anonymous and avoid being caught because of the vast distances involved and the anonymity provided by technology.
  • Combating human trafficking starts with prevention. The presenter suggested funding graduate-level research programs on human trafficking, as well as train people who work with children in areas like child protection, health, education, and law enforcement to recognize and stop human trafficking. The presenter also said that technology companies need to help by taking down any sexual abuse material involving children that they find and screening for it in a way that protects children. Finally, law enforcement needs to invite survivors of trafficking to help them prevent it from happening in the first place.

Presentation 3: Ka Ni Kanichihk Inc. – Samantha Harris, Director of Healing Programs, Ka Ni Kanichihk Inc.

  • The presenter talked about Ka Ni Kanichihk, a community organization that helps Indigenous people. They offer programs and services that help Indigenous people become stronger and more resilient. People who use their services include Indigenous women and girls who might be in danger of being sexually exploited, as well as people who have been trafficked.
  • Ka Ni Kanichihk helps Indigenous people through cultural programs and services. The organization uses cultural practices such as land blessing ceremonies and pipe ceremonies to connect people with their ancestors and bring them back to a good life. Community members are accepted as they are, and the organization does not have any barriers to accessing health and healing services. The organization’s Peer Advisory Committees include people with lived experiences who help define the support they need and provide feedback on the programs.
  • Ka Ni Kanichihk offers a program called Velma’s House that provides a safe space for women who need help and support. The program offers access to meals, medicine, hygiene, cultural healing, harm reduction, and medical or legal advocacy. They combine both Indigenous and Western approaches to care. In addition, they offer specialized programming to help families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit Individuals (MMIWG2S), like Medicine Bear Counselling and Elder Support. They provide a three-day gathering called Wiping Away the Tears for families to share in healing, self-care, and self-love. Lastly, they offer Heart Medicine Lodge, which is a culture-based support and advocacy service for Indigenous women who have experienced sexual assault and violence.

Webinar 2: Identification and Support of Victims of Labour Trafficking in Canada, Current Trends and Best Practices – February 23, 2023

Discussion Highlights

  • Labour trafficking doesn’t always involve physical harm or threats of violence. Instead, a trafficker may use financial means, social isolation, and threats of deportation to force a victim into performing certain work or services.
  • Sometimes, victims of labour trafficking may not realize they have been trafficked and may not be able to explain it. People who are trained in interviewing may be able to ask questions that help victims share important information that they didn’t think was relevant. Sometimes, a second interview may be needed to get more information. It’s important for interviewers to be well-informed about labor trafficking or they might miss important information. Only police officers who have been trained in labour trafficking should conduct interviews.
  • Education and training can be helpful, particularly for law enforcement officers, community agencies or faith organizations that interact with victims of labour trafficking. It’s important for them to have basic knowledge of applicable labour and employment laws. Practices that may seem unimportant, like employers charging employees rent, can actually be significant employment law violations that support investigations into labour trafficking.

Presentation 1: Identification and Support of Labour Trafficking Victims: Current Trends and Best Practices – Jim Cruess and Veronica Puls, Assistant Crown Attorneys, Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario

  • The presenters shared a fictional example to explain how people can be tricked into becoming victims of human trafficking. They wanted to show that traffickers can control and frighten victims without using physical violence. They also pointed out that traffickers aim to exploit others by using different tactics together, gradually building up control over victims.
  • The example showed different ways that people who harm others, also know as perpetrators, can use power to control their victims. Perpetrators may control their victims by using social and financial tactics. For example, victims may be forced to pay very high fees for things like transportation, immigration services (like electronic travel authorizations), food, or materials for work. They might also be made to rent poor-quality housing for prices that are against the law. Traffickers might make the victims believe that if they try to get help from the authorities, they will be sent back to their home countries.
  • The speakers gave a general explanation of the laws in Ontario that apply to labour trafficking. They talked about the specific definitions of trafficking and exploitation, as stated in the Criminal Code, and the relevant areas of employment law. They emphasized that, similar to other types of human trafficking, labour trafficking can happen even before a victim starts working or providing services. When it comes to proving that human trafficking has taken place, it is important to consider the overall purpose of the actions of the person responsible, along with the details of the entire case.
  • Frontline workers, especially law enforcement officers, need proper training to recognize signs of labour trafficking. While individual signs may not be enough to prove labour trafficking alone, they deserve further investigation. When combined with other evidence, these signs can help establish cases of labour trafficking. Training equips officers and workers to identify signs of exploitation during initial contact with victims and subsequent interviews. During interviews, it’s important to follow best practices and not assume that victims will explicitly state they have been trafficked. Victims may not fully understand their situation yet. Sensitivity and avoiding expectations are crucial in interviews.

Presentation 2: Supporting Victims through the Trial Process – Michelle LeBlanc, Victim/Witness Services Worker, Victim/Witness Assistance Program Ontario

  • The speaker gave an explanation of the services provided to crime victims through the Victim/Witness Assistance Program (VWAP) in Ontario. The program is available in all court areas of Ontario and aims to support victims throughout the entire court process. The program’s effectiveness lies in establishing a strong connection with individuals, taking the necessary time to guide victims appropriately, and promoting collaboration among different programs under the VWAP to offer comprehensive services.
  • The services aim to make clients feel more comfortable participating in the court process. They adopt a client-centered and trauma-informed approach. The program reaches out to clients, listens to their fears and concerns, and develops a personalized plan to meet their needs. This may involve providing interpreters or translating court documents, maintaining regular communication through clients’ preferred means, and ensuring clients understand each step of the court process and Canadian law. The program also helps clients connect with other community services, find accommodations, navigate immigration matters, and offers guidance and support when working with the police.
  • VWAP places great importance on maintaining consistent, accurate, and clear communication with clients and between service providers. All organizations involved collaborate as a team to set up communication and action plans for each client that can be adjusted as needed. This approach not only benefits clients, but also promotes collaboration among service providers. The program is flexible and prioritizes treating clients with respect, addressing their needs, and supporting them in beginning a healing process that can last a lifetime.

Presentation 3: Supporting Victims Outside of the Court Process – Shelly Gilbert, Coordinator of Social Work Services, Legal Assistance of Windsor

  • The speaker discussed the social work services provided by Legal Assistance of Windsor (LAW), a non-governmental organization dedicated to supporting the Windsor/Essex community. LAW has significant expertise in assisting survivors of labour trafficking in the region through the Windsor-Essex Counter Exploitation Network. This network offers a wide range of services to address survivors’ psychological and physical needs, including crisis intervention, psychosocial counseling, housing assistance, support throughout the criminal court processes, immigration assistance, and employment support.
  • Over time, LAW has acknowledged that many survivors of exploitation experience a range of violations that go beyond withholding wages. These violations include exposure to unsafe environments, racial aggression from supervisors, and demands to pay fees to the perpetrators. Often, survivors may not immediately connect all of these harmful experiences or recognize that they are actually illegal and a result of being trafficked. LAW has learned from these experiences and continues to support survivors in understanding their rights and the connections between various forms of aggression and exploitation they have faced.
  • Building trust between social workers and survivors is a gradual process that requires time and patience. Survivors often express difficulty trusting themselves. Creating an environment where they can remember and process their experiences at their own pace is important. It is crucial to explore different options with survivors, allow them time to reflect, offer support as they consider their options and ultimately respect decisions they make as they move forward. This process can place a significant workload on non-governmental organizations that support survivors, especially when they are assisting up to 40 or 50 individuals at the same time.
  • LAW emphasized the significance of placing survivors at the center of the work they do, while addressing factors that put them at-risk. It is crucial to support survivors with sensitivity and care, and ask questions that empower victims to reclaim their voice.

Webinar 3: Technology-Facilitated Human Trafficking- March 9, 2023

Discussion Highlights

  • Human trafficking is a complex crime that is  complicated by the challenges in identifying it in the first place. Human trafficking can look different depending on the situation. For example, some victims may initially consent to arrangements that later qualify as trafficking. Law enforcement working to combat these crimes face a number of challenges, including jurisdictional issues, differences in legal frameworks, resource constraints and varying access to training.
  • Digital technology plays a significant role in facilitating human trafficking at every stage of the crime. Traffickers use online platforms to recruit, advertise, process payment, often using virtual currencies, and hide criminal proceeds.
  • Technology is also a part of the solution to combating human trafficking. Online investigative tools can assist investigators in scanning, tracking, and analyzing data related to trafficking. However, the cost of these tools and the rapid pace at which technology is advancing can often make them hard to access and less effective in practice.

Presentation 1: Investigation of Multi-Jurisdictional Human Trafficking Cases – Julie Jones, Founder and CEO, Human- Intelligence Services

  • One of the major challenges in addressing human trafficking, both on a national and international level, is identifying that the crime is taking place in the first  place. Human trafficking can look different depending on the situation. For example, sometimes, the victim’s initial consent can be mistakenly seen as a sign that trafficking has not occurred. As a result, trafficking cases may be overlooked as consensual. This challenge is further complicated due to differing legal frameworks and interpretations across jurisdictions.
  • In Canada, efforts to combat human trafficking vary by region . The prevalence of human trafficking in the area, the availability of support services and access to tools and training for frontline workers and law enforcement can all affect the response. Jurisdictional challenges also present challenges in sharing information and coordinating enforcement efforts.
  • Technology plays a significant role in facilitating every aspect of the human trafficking process. Particularly, recruitment companies operate as seemingly legitimate organizations with employees and utilize real-time communication technologies. Technology also allows traffickers to minimize the need for physical exchange of data and money, making it challenging, costly, and time-consuming for investigators to track financial transactions using online investigation tools. The vast amount of content and the rapid pace of technological advancements present additional constraints when using online tools for investigations.
  • The presenter encouraged investigators to familiarize themselves with technological tools that can assist in their investigations. These tools include is a geolocation, artificial intelligence, data scraping, and open-source investigation tools. Throughout the process, investigators should adhere to rigorous data verification methods and make efforts to preserve original content or raw evidence directly from the source.

Presentation 2: Cryptocurrency as a Facilitator of Human Trafficking – National Cryptocurrency Coordinator, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

  • Cryptocurrency is a virtual asset that is convertible, decentralized and secured by cryptography. All transactions are recorded and stored on public, digital and decentralized ledgers called blockchains. These records include information such as amounts exchanged, the origin and destination of the transactions, and the date and time of each transaction. However, blockchain technology does not capture personal information associated with transactions. Instead, it represents transactions using strings of alphanumeric characters, ensuring a level of anonymity for the people involved.
  • Human trafficking offenders have increasingly turned to cryptocurrency as a means of carrying out financial transactions and concealing proceeds. There are several advantages for their use of this technology, including the ability to conduct borderless and anonymous transactions, expedite transactions with low fees, and encounter minimal restrictions.
  • The presenter shared a case study involving investigators who tracked transactions on a website called, which is known to facilitate sex trafficking. On this platform, traffickers use cryptocurrency as a payment method for trafficking advertisements and transactions. To address this issue, investigators have access to analysis software to analyze transactions and identify patterns, which can support investigations and prosecutions.

Presentation 3: Technology Infused Human Trafficking – Matt Richardson, Director of Intelligence and Investigations, Anti-Human Trafficking Intelligence Initiative

  • Social media platforms (e.g. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc.), content creator sites (e.g. Onlyfans, Patreon, etc.) and live video streaming services (e.g. Zoom, Facetime, etc.) are modern technologies that enable recruitment in human trafficking and sexual exploitation. These technologies provide traffickers with a means to engage in trafficking with reduced risk and cost, as they are not restricted to a physical location. Moreover, traffickers use these platforms to instantly reach and exploit a larger number of young individuals online. Particularly concerning is the fact that, with the increasing availability of personal information online, traffickers can more easily identify potential victims and exploit them by building deceitful relationships.
  • Traffickers use various strategies to establish deceptive relationships, which eventually lead to exploitation. Technological tools like video manipulation and voice filters are also utilized by traffickers to fabricate convincing false identities throughout this process.
  • The exploitation of victims intensifies when they are coerced into creating child sexual abuse material (CSAM) themselves. Using their smart phone and other devices, non-explicit images and videos can be manipulated or altered to produce CSAM. Traffickers may then distribute the original or manipulated material online or use it as a means to threaten victims into engaging in further non-contact or contact offenses, which in turn generate more material. This act of profiting or commercializing such material is commonly referred to as sextortion and can be just as harmful as the initial sexual abuse.


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