For organizations that grapple with youth sex trafficking on the front line, the Ontario government’s new policy framework that mandates school boards to implement anti-trafficking protocols is welcome news.
“It’s wonderful that the money is now being given to prevention and education around human trafficking,” Julie Moore, the human trafficking program co-ordinator at Boost Child and Youth Advocacy Centre, told The Epoch Times.
On July 6, Ontario announced a new policy that requires all school boards to develop “a plan and anti-human trafficking protocols” to protect students.
The plan must include efforts to raise awareness of sex trafficking; support students who are at risk or who are being sex trafficked; train employees, educators, and other school staff about such crimes; and establish accountability and evaluation approaches.
The policy framework, which the government says is the first of its kind in Canada, is built on the updated Health and Physical Education curriculum for grades 1 to 8, announced in 2019 by Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
To implement the new policy, the Ontario government also said it will allocate $2.4 million to provide related training and resources to school boards in the province.
“The teachers and the staff in the schools, they spend a lot of time with the youth and they build close relationships with the youth, so … they’re in a really good position to be able to identify any changes in behaviours, or concerns that [students] may have,” Moore said.
“Providing them with the education of what to look for, but also how to respond—that’s crucial as well.”
Moore noted that young people become more vulnerable to sex trafficking when they are “marginalized” at school or at home.
“If you have a youth who is suffering from low self-esteem, bullying in school, problems at home, history of sex abuse—that makes them vulnerable to being trafficked,” she said.
Ontario is a hub for human trafficking, which is growing worldwide. In 2019, the province accounted for approximately 55 percent of all police-reported incidents of human trafficking in Canada, according to the Ontario government, which also noted that over 70 percent of human trafficking victims identified by police that year were under the age of 25, and 21 percent were under 18.
Boost Child and Youth Advocacy Centre was founded in 1981 as the Metropolitan Toronto Chairman’s Special Committee on Child Sexual Abuse. In 1997, it expanded its mandate to address all forms of child abuse. The organization now offers programs for child abuse and trafficking investigation, as well as therapy programs for traumatized children and their families.