National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Reflecting on Human Trafficking in Our Community and Broader Nation
February 22 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and local Nanaimo advocates are working tirelessly to spread public awareness.

02.21.2024 | News

February 22 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Canada. In 2021, the Canadian government made a commitment to spreading awareness of human trafficking issues in the country, and worldwide.

Every year, February 22 is a day meant for Canadians to “raise awareness of the magnitude of modern day slavery in Canada and abroad and to take steps to combat human trafficking.”

Many people confuse human trafficking to be just that—the moving of people encompassing literal trafficking—this is not the case. According to Canada’s Criminal Code (section 279.01), human trafficking offenders include anyone who “recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds, conceals or harbours a person, or exercises control, direction or influence over the movements of a person, for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation.” 

Human trafficking can evidently take many forms such as forced labour (including child labour and child soldiering), sex trafficking (including child sex trafficking), forced marriage (including child marriage), and organ trafficking.

Zonta International is a non-profit that has been advocating for women’s rights for over 100 years. Initially, the group was created for women to help other women, with a focus on advocating for women’s education. Here, accomplished women such as Amelia Earhart joined the group and worked tirelessly to help other women. 

Since its establishment 30 years ago, the Zonta Club of Nanaimo has worked to address undeniably important problems that affect women and children while expanding far beyond the original educational scope of Zonta. Andrea Paris is part of a small group of selfless Nanaimo Zonta club members and has introduced a focus on many important topics such as equal working opportunities, ending child marriage, and of course, human trafficking awareness.

Paris and her team are currently focusing on building a communal understanding of human trafficking. “Awareness is the key,” Paris said.

Paris explained that she saw a need for education surrounding human trafficking in Nanaimo, noting the lack of awareness stems from community members thinking “it’s not happening here.”

According to Paris, Nanaimo is highly susceptible to traffickers as a growing port city, and human trafficking does in fact occur here. Because of this troubling reality, Paris’s goal for several years has been to make a positive change in Nanaimo. However, this must come with radical legislative change and more resources for trafficked persons nationwide. Her team’s long-term goal is to make sure all service groups are adequately informed on the topic and that there are resources available. 

Children are especially vulnerable to human traffickers—from 2010-2020, approximately 25 percent of Canada’s police-reported human trafficking victims were under 18—and with efforts to educate them on prevalent risks and tell-tale signs, Paris and her team are hosting an event for SD68 on February 22. 

“Kids talk, which can influence the recruitment of other kids” and hopefully prevent more becoming victimized, Paris explained. For this event, the team will focus on the topic of sex trafficking, identified in over 70 percent of Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline cases. Their intentions are not to provide comprehensive sexual education, but to educate children on safety—especially online, where there are many ways children can be victimized. “Social media is very dangerous,” Paris said. 

The event takes place at Cedar Community Secondary School, where children will hear from guest speakers, VIU professors, and VIU practicum students from the Criminology department. The team also wanted to ensure that parents and the public also have opportunities to reflect upon and learn about human trafficking, so the event will be open to the public. 

At 5:30 pm on February 22, 2024, Nanaimo will honour National Human Trafficking Day for the first time by lighting the Bastion downtown, where speakers will share information about human trafficking. Purple and orange hues will illuminate the building. 

“Purple represents violence against women, and orange represents Indigenous peoples,” Paris said, noting that Indigenous peoples are disproportionately affected by human trafficking

Stopping human trafficking begins by educating ourselves, and this awareness can potentially help others. 

If you or anyone you know or love may be experiencing human trafficking, you can call 1-833-900-1010 anonymously for support, or reach out to any responsible adult you trust. 

 If you are interested in volunteering opportunities or have any questions, please feel free to reach out to andrea@agentandrea.com.  

Poster for Poetree submissions. Deadline: November 1 at 11:59 pm.

Part of the Nanaimo Zonta team, including VIU Criminology students

Nav Reporter

Sam is a fourth-year Criminology student minoring in Indigenous Studies. She is also working towards a certificate in Legal Studies and plans to pursue a law degree upon graduation. She loves learning and living the ‘student life’ and is looking forward to writing for The Navigator this year.

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