The same Canadian highways that serve as corridors for freight are also used to move the victims of human trafficking. But a new online training resource is engaging the truckers who travel these routes in the fight against the crime.
“This survivor-led human trafficking online training for professional drivers will help assist drivers in knowing what to look for and how they can help eradicate this heinous crime,” said Shelley Uvanile-Hesch, CEO of the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada.
The federation, working with $47,000 in provincial funding and support from the Trucking Human Resources Sector Council – Atlantic, helped establish the training that will be available through providers such as CarriersEdge and the Ontario Safety League.
While the crime is not unique to Ontario, the province accounted for 1.6 human trafficking incidents per 100,000 residents in 2016.
“Our 400-Series highways are hotbeds of trafficking movement – allowing traffickers to transport victims between cities and towns throughout the province,” said Mississauga Centre MPP Natalia Kusendova.
She will lend her own voice to a French version of the training material that is voiced in English by Timea Nagy, a human trafficking survivor.
“Being on the front lines of Ontario’s highways, our friends in the trucking industry play a crucial role in identifying the signs of human trafficking, and assisting law enforcement to bring perpetrators to justice,” Kusendova said.
The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) is already throwing its support behind the initiative, pledging to help put material in the hands of the province’s truck drivers.
“That’s 100,000 eyes and ears that can stop this heinous crime,” said OTA CEO Stephen Laskowski. “The more people that can help [with] this, the more that we can put these evil criminals out of business.”
Related resources will include emergency virtual support for trafficking victims, as well as free information to help them re-integrate into society. “Classes are strictly designed and delivered by survivors, for survivors,” Uvanile-Hesch stressed.
“Human trafficking is an issue that requires a multi-sectoral response,” added Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, noting that she first began working on the issue when serving as attorney general. “We are using every tool at our disposal to contribute to our government’s broader effort to put an end to this horrific crime and to support the victims of human trafficking.”
The province is also raising awareness through information available at ONroute rest areas, carpool lots, and truck inspection stations.
The new training program adds to several initiatives across North America that are educating truck drivers about the signs of human trafficking and how to report the activity.
The Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) has teamed up with #NotInMyCity to deliver a 30-minute course on the topic. And Truckers Against Trafficking, founded in the U.S. in 2009, also expanded into Canada in September 2019.
Said Kusendova: “It truly does take a village to end human trafficking.”
Red flags of human trafficking
Truckers may notice several signs that indicate potential human trafficking activity. According to www.knowhumantrafficking.com, these include:
- Someone who doesn’t know their whereabouts or lacks control of their ID or passport
- Restricted or controlled communication, where the person is not allowed to speak for themselves or is being watched or followed
- Vehicles that appear to be dropping women off or picking them up within a short timeframe, and vehicles that appear to be delivering multiple women into a male-dominated area
- Signs of assault
The online resource stresses that truck drivers should not approach the traffickers themselves. Instead, they should collect information such as details about vehicles, licence plates, and U.S. DOT numbers, or even take pictures of such things if is safe to do so.
Then call law enforcement or the anti-human-trafficking hotline at 833-900-1010.