Exposed: The Dark Reality of Human Trafficking Busts

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How to Spot a Human Trafficking Bust

Human trafficking is a heinous crime that exploits vulnerable victims like modern-day slaves. Victims are often sold as prostitutes or forced to work in restaurants, factories, or as migrant workers.

They can be beaten or tortured if they fail to meet their quotas. They also can be forced to work excessive hours.

1. Police Intercepted a Vehicle

Most trafficking situations are identified proactively, by police responding to reports from victims or others. These tips were the most common method for identifying trafficking, followed by a police officer encountering the suspects and/or victims in the course of their duties (N = 296, 38.9%).

An anti-trafficking hotline receives a call from a woman who says she’s been forced to prostitute herself in motels across the state. She reveals she’s a victim of human trafficking and says her pimp threatened to hurt her family back home in Central America if she didn’t do what he asked.

The sheriff’s office charges Maria Guzman and Freddy Escalona with sex trafficking after the two women are arrested for crossing into Texas from Mexico. Guzman and Escalona allegedly provided the women with fraudulent Texas driver’s licenses so they could pass through a checkpoint. They also allegedly charged their victims for sex and transportation. Police believe the pair are part of a larger human trafficking ring.

2. Police Intercepted a Vehicle

When police officers see a vehicle that’s transporting people to and from places where they plan to engage in commercial sex, it could be a sign of human trafficking. Officers are in a great position to identify this type of crime during routine traffic stops and while patrolling domestic violence calls, inspecting liquor licenses, or intercepting truant children. In fact, line-level officers have identified and prosecuted most of the perpetrators in cases involving human trafficking.

During this operation, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said 83 suspects were arrested for soliciting prostitution or traveling to an undercover location to negotiate having sex for money. He says detectives also screened each of these suspects for signs they were victims of labor human trafficking. The sheriff’s office says it has evidence connecting one of the accused, Anthony Bernard Carter, to a previous exploited victim. These “historical” victims are crucial to the prosecution of sex traffickers, and law enforcement should always seek additional, corroborated information about potential victims.

3. Police Intercepted a Vehicle

During routine traffic stops, law enforcement officers can be in a position to spot human trafficking crimes if they know what to look for. This incident in Ohio illustrates how police intercepted a vehicle to stop two suspects who were transporting girls for prostitution.

The girls told investigators that their trafficker promised them work and school supplies. They also said the trafficker beat them when they did not behave the way she wanted. Police are now working to identify and assist the victims.

Often, when law enforcement officers receive credible tips from victims of sexual exploitation, they immediately raid locations the victim identified and arrest the sex trafficker. However, it is important for investigators to exhaust all covert methods of identifying locations and victims before taking this course of action. This allows them to gather a wealth of evidence and potentially save lives in the process. This is one of the main reasons why it is so crucial for law enforcement agencies to partner with each other.

4. Police Intercepted a Vehicle

Police officers who make routine traffic stops are in a unique position to spot human trafficking crimes, if they know what to look for. This is particularly true in cases involving the transportation of victims.

An anti-trafficking hotline receives a call from a terrified young woman who says her pimp has forced her to prostitute herself in motels around the country. He had promised her the money she earned would pay for school supplies and clothes.

Sex trafficking — defined by the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) as the recruitment, harboring, transporting, provision, obtaining, or soliciting of persons for commercial sex acts involving force, fraud, or coercion — is a heinous crime that exploits the most vulnerable in our society. It can affect both children and adults, of any race or sexual orientation.

A sheriff’s office in North Texas has charged two suspects for allegedly trafficking a woman to prostitution. The sheriff’s office said that one of the suspects was in the country illegally and that he met the victim online claiming to be looking for construction workers.

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Human Trafficking Survivors: A Valuable Resource for Stakeholders

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Survivors of Human Trafficking

Survivors are a valuable resource for anti-trafficking stakeholders, including police departments, legislators, and advocacy organizations. They should be engaged in meaningful ways to craft victim-centered and trauma-informed policies.

Debt bondage, a form of slavery in which traffickers manipulate debt to compel labor or commercial sex, continues despite legal prohibitions. It can occur in private homes, hotels, and massage parlors.


Human traffickers often lure victims into their clutches by using a number of methods, including false promises of well-paying jobs, romantic relationships, manipulation and threats. These criminals prey on those who are vulnerable or seeking a better life, especially those with limited resources and support systems.

Educating people on how to recognize human trafficking is one of the most effective ways to prevent it. Educate children on the warning signs of human trafficking, and encourage parents to talk to their kids about the dangers.

Host an awareness event to watch and discuss a human trafficking documentary, such as the film “The Harvest”. Or, invite speakers to your church or community group to share their stories and experiences in a candid manner. Encourage local schools to include human trafficking in their curricula. This could be as simple as a class on child sexual exploitation or a discussion about safe travel routes for minors. You can also promote anti-trafficking awareness in the workplace by encouraging your company to become trauma-informed and promoting workplace safety.


The problem is getting worse, according to officials. California is the top state in the country for human trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. The crime is prevalent in the hospitality, commercial sex, and domestic work industries. It also occurs in agriculture and construction.

Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer says the issue is more complex than most people realize. “It’s not just catching the traffickers,” she said. “It’s also identifying the victims and preventing them from being trafficked.”

KCAHT is working to address these issues by providing practical assistance for rescued victims, such as helping them attain their driver’s license or pay for college books. They also educate faith-based organizations and schools about human trafficking.

A multiagency task force recently arrested 22 suspects in Bakersfield during a four-day sexual predator apprehension operation. The investigation, known as Operation Bad Barbie, targeted adults who sought to exploit children through websites and social media that allow adults to meet minors for lewd acts. The suspects were charged with California Penal Code violations, including PC 266h-pimping, PC 266i-pandering, and PC 288.3-contacting a minor for lewd purposes.

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Recognizing Signs of Human Trafficking: Walmart and Target Should Stay Vigilant

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Walmart and Target Should Be Aware of Signs of Human Trafficking

Anyone can experience trafficking, but community-wide vulnerabilities make certain people more at risk. Generational trauma, historic oppression, and discrimination can create a climate where trafficking thrives.

TEMPLE, Texas — Two women say they were followed by men they believed to be sex traffickers at a Temple Walmart.

Truck drivers spend a lot of time on the road and can be particularly at risk for human trafficking. A national nonprofit trains truckers to recognize and report potential exploitation.

Signs of Human Trafficking

People who work for companies that import from Thailand-including Walmart and Target-should be aware of signs of human trafficking. Recognizing key indicators can help identify victims and save lives.

Human trafficking, also known as modern slavery or forced labour, involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to exploit people for profit. This can include commercial sex acts, domestic servitude, and involuntary prostitution. People who are being trafficked often have no idea that they’re being exploited and are isolated from their friends, family and community by the person controlling them.

Common warning signs of trafficking can include sudden isolation, frequent phone calls or texts with an unfamiliar number, suspicious gifts or money, and inexplicable changes to someone’s appearance. In addition, victims who are being trafficked may have bruises from the physical abuse they’ve suffered and have been subjected to mental or emotional manipulation.

Targets of Human Trafficking

While there are some groups that are more vulnerable to trafficking, anyone can become a victim. Traffickers often target children, people with disabilities, the LBGTQ community and immigrants. They may exploit victims for commercial sex, domestic servitude or extreme labor in massage parlors, hair salons, restaurants and factories.

Those who drive for a living are also particularly susceptible to being targeted by human traffickers, according to Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT). That’s because these drivers spend so much time on the road. TAT has a team that educates truckers about what human trafficking is and how to spot it.

TAT’s training includes how to recognize red flags at truck stops and other places that attract these criminals. The organization’s Road Team also gives out wallet cards that include red flags to watch for and when to call police. While these tools might help reduce the number of people who are subject to human trafficking, they will never stop it completely.

Human Trafficking in the U.S.

While many people think that human trafficking only happens to immigrants, anyone can be a victim. In the United States, victims are used for commercial sex, forced labor and other types of exploitation.

Victims are often deceived with false promises of employment, love and a better life. They may suffer abuse, violence or neglect and be isolated from family and friends. They are often denied access to health care, food and drink, work or sleep. Traffickers may also use force, fraud and coercion to exploit victims.

They prey on individuals who are vulnerable or at risk because of poverty, lack of income, limited English proficiency, immigration status, a history of intimate partner violence or social and emotional challenges. In the United States, these include children in foster care or juvenile justice systems; homeless or runaway youth; racial or ethnic minority groups; individuals with substance use problems; and those who are economically vulnerable. People can be trafficked across international borders or within the country, and they can be native Americans, foreign citizens, or those who have lawful immigration status.

Human Trafficking in Asia

Human trafficking is a global problem, but Asia is home to the greatest number of victims. Its impact is felt across generations and ages, with women and children being particularly vulnerable. It is often triggered by economic crisis or natural disaster, such as typhoons and earthquakes, with those who survive often sold into slavery or forced marriages.

In the digital economy, more people are being exploited online than ever before. The majority of those who are trafficked in this way are men, but women and adolescents also fall prey. They are lured via social media apps with promises of well-paid employment, only to find themselves trapped in slave compounds.

ICMC works with local Catholic partners to address this issue. In December 2019, the Asia-Oceania Working Group held a meeting in Bangkok, Thailand to bring together experts and grassroots activists to discuss the challenges of fighting this crime.

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Fight Against Human Trafficking in Greenville SC: Local Organizations and Initiatives

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Getting Involved in the Fight Against Human Trafficking in Greenville SC

The vast majority of people involved in sex trafficking are not strangers to the victims. They are friends, family and acquaintances.

The Julie Valentine Center and Jasmine Road are two local nonprofits that assist survivors of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. They are part of a network of local organizations and national groups like A21, Polaris and the National Human Trafficking Hotline.


Human trafficking is a problem that affects all of us. That’s why it’s so important to recognize the signs and help spread awareness. There are many ways to get involved in the fight against human trafficking, including supporting local orgs like Miracle Hill Ministries and Jasmine Road.

The Upstate Human Trafficking Task Force (Greenville, Spartanburg, Pickens and Cherokee counties) focuses on prevention, fighting demand, intervention and restoration. They work with other local orgs to provide presentations and training on human trafficking.

The most common way that people are recruited into the commercial sex industry is by someone pretending to be their friend. This is known as Romeo pimping. Almost half of all kids trafficked into commercial sex are recruited by a family member. This is due to a process called trauma bonding. In some cases, traffickers even use physical abuse to get their victims to work for them.


As the movie “Sound of Freedom” hits theaters, local nonprofits are using it as a platform to raise awareness about human trafficking. The Greenville-based organization Set Free Alliance says the film is helping to shed light on a hidden problem that exists even close to home.

Those behind sex trafficking use force, coercion or fraud to make someone perform sexual acts for them in exchange for money, drugs or other goods. The victims are often exploited because of their vulnerability – such as drug addiction, poverty or homelessness.

Last year, South Carolina law enforcement officials worked on 416 cases involving human trafficking, and 399 of those cases involved children. The state Attorney General’s Office launched a new statewide prevention education initiative this fall called TraffickProofSC. The program includes a curriculum for high school students. It will also help parents recognize signs that their kids may be at risk. This Saturday, four South Carolina cities, along with 500 others around the world, will participate in the annual Walk for Freedom to support human trafficking victims.


The goal of the initiative is to prevent youth from becoming victims by teaching them how to spot and recognize the snares and lures that traffickers use. They also want to educate youth about the dangers of sex trafficking and how to avoid it.

In the past year, the organization has worked with about 300 children to ensure their safety and provide them with a place to stay and a way out of sex slavery. It is also working with the local community to increase awareness and help combat human trafficking.

Kathryn Moorehead, the coordinator of the SC Human Trafficking Task Force, says traffickers are targeting more children than ever before. They are using the chat features of video games and social media to build relationships with vulnerable youth, and then exploit them for sex. They are especially targeting those who may already be in contact with the justice system or who have been reported to authorities by those mandated to report cases, such as teachers and social service workers.


Several local organizations are dedicated to making a difference here in the Upstate. They work to educate the public, provide services for victims and train volunteers to join their mission. They also accept donations to fund their programs.

According to a 2021 report from state officials, Greenville County tied with Richland County for the highest number of human trafficking cases in South Carolina. The Upstate Task Force includes Greenville, Spartanburg, Pickens and Cherokee counties and operates under the state attorney general’s office.

Diana Kindley, co-chair of the Upstate Regional Task Force and organizer of the Upstate Walk for Freedom, said that while she knew the issue was serious, she didn’t fully realize how bad it really was until she started organizing her event.

She said that she learned from attending the national A21 summits that many traffickers use social media to lure victims in. She cites TikTok videos of recorded sounds of babies crying and abandoned car seats, drug-laced roses and websites that advertise children’s swimwear as examples.

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Exploitation and Awareness: Human Trafficking in Windsor-Essex

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A 23-Year-Old Man Facing Human Trafficking Charges in Windsor

A 23-year-old Ottawa man is facing human trafficking charges after police in both Ottawa and Windsor worked together to track him down. He was arrested in Windsor on Wednesday.

University of Windsor students are using their fourth-year capstone project to bring awareness to the human sex trade happening right in Windsor-Essex. Their documentary will debut Friday.

What is human trafficking?

A trafficker deceives a victim by making false promises of love, good jobs or stable lives and then forces them into situations of sexual exploitation, forced labour or other forms of commercial exploitation. Victims can be anyone, but they are most often women and children; persons who do not have lawful immigration status in the United States; Black people and other persons of color; runaway or homeless youth; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals.

Human trafficking is most prevalent in countries that are low and lower-middle income, but it also occurs in high-income countries. Regardless of income, being in a country that experiences political instability; enduring systemic racism; or having a mental disorder, such as PTSD, increases the risk of being trafficked. Similarly, being involved in gangs is associated with increased vulnerability to being exploited by traffickers. Human trafficking also happens in so-called “corridors,” which are geographical areas that include multiple urban centres.

Why is it happening?

The panel addressed the reasons people fall into situations of exploitation and the need for prevention. These include economic pressures, interpersonal violence, gangs, and community and societal violence, as well as natural disasters that leave people displaced, without transportation or ability to earn an income, disconnected from support services and exposed to traffickers who exploit them.

Victims are lured into their traffickers’ networks through a variety of means, including force, fraud and coercion, or false promises such as employment, marriage, or a better life. Over time, traffickers often increase their control of victims by depriving them of money and IDs, restricting movement, limiting social interaction, monitoring personal hygiene and changing work conditions.

In addition, specific communities and individuals are at greater risk of becoming victimized, including newcomer, Aboriginal, refugee and LGBTQI+ people. This is because they are often marginalized in society, and lack a trusted support network to help them seek safety and assistance. They may also have a lower capacity to recognize and report abuse.

What are the signs of human trafficking?

Vulnerable individuals are targeted and manipulated by traffickers using false promises, drugs or alcohol. They are isolated from their families and friends, denied access to money or ID documents, forced to work without payment, and often moved around so that police cannot find them. They may be threatened, beaten or even physically assaulted by their traffickers.

A common strategy of traffickers is to build trust with victims and develop a relationship, essentially grooming them for their eventual role as a prostitute or sex worker. This bond, which is often called a trauma bond, can result in victims being reluctant to leave their traffickers out of fear or out of loyalty to them.

Between 2011 and 2021, nearly nine in ten victims of police-reported human trafficking knew their trafficker. This is consistent with research (Altun 2020; Howard et al., 2015; Zimmerman & Oram, 2016). This type of isolation can contribute to functional isolation for people who have been trafficked.

How can I help?

If you suspect that someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, the best thing you can do is report it. Mandated reporters can call the Child Protection Hotline, which can connect victims and survivors with services and supports, and help them stay safe.

A national hotline is also available, which can be accessed via text and operates twenty-four hours a day. It is a free and confidential service that can provide information, resources and referrals for victims and survivors of sex and labor trafficking.

Legal Assistance Windsor and WE-Fight have been working with about 100 local victims of exploitation, which can take many forms beyond prostitution, including arranged marriages, bogus work pretenses or a lack of access to education and employment opportunities. A grant from Caesars Windsor has helped to launch WE-Fight’s new “House to Home” program, which will provide each survivor with a package of household goods to start their recovery.

Other efforts to raise awareness include promoting the new Anti-Human Trafficking Consortium and establishing a national network of specialized Crown prosecutors, who are experienced in prosecuting human trafficking cases. And a partnership with Vermont 2-1-1 is providing streamlined access to community resources for people who need them.

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The Fight Against Human Trafficking: Advocacy, Rescue, and Support

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Knoxville Museum of Art – Human Trafficking is Modern-Day Slavery

Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transport, transfer or harboring of persons for commercial sex or labor exploitation. This can occur in a variety of settings including exotic dance clubs, hotels and restaurants. It can also happen in domestic settings such as massage parlors and nail and hair salons.

TCTA agencies provide housing and counseling for victims of human trafficking. They also support survivors with advocacy, education and prevention programming.

Operation Cross Country X

In a sting operation during Operation Cross Country X, FBI agents helped rescue minors who were trafficked into the United States. These victims were advertised for sex on social media apps. The FBI’s child exploitation task forces and state and local law enforcement agencies partnered with victim specialists during the operation to locate victims, gather intelligence, and build criminal cases.

The FBI says it located 84 minor victims of human trafficking and 141 adult human trafficking suspects. The average age of these victims was 15.5 years old.

Victim specialists work to help these children overcome the psychological trauma of sex enslavement. They also help them find services that can help them reintegrate into society. These services include counseling, housing, and employment. The FBI is continuing to work on this issue year-round. It believes that behind every statistic there is a person with dreams, aspirations, and the right to live free from sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

The Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, plain and simple. It’s happening here in East Tennessee and we need everyone to be part of the solution. “These individuals need someone to advocate for them,” said Rana Zakaria, a community educator with the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

She and her colleagues at CCAHT are raising awareness by educating the public on what to look out for. They also train community members to identify red flags and offer resources. They are the single point of contact for the Tennessee Counter-Trafficking Alliance (TCTA) for 33 East Tennessee counties.

On February 21, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation human trafficking agents arrested a teen and two adults during a traffic stop in Hickman County. They were charged with trafficking in commercial sex acts with minors. They are now in custody at the Hickman County Jail. Their bond is set at $120,000 each.

Grow Free Tennessee

Across the state, communities are using the Red Sand Project to honor human trafficking survivors, raise awareness and provide resources. Participants use natural, non-toxic red sand to create art installations in sidewalk cracks and host events. The project also encourages people to learn more about the issue by visiting local Welcome Centers and checking out online resources.

According to the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking (CCAHT), there are 85 minors in East Tennessee being exploited each month. Zakaria says that this underreported crime is much more common than most people realize.

CCAHT is working to change that. The organization is the single point of contact for all counter-trafficking referrals in 33 East Tennessee counties. It also provides on-the-ground comprehensive and specialized support to victims. This includes case management, safe shelter, food and clothing, mental health and substance abuse recovery, legal services, education and job training. The group also partners with law enforcement in stings and trainings to increase the likelihood of survivors cooperating with police.

The Knoxville Museum of Art

The Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA) celebrates the art and artists of East Tennessee, explores the region’s artistic affinities with international art and operates ethically and responsibly as a public trust. Activities include exhibitions, tours, workshops, artist residencies, concerts, classroom programs, family activities and outreach. KMA is a member of the Association of American Museums and is supported in part by the Aslan Foundation.

In addition to the Red Sand Project, communities across the state will create sidewalk installations of natural, non-toxic red sand to recognize and bring attention to human trafficking. The sand represents the people who fall through the cracks of our society and have been exploited.

A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Lisa Bolton is a passionate pursuer of hope and works to unite and equip her community to end modern-day slavery while offering survivors individualized, relational care through Grow Free Tennessee’s direct services program. She is also a board member of the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

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Human Trafficking: Arrests Made in Vancouver Island

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Four Vancouver Island Residents Arrested for Human Trafficking

Four Vancouver Island residents were arrested on human trafficking-related charges in Swift Current, Saskatchewan on Jan. 28 after an off-duty RCMP officer spotted three vehicles travelling in close proximity and speeding east on Highway 1 toward Swift Current. During the traffic stop, officers became suspicious when they discovered two young girls in the back seat with tinted windows and no identification.

Sexual Exploitation

Recruiters exploit people’s vulnerability to fill their financial needs. They use false pretenses to gain the trust of potential victims and promise a life of luxury, jobs, education, money for families or drugs, brand name clothing and even relationships. Victims of sex trafficking are often moved from hotel to hotel and isolated from family and friends or areas they are familiar with. They may also be forced to perform labour on rural properties with little contact with the outside world.

The Government of Canada is committed to improving awareness and prevention efforts. The National Action Plan includes developing a national diagnostic tool and training tools for front-line service providers to identify people at risk of human trafficking in Canada. This will allow us to better target prevention activities. We can all do our part by educating ourselves and challenging the myths that surround human trafficking. This is especially important for young people. If you are concerned about someone you know, report it to Crime Stoppers.

Trafficking in Persons

Using force or fraud, traffickers exploit vulnerable people for commercial sexual exploitation, forced labour and other purposes. This is the world’s second largest criminal industry and affects many of the most marginalized members of society. The crime degrades human dignity, corrupts global commerce and fosters inequality between women and men.

Victims of human trafficking often live in a state of fear and endure physical, emotional and psychological abuse. They may bond with their traffickers and feel reluctant to challenge or even attempt to leave. This is why they may be subject to escalating threatening behaviour or actual violence.

Canada is both a source and transit country for human trafficking. In the past decade, 531 human trafficking specific charges have been laid by RCMP. The vast majority of these cases (94%) involved domestic exploitation in some form. The remaining incidents (5.7%) involved commercial exploitation or recruitment for gangs. Most victims are women and girls under the age of 24.

Law Enforcement

Human trafficking is a crime that deprives people of their most basic rights. The most common victims are women and children, but men and youths can also fall victim to this heinous crime. This crime occurs around the world and is committed by individuals and organized criminal groups for profit and control.

Many victims are recruited in large urban centres, where the criminal networks that run trafficking rings operate. They are often lured to the city by false promises of work, housing and other benefits. These areas are known as trafficking corridors.

RCMP officers who recently arrested four Vancouver Island residents for trafficking in women and girls described how they messaged the girls online and pretended to be a man called John. This is called a Romeo approach, where the trafficker makes the girl feel special and loved, similar to a girlfriend. Then the trafficker introduces fear, debt bondage and other forms of coercion to control the victim.


Human trafficking for sexual exploitation is a hidden crime, and it’s often underreported. Anyone can fall prey to traffickers, who are expert manipulators and predators. Some people are more vulnerable to traffickers than others because of personal, family and societal factors beyond their control.

The Government of Canada is working with provincial and territorial governments, the private sector, civil society, and international partners to address this issue. For example, the Government is supporting new programs to provide trauma-informed and culturally relevant support services to victims and survivors of human trafficking. It is also enhancing its work to combat human trafficking by expanding support for young adults who are aging out of care, a population who is particularly at-risk. The Government is also investing in a national awareness campaign to educate Canadians on the misperceptions around human trafficking and how to recognize warning signs. In addition, the Government is increasing training for front-line staff in key sectors to better identify and respond to suspected cases of human trafficking.

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