PARRY SOUND - People from all walks of life are lured by human traffickers.
Individuals from all ethnic and social backgrounds have been sucked in by traffickers who offer promises of a better life to people who may be in a vulnerable position. Those who become slaves find themselves exploited, oftentimes sexually, for the profit of another person.
To help spread awareness, Parry Sound victim services is hosting an event next week on human trafficking.
Ann Swallow, executive director of the District of Parry Sound Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Service, said the workshop will cover a wide range of topics around the issue.
"It talks about how human traffickers lure online. How they get their victims to agree to participate. How they're really nice at first, and then turn not so nice afterward," said Swallow.
"We have a lot of young people who leave the area and go down to Toronto looking for work and better opportunities. They are people who would be targeted by human traffickers."
The problem of human trafficking has been exploding into the public consciousness in the last few years. According to information from the Parry Sound victim services organization, accurate statistics are hard to generate on the topic, but the United Nations estimates that 2.5 million people are in forced labour, including sexual exploitation, at any given time.
Profits from forced labour are believed to be in the billions of dollars.
A 2010 report released by the RCMP found the majority of recent convictions in Canada for human trafficking involved the trafficking of citizens or permanent residents of Canada for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Organized crime networks with links to Eastern Europe were found to be involved in the entry of women from former Soviet States into the country for employment in things like escort services.
"It's not like they're luring people you would think would be easy targets. Everybody is a target. It doesn't matter what walk of life you come from," Swallow said.
For example, the event's speaker, Timea Nagy, was born in Hungary and was the daughter of a police officer. She became trapped after immigrating to Canada in the hopes of taking a summer position as a domestic worker. When Nagy arrived, she was kidnapped and forced to work in the sex trade around the Toronto area before escaping.
Today, Timea is the founder of an organization called Walk With Me that educates people on the problems of human trafficking and provides services to those who have escaped slavery.
"There are a lot of sex trade workers who were brought over from European countries, like Timea, who were brought over under the pretext of being domestic workers. Then when they get here they find out that's not what they will be doing," said Swallow.
"One of their ploys is that they keep them in debt. They'll say you owe us your flight, your food, you owe us your accommodation. Every time they do something they put you even further in debt."
The human trafficking workshop will be held on March 26 and run from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the West Parry Sound District Museum. To attend the session, contact Ann Swallow at 705-746-0508.