Since 2013, the United Nations General Assembly has held high-level meetings to evaluate the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, urging governments to take concerted and concrete action to counter this scourge. It was then that July 30 was proclaimed as World Anti-Trafficking Day. The resolution states that such a day is essential to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and to promote and protect their rights”. This year, UCTE wants to take the time to highlight the impact the pandemic has had on human trafficking in Canada, and on pornography sites.
First, human trafficking or modern slavery may seem to some to be a very broad concept. By definition, it is understood to be “recruiting, transporting, transferring, receiving, holding, discreetly housing, supporting or exercising control, for the purpose of exploitation, usually for sexual exploitation or forced labor.” Since the beginning of the pandemic, several studies have been done.
With over 500 such cases handled by Canadian police forces in 2019, a 44% increase over the previous year, the situation is of great concern to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, both of which are vice-chaired by the MP for Shefford, Andréanne Larouche. 
This increase has been recognized as a record number since 2009. Experts believe that two hypothetical scenarios explain this growth: a real increase in human trafficking, or better police response to instances. Ontario is the province where almost two-thirds of interventions are made, and 10% are in Montreal. This represents an average of 75% of all cases in these two provinces. The majority of cases, 95%, are women and girls aged 18 to 24 years.
“We know that there is a corridor linking Quebec to Alberta. The women are taken from their environment to a place far from home where they know no one and where they are often confronted with a language barrier. They lose their bearings and become even more vulnerable to their abuser,” says Andréanne Larouche, MNA for Shefford.
It is important to note that a large majority of victims affected by these crimes are First Nations women. “According to the Cliquez Justice site, these women account for 30-50% of all victims of human trafficking in Canada.” The report of the committee responsible for investigating murdered or missing Aboriginal women is still pending.
Who are the perpetrators of these crimes? About 83% are men between the ages of 18 and 34. One out of three times, the man knew his victim personally.
Human traffickers rarely face consequences for their actions, the Statistics Canada report reveals: in nine out of ten cases identified in 2018-2019, criminal charges against suspected human traffickers did not result in a conviction; instead, they resulted in a stay, withdrawal, dismissal or discharge. 
In Canada – 90% of victims are Canadians
25% of victims are under the age of 18
61% of victims are sexually exploited
30-50% of victims are aboriginal women
In fact, the increase is due in part to financial hardship and isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. People are becoming vulnerable. They are losing their point of reference. Airports are less and less accessible. For human trafficking in Canada, it is easier for the perpetrators to stay under the radar. The international stakes are immense.
Acknowledging the difficulty of providing accurate figures, the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken said estimates put the number of victims at 25 million, which includes forced and underage prostitution and forced labor.
In India and Nepal, some “young girls from poor and rural areas (…) have been forced into marriages to help their families.”
“In the United States, United Kingdom, and Uruguay, there are accounts of landlords forcing tenants (often women) to have sex with them” if they are unable to pay their rent.
“In Haiti, Niger, and Mali, gangs operating in IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps have taken advantage of decreased security and protection to force residents to submit to paid sex acts.”
In the United States, a blacklist has been created for countries that do not meet the minimum criteria for combating human trafficking. Consider Turkey, which is not on this blacklist, but has been singled out for “recruiting and using child soldiers in Syria and Libya.”
The pandemic has been defined as an “ideal environment” for human trafficking. Sexual slavery is a major element in human trafficking. Pornography sites are one media now used. Porn today is becoming more and more violent. It has been proven through research that frequent viewers of pornography often show less compassion for victims of sexual exploitation, abuse and violence. Videos of rape, abuse and sex trafficking are available in abundance on these sites.
Pornographers engage in sex trafficking by using sex slaves to produce videos. This is the easiest way for them to double their income. A victim of sex trafficking will not turn the camera and download video or images of herself. Often, where the victim is uncomfortable, or even forced, one won’t be able to tell because of the largely violent nature of the themes. Rape is on the rise right now. 
Modern sex trafficking is mostly related to pornography. Pornhub is a Montreal-based pornography site owned by the company MindGeek. It faced sex trafficking allegations in 2020 “for hosting and profiting from videos demonstrating mass sex crimes, such as rape, trafficking, child abuse and molestation.”
This site has 42 billion hits and six million videos downloaded per year. A letter was sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau requesting that Pornhub and MindGeek be investigated “for alleged complicity in the trafficking and abuse of children for sexual purposes.”
More recently, in June 2021, an article was published in Le Devoir to follow up on this story. More than “thirty women from several countries are suing the Montreal-based company Pornhub for exploitation videos in which they were raped, or simply for which they did not give consent to publication.” These women were raped. This is not pornography.
Some had to hire a lawyer. Others have made reports to the police, which has led, in some cases, to arrests of the sexual predators. Humiliated and harassed, some victims had to move, change schools or jobs. Some have attempted suicide. All have been left with significant after-effects of the trauma. 
A video has been posted on YouTube about pornography by Gail Dines which explains the rise of pornography during the pandemic:
Briefly, all victims have access to a free 24-hour line at 1 833 900-1010. The hearing- and speech-impaired can dial 711 and ask to be connected to the line. An Internet site has been set up for the sight-impaired. We must guard the human dignity of all concerned. If human trafficking is to be confronted, victims must be heard.