Human trafficking in Canada reached unprecedented highs between 2018 and 2019 according to the most recent data available from Statistics Canada. 

In data released earlier this week, the agency reported that known instances of human trafficking have spiked dramatically.

“In 2019, police reported 511 human trafficking incidents, representing a rate of 1.4 incidents per 100,000 population—the highest number and rate reported since comparable data became available in 2009.” StatsCan wrote.

“Overall, both the number and rate of police-reported human trafficking incidents have been generally trending upward. The number of human trafficking incidents reported in 2019 marked a 44% increase from the previous year.”

Ontario was the epicentre of human trafficking in 2019, with 62% of known instances occurring in the province. 

Out of the hundreds of known victims, 95% were women and 21% were girls under the age of 18.

It is notoriously difficult to achieve a guilty verdict on human trafficking charges in Canada. Since records began in 2009, the vast majority of human trafficking charges were either stayed, withdrawn, dismissed or discharged.

While reported instances continue to increase annually, the annual numbers are likely much higher.

The executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre Megan Walker told the Globe & Mail that 481 women and girls sought help from the centre for trafficking from 2015 to 2015.

“We know that 500 is not actually the number,” she said.

The pandemic has also created an environment for greater rates of exploitation. Lockdowns have kept many vulnerable people isolated and have prevented people in dangerous situations from seeking help.

In February, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection reported that cases of online sexual exploitation of children have increased 88% over the past year.