The human trafficking watchdog group PACT-Ottowa says the signs that someone is being held and transported against their will are subtle. But they advise truck drivers who observe these signs from people to please be vigilant in the face of difficult decisions. The signs are:
- Young people (especially women) who appear to be under strict control or are being handled
- People who give signs that they are fearing for their safety
- People who are in truck stops that aren’t buying anything, even though they appear very hungry or exhausted
- People showing signs of physical or emotional abuse
- People not in possession of identification or travel documents
TruckSTOP is a new campaign targeting human trafficking on Canadian highways, with the hopes that truckers and truck stop workers can help report suspicious activity.
The program, funded in part by Public Safety Canada, is reaching out to transport truck drivers and people working at roadside stops to help them learn what to look for in cases of human trafficking and to report these instances.
“We think they can be a tremendous help in raising the observability and detection of the crime,” said Duncan Baird, the director of the campaign. “There’s first of all so many of them. And they’re so well positioned to observe it. We really want to recruit them to the fight against human trafficking.”
The pilot program, slated to launch in April, will include providing point-of-sale displays at stops from Windsor to Ottawa with tips for truckers on spotting human trafficking.
Truck driver Ron Thompson has been driving the highways for 30 years. He said he already calls in drunk drivers and traffic accidents. “We’re the eyes and the ears. We’re out there too, along with the police officers. There’s a lot more of us,” he said.
“Law enforcement is trying to do the best they can. So if we can help…our industry can help. I’m all for it.”
Christina Harrison-Baird, the chair of PACT-Ottawa and an International Human Rights Lawyer, said the idea is modelled after an American campaign, where one tip from a trucker helped break up a multi-state trafficking ring based in Ohio.
“There is both sexual exploitation and labour trafficking going on,” said Harrison-Baird.