Human trafficking a big issue in Dufferin County

March 2, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

It comes as a shock to people living comfortable, “ordinary” lives here in Orangeville and all across Dufferin County to think of it.

What might be considered a city infection of pimping, human trafficking – young women caught in traps of abuse, lies and distracted affection – finds roots in this semi-rural, picturesque community of caring people too.

There are such things as pimp manuals online. These are readily available for young men – any man – to learn how and whom to seduce into a life in the “game,” the code word for prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation.

A young woman can garner as much $280,000 in a year for her pimp!

There large parties, galas you might say, held in cities across the States for pimps to mix with each other, exchange information and enjoy the wealth they are accumulating.

This wealth begins with girls between the ages of 13 to 15. It is considered important to start them by the age of 15, which, keep in mind, is still under the age of consent at 16. It is not well known that this is going on in high schools and elsewhere in this county.

Here is how it works. The young men, that is teen-aged boys in high school, keep their eyes out for girls looking a bit depressed, lonely, unpopular, disadvantaged one way or another, in some isolated state. So, a boy begins to talk to her, flatter her a bit, be nice to her as an exception in her life.

Most people with teenagers in the home, and remembering their own teens, know that this a volatile time of life. Their hormones are shifting, changing and raging, swinging moods from sunny to gloom; their bodies are changing, which can cause real embarrassment – social interaction is moving away from a child’s communication to an altogether different approach and everything seems to be on the table of life.

When isolation becomes part of the equation, whether within the physical exchange with friends at school or otherwise, or online, the already vulnerable early/mid teen might be very susceptible to being led into the “game.”

Picture the elation that girl feels at attracting, as she believes, a boy from her high school (or other place) who is talking to her and, perhaps, has gone as far as asking her to a party. Do her parents smell a rat or are they so happy for her to have found someone who likes her? Depending on their feelings, what sort of potential conflict is seeded here.

It is not just boys from high schools that are involved in the corruption of young women, not by any means – there is far too much to be gained. Other men come here also, looking for vulnerable girls, whom they might meet in the malls or walking along the streets. There is evidence to show that young women who have “developmental issues” or live in group homes are particularly at risk from these predators.

Last week, Pina Marino, Program Coordinator with the Caledon/Dufferin Victim Services (CDVS) was invited to speak at the monthly meeting of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW), Orangeville and District. (The name does not mean that a woman needs a degree to join).

Speaking on the eve of last Thursday’s Human Traffic Awareness Day in Ontario, Ms. Marino came to talk about the growing problem and presence of human trafficking in Caledon and Dufferin.  In November 2016, the Ontario government, through the office of the Attorney General, provided funding to the Caledon/Dufferin Victim Services (CDVS) as Victim Crisis Assistance Ontario (VCAO) “to increase [their] capacity to provide culturally relevant …support to victims of Human Trafficking and their families.”

Ms. Marino said, “They gave us funding and told us to deal with it.”

According to the pamphlet Ms. Marino handed out, human trafficking is, basically, defined as control, exploitation and threats.

Last year, between January to March alone, CDVS assisted 33 trafficking victims.

It is a steep and very slippery slope. Traffickers, predators, will often watch a potential victim, looking for signs of “unmet needs or desires.” Then, they employ coercion, sometimes based on a false premise of a romantic connection between the trafficker and the woman.

That invitation to a party can have fairly serious repercussions: in a video Ms. Marino brought with her, a girl said that she had been invited by a female friend to a party where there was food, wine and liquor and, when they all drank too much, she slept on a mattress on the floor and went home in the morning.

The following day, the host called to say: “You came to my party, my food, drank my wine and slept here -you owe me $600. When are you going to pay?”

She was terrified and too unsure to confide in her parents, apparently. His solution to her paying her debt was to work for him, going out with men and all that implied. No matter how she tried, there was always another debt so that she could never catch up.

There were interviews in this video with other women stuck in the middle of their nightmares, talking about the horrors of it but not willing to accept release and rescue, as though they were truly imprisoned. They wept as they spoke and so did we.

The traffickers introduce the girls to alcohol and drugs to deal with their situations and every addition to their condition increases their inability to escape.

All this is accompanied by lies and blackmail. The women are told that they could be turned over to the police. In fact, selling sex has been decriminalized – buying sex is the crime but the young women do not know that and, so, are further afraid.

“High schools in Dufferin have ‘escorting’ with teen aged boys as pimps,” Ms. Marino told us bluntly. “Airbnb’s and all hotels indulge this,” was the grim picture she painted.

Adding to this, one of the audience stood up to tell us, “I used to work in a hotel in Bolton and it went on there all the time. You could see young women, not staying there, coming in and they went straight to the elevators. It was very upsetting.”

Obviously, girls are enticed by predators online as well. Flirting and kidding, asking to see part of her body naked – all of it – then coming back to threaten to publish the photos online and she is coerced into meeting the trafficker and the journey begins.

In Ms. Marino’s printed information, there is the strong caveat against Snapchat, reminding us all that the “Snaps” – video and photo texts – although they “disappear” within a few seconds, is not harmless. All that is entered into Snapchat or online at all becomes permanently saved: as screenshots, taking the use of them completely out of a person’s control, to be used later possibly for future extortion or cyber bullying.

“Once anything is posted online, it is public. There is no such thing as anonymity online.”    

There are defences and rescues to be had. Part of this comes with volunteers who attend the 24-hour-a-day, seven days a week CDVS telephone assistance, to allow the victims themselves to have  a first encounter with the Services. Likewise, parents and others who know or think they know of a person involved, entrapped in human trafficking can and should contact the CDVS. There is funding for victims, witnesses and immediate family for safety, personal needs, travel and counselling expenses.

There are ways out.

At this time, CDVS is looking for volunteers to come to their training sessions taking place in May, to learn how to help with talking to and offering assistance to victims, as the office has paid staff of only three people.

About what she had told and shown us, Ms. Marino warned: “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

She told us: “You are the first line of defence. The men are not shy to start talking to a girl they might snare. You can talk to vulnerable looking girls too; ask them if they’re alright. Let them know someone cares.”

The evening’s hosts, CFUW, is a non partisan, voluntary, self-funded organization of a total 100 clubs across Canada, established in 1919. It focusses on improving the status of women, human rights, public education, social justice and peace. It offers friendship and sociability amongst its members. There is involvement and education about such matters as Human Trafficking,  in line with their concerns.

They hold monthly meetings and groups of diverse interests organize activities. which any member can join for fun and camaraderie. To find out more, contact them at

To contact Caledon/Dufferin Victim Services, you can call 905-951-3838 anytime, 24/7,  or go to

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.