Indicators of Child Trafficking

Many of the signs that a minor has been trafficked are the same as those for adults, but there are also some indicators specific to children and youth.

Exploitation of Children Online – Before the mid-2000s, the trafficking of children and youth was a face-to-face business; luring, grooming and recruitment into the sex trade. Now children and youth are advertised via online classified ads, lured via online social networks and groomed for sexual exploitation via video chat sites. It’s a very different world.

– Merlyn Horton, Executive Director of SOLOS: Safe Online Outreach Society, based in British Columbia

The sexual abuse and exploitation of children will not always be trafficking — however, it is always illegal. The Department of Justice’s website has information on Canada’s comprehensive laws that criminalize all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

Red Flags: You learn or suspect that the minor: Does not have or cannot reach a parent or guardian. Is not going to school or is working during school hours. Lives with someone unrelated to them and not a guardian. Does not have any friends their own age outside of work. Has no time for playing. Is engaged in work that is not suitable for children, such as heavy lifting or working with dangerous chemicals. Travels unaccompanied, or in groups who are not relatives. Has someone in their life (not a parent or guardian) who arranges where they live and how they travel, or who buys them everything they need. In cases of child trafficking for sexual exploitation, you may notice that the child or youth: Dresses more provocatively than a typical minor. Has more cash, more expensive clothes or gadgets that were received as ‘gifts’ from an unknown source. Has fake identification that states they are older than they really are. Has a hotel room key or other items that a typical minor would not have.


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