Human Trafficking Glossary

Last updated on March 27, 2017

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Abduction is the act of leading someone away by force or lies.

A tactic traffickers sometimes use to show ownership; often a tattoo of the trafficker’s name or a gang symbol.

A trafficker may coerce another person to act against his or her will through violence or the threat of violence, or through other fears, such as the fear of being returned to a war-torn home, being separated from loved ones, or losing immigration status.

In North America, colonization was the occupation and settlement of non-Indigenous people (largely of European ancestry) and the displacement of Indigenous people through the process of establishing colonial rule. Measures employed over the last two hundred years by the Canadian government in the imposition of a colonial relationship with Aboriginal peoples included the introduction of the Indian Act, the residential school system, forcible relocation to reservations, the "Indian pass" system and the prohibition of Aboriginal ceremonies.

Compassion fatigue
Can be experienced by anyone whose job involves caring for others, particularly those who provide services to victims of crime. Symptoms are similar to those of chronic stress and include feelings of hopelessness, incompetence or self-doubt; anxiety; a pervasive, negative attitude; an inability to focus. This may result in decreased productivity.

The right of a person to have information about him/herself kept private and not shared with anyone else without his/her permission.

In the context of human trafficking, the act or practice of intentionally deceiving another person for the purpose of exploitation. For example, a trafficker may tell a young woman that a modelling contract or a singing career await her in another place, when in fact she will be exploited for sex or labour.

Debt bondage
Occurs when a trafficked person owes money to his or her trafficker for transportation, visa fees, safe passage through borders, food, clothing, housing, drugs and is expected to repay it. The trafficked person has no control over the accounting of the debt. A trafficker may arbitrarily increase the amount a trafficked person owes at any time, while promising that he will go free as soon as the debt is paid - which it might never be. (See supplemental Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, 1957).

Domestic servitude
A form of forced labour, defined as slavery or bondage. A person is subject to a master and has no personal freedom to make life choices.

Under Canadian child welfare laws, every person in Canada has the duty to report child abuse and neglect if they know or suspect it is occurring. Each province/territory has different reporting mechanisms, which may include child welfare organizations, provincial/territorial social service ministries and/or local police.

Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs (Trafficking Protocol, Article 3).

Forced labour
“All work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.” (ILO Convention on Forced Labour, 1930).

Forced migration
Refers to “the movements of refugees and internally displaced persons (those displaced by conflicts) as well as people displaced by natural or environmental disasters, famine, or development projects” (International Association for the Study of Forced Migration).

Fraud is a knowing misrepresentation of the truth that induces another person to act to his or her detriment.

Grooming occurs when a trafficker or recruiter deliberately develops a relationship of physical and/or emotional dependency with someone in preparation for exploiting them. Grooming tactics can include gift giving, providing drugs, flattery, giving affection and isolating the person from their family and friends.

Harbouring or receiving occurs when a human trafficker hides or houses a trafficked person—and keeps her under his or her control—in order to exploit her.

Human smuggling
- The “facilitation, transportation, or procurement of the illegal entry of a person or persons across an international border.” (U.N. Protocol against Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air).

Informed consent
Consent given based upon a clear understanding of the facts, implications and future consequences of that consent. In order to give informed consent, a person must have adequate reasoning faculties and be in possession of all relevant facts. Impairments to reasoning may include high levels of stress, intoxication, or mental illness.

Post-traumatic stress disorder
A severe anxiety disorder or emotional illness that results from exposure to extremely traumatic events that cause intense fear, such as frightening, life-threatening, violent, or very unsafe experiences. Victims of human trafficking can acquire this condition as a result of their trafficking experience. Symptoms may include nightmares, re-visiting the trauma over and over again, intense, physical reactions to reminders of the trauma, depression, feelings of detachment or numbness, irrational anger and shame/self-blame, suicidal thoughts and feeling isolated, and feelings of hopelessness and alienation, inability to trust others, headaches, stomach problems and chest pains

Practices similar to slavery
Though not defined, “practices similar to slavery” includes practices such as debt bondage. (Supplemental Convention on Abolition of Slavery, 1957).

Receipt of persons
Harbouring or receiving occurs when a human trafficker hides or houses a trafficked person—and keeps her under his or her control—in order to exploit her.

Residential brothels
Residential units, such as family homes, condominiums, and apartments, where sexual services are provided.

Residential schools
The Indian Act of 1876 established the federal government’s responsibility for funding the education of First Nations children in Canada, which took the form of segregated schools run by various churches, largely at a distance from reserve communities.  These ‘residential schools’ were mandatory for all status Indian children from 1920 until 1948, although the schools were still in regular use in some communities until the last school closed in 1996.

A form of forced labour, defined as slavery or bondage. A person is subject to a master and has no personal freedom to make life choices.

Sexual exploitation
A person trafficked for sexual exploitation is forced to provide sexual acts against her will for the financial gain or material benefit of the trafficker.

The status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised (Slavery Convention, 1926).

Involves a human trafficker moving a trafficked person from one location to another for the purpose of exploitation. May also involve transferring a trafficked person to another trafficker for the purpose of exploitation.

Vicarious Trauma
Occurs when a service provider begins to experience such symptoms as emotional stress, intrusive imagery, greater sensitivity to violence, difficulty sleeping, difficulty with trust, increased cynicism and aggression as a direct result of witnessing the trauma of others.


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