Concerned citizen calls police, saves teen from human trafficking in Paris, Ont.: OPP

Provincial police say a concerned citizen's call helped save a teen from human trafficking in Paris, Ont. last weekend.

Officers responded to a call about a suspicious person around 9:35 a.m. on July 24.

In a news release, officials said the person saw some concerning activity near a business and called police. When officers arrived, they were able to locate the people involved in the activity and learned one was a 17-year-old human trafficking victim.

"The victim is luckily now engaged with community resources and is being supported," Det. Sgt. Lisa Lambert said.

A 24-year-old from Scarborough and a 19-year-old from Brampton were charged with trafficking a person under 18 and failing to comply with a release order.

They were both held for bail hearings.

ONTARIO A HUB FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Sarah Wiley with the Sexual Assault Support Centre Waterloo Region said Ontario is a "hub for human trafficking," adding 98 per cent of victims are women and girls.

"Sixty-nine per cent in Canada of trafficking happens in Ontario," Wiley said. "The 401 corridor, which of course Kitchener-Waterloo falls on, is a big draw for traffickers as they are able to easily move between communities."

According to Wiley, there were more than 90 human trafficking investigations in Waterloo Region in 2019, and more than 40 charges laid by Waterloo regional police.

"Traffickers are very sneaky," Wiley said. "Trafficking is the charming older guy you meet at a party. Oftentimes, younger girls see themselves in a relationship with their traffickers."

She added many people will remain in those situations because they're afraid of reprisal or further violence.

Katilin Bick, who now works as a senior survivor educator at Timea's Cause, said she was 24 years old when she was trafficked.

"I wore my vulnerabilities on my sleeve," she said. "I was really insecure, I had really low self esteem, really low self-worth. I was an easy target."

Bick said she identified her trafficker as her boyfriend.

"I thought that he loved me," she said. "He really had a hold on my brain."

She said she realized she was being trafficked and was able to get out of her situation by age 26. She's now 33.

"I have to work at this every day to continue where I am and to continue going forward," she said.

SIGNS OF TRAFFICKING

Wiley said people should watch for any big changes in a loved ones' life or routine.

"We know that people who are being trafficked often keep strange hours," she said. "So, if somebody tells you they have a job, but they start at 2 in the morning, then maybe we can question why that is."

Wiley also said to look out for people getting lots of gifts, clothes and money, and they can't explain where it all came from.

Many victims also have a new boyfriend who they weren't introduce to their friends and family.

Wiley also recommended watching for other signs of trauma or violence, such as mental health or physical health problems.

With reporting by CTV Kitchener's Stephanie Villella