The hashtag will change, but the message remains the same.
Anti-human trafficking advocates gathered at ONRoute locations across the province this morning to mark ‘World Day against Trafficking in Persons.’
A short video has been airing on screens in the 20 ONRoute roadside rest areas located along 400-series highways across the province.
The idea for the video was sparked by a conversation Kelly Franklin had with a trafficking survivor, “She was really perturbed by the objectified advertising that was put out that every girl that was trafficked had dirty clothes, stringy hair.”
Franklin says she and the teen felt the need to create a campaign making it clear young women and girls from all backgrounds have been the targets of convincing, manipulative individuals intent on sex trafficking.
Franklin heads Courage for Freedom, an anti-trafficking initiative based in Aylmer, Ont. She co-hosted an event to create awareness around the issue at the ONRoute location in the eastbound lanes of the 401 near Woodstock, Ont. on Tuesday morning.
It was one of a dozen similar events held to recognize the effort to end human trafficking.
Anti-trafficking advocates, representatives from area police forces and political leaders took part in the event.
Statistics indicate that 60 per cent of all trafficking cases nation-wide start here in Ontario.
One of the prime techniques traffickers use is to get the women or girls out of their home community and away from loved ones and support systems. That makes the 400-series highways prime conduits for trafficking.
Insp. Dean Croker is Commander of the Middlesex OPP. He says monitoring for traffickers is a primary focus of the OPP.
“With the OPP and our Human Trafficking Unit we are dedicated to working with our municipal partners and our communities. Our goal is to identify these routes and take appropriate actions.”
Chantel Butterfield is project coordinator for Human Trafficking Awareness and Support with the Sarnia Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre. She says one of the focus points for her agency is creating awareness among young women and girls.
“We really try to do a good job of talking about all the different kinds of luring and grooming techniques that traffickers use…that’s always difficult to say to teenagers because they have that mentality that noting can hurt them, that they’re invincible.”
Franklin says the video ads that started airing in ONRoute locations on July 1st will no longer be on display, but the hope now is to spread those videos via social media.
That also means a change in online identity, moving from #ProjectONroute to #ProjectMapleLeaf.
Franklin says the goal continues to be greater public awareness to help protect all vulnerable young women and girls.
“That’s the whole plan. If we create a bigger community safety net, just lifting up our heads, looking around, knowing what we’re seeing and having the courage to make the call. What’s going to happen is things are going to change.”