Ontario’s Anti-Sex Trafficking Plan for School Boards
July 06, 2021
To take bold action against the threat of sex trafficking of school-aged children, the Ministry of Education has developed Policy and Program Memorandum 166: Keeping Students Safe – Policy Framework for School Board Anti-Sex Trafficking Protocols, in partnership with the Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. This plan provides direction to Ontario school boards as they develop, coordinate and implement their anti-sex trafficking protocols to protect young people from sex trafficking. It was developed in consultation with stakeholders using a collaborative, culturally responsive approach and takes the experience of survivors into account.
The school board focused plan to combat human trafficking:
- Establishes a common statement of principles upon which all board policies/protocols should be based.
- Raises awareness and understanding of the urgency and complexity of combatting sex trafficking.
- Focuses attention on upstream factors that can reduce the vulnerability of students to being trafficked.
- Sets the expectation that combatting sex trafficking requires a cross-sectoral approach, and regarding accountability and evaluation.
- Provides direction on how to appropriately respond to instances of sex trafficking of students and provides support to impacted students.
Human trafficking refers to the control over and exploitation of an individual, most often for sexual exploitation. It is one of the fastest-growing crimes worldwide. It is predatory and is devastatingly damaging to victims, survivors, their families and communities.
Sex trafficking is a form of sexual exploitation and is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada. It can include luring, grooming, recruiting, harbouring, transporting, obtaining, or providing a person for the purpose of sex. It involves the use of force, physical or psychological coercion, or deception.
Ontario’s Context of Sex Trafficking
Ontario had the most police-reported incidents of human trafficking in the country in 2019, most of which involved sexual exploitation. While not specific to young women and girls, they are particularly at risk.
According to Statistics Canada, 21 per cent of human trafficking victims identified by police in 2019 were under the age of 18. School-aged children and youth will benefit from early intervention to reduce their vulnerability to human trafficking, connections to supports, and help to rebuild their lives.
The Unique Role of the Education Sector in Awareness Raising, Prevention and Intervention
Schools can play a unique role to help combat child sexual exploitation and, in particular, sex trafficking of students. As children and youth spend a large part of their day in school, schools can serve as a critical partner in early identifying, responding to and preventing sex trafficking, including connecting students who are victims and survivors with culturally responsive resources and supports.
Teachers and other education staff interact with students daily. They are strategically placed to educate on prevention and promote healthy relationships, notice troubling changes in behaviour, and connect with students as caring adults. Raising awareness among school staff and the school community is key in helping to recognize signs that a student may be trafficked, or a student may themself be in the role of trafficker. At the same time, education can also serve as a critical factor in helping victims heal and rebuild their lives, helping to prevent re-victimization and resetting students on a trajectory with more positive outcomes.
The Strength of a Multi-Sector Approach
The government understands the importance of involving local community members and organizations who reflect the diversity of the school community, including parents, guardians, and caregivers. This engagement is encouraged to support the development of a culturally responsive and trauma-informed approach to combatting sex trafficking.
When developing anti-sex trafficking protocols, school boards are required to collaborate with various sectors, organizations, and partners who are working to end sex trafficking. The school board’s protocol may also build on existing local multi-sectoral processes that may have been established to respond to human trafficking. This might include local anti-human trafficking committees, local situation tables, and processes with victim services, sexual assault centres, youth and women’s shelters, public health units and 2SLGBTQQIA organizations, among others.
The Development of a School Board Protocol: Essential Components and Considerations
Each school board’s anti-sex trafficking protocol should clearly articulate roles, responsibilities and accountability measures. It should also address threats associated with digital technology and the internet.
The core and essential elements of the protocol are:
- Statement of Principles.
- Strategies to raise awareness and prevent sex trafficking.
- Response procedures.
- Training for School Board Employees.
- Measuring Success: Accountability and Evaluation.
Training for school board employees
The government will provide school boards with resources to support mandatory PA Day training beginning in the 2021-2022 school year. School board protocols must outline a process for providing ongoing training for board employees who work directly with students, including teachers, administrators and other school staff.