2SLGBTQQIA+ youth and trafficking - community is prevention

August 31, 2023

ACT proudly supports our incredible, diverse communities as we all celebrate Pride Week in Edmonton and Calgary this week! It also means it is time to renew our commitment to the prevention and elimination of discrimination in all communities who are especially vulnerableto trafficking. We need to understand experiences that are unique to 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities and recognize opportunities to collaborate and work together to change the narrative.

Complex vulnerabilities of 2SLGBTQQIA+ youth andtrafficking

2SLGBTQQIA+. It stands for two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, and all other sexual orientations and genders and is meant to be inclusive off all the many individuals who are part of this vibrant community. And like everything else, to be an ally, we must first understand how to be an ally and how to create a more inclusive and safe space for everyone and every community.

While there are some legal policies in place to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation, there is no law that can make a parent or family member love and accept you as you are. What would happen if you came out to your family, and they did not accept you? Not only did they not accept your truth, but they were physically or emotionally abusive, they tried to change you or belittle you or just simply blatantly disregarded your needs and expression of self? Would you leave?

This is the reality for many 2SLGBTQQIA+youth in Canada.

Nearly 1 out of every 3 homeless young people in Canada identify as 2SLGBTQQIA+

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s most recent research, approximately 10% of the Canadian population identifies as 2SLGBTQQIA+ and by some estimates, 2SLGBTQQIA+youth make up between 25% and 40% of homeless youth in Canada. That means that nearly 1 out of every 3 homeless young people in Canada identify as 2SLGBTQQIA+ and many shelters and temporary housing making them prime targets for traffickers to offer them a way to earn income and a “safe” place to stay.

Traffickers often target runaway and homeless youth. 

Traffickers can frequent bus stations, train stations, malls, group homes and shelters looking for minors that seem lost or alone. They listen to the person’s story, relate to it and eventually become a trusted companion. Often posing as romantic partners, parental figures, or friends, they begin showering them with attention and expensive gifts, and presenting themselves as someone in the victim’s life who accepts them with their true sexuality or gender, and for a young vulnerable person, this type of support can be hard to turn down. The trafficker offers an environment that provides the “family” the victim is looking for, often with other individuals who relate and have shared experiences. This is part of the recruitment phase. Detective Sergeant Nunzio Tramontozzi ofthe Toronto Police Human Trafficking Unit says victims often report that it only took 2-4 days for a stranger to become a trusted partner.

The manipulation and exploitation come when the trafficker starts threatening to kick them out, or to cut them off from support or their new “family” if they do not contribute financially or in other forms to the trafficker’s business, and this is why many people stay in the situation or do not realize they are being trafficked at all.

Barriers to support

There are manybarriers to prevention and support efforts by service providers, government, and communities, which make it increasingly difficult for 2SLGBTQQIA+ victims to find the resources and support they need to escape their trafficker and get on a path to safety.

Some barriersinclude:

·      "Women's Only" type placements

·      Mandatory programming participation

·      Judgment from other clients

·      Potential misalignment with faith-based policies

·      Some placements have an expectation to "be respectful" but this could potentially be misused to target clients who are expressing themselves in non-traditional ways

·      Access to mental health services

·      Access to “respectful” and accepting health providers

How to Help

Start in your own community. Be an ally for children and youth, particularly if they are expressing themselves in a way that presents differently than gender or societal norms. Let them know there are resources and support out there and that it’s going to be ok. That they are going to be ok. They are valuable. They are important. They are accepted.

Work collaboratively with social service providers who work with 2SLGBTQQIA+ youth. Share knowledge and resources. Talk. Eliminate competition. Listen to victims and survivors and accept their personal reality as their truth - and provide support based on that.

Educating others and sharing resources about human trafficking is a productive first step. It is crucial to be able to identify a trafficking situation and know how to respond appropriately. Understand context and proximity when assessing any situation, and most importantly, be open and accepting of all individuals from all walks of life. 

2SLGBTQQIA+ Resources in Alberta

Centre for Newcomers LGBTQ+ NewcomerServices
End of the Rainbow Foundation
The Centre for Sexuality
Safelink Alberta
Skipping Stone Foundation
Camp fYrefly
Calgary Outlink
Calgary Queer Arts Society
Edmonton 2 Spirit Society