Natural disasters create ideal conditions for human trafficking to flourish

June 26, 2023

The recent wildfires in Alberta, and the resulting evacuation of numerous Alberta communities, are raising alarm bells for anti-trafficking and victim services organizations across the province.

In Polaris’s survivor survey, 64 percent of survivor respondents reported being homeless or experiencing unstable housing when they were recruited into their situation.

Displacement is one of many vulnerabilities that traffickers are skilled at recognizing and exploiting for profit, and they do so when they observe that people are in crisis or at their most vulnerable. They often recruit vulnerable or marginalized individuals by understanding what people need, and manipulating those needs to serve them.

Human trafficking is an industry that generates an estimated $150 billion a year globally. For traffickers, exploitation is a business, but the reality is that many victims do not realize that they are being trafficked. Being recruited into a trafficker’s business can look like a kind offer of a place to stay, or an offer of employment so you can “make a little extra money.”

Traffickers use vulnerabilities to build relationships based on dependency and trust. Trusting a stranger can be difficult for some but more often than not, victims of trafficking are recruited and trafficked by someone close to them.

To learn more about how traffickers thrive and grow their business in crisis, check out this video.

As we head into summer and “wildfire season”, one that started particularly early this year, it’s important to keep in mind that there are resources and options available to communities who have been displaced from their homes. Most importantly, it’s imperative to be mindful of your own mental health and wellness. Check in with yourself before you reach the point of desperation.

Alberta Health Services recommends that you pay attention to warning signs you may not be coping well:

·      Thinking about the disaster or traumatic event all the time.

·      Having flashbacks to the event.

·      A change in your sleep pattern(sleeping less or more; waking up through the night; having nightmares or not sleeping at all).

·      Avoiding people or activities that you usually enjoy.

·      Using alcohol or drugs more.

·      Changes in appetite (eating more or less than usual).

·      Feeling hopeless.

·      Feeling more worried or frustrated more than usual.

·      Having thoughts about harming yourself or suicide (call 911 if this occurs).

Learn more here: AHS Support for Albertans Affected by Wildfire.

If you think you or someone you know may be being trafficked there are options:

Visit our website or call us at 780-474-1104


Call the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-833-900-1010

We can help or direct you to appropriate resources and services.