The province announced that it is investing $11.5 million over three years in two specialized intervention teams in Durham Region and Toronto to protect children and youth from sex trafficking. The new Children at Risk of Exploitation (CARE) Units pair child protection workers with police officers on the frontlines to identify and locate children and youth who are being sex trafficked, connect victims and families to services, and investigate and hold offenders accountable. This innovative approach to prevention and early intervention is part of the province’s Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy and is a first for Ontario.
“Protecting children and youth, especially those within the child welfare system, is vital in our work to fighting human trafficking across the province,” said Jane McKenna, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues. “These new CARE Units will be dedicated to finding children who are at high risk of trafficking and protecting them from further victimization.”
The Durham and Toronto CARE Units will work closely with local anti-human trafficking service providers, as well as with the province’s newly opened dedicated residences for child and youth victims of human trafficking in each region. Indigenous Liaison Workers in each CARE Unit will help ensure interventions involving Indigenous children and youth are culturally responsive, safe and respectful, the province said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon.
Ontario’s CARE Units model was developed in consultation with partners in each region. The Durham Region CARE Unit is a partnership between Durham Children’s Aid Society, Dnaagdawenmag Binnoojiiyag Child & Family Services and Durham Regional Police Service. The Toronto CARE Unit partners are Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto and Toronto Police Service, with the support of the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto and Jewish Family and Child Service. Another CARE Unit is planned to launch in 2023-24.
The average age of recruitment into sex trafficking in Canada is 13 years old. In 2019, 65 per cent of known human trafficking victims identified by police were under the age of 25.
Ontario is a hub for human trafficking, accounting for the majority of police-reported incidents in Canada. The most common form of human trafficking in the province is sex trafficking.