Mark Clairmont |

GRAVENHURST — Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

And if you’re driving north or south on Hwy. 11 around Gravenhurst you’ll see new electronic roadside signs reminding you.

Police say traffickers use major highways to transport their victims throughout Ontario.

And they want their billboard campaign to spread awareness of human trafficking to passing motorists — including human trafficking victims being transported by their traffickers.

OPP A/Sergeant Iryna Nebogatova tells today that four rotating messages will appear with quotes by human trafficking victims, highlighting how normalized they believed their situation may have been.

The OPP’s Central Region, in partnership with Muskoka Victim Services, wants to shine a light on human trafficking and how prevalent it is in our communities, says a joint release today.

They say it’s common for victims to believe their traffickers are helping or caring for them, and therefore, they may show their loyalty to their traffickers. This does not mean that they are not victims.

Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation or harbouring of persons for the purposes of exploitation — typically in the sex industry — or for forced labour.

Victims are often from extremely vulnerable populations, including migrant workers, new immigrants, Indigenous women and youth, at-risk youth and those who are socially or economically disadvantaged.

The campaign also encourages members of the public to utilize the hashtag #KnowHumanTrafficking or visit to learn more and join the conversation.

The images will also be shared on social media on Facebook (@OPPCentralRegion and @MuskokaVictimServices) and Twitter @OPP_CR.

The signs of human trafficking are not always obvious. Although the presence of one sign doesn’t necessarily identify human trafficking, a variety of indicators may point to the fact that an individual is being trafficked and needs help. These indicators may include:

  • Refusing to disclose information or provides false information.
  • Unable to indicate where they are living, or give their address.
  • Unable to identify their last location or their upcoming destination.
  • Traveling with a lack of or limited luggage.
  • Wearing clothing that is inappropriate for the weather or situation.
  • Allowing someone else to control the conversation for them and others.
  • Not having possession of their own identification or money.
  • The individual seems afraid, anxious or depressed.
  • Another person controls the individual’s conversation.
  • Showing signs of abuse, malnourishment or sleep deprivation.

For more information, visit

If you or someone you know may be a victim, please call 9-1-1 immediately. Victims are encouraged to reach out to Muskoka Victim Services at 1-844-762-9945 for immediate emotional and practical assistance, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Should you wish to make a report anonymously, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day takes place on February 22 this year and helps bring awareness to the magnitude of modern day slavery in Canada and abroad and encourages us to take steps to combat human trafficking.

Starting today electronic roadside billboards around Gravenhurst will feature four rotating messages from victims of human trafficking. 

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