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‘Don’t be afraid to speak up’: Raising awareness to end human trafficking

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Joy Smith joins Global News Morning to discuss education programs her foundation brings to students to raise awareness about human trafficking.

An advocate looking to end human trafficking believes education on the dark topic can help end the problem.

“We need to be aware of it and we need to prevent it from happening,” said Joy Smith of The Joy Smith Foundation INC.

A bill currently making its way through Parliament in Ottawa aims to make Feb. 22 National Human Trafficking Awareness Day across the country.

It’s intended to coincide with Joy Smith’s 2007 bill that condemned all modern-day slavery and human trafficking acts when she was a Member of Parliament.

Currently, Ontario marks Feb. 22 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

READ MORE: How a rural Manitoba lodge is healing survivors of sexual exploitation in Canada

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Smith said she wants people to know that human traffickers often target children between the ages of 12 and 14.

“They’re very young, very vulnerable and easy to persuade,” said Smith.

Traffickers often “groom” targets, she siad, by establishing trust and bonds with expensive presents and kind gestures before exposing a victim to trafficking.

“These are things the victim may have never had before.”

When it comes the ending trafficking, Smith said she believes raising awareness is a major factor.

READ MORE: How to keep your children safe from online exploitation — and spot if they’re being targeted

“We teach how traffickers groom young people and how to be aware,” she said.

“We do it in a way that it’s not scary, but it’s clear. We also have youth programs that also teaches youth about the topic in a clear, yet gentle way.”

Smith says reporting suspicious activity is the most important thing you can do.

“We have excellent police forces. Both Winnipeg Police Service and the RCMP are very aware of human trafficking and know how to deal with it. You can it report it anonymously. Police won’t say you reported it. They will just act on the tip.”

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More information on human trafficking can be found here.

 If you need help right now call 9-1-1, or Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868, an anonymous and confidential counselling service. If you’re in Manitoba, text “connect” to 686868 to be connected with a crisis responder.

This Human Trafficking Hotline (toll-free) 1-844-333-2211 provides 24/7 support and counselling to anyone being trafficked or affected by trafficking.

If you know of a child that is being harmed or neglected, call the 24-hour emergency child welfare number at 1-866-345-9241

Visit the Department of Justice’s Victim Services Directory or find your local Canadian Mental Health Association office to find support services near you.

Contact the Canadian Centre for Child Protection for help finding the proper support services in your area.

The SAFoundation supports women and children who have been affected by human trafficking and exploitation. Call them toll free at 1-866-876-6SAF.

WATCH: Raising awareness about human trafficking in Canada

Click to play video 'Raising awareness about human trafficking in Canada' Raising awareness about human trafficking in Canada
Raising awareness about human trafficking in Canada