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ONWA Promotes Programming & Supports to Fight Human Trafficking

Thunder Bay, ON – This National Awareness Day for Human Trafficking (February 22), the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) continues to meet the needs of Survivors of Human Trafficking (HT), especially their identified need of creating community safety. ONWA has engaged communities to identify solutions, build awareness, and create change in Ontario, nationally, and internationally.

“HT Awareness Day is an important day for people to learn about the devastating consequences of this type of criminal activity. There are awareness activities and resources in numerous communities across Ontario, and I encourage people to utilize these resources to learn more about the violence that many community members are dealing with and how we can support them.” – Jennifer Richardson, Senior Director, Strategy & Communications, ONWA

Creating safer spaces for Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people begins with creating awareness, having truthful conversations, and creating strong foundations rooted in culture for those most at risk and beyond. Together we can strengthen the circle and make our communities safer for the next 7 generations.

The development of ONWA’s new 3-part Anti-Human Trafficking Toolkit was grounded in ONWA’s previous work and was created as a guide for educators, parents, and community to equip themselves with knowledge of HT. The goal of the toolkit is to increase recognition of the signs of grooming, luring and coercion, to stop exploitation before it has a chance to start. This toolkit will be a resource for anti-HT advocates to carry in their bundle.

“ONWA’s response to addressing HT is the reason for the success of the program, we began by sitting and listening to the experts, Survivors of HT. We listened with humility and then actioned their recommendations by building community resources, targeted advocacy for policy changes and addressing the gap of critical front-line services. There is more work to be done as a community, in all of our communities. We are honored to have done this work alongside the late Mona Hardy who reminded us that ‘The oldest living profession is actually motherhood’ and this is where communities can begin this work, by caring, loving, and supporting Survivors. It is up to us as leaders to build safer communities.” – Cora McGuire-Cyrette, CEO, ONWA

Community members such as our dear friend, Mona Hardy, who passed away on February 13, 2024, taught us how to provide a nurturing environment where we all could learn, practice kindness and love. Her tireless dedication and support of Survivors was instrumental in building the foundation of ONWA’s work combatting human trafficking.

About ONWA’s Human Trafficking work

ONWA’s Journey to Safe SPACES Report continues to be integral to the work that ONWA has advocated for in fighting HT. The report was based on extensive engagement with over 3,360 community members and the ongoing relationship with 250 self-identified HT Survivors who have shared their stories. The report resulted in 14 recommendations to address HT and has enabled ONWA to create the largest Indigenous led anti-human trafficking program in Canada. ONWA also contributed to the Speak Out: Stop Sex Trafficking resources

ONWA’s Anti-HT programs continue to support Indigenous women, youth, and Two-Spirit people to exit human trafficking/sexual exploitation. ONWA uses a living model to address anti-human trafficking which requires the programs to adapt to the needs of Indigenous women, youth, and Two-Spirit people. ONWA’s programs have been highly successful at providing safe and successful HT outreach and exits.

Since its launch in 2017, the Courage for Change program has supported 2,027 Indigenous women to exit from HT, including 622 Indigenous women exiting HT in this fiscal year. The program has housed 89 Indigenous women in safe independent housing and provided cultural interventions to 184 participants.

ONWA’s Courage for Change program expanded to additional communities: ONWA service delivery sites in Ottawa, Kenora, and Timmins, and Chapters in Sioux Lookout (Sunset Women’s Aboriginal Circle), Ottawa (Minwaashin Lodge), Niagara (Native Women’s Inc.), Midland (Georgian Bay Native Women’s Association), and Hamilton (Hamilton Wentworth Chapter of Native Women’s Centre).

ONWA uses a Life Cycle approach to demonstrate how Indigenous women, youth, and Two-Spirit people are groomed for exploitation. It illustrates the issues they face, and where systemic change is needed to address systemic barriers such as racism, colonial violence, residential school/60’s scoop, devaluation of Indigenous women and normalization of sexual violence.

This year, the Indigenous Anti-Human Trafficking Liaison program added one additional site, bringing the total to 7 program sites. Program sites include Aboriginal Shelters of Ontario (Akwesasne), Niagara Chapter of Native Women (Fort Erie), Giishkaandago’Ikwe Health Services (Fort Frances), Métis Nation of Ontario (Ottawa), Minwaashin Lodge (Ottawa), Native Women's Resource Centre of Toronto, and now the Orillia Native Women's Group.

To learn more about human trafficking:

·         Visit ONWA’s HT Learning & Resource page:

·         Read ONWA’s Journey to Safe SPACES report at: 

For more information and media inquiries, contact: 

Andre Morriseau, Communications Manager, Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA)

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