Two Newmarket-based organizations are being given millions of dollars to support their efforts in helping the victims of human trafficking.
The provincial government formally announced $3.8 million over the next five years for BridgeNorth and the Cedar Centre to fund two new community programs.
"These programs and services will ensure that children and youth here in York Region who have experienced trauma are fully supported in their journey to wellness," said Newmarket-Aurora MPP Christine Elliott at a virtual news conference on Friday.
"These programs will help provide a more coordinated and comprehensive network of support across Ontario centred around the needs of victims and survivors."
The Cedar Centre's initiative is a $1.38-million dedicated rapid-response program for kids and youth in danger of being trafficked or recovering from it.
The money going to BridgeNorth, meanwhile, will fund a new day program for children and youth.
"The day program is going to be a place where persons who have been trafficked or are suspected of being exploited can come to find safe spaces, where they can discuss what is happening. We have a lot of suspected cases, and by providing peer support we are able to get people to be upfront with us about whether this is happening in their lives or not," said Casandra Diamond, founder of BridgeNorth, and a survivor of human trafficking.
"We are more able to spot the signs because we have been there. By employing our lived experience, we are really helping our young people to navigate if they are being trafficked. Other things we will do is provide psycho-educational supports, that are trauma informed by a multi-disciplinary team."
Minister of Children and Women's Issues Jill Dunlop said that the funding was just a small part of a larger government strategy to target human trafficking in Ontario.
"Actions (are being taken) across the government to raise awareness of the issue, protect victims, intervene early, support survivors, and hold offenders accountable," said Dunlop.
"To support this strategy, earlier this week, we proposed new and amended legislation as another tool in our toolbox to better fight human trafficking. If passed, this legislation will strengthen the ability of children's aid societies and law enforcement to better support them by obtaining restraining orders with special consideration for Indigenous survivors, provide law enforcement with more tools to locate traffickers and require the government to maintain an anti-human trafficking strategy."
The province has also previously provided the York Regional Police with $300,000 to help the department develop a crime prevention model targeting human trafficking.