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CivicAction Leadership Foundation launches “Under the Influence” campaign to raise awareness of sex trafficking in Canada

TORONTO, February 22, 2021 – Today, on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, CivicAction hopes to educate young people on the signs of unhealthy relationships.

Sex trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in Canada, yet many Canadians still do not understand the issue. In a 2020 survey conducted by CivicAction, a majority of Canadians (73%) believed sex trafficking starts with an abduction off the streets – a common misconception as victims are often groomed, lured, and recruited, likely online and by someone they know.

Young people are spending more time online than ever – with a 130% increase because of COVID-19, much of it on social media. With 90% of survivors reporting that they use social media to communicate with their traffickers and clients, this campaign is crucial.

In response, CivicAction, with the support of Scotiabank, has brought leaders together to build Under the Influence, an awareness campaign with Keara Graves, a Canadian actor and social media content creator who focuses on issues of self-identity and discrimination.

“CivicAction brings together the right people to catalyze action. As we all work together to rebuild an equitable economy, we must ensure that everyone in our community is protected and safe,” said Leslie Woo, CEO of CivicAction. “We cannot build an inclusive future if vulnerable people in our society are financially exploited. This campaign aims to empower young people with the information they need to ensure they are safe.”

Inspired by survivors’ experiences and powered by a Champions Council – over 25 multi-sectoral  leaders, including large corporations, community agencies, and survivors – Graves will use a creative approach to spreading awareness through fictional storytelling on her Instagram. Over the next week, Graves will highlight how sex traffickers typically target, lure, and groom victims online.

With teen girls today spending more than 27 hours a week online – and nearly 60% of them saying they have a friend who has done things online that aren’t safe – this campaign will help ensure young people are more informed and protected.

Education about what a healthy relationship is – how it feels and what it looks like – is the first step to helping young girls better understand the dangers of sex trafficking. One-in-four young people report that they do not have a strong understanding of what defines a healthy relationship. We need to fix that.

If you are experiencing grooming, luring, attempts at recruitment, human trafficking, or believe someone else may be, call the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-833-900-1010 or contact the Hotline via chat. Specially trained Hotline Response Advocates are available to talk 24/7/365. Confidential support is available in over 200 languages.

You do not need to share any information you are not comfortable sharing. The Hotline exists to help and support you.

Supportive Quotes:

“The victims of sex trafficking are mainly women my age or even younger. Although the resources and support are there to help victims, there is still not enough awareness and education to protect them. This is an opportunity to use my platform to help educate young people where they are.”

Keara Graves, Canadian actor and social media content creator


“Each year in Canada, there is an overwhelming number of young people who are affected by human trafficking and online exploitation. At Scotiabank, we are committed to fighting human trafficking through programs like the Financial Access Project, which provides survivors access to financial resources, and Project Shadow, a tool to support Canada’s financial institutions in detecting these heinous crimes. We are proud to be part of CivicAction’s work to be able to support survivors get back on their feet and rebuild their lives.”

Grant Mick, Senior Vice President, Internal Controls, Scotiabank and co-Chair of the Champions Council


For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Laurel Sallie
Communications and Marketing Manager
Cell: 416-371-4904


About CivicAction

Complex challenges need an all-hands-on deck approach, and collective impact is what CivicAction does best. A leading not-for-profit in Canada, CivicAction has nearly two decades of experience working to boost civic engagement and build better, more inclusive cities by creating and implementing effective solutions to the most pressing challenges in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and beyond. To find out more, visit or follow @CivicActionGTHA.

Building on a decade of high-impact and award-winning leadership programming, CivicAction launched the CivicAction Leadership Foundation to deliver world-class programs that inspire, educate and build inclusive civic leadership. The Foundation harnesses the power of diverse leaders and empowers and activates all voices to influence and shape our region. For more information visit



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