Peel leading the way to recognize value of lived experience among human trafficking survivors 
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer Files)

Peel leading the way to recognize value of lived experience among human trafficking survivors 

The Region of Peel is once again a “trailblazer” in the fight to help survivors of human trafficking and eradicate this evil crime. 

Since the 2018 approval of its anti-human sex trafficking strategy, the Region has been developing policies and support programs to reduce the rate of sex trafficking in the municipality, which has become a hub for sex traffickers in Canada. In 2022, 67 percent of human trafficking cases in the country occurred in Ontario, with the vast majority having origins in Peel Region. 

In an effort to further this work, the Region is creating a framework to compensate survivors and those with lived experience whose personal stories and expertise are critical in the creation of programs to effectively help survivors escape trafficking.

In the same way municipalities will use consultants and experts to help inform studies and policies around anything from land use planning, to arts and culture, to transit, the same must be done when drafting policies to address sex trafficking. These experts and consultants are often those who have been trafficked in the past. This is a crucial benefit for policy makers who often do not have a clear idea of how traffickers operate or the type of assistance survivors most desperately need when they escape their abusers. But these experts and consultants, historically, have not been compensated for their time, or the remuneration is a gift card or “exposure”, something that can lead to tokenization of survivors and further trauma. 

Timea Nagy is one of Canada’s most prominent advocates for anti-human trafficking efforts. She has been working with the Region on developing the remuneration framework and appeared before the Diversity, Equity and Anti-racism Committee on May 2nd urging councillors to support the plan. Nagy was also a pivotal player in the introduction of training for all Peel Regional Police officers to help them identify signs of human trafficking

“As a survivor speaker, I share my story and my lived experience because I want to make the healing journey better, easier and less traumatic for the next generation of survivors. But I shouldn't have to do it at my own financial, emotional and physical expense,” she stated. “I can't take exposure or gift cards to my landlord nor can I pay the bills with them. Organizations need to understand that we might be able to share our stories or experiences, but financially, we are most likely still unstable for various reasons. Any unpaid engagement, expensive parking, or unpaid travelling expenses can put us into further financial crisis, which is emotionally and physically draining.”

She shared a story from early in her advocacy career when she travelled to British Columbia to be the keynote speaker. Nagy put in three long days at the event, delivered her speech, and was paid nothing. Meanwhile, the organization was able to raise over $1 million. When she returned home she was fired from her job for missing work and was homeless two weeks later. 

“The Charity Pimping practice has to end. Trauma-informed practices such as the Remuneration for Consultants and Staff with Lived Experience of Human Trafficking will play a crucial role and allow us to engage with Lived Experiences of people without further traumatization.

“I just really hope that you are able to hear the importance of this piece of policy that we are trying to build,” Nagy told councillors. 


Timea Nagy alongside Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah while announcing a new initiative to train Peel officers to identify the signs of trafficking.

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer Files)


The proposed remuneration will not only include a daily monetary compensation, but also stipends to assist in covering the costs of transportation and childcare if required. 

There was unanimous support for the framework around the council table. 

“I think we, and especially in Peel, recognize the human gravity of human trafficking. It is certainly a huge story here in all of our municipalities,” Councillor Christina Early said. 

Opening the door for this type of remuneration has the potential to create a snowball effect of improved policies to support human trafficking victims and survivors in Peel, and guide other municipalities toward improvement. 

Samantha MacNeill, an advisor in Peel’s Anti-Human Sex Trafficking Program, explained there were very few other organizations or municipalities with frameworks in place to guide the Region. 

“We are kind of a trailblazer in this specific space, but remunerating people for their time and their expertise is not something new,” she said, stressing the importance of ensuring policies around trafficking are created with the survivors in mind to avoid further harm. 

“We do this work, but we don’t live that life and we don’t understand fully that a decision a regional staff member will make could impact that person very negatively,” she said. “So we want their input to better improve our services and to allow our services to be very low threshold and very specific to the individual that is accessing them.”

Numerous studies have shown that when survivors are engaged from the beginning, the policy that comes out the other side is drastically better. 

“Across all areas of practice, where survivor engagement has taken place from the beginning of policy or programme design and delivery, has been continuous, and has embedded people with lived experience within organizations or project teams, outcomes have been of a higher quality for all stakeholders,” a 2022 study conducted by the University of Liverpool reads

Following a brief discussion triggered by Regional Chair Nando Ianniccaa, the report was referred back to staff for further study and a subsequent report on how the policy will be applied. In particular, what criteria the Region will need to use to determine who is chosen as an expert and how certain qualifications are assessed. He said it will only cause issues down the line if the specifics are not set out now. 

“At some point in time there has to be a formula or a format that says here is how the program is dealt with, and here’s who we’ve accepted that they have the appropriate credentials such as they are and taxpayers here’s what we’re paying for it and why we should be paying for it, because otherwise i just don’t know the application,” he said. 

A regional policy document explains that when determining a level of lived experience for human trafficking survivors, it’s black and white. If a person was trafficked, they have lived experience, regardless of how long their nightmare went on for. 

“Our intention was to avoid prescribing compensation that is commensurate with the number of years an individual was entrenched in human trafficking as this may have the effect of creating a tiered system of compensation based on how many months or years an individual was trafficked  This may further victimize and traumatize a candidate with lived experience,” the report states.

The referral was supported by regional CAO Gary Kent who stressed the referral did not mean the matter would be forgotten by staff. 

“It strikes me that we left this community behind, and it makes me wonder who else we’ve left behind,” he said.

“This will definitely not sit on the shelf.”



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