Meeting Professionals Against Human Trafficking

By Sandy Biback

“If you see something
Say something
You could be wrong and that’s OK
Or you could be right and save a life”

Meeting Professionals Against Human Trafficking was created 5 years ago with the plan to create awareness within the meeting/conference/event world and all the suppliers that create successful events.

During a visit to Cambodia in 2016, I began to see things that just didn’t look right.  I spoke with our guide Mao about this, and in an effort to learn more, I visited an organization run by Daughters of Cambodia – survivors of human trafficking – that runs an entrepreneurial bed and breakfast, a tearoom and an esthetics room, and sells t-shirts, jewellery, and bags to support survivors of human trafficking and increase awareness. 

I wondered if this could be happening in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, North America?  Research led me to places I didn’t want to go and had to go.  My first conversation was with the head of Toronto’s Human Trafficking Police Division where my thoughts became reality. This is happening in every hotel in Toronto from no star to five stars.

This is happening to young girls who are runaways, addicted to drugs, and to middle-class girls who hang out at the mall drooling over expensive clothing.  What’s a common thread?  Low self-confidence and access to the internet and social media.  Traffickers often groom their targets over a period of time, often online through social media and other networking apps. They look for youth who have low self-confidence or are otherwise vulnerable and are looking to make connections and feel valued. The trafficker works hard to convince the youth that they are in a caring and supportive relationship, and things progress to where the youth identifies them as the most important person in their world. It is at this point that the trafficker will take possession of things like the youth’s identification and phone in an effort to greater isolate them and exert control.

It is important to note that young boys and transgender youth are also subject to sex trafficking.  Often, they are of more ‘value’ than a young virgin female according to police.

While there are many resources for those that want to exit, it is often difficult to reach out to the resources based on numerous factors including hyper-vigilance/control by the trafficker; lack of access to ID or communications devices; feelings of shame, guilt, or fear; a continued belief that your trafficker is the love of your life; addictions issues; and not wanting to leave others behind.

We know that any charges, arrests and jail sentences are simply the tip of the iceberg.  Imagine if you’ve been trafficked and you have to face your trafficker in court in person.  On average, the victim repeats their story 12 times.  Often the trafficker will plead to a lesser account with no jail time.

A couple of statistics that may shock you:

  1. At any one time, worldwide, there are 40.3 million people in modern slavery (there are approximately 25 types of human trafficking)
  2. Over 90% of those trafficked in Ontario are local young people, as young as 12.

The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking /  operates a toll-free number for reporting human trafficking in Canada – 1-833-900-1010. They have lots of research available on their website at:

So, what can you do as a person in our industry?

  1. Learn the signs.  Ultimately your ‘gut’ will tell you.
  2. At your place of work, make sure that in-depth training is offered to all staff – and I’m not just talking about a quick online quiz. I’m talking about discussions. I’m talking about setting up a procedure and a chain of command for reporting if an employee sees something.  I’m talking about everyone being trained, from front desk, to salesperson, to caterer, to housekeeper, to AV technicians and everyone in between.  I’m talking about a company’s culture that doesn’t turn a blind eye in the name of profit.
  3. Work for signage at your venue that will inform the public that your property doesn’t tolerate human trafficking.  We’ve seen such signs begin to surface in Canada, we need more.  It should be the law. 
  4. Work to include contract information on what your venue is doing to prevent human trafficking
  5. Check out this website to get more information on what you and your team can do  While this is a US website it is excellent and will help your group come up with it’s own program.  Please note: ECPAT is a worldwide organization and in over 30 countries.
  6. If you are a planner, ask questions on your RFPs around trafficking prevention and policies/procedures that the supplier has instituted and keep the dialogue going.
  7. If you are a member of an association, ask for a session on human trafficking—MPAHT can help you with that.
  8. And, as a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle:  know what the children are doing on social media.

Sandy Biback, CMP Emeritus, CMM, Founder Meeting Professionals Against Human Trafficking.  Sandy has over 40 years as a conference planner, hospitality professor and industry volunteer. MPAHT is driving the conversation in the meetings and conference industry at large on human trafficking that may be taking place at events and through our allied partners including hotels and airlines. Together we can help stop human trafficking in our industry.

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For more information, contact Sandy at [email protected]