About Human Trafficking

On this page:

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, is often described as a modern-day form of slavery. It involves the recruitment, transportation, harbouring and/or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person in order to exploit that person, typically through sexual exploitation or forced labour. Human trafficking is a heinous crime that exploits the most vulnerable. The victims, who are mostly women and children, are deprived of their normal lives and compelled to provide labour or sexual services, through a variety of coercive practices, often for the direct profit of their perpetrators.

Human trafficking is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The extent of human trafficking, both in Canada and internationally, is difficult to assess due to the hidden nature of the crime, the reluctance of victims and witnesses to come forward to law enforcement and the difficulty of identifying victims. We know that men, women and children fall victim to this crime, although women represent the majority of victims in Canada. Those who are likely to be at-risk include:

If you think someone is a victim of human trafficking, call the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline, 9-1-1, or your local police.

Difference between Human Trafficking and Human Smuggling

Human trafficking and human smuggling are often confused but they are two different crimes. What’s the difference?:

Despite these differences, smuggled persons may become trafficking victims either during travel or once they arrive at their destination. It is therefore critically important to be able to distinguish between these crimes.

Statistics on Human Trafficking

Canada has been identified as a source, destination and transit country for victims of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour. As of 2018, Statistics Canada reported that:

Visit Statistics Canada’s "Trafficking in persons in Canada, 2018" Juristat for more data on human trafficking as reported by police services and courts in Canada between 2009 and 2018.

Legislation against Human Trafficking

Canada has comprehensive laws to combat human trafficking under the Criminal Code, which prohibits trafficking in persons as well as other exploitative conduct related to human trafficking. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act also targets cross-border trafficking. Section 118 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act prohibits knowingly organizing the coming into Canada of one or more persons by means of abduction, fraud, deception, or use or threat of force or coercion. The offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1 million.

Learn more about how the law is helping in the fight against human trafficking by visiting the Department of Justice’s webpage on Canadian Legislation on Human Trafficking.

Date modified: