About Human Trafficking
On this page:
- What is Human Trafficking?
- Difference between Human Trafficking and Human Smuggling
- Human Trafficking Statistics
- Legislation against Human Trafficking
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 anyone can fall victim to this crime, although women and girls represent the majority of victims in Canada. Those who are at-risk also include:
- Indigenous women and girls; migrants and new immigrants; 2SLGBTQI+ persons; children and youth in the child welfare system; those who are socially or economically disadvantaged; and
- migrant workers who may be particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse due to many factors, such as language barriers, working in isolated/remote areas, lack of access to services and support, and lack of access to accurate information about their rights.
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?
- Human smuggling is, by nature, a transnational crime whereas trafficking in persons is not. Human trafficking often happens within a country’s own borders.
- Human smuggling generally involves the consent of the person smuggled. Trafficked persons have either never consented or their consent has been rendered meaningless by the trafficker’s exploitative conduct.
- Smuggled persons are generally free to do what they want once they have arrived at their country of destination. In contrast, trafficked persons have their liberty curtailed and are forced to provide their labour or service.
- The source of profit for human smuggling is the fee associated with the smuggling act. In trafficking cases, profits are made through the exploitation of the victim(s).
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 2020, Statistics Canada reported that:
- 3,541 incidents of human trafficking have been reported to police services in Canada between 2011-2021.
- 83% of incidents of human trafficking were reported in census metropolitan areasFootnote 1.
- 96% of victims of police-reported human trafficking were women and girls.
- 81% of persons accused of human trafficking were men.
- 24% of victims of police-reported human trafficking were aged 17 and younger, 45% between 18-24, and 21% between 25-34.
Visit Statistics Canada’s “Trafficking in persons in Canada, 2021” Juristat for more data on human trafficking as reported by police services and courts in Canada between 2011 and 2021.
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.
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