National Consultations Discussion Paper
The Way Forward to End Human Trafficking

I. Preface

This Discussion Paper was prepared by Public Safety Canada in consultation with the federal Human Trafficking Taskforce. Its purpose is to elicit discussion and comments to inform the Government of Canada in the development of a new national strategy to end human trafficking. It aims to help ensure that the new national strategy is evidence-based, and supports the prevention of this crime and the protection of its victims. The structure and contents of this document - particularly the potential areas of focus - are meant to guide the discourse rather than to reflect the final elements of a national strategy, which will take into account comments received on both this paper and feedback received through other engagement activities. The Discussion Paper includes a particular focus on the results of the evaluation of the 2012-2016 National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and lessons learned by the Government of Canada throughout the Action Plan's implementation, including commentary from several national roundtables. A number of key issues and questions are presented for consideration, with a view to facilitate contributions of stakeholders involved in the consultations.

II. Introduction

What is Human Trafficking?

The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime defines human trafficking as "(...) the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving and receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs."

Also referred to as trafficking in persons (TIP), human trafficking is a complex crime which is facilitated by many factors, including the vulnerability of particular populations to exploitation, and the demand for particular goods and services. For its perpetrators, it is a low risk, highly profitable endeavour believed to be one of the fastest growing crimes on a global basis, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Human trafficking can take place both domestically and internationally (including crossing an international border).

Traffickers use various methods to maintain control over their victims, including force, sexual assault, threats of violence, and abuse of power, preying on peoples' vulnerabilities. Victims suffer physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse, and often live and work in horrific conditions. Because of the harm and violence inflicted on victims, human trafficking is associated with substantial trauma, and recovery from its impacts can take a lifetime. 


This discussion paper uses the terms "victim" and "survivor" interchangeably to refer to trafficked individuals. "Victim" is defined in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights as an individual who has suffered physical or emotional harm, property damage, or economic loss as a result of a crime. "Survivor" is a term used by some individuals with lived experience and some service providers to acknowledge the struggle to regain control over their lives. 

Global Context

Human Trafficking or Modern Slavery?

Some countries prefer to use the term "modern slavery" to encapsulate all human trafficking, servitude and forced labour offences found in their domestic law. However, the term "modern slavery' does not have an internationally agreed upon legal definition. "Slavery" has its own distinct definition as per the Convention to Suppress the Slavery Trade and  Slavery.

The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (Trafficking in Persons Protocol), supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, was the first international legal instrument that addressed trafficking in persons. The Trafficking in Persons Protocol articulates the most widely accepted international framework to address human trafficking and identifies a framework for key actions to respond to this crime, known as the 4-pillar model (4-Ps):  prevention of the crime; protection of victims; prosecution of offenders; and working in partnerships. Canada ratified the Trafficking in Persons Protocol on May 13, 2002.

Estimates on the number of victims of trafficking in persons globally vary from 24 million (International Labour Organization) to 40 million (Global Slavery Index). According to the UNODC, the vast majority of known trafficking victims – around 70 per cent – are women and girls with one-third being children.

In 2016, the Global Slavery Index assessed responses to modern slaveryNote 1 from 161 countries and reported that: 124 have criminalized human trafficking, in keeping with the Trafficking in Persons Protocol; 96 had national action plans to coordinate their government's response; and 150 governments provided some form of service for human trafficking victims and survivors.

Human Trafficking in Canada

Canada's laws prohibit trafficking in persons for any exploitative purpose, regardless of whether the trafficking occurs wholly within Canada or whether it involves the bringing of persons into Canada.

Section 279.01 of the Criminal Code (2005) prohibits Trafficking in Persons:
Every person who recruits, transports, receives, holds, conceals or harbours a person, or exercises control, direction or influence over the movements of a person, for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation commits and indictable offence.

Section 118 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA):
No person shall knowingly organize the coming into Canada of one or more persons by means of abduction, fraud, deception or use/threat of force or coercion.

Consistent with the internationally recognized definition of trafficking, the offence criminalizes specified acts undertaken for the purpose of exploitation.

Scope of human trafficking in Canada

Assessing the extent of human trafficking in Canada is difficult due to its clandestine nature, and the reluctance of victims and witnesses to come forward to law enforcement, as well as challenges in identifying victims. Based on reports from front-line service providers and organizations dealing with victims directly, most cases are never reported to police due to threats from traffickers, fear, shame, language barriers, and mistrust of authorities.

In Canada, data on human trafficking is collected in a number of ways, including incidents reported by police, convictions, and the issuance of temporary resident permits (TRPs) for suspected trafficking victims. While the extent of human trafficking in Canada is difficult to determine, the following statistics provide some context:

The statistics identified by the HTNCC are derived from human trafficking-specific cases across Canada, identified through HTNCC research. Obtaining consolidated, reliable and timely data relating to human trafficking charges/convictions is challenging as reporting of these cases to the HTNCC is not a mandatory requirement for law enforcement agencies in Canada. For this reason, statistics from the HTNCC do not provide a full representation of human trafficking cases across Canada.

Project PROTECT has also shed light on the scope of human trafficking in Canada. Launched in early 2016, this partnership between Canadian banks, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) and law enforcement, has supported the identification and reporting to law enforcement of financial transactions that are suspected of being related to the laundering of illicit proceeds associated with human trafficking for sexual exploitation.

The volume of suspicious transaction reports provided by financial institutions to FINTRAC related to Project PROTECT has significantly increased every year, and has resulted in more financial intelligence disclosures by FINTRAC to domestic and international law enforcement agencies. This financial intelligence assists law enforcement in their investigations of money laundering and human trafficking.

Number of FINTRAC disclosures of financial intelligence provided to law enforcement agencies







*Reporting periods based on Fiscal Year (April 1st to March 31st)

The Victims/Survivors

The populations at greatest risk of trafficking are those exposed to a number of overlapping risk factors in their lives and those who are among more disadvantaged or marginalized groups. Children, adolescent girls, and women tend to be most at risk of sexual trafficking and exploitation, while both men and women are at risk of labour exploitation.

First Nation, Inuit, and Métis women and girls, youth in care, runaway and homeless youth, persons with disabilities, refugees and migrants, and LGBTQ2Note 2 persons are particularly vulnerable. Individuals across all income levels can be trafficked; the common denominator is some form of vulnerability.

Examples of Trafficking Scenarios

Indigenous Women and Girls

The Interim Report for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (the National Inquiry), makes recommendations and serves as a blueprint for moving the National Inquiry forward. In the Report, the Commissioners identify sex trafficking as an emerging issue: "[…] that sex trafficking is a reality in Indigenous communities and urban centres. They said that Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2S people are overrepresented in the sex trade, and that there is still a stigma around sex work, which created conflict within families and between organizations over how to best protect women in the trade. They also pointed to the link between prostitution and resources extraction, as the culture and values associated with hyper-masculine industrial camps make Indigenous women and girls more vulnerable to violence"Note 3.

Once complete, the recommendations of the National Inquiry may contribute to the work to end trafficking of Indigenous women and girls. Other reports reviewed as part of the National Inquiry have emphasized the following:

The Perpetrators

Perpetrators can be men and women, intimate partners, complete strangers to the victims, criminal organizations, business owners, peers, family members, diplomats, farm owners, factory operators, large or small companies, or gangs.

Domestic trafficking for sexual exploitation is not necessarily associated with traffickers who may have connections to street gangs and organized crime. Victims are often recruited by those they consider their romantic partners.

Cases of human trafficking for forced labour in Canada have involved men and women from China, Ethiopia, Hungary, Romania, India, Mexico, the Philippines, Poland and Thailand. In 2012, a Hungarian family network (17 people) was successfully prosecuted in Canada for trafficking Hungarians for the purpose of forced labour in the construction industry.

III. Ending Human Trafficking

Actions to Prevent Human Trafficking Domestically


In June 2012, the Government of Canada launched the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking (National Action Plan), which was guided by the Trafficking in Persons Protocol and built upon existing federal responses to address human trafficking.

The National Action Plan included domestic and international initiatives, and focused on addressing forced labour (e.g., development of awareness products for temporary foreign workers, employers and third parties), and sexual exploitation (e.g., investment in initiatives that focus on ending violence against women and girls). It also addressed victim supports (e.g., project funding through Justice Canada's Victims Fund).

Human trafficking is a complex phenomenon related to many different factors, such as migration, economic exclusion, human rights, labour, and gender-based violence, to name a few. For this reason, the federal Human Trafficking Taskforce (HTT) brings together officials from multiple federal departments and agencies who cover a wide range of issues including, for example, international, Indigenous, law enforcement, immigration and procurement matters, in order to identify interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral anti-trafficking policy responses.

HTT members:

The Human Trafficking Taskforce (HTT)

Led by Public Safety Canada, and comprised of key federal departments and agency representatives, the HTT provides a dedicated focal point for federal anti-human trafficking efforts.

The HTT works with provincial and territorial (P/T) stakeholders to support information sharing and collaboration, recognizing that regular engagement and coordination is essential. At any given time, numerous federal/provincial/territorial (F/P/T) anti-human trafficking operations and initiatives are occurring throughout Canada. As the Governments of Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia each have their own dedicated strategies to address human trafficking, there is a need to ensure the directions and priorities established within the strategies are complementary, not working at cross-purposes, and can benefit from shared lessons learned.

Since 2013, the HTT has held quarterly F/P/T conference calls on trafficking in persons to support information sharing and the coordination of efforts. The framework for cooperation and collaboration of the federal departments and agencies that make up the HTT, along with efforts by and coordination with P/Ts, law enforcement agencies, and stakeholders across the country, provide the structure under which federal anti-human trafficking initiatives are implemented.

The Evaluation of the National Action Plan

The evaluation of the National Action Plan concluded in October 2017 and highlighted the following findings:

The evaluation further stressed several key issues and gaps, such as: further focus on labour trafficking; a centralized data collection mechanism; a national referral mechanism; and greater support for victims and vulnerable populations

Recommendations of the 2016-2017 Horizontal Evaluation of the National Action Plan

The Gaps

In its assessment of Canada's efforts to eliminate human trafficking, the 2016-2017 US Trafficking in Persons Report, found that:

"NGOs noted a continued imbalance in the government's anti-trafficking efforts, with greater attention to and understanding of sex trafficking versus forced labor."

"NGOs and other non-governmental experts indicated police and prosecutors' understanding of human trafficking varied, leading some officials to categorize trafficking cases as other crimes or to bring civil instead of criminal charges."

"Experts reported some shelters for victims of domestic violence would not accept trafficking victims due to the complexity of their needs and out of fear of their traffickers."

Source: US Trafficking in Persons Report (2017)

Labour Trafficking

Forced labour is being used to produce goods that end up in Canadian homes. Complex global supply chains create vulnerabilities for those in precarious work situations in Canada and around the world. In 2017, World Vision Canada released a research report that showed that over 1,200 companies operating in Canada are importing goods that may have been produced by child or forced labour, including food products and apparelNote 7. The report also found that companies operating in Canada disclose very little information about measures taken to ensure that their supply chains are free of exploitation.

In Canada, low-wage and low-skilled migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse due to many factors, such as language barriers, working in isolated/remote areas, lack of access to support, and lack of access to information on their rights. Further, migrant workers who have work permits tied to a single employer may also suffer because of their precarious status.

2012-2016 Consultations

The findings of the horizontal evaluation of the National Action Plan and the recommendations made by the US Trafficking in Persons Report support findings from Public Safety Canada's annual stakeholder consultations carried out from 2012 – 2016, which concluded that:

Since the conclusion of National Action Plan evaluation, the Government of Canada announced in February 2018 $14.51 million over five years, beginning in 2018-19, and $2.89 million per year ongoing, to establish a National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Why do we need to consult?

A sustainable and comprehensive national anti-trafficking response to address human trafficking requires a multi-disciplinary approach involving all levels of government, and civil society, as well as other relevant stakeholders. Furthermore, appropriate coordination structures and discussions to facilitate the continuous monitoring of the strategy's implementation and the review of the national anti-trafficking response are fundamental.

A consultation process will inform a new national strategy against human trafficking. Participation from government and non-government actors is key in order to adopt an inter-disciplinary, cross-sectoral approach and standardize procedures, definitions, and cooperation. It also ensures that civil society's views are reflected in the design and implementation of the national anti-trafficking response. It is a means to promote understanding, increased awareness and the sustainability of measures. 

Who will contribute to the strategy?


Expected Outcome(s)

IV. Topics for Discussion

Framework for a New National Strategy

A new national strategy must have a clear framework of action and be guided by key principles. Potential principles for a new national strategy could include:

Protection for victims - ensuring the strategy shows compassion for the experiences of victims, both domestic and international. Ensuring that the strategy supports law enforcement and criminal justice measures that are consistent with Canada's international obligations (e.g., Trafficking in Persons Protocol).

Cooperation - developing and strengthening partnerships across all levels of government, civil-society organizations, the private sector and across international borders.

Evidence-based - ensuring adequate data-gathering and analysis methodologies are established.

Sustainability - maximizing existing resources, ensuring adequate investment of resources, and sustaining initiatives over time.

Accountability - ensuring that roles and responsibilities for the funding, implementation and evaluation of the strategy are clearly identified.

Integrated approach - developing an integrated approach with social and economic policies and programs, e.g., education, health, and poverty reduction.

Gender and diversity sensitive - using gender and diversity as cross-cutting lenses to identify the varied needs of vulnerable populations.

Human-rights based - situating the strategy in respect of human rights.

Adaptability - ability to adjust to new issues and emerging threats.

Technology-aware - ensuring technology use and misuse is considered across all dimensions of the strategy.

Stakeholders are encouraged to contribute ideas regarding policy responses to both the demand side of exploitation and to the root causes of human trafficking, and to how a new national strategy could reflect and prioritize those issues.

Questions for Discussion

What should be the purpose and objectives of the national strategy and what should be its priorities?

Should we continue to use the 4-pillar model?

What principles should be considered in the development of a new strategy?

What aspects of systemic issues related to human trafficking, e.g., racism, poverty, oppression, and gender inequality, need to be addressed by a new national strategy? How?

How should the strategy be monitored and evaluated? How should its progress be reported?

Enhanced Collaboration

Consultation participants are invited to identify ways in which cooperation can be enhanced. The new national strategy must take into consideration the landscape of service provision, identify prospects for leveraging funding, closing service gaps, and improving national coordination. The strategy must also consider First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, perspectives on how to improve collaboration.

Questions for Discussion

Are there specific evidence-based policies or initiatives relating to trafficking or exploitation in your locality (city, province/territory) e.g., provincial strategy or legislation; local task force; public awareness campaigns?

What public and private organizations provide services to those at risk of trafficking and exploitation, or to the victims (e.g., legal services, support and shelter; health services; services for at-risk youth)?

What kinds of resources are available to service providers (e.g., financial, technical, and human)?

How can coordination and collaboration be enhanced among partners (within the federal government, with P/Ts, Indigenous peoples and non-government stakeholders)? Which tools would work best to increase this coordination and collaboration?

Are there any local/provincial/territorial protocols between police/municipalities and social services, with the business sector, NGO's, industrial work sites, factories, etc., in your locality? How can these be maximized?

Are there any programs or initiatives that are not working from which we can learn?

Victim Protection

The new national strategy should address gaps in the protection of vulnerable populations, such as: LGBTQ2 persons, youth at-risk, Indigenous and non-Indigenous women and girls, refugees and migrants, and persons with disabilities, as well as links between human trafficking and gender-based violence.

A national strategy should include input from front-line service providers and survivors on the prospect of a national referral mechanism, the short, medium and long-term needs of victims of trafficking, closing service gaps, culturally sensitive and trauma-informed service provision, human rights-based approaches, involving survivors in anti-human trafficking responses, promising practices in housing models, and trauma- informed approaches.

Questions for Discussion

How could we increase the identification of victims? What are the best tools for proactive identification?

Do you know of any successful interventions with high-risk groups, e.g., children in care or coming out of care, street children, youth gangs, women in disadvantaged circumstances (drug use, alcohol use, homelessness)?

What are the barriers and challenges vulnerable populations face in accessing necessary services after they have been trafficked?

How are victims of human trafficking being identified, protected and supported in their recovery?

Where and how can trafficked individuals get help in your area?

What are the most immediate needs of victims of trafficking? Who can best meet these needs?

What challenges do organizations face in providing services to victims of trafficking? What supports and resources are needed?

Are there any programs or initiatives that are not working from which we can learn?

How can we improve the coherence and consistency of services across provinces/territories?

Data Collection

Human trafficking is a hidden, clandestine crime, systematically underreported to police, making reliable statistics difficult to obtain. In addition, information available in Canada is dispersed across different departments and agencies within government, and across different jurisdictions and other organizations including law enforcement, NGOs and academia.

Obtaining consolidated, reliable and timely data in relation to human trafficking charges/convictions is a challenge in Canada. STATSCAN collects annual police-reported crime statistics through its Uniform Crime Reporting Survey. However, it does not hold information on prosecutions discontinued or in process. The RCMP (HTNCC) collects data on human trafficking specific cases across Canada. However, reporting of these cases to the HTNCC is not a mandatory requirement for law enforcement agencies in Canada. As such, statistics from the HTNCC are not a full representation of human trafficking cases across Canada.

Questions for Discussion

How can we improve data collection?

What data sources could help in establishing a more complete picture of human trafficking in Canada?

How can we improve current data collection tools to ensure marginalized populations are included in data collection mechanisms?

Labour Trafficking

Labour trafficking cases are very hard to detect and when they are suspected, they may be treated as contractual problems to be dealt with by labour standards. The dependency cycle of labour trafficking cases is much less understood than that of sex trafficking cases. In some instances involving foreign nationals, labour trafficking victims suffer from language barriers, working/living in isolation, and fear of deportation if they come forward.

A new national strategy should integrate the input from experts, law enforcement, researchers, temporary foreign workers, industry representatives, refugees, migrant workers, new immigrants and others, about workers' vulnerabilities, industries at risk, linkages between temporary migration policies and labour trafficking, supply chain transparency, consumer awareness, and challenges in detecting labour trafficking cases and protecting its victims.

Questions for Discussion

How are victims of labour trafficking being identified, protected and supported in their recovery?

Are workplaces with greater risk of trafficking inspected sufficiently to ensure proper working conditions?

What industries may use or enable labour exploitation?

Who are the key players in the private sector who could increase identification of victims?

What services or programs are targeting the demand side of labour exploitation? What could the private sector do to help reduce the demand?

What are some of the barriers and challenges to addressing human trafficking throughout supply chains?

Do local companies monitor their supply chains?

What are the links between the Canadian economy, international labour dynamics and trafficking in persons for labour exploitation?

Law Enforcement and Prosecutions

Law enforcement is encouraged to continue to share best practices related to human trafficking investigations and initiatives. This should include training which provides officers with the ability to identify indicators of human trafficking in order to identify potential victims. 

Consultation participants are invited to discuss rights-based approaches, successes and failures of police responses, interventions for offenders, the demand side of human trafficking, legislative measures, innovative methods to gather evidence for prosecution, improving access to justice, and best practices to build trust between police forces and communities.

Questions for Discussion

What are the human trafficking trends or issues of concern to you?

What is known about the method of 'recruitment' of victims? How do these methods vary for different populations?

How are victims of human trafficking being identified? What keeps these individuals from being identified as "trafficked"?

Do police in your area have training on how to identify and deal with cases of human trafficking?

What are the human trafficking trends related to other criminal activities (i.e., drug sales/use)?

What are the main reasons for unsuccessful human trafficking prosecutions?

Why are potential investigations not going to trial (e.g., victims not willing to cooperate, inexperience of prosecutors and/or judges with human trafficking cases)?

What targeted patrolling, surveillance of hot spots and special operations exist currently? How can these be maximized?

What are the barriers to charging and convicting individuals of labour trafficking offences?

Industry/Tech Solutions

The new strategy will integrate knowledge from industry, experts, researchers, front-line service providers and survivors about how to leverage technology, mobile communications and social media in anti-human trafficking efforts and how to address its financial aspects, good practices on partnering with the private sector to combat human trafficking, and the different tools that facilitate trafficking, e.g, online advertising sites, Bitcoin, social media.

Questions for Discussion

What general information exists about Internet luring?

What can be done to increase understanding of online recruitment?

What methods are available that can be used to identify luring?

How aware is the public of the risks of 'sexting' and child luring for sexual exploitation?

How can the travel and hotel industry take steps to raise awareness?

Are there awareness-raising campaigns in your locality?

Are there services to help parents, teachers and young people to increase awareness about Internet luring, learn about prevention, and build capacity?

How can technology companies help counter human trafficking?

V. Next Steps

Public Safety Canada is consulting Canadians through a targeted online consultation, regional roundtables and a National Summit that will be used to promote open discussion amongst law enforcement, F/P/Ts, Indigenous groups, the private sector, industry, and civil society stakeholders involved in anti-human trafficking efforts in Canada. Discussions with international partners will also be leveraged to gather information.

The information collected during the consultation process will support the federal government in determining priorities, identifying key gaps and challenges, F/P/T interdependencies, international best practices, and priorities in the federal response to human trafficking.


  1. 1

    The Global Slavery Index uses "modern slavery" as an umbrella term covering various forms of coercion prohibited in international instruments on human rights and labour standards (e.g., slavery, institutions and practices similar to slavery, forced labour, trafficking in persons and forced marriage).

  2. 2

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and 2-Spirit.

  3. 3

    Interim Report, The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: "Our Women and Girls are Sacred" (2017), p.31

  4. 4


  5. 5

    Strategic Actions for the Prevention of Human Trafficking of Inuit Girls and Women in Canada: Human Trafficking Workshop Summary, 2014

  6. 6

    Forsaken – The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry – Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, 2012

  7. 7

    Canada's Child and Forced Labour Problem , World Vision Canada (2017)

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