Human Trafficking

Date: 10/08/2020
Classification: Unclassified
Branch / Agency: CSCCB/LEBS/SOCD

Proposed Response:


Human trafficking, also referred to as trafficking in persons, involves the recruitment, transportation, or harbouring of persons for the purpose of exploitation, typically sexual exploitation or forced labour. The primary international instrument to combat trafficking in persons is the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC; also known as the Palermo Convention) and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (Trafficking in Persons Protocol). Canada ratified the UNTOC and the Trafficking in Persons Protocol on May 13, 2002.

Canada’s criminal laws prohibit trafficking in persons for any exploitative purpose as well as other conduct related to human trafficking, regardless of whether it occurs within Canada or involves bringing persons into Canada. The Criminal Code contains specific human trafficking offences including trafficking in adults, trafficking in children, materially benefitting from human trafficking, and removing or destroying documents for the purpose of facilitating this crime. These offences are punishable by maximum penalties up to life imprisonment, with mandatory minimum penalties ranging from one to six years. Many other Criminal Code offences can also apply to human trafficking cases including kidnapping, forcible confinement, uttering threats, extortion, assault, sexual assault, prostitution-related offences, and criminal organization offences. Furthermore, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) contains offences that target cross-border trafficking. Under the IRPA, it is prohibited to knowingly organize 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 a fine of up to $1 million.

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. According to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, police-reported incidents on human trafficking in Canada have steadily increased since 2010. The latest Juristat (2018) on Trafficking in Persons in Canada indicates that between 2009 and 2018, 97% of human trafficking victims in Canada were female, 45% of all victims were between the ages of 18 and 24, 26% were 25 years or age or older, and 28% were under 18. Individuals at risk of victimization include persons who are socially or economically disadvantaged, such as Indigenous women and girls, LGBTQ2 persons, migrants, new immigrants, and at-risk youth, including children and youth who are in the child protection system.

In September 2019, the Government launched the new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, supported by an investment of $56.82 million over five years and $10.28 million ongoing. The National Strategy builds on the internationally recognized pillars of prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships, as well as incorporates a new pillar of “empowerment” that focuses on enhancing supports and services to victims affected by this crime. Of the overall investment, PS has been allocated $22.6M over five years, beginning in 2019-20, and $2.92 million ongoing to develop tools, resources, and guidelines for standard provision of care; deliver a public awareness campaign; develop sector-specific training tools; increase contribution funding under Contribution Program to Combat Serious and Organized Crime for support services; undertake research and data activities; establish a Survivors Advisory Committee; and name a Special Advisor to Combat Human Trafficking. Other federal departments and agencies (Canada Border Services Agency, Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada, and Women and Gender Equality Canada) have also been allocated funding under the Strategy.

In September 2019, Shirley Cuillierrier was named Special Advisor to Combat Human Trafficking. Ms. Cuillierrier is a retired RCMP Assistant Commissioner and member of the Mohawk First Nation from Kanesatake, Quebec. During her career with the RCMP, she gained significant experience in operational policing, led its National Human Trafficking Coordination Centre, and was appointed Senior Advisor on Reconciliation and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The National Strategy builds on ongoing efforts to address human trafficking. This includes enhanced funding for Justice Canada’s Victims Fund, increased protections for temporary foreign workers, capacity-building efforts, funding for survivor-housing response models, training for law enforcement and government officials, and extensive stakeholder engagement. Most notably, Budget 2018 announced $14.51 million over five years and $2.89 million ongoing to establish a national human trafficking hotline. In October 2018, Public Safety Canada entered into a five year contribution agreement for $12.5 million over five years with the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, a non-governmental organization, to support the operation of the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline. The Hotline was launched on May 29, 2019. It is a multilingual, 24/7, toll-free line, referral service and resource Centre that receives calls, emails and texts about potential human trafficking in Canada and refers victims to local law enforcement, shelters and a range of other trauma-informed supports and services.

Contacts :

Prepared by: Elizabeth Milan, Senior Policy Advisor, 613-850-5370
Approved by: Talal Dakalbab, ADM Community Safety and Countering Crime, 613-852-1167

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