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Combatting Human Trafficking and Supporting Victims
Human trafficking is intolerable in Canadian society, and represents a serious concern for the government, law enforcement and our partners in all orders of government nationally and internationally.
Most victims of human trafficking are Canadian women and girls. Sexual exploitation is the purpose for recruiting and trafficking victims in the majority of cases faced by our law enforcement agencies. It occurs most often in major urban centres. Vulnerable groups are most at risk of human trafficking, including women, children and youth who are socially and economically disadvantaged, those who are Indigenous, LGBTQ2, runaways, youth residing in care, migrants, and new immigrants.
The Government of Canada works with provinces and territories, law enforcement, victim services, Indigenous and other community organizations and international partners to combat human trafficking, to support victims and potential victims, to raise awareness and to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. We engage our partners to exchange knowledge, strengthen partnerships and inform policy responses through a number of avenues.
In June 2012, the government launched the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking (the “Action Plan”), building upon existing federal responses to address human trafficking. Canada’s commitments under the Action Plan follow the ”4Ps” approach – prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships. The Action Plan aimed to address critical gaps in existing responses, strengthen coordination with domestic and international partners, enhance transparency and accountability of federal anti-trafficking efforts, and raise awareness domestically and internationally.
The federal response to human trafficking is coordinated by the Human Trafficking Taskforce, led by Public Safety Canada and composed of 18 federal departments. The Taskforce is the primary federal coordinating vehicle for anti-trafficking efforts and is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Action Plan.
The Government has made significant progress in its fight against human trafficking, including the following:
- Canada’s first Criminal Code offences specifically targeting human trafficking were enacted in 2005. The Criminal Code now contains six specific human trafficking offences punishable by maximum penalties as high as life imprisonment.
- Through the federal Victims Fund, $4 million over 8 years (2012-2020) has been made available to non-governmental organizations to contribute to enhanced direct service delivery to victims of human trafficking in Canada.
- In March 2016, Public Safety Canada partnered with the Canadian Women’s Foundation to host the 2016 National Forum on Human Trafficking in Toronto. The Forum brought stakeholders together to discuss emerging issues, promote cooperation and strengthen anti-exploitation efforts.
- The government launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in August 2016. During the pre-inquiry consultations, the issue of the causes and consequences of sexual exploitation and trafficking of Indigenous women and girls were raised.
- In August 2016, the government also announced $16.17 million in funding over four years for the creation of Family Information Liaison Units in each province and territory, and to increase Victims Services funding, to provide culturally-appropriate victim services for families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and survivors of violence.
- In October 2016, the RCMP co-led the fifth edition of Operation Northern Spotlight, a coordinated Canadian law enforcement outreach operation to proactively engage vulnerable persons in the sex trade industry in an effort to identify and assist those who are being exploited or at risk of human trafficking. Fifty-three law enforcement partners, across nine Canadian provinces were involved. A total of 334 interviews took place, with 16 individuals removed from exploitative situations. This initiative has been ongoing since 2014, involving multiple Canadian police forces and in partnership with US law enforcement counterparts.
- The Minister of Public Safety is leading a formal evaluation of the National Action Plan on Human Trafficking to help inform the way forward on this important issue. While that strategy expired on March 31, 2016, budgets have been maintained and federal departments and agencies continue anti-trafficking work and efforts guided by its foundation.
- A national awareness campaign on the domestic sex trafficking of Indigenous people was launched last year.
- The Minister of Status of Women is leading the development of a Federal Strategy to Address Gender-based Violence. The Strategy aims to strengthen federal efforts to prevent and address gender-based violence and ensure that the Government of Canada has a coordinated, evidence-based response.
- The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) provided 50 disclosures of actionable financial intelligence to partners that were linked to suspected human trafficking in 2015-2016.
- Canada ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography in 2005, and International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour in 2000 which includes trafficking and sexual exploitation. Canada was one of the first countries to ratify the United Nations’ (UN) Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children in 2002 and works closely with UN agencies and other partners to combat this heinous crime.
- Canada’s international assistance helps developing countries reduce vulnerabilities for children, adolescents and young adults at risk of being trafficked by strengthening their public health, education and child protection systems as well as building the capacity of law enforcement. Canada is working with governments, multilateral and other organizations promote children’s rights, and to put an end to child sexual exploitation and online sexual abuse globally. Canada provides funding to states and organizations to enhance international capacity to address human trafficking, with a core focus on prevention, protection and rehabilitation of trafficking victims, who are mostly women and children.
- These efforts include $100 million to strengthen civil registration and vital statistics systems, including birth registration. Birth registration establishes the legal existence of a child and provides the foundation for safeguarding many of the child’s rights. Another project provides $8 million between 2014-20 to the ILO’s Combatting Trafficking of Children project, which supports capacity-building in Ukraine and has identified 400 victims of trafficking, including 11 children, and provided them with rehabilitation and reintegration support services.
- The Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) conducts pre-arrival risk assessments of passengers inbound to Canada in order to identify possible victims and facilitators of human trafficking.
- In 2015, 44 Temporary Residence Permits (TRPs) were issued to victims of human trafficking to allow them to consider their options, escape the influence of traffickers, recover from trauma and participate in investigations.
The Government is committed to strengthening its efforts to combat human trafficking and better protect trafficking victims. The introduction of Bill C-38 will help strengthen Canada’s criminal law response to trafficking in persons in a manner that is consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
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Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould Justice Canada Law
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