The Ontario government has recently passed new legislation and amended existing legislation through the Combating Human Trafficking Act, 2021. The two new pieces of legislation are entitled the Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy Act, 2021 and the Accommodation Sector Registration of Guests Act, 2021, and amendments have been made to the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 and the Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking Act, 2017.
Human trafficking involves the exploitation for profit of a person through force, fraud, or coercion. Victims are mostly women and children who are forced to provide their labour or sexual services. Exploitation often occurs through intimidation, force, psychological manipulation, emotional abuse, lies, addiction, sexual assault, isolation, taking control of their ID and money, and threats of violence to themselves or their families.
COMBATING HUMAN TRAFFICKING ACT, 2021
The new act includes a variety of measures to combat human trafficking in Ontario, including:
- Increasing awareness of the issue of human trafficking and educating the public on the role that we all have to play in combating this crime;
- Supporting survivors and the individuals that support them by obtaining restraining orders against traffickers;
- Improving the ability of Children’s Aid Societies and law enforcement to protect exploited children;
- Requiring those companies that advertise sexual services to have a dedicated contact to support investigations into suspected human trafficking;
- Increasing penalties for those that interfere with a child in the care of a Children’s Aid Society, including traffickers; and
- Explaining how and when police can access information from hotel guest registers in order to deter trafficking and to identify and locate victims.
According to Premier Doug Ford:
Our government is taking further action to fight the deplorable crime of human trafficking. This legislation will help to protect victims, support survivors and ensure offenders are held accountable and punished to the full extent of the law. Our government will not rest until everyone in Ontario can live free from violence and abuse.
Ontario is a major centre for human trafficking in Canada, with approximately two-thirds of reported cases arising in Ontario. Girls as young as 13 are being recruited by pimps into a world of unpaid sex work, often recruited on social media or at public places like shopping malls and playgrounds.
Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, stated:
This ground-breaking legislation makes Ontario the first jurisdiction in Canada required to maintain an anti-human trafficking strategy, ensuring that combating this crime remains a priority into the future. Developed with input from survivors and those working on the frontlines, this legislation also provides important new tools to support survivors and better protect children and youth, demonstrating once again our government’s strong and unwavering commitment to fighting this crime and keeping people of Ontario safe.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING NUMBERS IN CANADA AT A RECORD HIGH
According to Statistics Canada, human trafficking incidents that were reported to police in Canada hit a record high in 2019 at a rate of 1.4 incidents per 100,000 people. This is an increase of 44% in comparison to those reported in 2018. Unfortunately, these numbers have been described as just the “tip of the iceberg” as the majority of women or girls who are sexually exploited do not report the crimes.
Many girls or women are deterred from reporting to the police after they learn of other women’s experience with the criminal justice system. Many women feel that they have been re-victimized and are questioned about why they didn’t just walk away from the exploitive situation.
Corporal David Lane, the human-trafficking co-ordinator for the RCMP in Nova Scotia, commented on what the increase in reporting may mean:
I believe the increase can be directly related to the rise in education, awareness and the great partnerships that law enforcement, NGOs and advocates are forming to combat this heinous crime. As we begin to shine a light on how these traffickers operate it is making it more difficult for them to hide
The executive director of the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, Julia Drydyk, suggests that this important data exposes the need for more supports and services for the victims. She stated:
A trauma-informed approach to combatting human trafficking and increased access to services have empowered many victims of human trafficking to come forward to report their situation, seek available help, and try to recover from the devastating impacts of being trafficked. This increase demonstrates that victim-centred services have to be in place to help victims ready to exit their horrifying human trafficking situation.
If you have been charged with human trafficking or a related charge or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience. We are available when you need us most.