Canada is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor. Canadian women and girls are exploited in sex trafficking across the country, and women and girls from Aboriginal communities as well as minors in the child welfare system are especially vulnerable. Foreign women, primarily from Asia and Eastern Europe, are subjected to sex trafficking as well, often in brothels and massage parlors. Law enforcement officials continue to report that local street gangs and transnational criminal organizations are involved in sex trafficking in certain urban centers. Labor trafficking victims include foreign workers from Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa who enter Canada legally—sometimes through the temporary foreign worker program—but then are subsequently subjected to forced labor in agriculture, construction, processing plants, restaurants, the hospitality sector, or as domestic servants. Reports of forced labor continue to be more prevalent in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. There was one report of a Canadian citizen exploited in forced labor during the year. Canada is also a significant source country of tourists who travel abroad to engage in sex acts with children.
The Government of Canada fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the year, authorities continued to strengthen law enforcement efforts, including the conviction of a record number of trafficking offenders. The government launched a national anti-trafficking plan that strengthened coordination and increased efforts to train frontline responders across the country. Some provincial governments increased anti-trafficking efforts, though the effectiveness of these local efforts varied. Across the country, few specialized services were available to trafficking victims, and there was no comprehensive data collection on trafficking victims identified and assisted during the year.
Recommendations for Canada: Continue to intensify efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and sentence trafficking offenders using anti-trafficking laws; enhance specialized care services available to trafficking victims in partnership with civil society and through dedicated funding; increase use of proactive law enforcement techniques to investigate trafficking cases, including allegations of forced labor; amplify efforts to educate officials working in law enforcement, immigration, the justice sector, health care, and social work about human trafficking; continue to strengthen interagency coordination; establish formal mechanisms for officials to identify trafficking victims and refer them to protection services; increase investigations and prosecutions of Canadian child sex tourists abroad; continue efforts to improve trafficking data collection, particularly regarding victim identification and assistance; and strengthen coordination among national and provincial governments on law enforcement and victim services.
The Government of Canada strengthened its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts by significantly increasing the number of trafficking offenders convicted during the year, though convictions for forced labor crimes and international sex trafficking remained low in comparison with those for domestic sex trafficking. Section 279.01 of Canada’s criminal code prohibits all forms of human trafficking, prescribing a penalty of up to 14 years’ imprisonment or life imprisonment in the case of certain aggravating factors such as kidnapping or sexual assault. There is a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking of children. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the year, the criminal code was amended to further define exploitation in the context of trafficking offenses; some NGOs and law enforcement officers had believed that the previous definition was overly restrictive. This amendment also authorizes the government to prosecute Canadian citizens or Canadian permanent residents for trafficking offenses they commit abroad. Section 118 of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act prohibits transnational human trafficking, prescribing a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and the equivalent of approximately a $1 million fine. In March 2012, the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled unconstitutional federal statutes prohibiting living on the profits of prostitution or operating “bawdy houses;” these statutes had frequently been used in human trafficking prosecutions. The provincial government of Manitoba enacted a law in 2012 allowing the proceeds from human trafficking cases to go to victim settlements. Authorities in the province of Ontario have prosecuted and convicted the greatest number of trafficking offenders of all the Canadian provinces.
In addition to ongoing investigations, as of February 2013, there were at least 77 ongoing federal human trafficking prosecutions, 72 of which were domestic sex trafficking cases. It is unclear how many of these prosecutions were initiated during the reporting period. These cases involved at least 130 defendants and 119 victims, compared with 57 ongoing trafficking prosecutions during the previous reporting period, involving 94 defendants and 158 victims. The government reported 27 total trafficking convictions during the last year, compared with at least 12 convictions during the previous year. The 27 convictions included two convictions for forced labor under trafficking-specific laws, in contrast to three convictions for forced labor under trafficking-specific laws obtained during the preceding reporting period. Prosecutors convicted at least 25 trafficking offenders under other sections of the criminal code in 2012, including provisions against conspiracy to commit human trafficking, living on the proceeds of prostitution, and forcible confinement; this is a notable increase compared with six such convictions obtained during the preceding reporting period. Sentences ranged from one day to nine years’ imprisonment; some of these sentences were suspended, and credit was given for pre-trial custody. One company was fined the equivalent of approximately $215,000 for its role in a forced labor case.
Federal and provincial level officials conducted various training sessions for government officials during the year. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) continued extensive anti-trafficking training efforts in 2012 for law enforcement officers, border service officers, and prosecutors and trained 50 police officers in an in-depth human trafficking investigator’s course. The RCMP and the border service agency each launched online anti-trafficking training courses. In 2012, authorities trained provincial labor inspectors in Ontario on human trafficking indicators. The Canadian government reported collaborating with foreign governments on several trafficking investigations and did not report investigating or prosecuting any government employees for complicity in human trafficking-related offenses. Coordination between the federal and provincial governments on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts continued to be a challenge in some cases.
The government maintained protections for trafficking victims during the reporting period, though most victim services offered by the government were general services offered to victims of a wide variety of crimes and there were no government programs specifically designed to serve trafficking victims. Immigration officials continued implementing guidelines intended to assess whether foreign nationals were potential victims of trafficking. There were no nationwide procedures, however, for other government officials to proactively identify and assist trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution or migrant workers. Officials did not collect comprehensive statistics on the total number of trafficking victims identified and assisted during the year. Provincial and territorial governments had primary responsibilities for general crime victim services, which were available to trafficking victims, and the range and quality of these services varied. Most jurisdictions, however, provided trafficking victims with access to shelter services, short-term counseling, court assistance, and other services. The government did not report funding or operating any dedicated facilities for trafficking victims. Female trafficking victims could receive services at shelters designed for victims of violence, and in some cases shelters for homeless persons provided basic services to male trafficking victims. The demand for some services, such as longer-term assisted housing, generally exceeded resources. Some law enforcement officials and NGOs indicated that the lack of specialized services was problematic and noted that increased protection of victims could enhance victim cooperation with law enforcement.
NGOs noted that provincial referral mechanisms, often involving a local anti-trafficking network or coalition, worked well in practice; however, some NGOs reported that communication between different sectors, such as law enforcement officials and service providers, was uneven. Provinces and territories had primary responsibility for enforcing labor standards; however, civil society organizations reported that provincial and territorial governments often lacked adequate resources and personnel to effectively monitor the labor conditions of increasing numbers of temporary foreign workers or to proactively identify human trafficking victims among such groups.
Undocumented foreign trafficking victims in Canada could apply for a temporary resident permit (TRP) to remain in the country. The government issued 26 TRPs to 24 foreign trafficking victims in 2012, 13 of which were first-term permits and 13 of which were renewals. In comparison, authorities reported granting 53 TRPs to 48 foreign victims in 2011. Some foreign trafficking victims might have received different forms of immigration relief, such as refugee protection. During a 180-day reflection period, immigration officials determined whether to grant TRP holders a longer residency period of up to three years, and victims had access to essential and emergency medical care, dental care, and trauma counseling. TRP holders could apply for fee-exempt work permits, and some foreign victims received these permits during the reporting period. Some officials and NGOs reported difficulties in getting TRPs for foreign victims due to lack of coordination or understanding among service providers, law enforcement officers, and immigration officials about whether an individual qualified as a trafficking victim. Identified victims were not penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. Canadian authorities encouraged but did not require trafficking victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenders. The government continued to provide protections to victims who chose to testify, such as witness protection programs and the use of closed circuit television testimony; however, it did not report how many victims, if any, participated in investigations and prosecutions. During the year, the wife and step-daughter of a Hungarian forced labor victim who testified against his traffickers were deported after their refugee request was denied.
The Government of Canada maintained strong anti-trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period. Canada’s national action plan released in 2012 created a new federal-level interagency taskforce to replace the previous working group. In addition to outlining specific anti-trafficking commitments, the national plan increased transparency by requiring the federal government to report publicly and annually on its efforts. Although the plan did not come with a separate budget, it committed the equivalent of approximately $25.8 million from federal entities for anti-trafficking efforts over the next four years. The RCMP continued to conduct widespread awareness-raising activities and maintained six regional human trafficking awareness coordinators across the country to facilitate anti-trafficking initiatives and assist in developing local strategies. These coordinators distributed anti-trafficking toolkits to Aboriginal communities. The federal government funded several anti-trafficking initiatives abroad through the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).
Provincial and local governments also undertook a variety of trafficking prevention events and initiatives during the year; these efforts varied in effectiveness. British Columbia had the only provincial anti-trafficking office in the country, and the office conducted a variety of prevention, training, and awareness activities. Quebec’s provincial government reported funding NGOs that provided services to trafficking victims. Ontario implemented provincial-level initiatives including victim identification tools and awareness materials. The Alberta provincial government continued to fund an NGO coalition to coordinate the province’s actions to combat trafficking.
Authorities continued to implement the compliance framework for the federal temporary foreign workers program. Immigration officials provided information to temporary foreign workers, including live-in caregivers, to let them know where to seek assistance in case of exploitation or abuse and to inform them of their rights. Some NGOs asserted that these efforts did not address the root issues that make temporary foreign workers vulnerable to forced labor and called for a national policy framework to regulate labor brokers and recruiters. In 2012, the federal government enacted a policy making it more difficult for businesses involved in the sex trade to hire temporary foreign workers and stopped processing new work permits for temporary foreign workers to work in related businesses, such as strip clubs and massage parlors. In 2012, the government banned two diplomatic missions from bringing domestic servants into Canada because of abuses, including unpaid wages, contract switching, and long hours; it is unclear if any civil suits were filed by the abused workers.
Canada is a source of child sex tourists, and the country prohibits its nationals from engaging in child sex tourism through Section 7(4.1) of its criminal code, which has extraterritorial application and carries penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment. DFAIT continued to distribute a publication warning Canadians traveling abroad about penalties under Canada’s child sex tourism law with every new Canadian passport issued. However, there were no public reports of investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists during the year. Canadian authorities provided anti-trafficking information to Canadian military forces prior to their deployment on international peacekeeping missions. Canadian authorities continued to prosecute individuals who solicited commercial sex, and there were no known efforts to address demand for forced labor.