CANADA: Tier 1
The Government of Canada fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The Government of Canada continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, Canada remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by operating a national anti-trafficking taskforce to coordinate, monitor, and report on efforts to combat trafficking; launching an initiative that improved the government’s ability to identify the laundering of trafficking proceeds; and increasing efforts to prevent trafficking, particularly related to forced labor. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it identified fewer trafficking victims than in the previous year and did not improve access to or funding for trauma-informed care and specialized services. For the third consecutive year, the government did not convict any labor traffickers.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CANADA
Increase specialized services and shelter available to all trafficking victims, in partnership with civil society and through dedicated funding from federal and provincial governments; increase use of proactive law enforcement techniques to investigate human trafficking, particularly forced labor; intensify efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers; increase training for government officials, particularly for prosecutors and judges; improve coordination and communication among federal, provincial, and territorial actors and strengthen provincial interagency efforts; investigate and prosecute Canadian child sex tourists; and improve trafficking data collection, including documentation of numbers of identified victims and assistance provided.
The government maintained efforts to hold traffickers criminally accountable, although most efforts focused on sex trafficking. Criminal code sections 279.01 and 279.011 criminalize all forms of human trafficking, prescribing penalties of four to 14 years imprisonment for trafficking adults and five to 14 years imprisonment for trafficking children. Aggravating factors such as kidnapping, sexual assault, or death increase the mandatory minimum penalty to five years and the maximum penalty to life imprisonment for trafficking adults and six years to life imprisonment for trafficking children. Such penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes. Section 279.02 also makes it a crime to receive financial or any other material benefit from trafficking and prescribes a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment with adult victims and a mandatory minimum of two years to a maximum of 14 years imprisonment with child victims. Section 279.03 makes it a crime to withhold or destroy documents to facilitate trafficking; and prescribes a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment for adult victims and a mandatory minimum of one year to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment for child victims.
In 2016, police charged 107 individuals in 68 trafficking cases (none for labor trafficking) compared to 112 individuals in 63 cases in 2015. Prosecutions continued against 300 individuals, including 34 suspected labor traffickers, compared to 314 individuals, including 24 suspected labor traffickers, in 2015. The courts convicted 10 sex traffickers and no labor traffickers in 2016, compared to six sex traffickers in 2015 and imposed sentences ranging from six months to nine and a half years imprisonment, comparable with 2015. 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. The government launched a new project to identify and report financial transactions suspected of being linked to the laundering of proceeds from trafficking, which resulted in 102 disclosures nationwide in 2016, compared to 19 in 2015. Federal and provincial authorities conducted training sessions for law enforcement, immigration, and labor officials and maintained online training courses offered to social, child protection victim services, and shelter workers. Some law enforcement officials reported, however, that not all immigration officials received anti-trafficking training. The federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) included trafficking in the national academy training for all new recruits, trained 68 police officers in an in-depth human trafficking investigators’ course, and maintained a national anti-trafficking enforcement unit in Quebec. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government maintained protection efforts, but identified fewer trafficking victims than in previous years, provided a limited number of shelter beds, did not improve access to services, and lacked trauma-informed care. Police identified 77 new victims in trafficking-specific cases in 2016, compared with 99 victims in 2015. Of these, 71 were female, one was male, and the gender of five victims was unknown; 31 were children; all were victims of sex trafficking. Authorities reported a total of 367 trafficking victims related to current and ongoing cases before the courts where trafficking-specific charges were laid. Police and prosecutors screened potential trafficking cases using established indicators, including during proactive operations such as “Northern Spotlight,” which resulted in the identification of 16 potential victims. Immigration officials updated the Canada Border Services Agency. Victim Identification and Referral Manual in 2016 and continued to implement guidelines to assess whether foreign nationals were potential trafficking victims. Civil society reported provincial and territorial governments often lacked adequate resources and personnel to monitor effectively the labor conditions of temporary foreign workers or to identify proactively human trafficking victims among vulnerable groups.
The government did not report the number of trafficking victims assisted in 2016; the government reported it assisted trafficking victims through its crime victim assistance regime, which relied on Justice Canada’s funding to provincial and territorial governments. The government provided access to services depending on the jurisdiction where the crime victim resided, with each province or territory using a police-based, court-based, or system-based service delivery model. Services included emergency financial assistance, food, housing, health services, and legal services. NGOs, with provincial and federal support, also provided specific services, as did provincial crime victim assistance centers, where available. Services generally included shelter, legal and immigration services, medical care, psychological and crisis counseling, income support, and interpretation. Under the Canadian Crime Victims Bill of Rights, a victim may request information about the offender’s conviction and has opportunities to present information to decision-makers for consideration, protection, and restitution; the government did not provide information on whether trafficking victims accessed these rights. There were no reports that victims filed for or obtained restitution in 2016.
In 2016, Public Safety Canada (PSC) issued a call for proposals and awarded two NGOs grants to develop housing response models to address the specific needs of trafficking victims. Two NGOs, with municipal, provincial, and federal government funding, opened new trafficking-specific transitional housing projects with services. Despite these advances, NGOs reported only 24 shelter beds specifically dedicated to trafficking victims nationwide. As a result, social workers had to relocate some victims to provinces that had available housing. The government provided access to health care benefits to foreign victims through the interim federal health program or through provincial or territorial health insurance programs. NGOs reported significant problems accessing such programs, especially when victims were not cooperating with law enforcement. NGOs also reported a need for more trauma-informed care for victims, who were sometimes re-traumatized by the health care system. The government allocated 2.4 million Canadian dollars ($1.78 million) to 25 NGOs during 2016 to enhance multi-disciplinary child advocacy centers, which provided specific services to child trafficking victims. The government, through the Department of Justice, designated 500,000 Canadian dollars ($371,471) for projects to improve trafficking victim services in 2016 as in previous years. 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.
Although some provincial governments dedicated funding to victim assistance, Quebec’s Victim Assistance Fund did not compensate or provide funding or services to women in prostitution, even if the woman was identified as a sex trafficking victim. Manitoba funded initiatives to identify and assist victims of sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking victims, with a focus on indigenous communities. Part of Ontario’s $53.97 million anti-human trafficking strategy is aimed at improving survivor’s access to services such as housing, mental health services, and trauma counseling. In Ontario, however, children 16 and older were not eligible for child protective care and were often diverted to co-ed youth shelters, leaving them vulnerable to recruitment into sex trafficking. The range, quality, and timely delivery of services varied, although most provinces could offer trafficking victims access to shelter services intended for victims of violence or the homeless population, short-term counseling, court assistance, and other services.
Foreign trafficking victims could apply for a temporary resident permit (TRP) to remain in Canada, which entitled victims to access health care and receive a work permit. The government issued TRPs to 67 foreign victims in 2016, compared with 44 TRPs in 2015. Twenty-six permits were issued to first-time recipients; 41 were issued to persons who had previously received TRPs. In comparison, authorities granted TRPs to 19 foreign victims in 2014. The government provides foreign trafficking victims eligibility for short-term 180-day temporary resident permits or long-term TRPs, which are valid up to three years. TRP holders could apply for fee-exempt work permits, but it was unclear how many foreign victims received permits in 2016. Some government officials and NGOs reported difficulties and delays in getting TRPs for foreign victims. While victims waited to receive TRPs, they could not access government services, but could receive assistance from NGOs. There were no reports that the government penalized identified victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
The government increased prevention efforts. PSC led a federal interagency taskforce; published regular anti-trafficking newsletters; and released annual progress reports. PSC also hosted a national forum for provincial and regional governments and NGOs in 2016 that yielded recommendations to develop further training, data collection, peer-led outreach, programs that reflect geographical and cultural contexts, and wrap-around services for victims. The government-funded and promoted awareness-raising campaigns, in partnership with civil society, aimed at indigenous people, youth, law enforcement, and the public. The RCMP Human Trafficking National Coordination Center and three regional human trafficking awareness coordinators in the provinces of British Columbia, Quebec, and Nova Scotia served as anti-trafficking points of contact for law enforcement across the country and participated in meetings to share local strategies, best practices, and successful cases. British Columbia’s provincial anti-trafficking office continued to conduct training, prevention, and awareness activities. The government of Ontario developed and published a comprehensive, survivor-focused provincial anti-trafficking strategy and established an anti-human trafficking office to implement the strategy. The province allocated $54 million over five years to address human trafficking, and in December 2016 hired indigenous liaisons to work with native communities whose members are at risk of being trafficked. NGOs cited the need for better coordination among the federal, provincial, and territorial governments on anti-trafficking law enforcement. Authorities provided information to temporary foreign workers to let them know where to seek assistance in cases of exploitation or abuse. The government worked closely with the governments of Mexico and Caribbean countries to ensure that Canada’s seasonal agricultural program provided workers with access to information on their rights and available consular and other services. Although the government modified the temporary foreign worker program to increase detection of abuse and prioritize Canadian employees over lower-paid migrants, it is not clear whether the measures led to the identification of any potential trafficking victims. According to NGO contacts, Canada’s temporary foreign worker program continues to be a vehicle for human trafficking. The government conducted outreach to domestic workers of foreign diplomats to prevent and identify trafficking cases, but did not report whether the outreach led to new cases. Authorities continued to distribute a publication warning Canadians traveling abroad about penalties under Canada’s child sex tourism law. The Department of Justice reported sentencing one child sex tourist and designating the individual a long-term sex offender in 2015, but did not report any convictions in 2016. The government provided more than 14.6 million Canadian dollars ($10.85 million) to support anti-trafficking initiatives in more than 16 countries globally. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex and forced labor through awareness-raising, training, and research. The government began to identify ways to address risks of trafficking in the federal supply chain in 2016. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. Canadian authorities provided anti-trafficking information to Canadian military forces prior to their deployment on international peacekeeping missions.
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. Women and girls from indigenous communities, migrants, at-risk youth, runaway youth, and girls in the child welfare system are especially vulnerable. Foreign women, primarily from Asia and Eastern Europe, are subjected to sex trafficking in Canada. Law enforcement officials report traffickers include individuals, family-based operations, some local street gangs, and transnational criminal organizations. Labor trafficking victims include workers from Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa who enter Canada legally, but are subsequently subjected to forced labor in a variety of sectors, including agriculture, construction, food processing plants, restaurants, the hospitality sector, or as domestic workers, including diplomatic households. Canada is a source country for tourists who travel abroad to engage in sex acts with children. Canadian trafficking victims have been exploited in the United States.