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.