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CANADA: Tier 1

The Government of Canada fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government 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 prosecuting traffickers, including labor traffickers; increasing its identification of financial transactions suspected of being linked to trafficking; providing funding for victim services and funding a new initiative to develop emergency housing for trafficking victims; and strengthening efforts to prevent labor exploitation and trafficking among temporary foreign workers. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it reported fewer convictions for the third consecutive year, and it did not provide comprehensive data on investigations, prosecutions, and convictions from all jurisdictions. It also did not provide comprehensive data on victims provided with services nationwide or provide sufficient emergency housing specifically for trafficking victims. The range, quality, and timely delivery of trafficking-specific services varied nationwide. While the government began consultations to develop a new national action plan, it did not publish a new plan in 2017.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CANADA

Publish and implement a new national anti-trafficking action plan; increase convictions of trafficking crimes through a victim-centered approach; increase use of proactive law enforcement techniques to investigate human trafficking, particularly forced labor; increase proactive identification of victims, particularly through screening among vulnerable populations; increase trauma-informed specialized services and shelter available to all trafficking victims, in partnership with civil society and through ongoing dedicated funding from federal and provincial governments; implement plans to fund and establish a national human trafficking hotline; improve trafficking data collection, including documentation of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions and numbers of identified victims and assistance provided nationwide; 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; draft and enact a code of conduct for federal procurement to address risks of trafficking in the federal supply chain; and investigate and prosecute Canadian child sex tourists.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Criminal code sections 279.01 and 279.011 criminalized sex and labor trafficking, prescribing penalties of four to 14 years imprisonment for trafficking adults and five to 14 years imprisonment for trafficking children. Such penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those for other serious crimes. Inconsistent with the definition of trafficking under international law, the law did not establish the use of force, fraud, or coercion as an essential element of the crime. Section 279.02 also criminalized receiving financial or any other material benefit from trafficking and prescribed 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 criminalized withholding or destroying documents to facilitate trafficking; and prescribed 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. Section 286.1 criminalized purchasing commercial sex acts from an individual under 18 years of age and prescribed a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

Government officials at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels may investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers; however, the government did not report comprehensive data at each of these levels. The government reported federal officials responsible for enforcing immigration law opened six new investigations. In 2017, federal, provincial, and municipal law enforcement officials charged 78 individuals in 47 trafficking cases (two for labor trafficking) compared to 107 individuals in 68 trafficking cases (none for labor trafficking) in 2016, and 112 individuals in 63 cases (two for labor trafficking) in 2015. Federal, provincial, and municipal prosecutions continued against 295 individuals, including 10 suspected labor traffickers, compared to 300 individuals, including 34 suspected labor traffickers, in 2017. The federal courts reported convictions of five traffickers in 2017, including one labor trafficker, compared to 10 sex traffickers and no labor traffickers in 2016, and imposed sentences ranging from two to 12 years imprisonment, compared to sentences ranging from six months to 9.5 years imprisonment in 2016. Federal authorities continued to collect provincial and municipal data through the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, however not all jurisdictions participated. The federal government did not provide data on investigations or convictions at the provincial or municipal level, however it launched a pilot project with Ontario to provide all relevant provincial trafficking case data and which may serve as a national model. 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 trafficking varied, leading some officials to categorize trafficking cases as other crimes or to bring civil instead of criminal charges. Federal law enforcement coordinated its sixth proactive “Northern Spotlight” operation to identify sex trafficking victims and investigate and prosecute traffickers, which resulted in 21 charges against suspects in 2017. The federal government continued its work to identify and report financial transactions suspected of being linked to the laundering of proceeds from trafficking, which resulted in 196 disclosures nationwide in 2017 compared to 102 in 2016. 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 147 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.

PROTECTION

The government maintained protection efforts. Police identified 60 new victims in trafficking-specific cases in 2017, compared to 77 in 2016 and 99 in 2015. Of the 60 new victims identified, 57 were female and three were male; 31 were adults and 29 were children; 57 were victims of sex trafficking and three were victims of forced labor. Authorities reported a total of 416 trafficking victims related to current and ongoing cases before the courts where trafficking-specific charges were laid in 2017, compared to 367 trafficking victims in 2016. Police, immigration officials, and prosecutors used victim identification guidelines specific to their roles to screen potential trafficking victims using established indicators and both federal and provincial officials partnered with NGOs to provide training and conduct outreach to vulnerable populations. At the provincial level, the government of British Colombia identified 132 potential victims through calls received by their hotline. Civil society reported provincial and territorial governments needed additional resources and personnel to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups and monitor effectively the labor conditions of temporary foreign workers.

The federal government reported assisting trafficking victims through its crime victim assistance regime, which relied on Justice Canada’s funding to the provinces and territories. Through this regime, the federal government allocated funding to several NGOs to provide services to trafficking victims, and these NGOs assisted at least 409 victims in 2017. 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 provided 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. Such services generally included shelter, legal and immigration services, medical care, psychological and crisis counseling, income support, and interpretation. While service providers operated 629 shelters for women who were victims of violence nationwide, only three shelters provided beds specifically for trafficking victims. Service providers expressed concern about the lack of shelters given that only 24 beds are dedicated specifically to such victims, which led to having to relocate victims to other provinces and a burden on service providers. 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. The government did not have dedicated shelters for male victims. In 2017, the federal government announced a new initiative to provide 8.4 million Canadian dollars ($6.7 million) to at least three provinces to develop emergency housing to address the specific needs of trafficking victims, including an initiative in Ontario to provide emergency and transitional housing and other services. Similar to past years, the Department of Justice designated 500,000 Canadian dollars ($398,400) for 14 projects spread across the country for victim services to female sex trafficking victims in 2017. The Department of Justice funded child advocacy centers operated by provincial or municipal governments or NGOs, some of which provided trafficking-specific services to victims. 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. The government did not report any victims who filed for or obtained restitution in 2017 for the second consecutive year.

At least four of the 10 provincial governments dedicated funding to victim assistance: Alberta funded a coalition to provide coordination and services; British Columbia funded a government entity to provide referrals and services, which provided assistance to at least 30 trafficking victims; Manitoba funded a government-NGO response team; and Ontario funded a government entity to provide coordination and services, which provided assistance to approximately 500 trafficking victims. 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. In 2017, Manitoba provided at least 10.3 million Canadian dollars ($8.2 million) for initiatives to identify and assist those at risk of and victims of sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking. Also in 2017, Ontario provided 19.3 million Canadian dollars ($15.4 million) to improve survivor’s access to services such as housing, mental health services, and trauma counseling. Québec’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.

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 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 long wait times to receive TRPs if victims do not cooperate 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 issued TRPs to 29 foreign victims in 2017 and three to dependents, denying only two applications, compared with 67 TRPs in 2016. Sixteen permits were issued to first-time recipients and 16 were issued to persons who had previously received TRPs. The government provided foreign trafficking victims eligibility for short-term 180-day TRPs or long-term three-year TRPs. TRP holders could apply for fee-exempt work permits, but the government did not report how many foreign victims received permits in 2017. Some government officials and NGOs reported difficulties and delays in getting TRPs for foreign victims despite the fact that victims were not required to cooperate with law enforcement to receive a TRP. 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. Canadian law provided extensive victim witness protections to encourage victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of cases, including video testimony, the presence of a support person during testimony, a ban on publishing the names of witnesses, and the exclusion of members of the public in the courtroom.

PREVENTION

The government increased prevention efforts. Public Safety Canada (PSC) led a federal interagency task force, reviewed its national anti-trafficking strategy through consultations with stakeholders, and released its annual progress report on the implementation of the national plan. In 2017, PSC also hosted two national teleconferences for provincial and regional governments and stakeholders to share information, trends, and best practices related to forced labor and victim services. The government announced plans to provide 14.5 million Canadian dollars ($11.6 million) over five years, beginning in 2018-2019, to establish a national human trafficking hotline to be operated by an NGO. The government-funded and promoted awareness-raising campaigns, including on labor trafficking and fraud in foreign labor recruiting, 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 continued to implement its comprehensive, survivor-focused provincial anti-trafficking strategy. The province allocated 72 million Canadian dollars ($57.4 million) over four years to address human trafficking, and in 2017 announced 7 million Canadian dollars ($5.6 million) in new funding to 44 service providers, 1.4 million Canadian dollars ($1.2 million) of which is dedicated to providing housing support to victims, a significant need in Ontario. NGOs cited the need for better coordination among the federal, provincial, and territorial governments on anti-trafficking law enforcement.

The government strengthened the Temporary Foreign Worker Program by allocating 199.6 million Canadian dollars ($159 million) over five years to enforce laws and prevent labor exploitation and trafficking among these workers. In 2017, the government increased on-site inspections and received 900 tips related to conduct often associated with labor exploitation and potential forced labor cases via its online reporting tool and hotline, 176 of which it referred for further investigation. The government held seven consultations with provincial or territorial governments, employers, employer associations, organized labor, legal service providers to receive feedback on the program and began updating communication materials about worker rights and employer responsibilities. The government provided funding for awareness-raising workshops with foreign workers and an online reporting tool. According to NGO contacts, Canada’s temporary foreign worker program continued to be a vehicle for trafficking. The government conducted outreach to domestic workers of foreign diplomats to prevent and identify trafficking cases, but it 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 government did not report any child sex tourism investigations, prosecutions, or convictions in 2017 for the second consecutive year. The government provided more than 18 million Canadian dollars ($14.3 million) to support anti-trafficking initiatives in more than a dozen countries globally. Canada participated in the fourth annual trilateral trafficking in persons working group meeting with Mexico and the United States and shared best practices in the area of monitoring financial transactions potentially linked to human trafficking. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex and forced labor through awareness-raising, training, and research. The government researched and began developing a new code of conduct for federal procurement to address risks of trafficking in the federal supply chain. The government provided anti-trafficking information to its military forces prior to deployment on international peacekeeping missions.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, 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, children from indigenous communities, migrants, LGBTI youth, at-risk youth, runaway youth, and youth in the child welfare system are especially vulnerable. Foreign women, primarily from Asia and Eastern Europe, are subjected to sex trafficking in Canada by traffickers with links to transnational organized crime. 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.

U.S. Department of State

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