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.