The government increased protection efforts. Authorities identified 89 new victims in trafficking-specific cases in 2018, compared to 60 in 2017, 77 in 2016, and 99 in 2015. Of the 89 new victims identified, 81 were female and eight were male, 61 were adults and 28 were children, and 79 were victims of sex trafficking and 10 were victims of forced labor. The government reported a total of 420 trafficking victims, which included newly and previously identified victims, in 2018 (404 sex trafficking victims and 16 forced labor victims) compared to 416 victims in 2017 and 367 victims in 2016. The government provided various handbooks, toolkits, and training to disseminate guidance on identifying trafficking victims to criminal justice officials and immigration officials specific to their roles. Immigration officials referred actual and potential cases to the RCMP for investigation and actual and potential victims to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. At the provincial level, the government of British Columbia identified 132 potential victims through calls received by their hotline. During hearings conducted by the House Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 2018, witnesses expressed concern that many first responders, including police and medical professionals, could not properly identify trafficking victims. Witnesses argued the government’s guidelines and training made assumptions all migrants and individuals in prostitution must be identified as trafficking victims thereby increasing surveillance of these communities and decreasing crime reporting.
The federal government assisted victims through its crime victim assistance regime, which relied on Justice Canada’s funding to the provinces and territories. In October 2018, the federal parliament approved an additional 500,000 Canadian dollars ($367,110) to support victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking, which brought the annual total to 1 million Canadian dollars ($734,210). Through this regime, the federal government allocated funding for 24 projects to NGOs and law enforcement agencies to provide case management, direct services, capacity building, and agency collaboration; but did not report how many victims were assisted by these projects in 2018. The RCMP Human Trafficking National Coordination Center and regional trafficking awareness coordinators operated response teams to assist victims law enforcement identified, such as during Operation Northern Spotlight and Project Griffon. Provincial governments, which have responsibility for the delivery of welfare services, 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 typically included emergency shelter, food, health services, psychological services, and legal services.
NGOs operated 629 shelters for women who were victims of violence nationwide, some of which the government funded, but only a few shelters provided beds specifically for trafficking victims. The federal government provided 2016-2019 funding to NGOs in the Atlantic provinces and in the Quebec region to develop a trafficking-specific protocol for emergency housing. Service providers expressed concern about the lack of shelters given that only a small number of beds are dedicated specifically to trafficking victims, which led to having to relocate victims to other provinces and a burden on service providers. Statistics Canada included a question in a 2018 survey on the number of individuals seeking shelter in facilities for victims of abuse due to trafficking, which may help to provide a first estimate of the number of beds needed for trafficking victims. 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 provided universal health care, emergency housing, legal aid, and social assistance at the provincial or territorial level to eligible individuals, including female and male trafficking victims, but dedicated emergency housing and specialized services primarily served female victims. Public Safety Canada continued $152,000 in funding to two multi-year projects to develop housing response models for trafficking. The Department of Justice provided 250,000 Canadian dollars ($183,550) to two NGOs for a new two-year project to provide case management and direct services to forced labor victims. The Department of Justice funded child advocacy centers that provincial or municipal governments or NGOs operated, some of which provided trafficking-specific services to child victims. The government did not report any victims who obtained restitution in 2018 for the third consecutive year.
Some provinces or territories offered trafficking-specific services through government agencies or NGOs. 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, Manitoba funded a government-NGO response team, and Ontario funded a government entity to provide coordination and services. The quality and availability 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. Manitoba provided at least 10.3 million Canadian dollars ($7.56 million) for initiatives to identify and assist those at risk of and victims of sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking. Ontario provided 18.6 million Canadian dollars ($13.66 million) for a three-year (2017-2020) strategy to improve survivors’ access to services such as housing, mental health services, and trauma counseling. The federal government provided New Brunswick 201,560 Canadian dollars ($147,990) over three years (2015-2018) to develop a provincial strategy to prevent sex trafficking. 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 issued TRPs to 40 foreign victims and their dependents in 2018, compared to 32 in 2017 and 67 in 2016. The government provided foreign victims eligibility for short-term 180-day TRPs or long-term three-year TRPs, but NGOs reported long wait times to receive TRPs. TRP holders could apply for fee-exempt work permits, but the government did not report how many foreign victims received permits in 2018. NGOs also reported a need for more trauma-informed care for victims, whom the health care system sometimes re-traumatized. While victims waited to receive TRPs, they could not access publicly-funded services, including mental and physical health and welfare, but they could receive assistance from NGOs. 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, but the government did not report whether such protections were actually afforded to victims.