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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. These efforts included investigating and prosecuting traffickers, including labor traffickers; convicting more traffickers than in the previous reporting period; providing funding for victim services; and identifying and assisting more victims than in the previous reporting period. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not provide comprehensive data on investigations, prosecutions, and convictions from all jurisdictions or on victims provided with services nationwide. The range, quality, and timely delivery of trafficking-specific services varied nationwide and the government did not fund or provide access to sufficient emergency housing specifically for trafficking victims. While the government finished consultations to develop a new national action plan, it did not publish a new plan during the reporting period.

Publish and implement a new national anti-trafficking action plan. • Vigorously prosecute traffickers and impose adequately strong sentences on convicted traffickers. • Amend the criminal code and Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to include a definition of trafficking consistent with international law. • Significantly increase trauma-informed specialized services and shelter available to all victims, in partnership with civil society and through ongoing dedicated funding from federal and provincial governments. • Minimize wait times for access to government services, particularly for foreign victims. • Investigate and prosecute Canadian child sex tourists. • Implement plans to fund a national trafficking hotline. • Increase proactive identification of victims, particularly through screening among vulnerable populations and training of first responders in victim-centered techniques. • Increase nationwide trafficking data collection, including documentation of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions and numbers of identified victims and assistance provided such as the number of work permits granted to foreign victims. • Increase training for government officials, particularly for prosecutors and judges, including on seeking and ordering restitution upon trafficking convictions. • Increase use of proactive law enforcement techniques to investigate trafficking, particularly forced labor. • Increase coordination and communication among federal, provincial, and territorial actors and strengthen provincial interagency efforts. • Increase partnerships with the private sector, including financial institutions, to prevent trafficking. • Implement revised laws and policies to address trafficking in the federal supply chain.

The government slightly increased law enforcement efforts. Criminal code Sections 279.01 and 279.011 criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking, prescribing penalties of four to 14 years’ imprisonment for trafficking adults and five to 14 years’ imprisonment for trafficking children; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those for serious crimes, such as rape. 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 minimum penalty of six months and a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) established a separate offense of “human smuggling and trafficking” to mean “no person shall knowingly organize the coming into Canada of one or more persons by means of abduction, fraud, deception or use or threat of force or coercion.” Inconsistent with the definition of trafficking under international law, this provision did not include exploitation as an essential element of the crime.

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 IRPA opened five new investigations but did not report whether these cases involved forced labor or sex trafficking. In 2018, federal, provincial, and municipal law enforcement officials initiated prosecutions against 116 individuals in 72 cases (one for labor trafficking), compared to 78 individuals in 47 trafficking cases (two for labor trafficking) in 2017, 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 authorities prosecuted and concluded 196 cases against 196 individuals, compared to prosecutions continued against 295 individuals (including 10 suspected labor traffickers) in 2017 and 300 individuals (including 34 suspected labor traffickers) in 2016. The government reported federal convictions of 36 traffickers in 2018, compared to federal convictions of five traffickers in 2017, including one labor trafficker, and 10 sex traffickers and no labor traffickers in 2016. Courts imposed sentences ranging from two to 12 years’ imprisonment, compared to sentences ranging from six months to 9.5 years’ imprisonment in 2017. The government acknowledged some sex trafficking cases resulted in convictions under other criminal code sections. Authorities argued these offenses were easier to prove in the absence of victim testimony, noting victims fear reprisal from their traffickers and may be unwilling to testify, which may reveal a lack of victim witness protection. Federal authorities collected provincial and municipal data through the Uniform Crime Reporting Program available each July for the previous calendar year and reported a total of 375 trafficking incidents and 291 individuals accused of trafficking in 2017. The federal government did not require federal, provincial, or municipal law enforcement to report data on investigations or convictions and therefore did not maintain a national database; however, it provided data from Canada’s uniform crime reporting system and it provided provincial trafficking case data from the Province of Ontario where the highest number of cases were reported. 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 or decisions to pursue cases based on a greater probability of conviction varied, leading some officials to categorize trafficking cases as other crimes or to bring civil instead of criminal charges. Federal law enforcement coordinated its seventh proactive “Northern Spotlight” operation to identify sex trafficking victims and investigate and prosecute sex traffickers, which resulted in 44 charges against suspects in 2018, compared to 21 charges against suspects in 2017. The federal government identified and reported financial transactions suspected of being linked to the laundering of proceeds from trafficking, which resulted in 191 disclosures between April 2018 and January 2019, compared to 196 in 2017 and 102 in 2016. The federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) included trafficking in the national academy training for all new recruits, trained 169 police officers in an online introductory human trafficking course, and trained 295 police officers in an in-depth trafficking investigators’ course. The RCMP cooperated with foreign governments through the Interpol Human Trafficking Expert Group and pursued several ongoing trafficking investigations with foreign officials. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses, but media revealed a provincial police sergeant released another officer for alleged involvement in a prostitution offense in the course of a trafficking operation. Authorities charged the sergeant with misconduct related to the operation.

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.

The government maintained prevention efforts. The government held consultations to gather stakeholders’ views to inform the government’s anti-trafficking activities but did not publish a national action plan. During the consultations, the government acknowledged a need for dedicated anti-trafficking funding, greater cross-sectoral collaboration, increased availability of and accessibility to victim support and services, more prosecutions and sufficiently stringent sentences, greater oversight of supply chains, and the need to engage the private sector. The government also admitted gaps in data collection and analysis of the prevalence of trafficking. The federal parliament’s House Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights also conducted consultations and published a report in December 2018, which included recommendations on a new national anti-trafficking action plan, prevention of trafficking among migrant workers, outreach to financial institutions to assist in tracking suspicious transactions, and funding for the national hotline.

Public Safety Canada (PSC) led a federal interagency task force and facilitated policy discussions. PSC hosted national teleconferences for provincial and regional governments and stakeholders to share information, trends, and best practices related to forced labor and victim services and to share its own initiatives. PSC operated a hotline for service referral for crime victims, including trafficking victims, but did not report the number of trafficking calls received in 2018. The government’s 2018 budget including 14.5 million Canadian dollars ($10.65 million) over five years, beginning in 2018-2019, to establish a national human trafficking hotline to be operated by an NGO and launched in May 2019. The government funded NGOs to promote 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 regional trafficking awareness coordinators in the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, and Nova Scotia served as anti-trafficking points of contact for law enforcement across the country and participated in regional response teams and meetings to share local strategies, best practices, and successful cases. British Columbia’s provincial anti-trafficking office coordinated the provincial strategy, services, and identified gaps and barriers, such as a need for a regular working group between RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency, the provincial crown prosecutor, and U.S. law enforcement agencies. The government of Ontario continued to implement its comprehensive, survivor-focused provincial anti-trafficking strategy and operated a 24/7 multi-lingual hotline to provide information and referral for trafficking victims. Starting in 2016, the province allocated 72 million Canadian dollars ($52.86 million) over four years to address trafficking. NGOs cited the need for better coordination among the federal, provincial, and territorial governments on anti-trafficking law enforcement.

The government strengthened the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program by creating a federal-provincial/territorial working group and allocating 194.1 million Canadian dollars ($142.51 million) over five years and 33.9 million Canadian dollars ($24.89 million) per year to enforce laws and prevent labor exploitation and trafficking among these workers. The federal government also invested 3.4 million Canadian dollars ($2.5 million) in 2018-2019 to establish, as a pilot program, a migrant worker support network for individuals facing potential labor exploitation and trafficking by their employers. The government updated its pamphlet entitled “Temporary Foreign Workers: Your Rights are Protected,” to provide information on rights and protections for such workers, including on trafficking, in eight languages. The government reported it referred three of 16 leads received related to potential trafficking cases generated by its online fraud reporting tool for temporary foreign workers. 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 vulnerable to 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 for the third consecutive year. The government provided more than 19 million Canadian dollars ($13.95 million) to support anti-trafficking initiatives in more than a dozen countries globally. Canada participated in the fifth annual trilateral trafficking in persons working group meeting with Mexico and the United States and shared best practices related to technology and trafficking. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex and forced labor through awareness-raising and training. The government worked to revise its laws and policies to address trafficking in the federal supply chain by drafting amendments to the criminal and immigration law, a new self-certification policy in the apparel sector, and an updated debarment policy for suppliers. The government, along with Australia, the United States, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, launched a set of principles for governments to use as a framework for preventing and addressing forced labor in public and private sector supply chains.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Canada, and traffickers exploit victims from Canada abroad. Women and children from indigenous communities, migrants and new immigrants, LGBTI persons, persons with disability, at-risk youth, runaway youth, and youth in the child welfare system are especially vulnerable to traffickers. Traffickers exploit Canadian victims within the country, but traffickers have also exploited some Canadian victims abroad, mainly in the United States. Traffickers exploit foreign women, primarily from Asia and Eastern Europe, in sex trafficking in Canada. Traffickers exploit legal foreign workers from Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa in forced labor in a variety of sectors, including agriculture, construction, food processing plants, restaurants, and hospitality, or as domestic workers, including diplomatic households. Canadians travel abroad to engage in sex acts with children, and foreign nationals engage in sex acts with children in Canada.

U.S. Department of State

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