The government increased protection efforts. The government did not report complete data on the number of victims identified. RCMP officers identified 80 sex trafficking victims in 2020, compared with 119 victims in 2019, and 89 victims in 2018. Of these, 78 were female, two were male, 63 were adults, 13 were children, and four were unspecified. In addition, ESDC identified 45 suspected forced labor victims among temporary foreign workers. The government provided several handbooks, guidelines, and other resources for front-line officials—including police, justice practitioners, and border officials—to enable them to proactively identify indicators of trafficking among the populations they served.
Provinces and territories were primarily responsible for the delivery of victim services. The government did not report complete data on victims receiving government-funded services. The federal government allocated 930,200 Canadian dollars ($729,570) to Justice Canada’s Victims Fund to support trafficking victims and groups at high risk of exploitation, compared with 1 million Canadian dollars ($784,310) in 2019. Through this fund, the government provided funding to organizations implementing 11 projects to improve services for trafficking victims and develop and deliver training for law enforcement officers and service providers in the provinces and territories. One project ended during the reporting period, and 10 remained ongoing at the close of the reporting period. The government did not collect standardized data from these projects, but implementing organizations estimated providing services to approximately 220 victims and vulnerable individuals between April 2020 and December 2020 through government-funded projects. In December 2020, the government awarded an additional approximately 19 million Canadian dollars ($14.9 million) over four years to 63 organizations working to identify and protect trafficking victims—including through housing assistance, mental health services, and employment and livelihood development and support—and prevent victimization among vulnerable groups.
Each province or territory provided some services for victims, often in collaboration with NGOs, though the government did not collect comprehensive data on the amount of funding or number of victims served at the provincial and territorial level. Services varied widely across the country—with some based in the criminal justice process and some providing more comprehensive individual support—though victims could typically access emergency shelter, food, medical services, psychological services, safety planning, and legal services. Assistance was available for both Canadian and foreign victims, as well as male and female victims, but service providers reported they primarily served Canadian female victims. Several provincial governments funded or implemented trafficking-specific programming. The Government of Alberta continued funding a coalition, which included survivors, to provide services to victims and coordinate a regional response to trafficking; the Government of British Columbia maintained an office to develop and coordinate the region’s anti-trafficking strategy; and the Government of Quebec continued implementation of a strategy to prevent and combat sexual violence, including providing support for trafficking victims. In Manitoba, police and NGOs continued to assist victims through a collaborative response team. The Government of Ontario continued implementation of a five-year strategy to combat trafficking announced in March 2020, including 307 million Canadian dollars ($240.78 million) in new funding. In February 2020, the Government of Nova Scotia launched a provincial approach to combat trafficking and sexual exploitation, including new funding of 1.4 million Canadian dollars ($1.1 million) annually for five years; these funds were allocated to programs that included strengthening support for black and indigenous victims and re-opening a resource center for indigenous women who were vulnerable to exploitation. In July 2020, Nova Scotia opened a youth safe house with the capacity to provide specialized trafficking victim services and 24-hour support to two residents at a time for up to three months, as well as follow-up services after victims leave the shelter.
NGOs operated shelters for victims of violence nationwide, mostly women and their accompanying children; some shelters were government-funded, but only a few provided beds specifically for trafficking victims. Service providers reported there was an insufficient supply of emergency shelters, medium- to long-term housing, and specialized medical and psychological services to meet the needs of trafficking victims and that some available shelter options were not adequate for victims to receive appropriate, trauma-informed care. Through the Victims Fund, the government continued to provide an annual allocation of more than 3.3 million Canadian dollars ($2.59 million) to support multidisciplinary, child-friendly advocacy centers to enhance trauma-informed assistance to child victims of abuse, including human trafficking, during the criminal justice process. In addition, the government provided supplemental funding to assist child advocacy centers to adapt their services and meet increased demand during the pandemic.
The onset of the pandemic hurt the availability of services for victims. An NGO that maintained a national directory of trafficking victim service providers reported that in April and May 2020, 22 percent of non-governmental programs and services were suspended or not accepting new referrals and 71 percent operated in a modified capacity. The Government of Ontario implemented measures to facilitate sustained support for victims during the pandemic; it provided eligibility to trafficking victim service providers to receive emergency childcare, implemented a temporary pay increase for staff assisting trafficking victims in residential settings, provided personal protective equipment to anti-trafficking organizations, and increased funding to assist organizations in adapting operations and services during the pandemic. The federal government provided 100 million Canadian dollars ($78.43 million) in emergency funding for organizations providing shelter and other services to victims of gender-based violence—including 20 million Canadian dollars ($15.69 million) allocated to organizations assisting indigenous women and children—which likely benefited some trafficking victims.
Canadians who were victims of trafficking crimes that occurred outside Canada could be eligible to receive financial assistance for travel, psychological services, and other expenses through the Victims Fund, but the government did not report providing this assistance to any victims during the reporting period. The government provided alternatives to removal for foreign trafficking victims who faced danger or hardship in their home countries. Foreign trafficking victims could apply for a temporary resident permit (TRP) to remain in Canada under regularized immigration status, to receive access to healthcare, including psychological services, and to apply for a work permit. Officials issued short-term TRPs for up to 180 days or long-term TRPs for three years. Authorities did not require victims to participate in an investigation or prosecution to be eligible for a TRP, and victims could apply directly without a referral from law enforcement or service providers. The government reported authorities prioritized trafficking-related TRP applications, including throughout the pandemic. Between January 2020 and November 2020, the government issued 110 TRPs to foreign trafficking victims and their dependents; this compared with 228 TRPs issued to trafficking victims in 2019 and 40 issued in 2018. TRP holders could apply for fee-exempt work permits; the government reported providing permits to approximately 40 trafficking victims and their dependents between January 2020 and November 2020.
Canadian law provided various protections to victims and other witnesses participating in trials, many of which were mandatory for children and available to adults at a judge’s discretion. These protections included video testimony, the presence of a support person during testimony, a ban on publishing names of or releasing identifying information about witnesses, and closing courtrooms to the public. Authorities did not report how frequently courts afforded these protections to trafficking victims during trials. NGOs reported some victims were re-traumatized during court proceedings due to the lack of victim-centered methods. Traffickers could be ordered to pay restitution to victims under Canadian law, and the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario had laws allowing trafficking victims to seek civil redress. Some provinces had compensation or financial benefits programs for crime victims. The government did not report whether any victims received restitution, sought civil redress, or were awarded compensation through provincial programs in 2020. There were no reports authorities penalized victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit, although the government did not have a formal law or policy prohibiting this practice.