The government maintained protection efforts; it identified more possible labor trafficking victims but did not report how many received services. The government did not report complete data on the number of victims identified. RCMP officers identified 63 victims in 2021, compared to 80 victims in 2020 and 119 in 2019. Identified victims included 46 women, two men, and 15 girls. In addition, ESDC identified 115 potential forced labor victims among temporary foreign workers, an increase from 45 potential victims identified by ESDC in the previous reporting period. The government provided several handbooks, guidelines, and other resources to front-line officials—including police, justice practitioners, and border officials—to enable them to proactively identify indicators of trafficking among the populations they served. RCMP officers followed a policy to facilitate trafficking victims’ referral to services, while referral procedures for other front-line institutions varied by jurisdiction. The government provided funding to an NGO to operate a national human trafficking hotline. Hotline staff developed a national referral directory and maintained partnerships with nearly 900 service providers to facilitate victim referral to local emergency, transition, or long-term support services. Public Safety Canada (PSC) operated a toll-free number that victims of any type of crime could call to access information and service referral.
Provinces and territories were primarily responsible for the delivery of victim services, with the federal government providing funding to service providers. The government did not report complete data on victims receiving government-funded services. The federal government allocated 1.34 million Canadian dollars ($1.05 million) to Justice Canada’s Victims Fund to support trafficking victims and groups at high risk of exploitation, compared with 930,200 Canadian dollars ($728,420) in 2020. Through this fund, the government provided funding to organizations implementing 10 projects to improve services for trafficking victims and develop and deliver training for law enforcement officers and service providers in the provinces and territories. Implementing organizations reported providing services to approximately 744 victims and vulnerable individuals through government-funded projects between January and November 2021. In comparison, organizations estimated providing services to approximately 220 individuals during a nine-month period (April-December) in 2020.
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. Models for service provision varied across the country in response to provincial demographics, priorities, and budgets. In some provinces, victims accessed government services through police or the courts, while other provinces offered victims more comprehensive individual support. Victims could typically access emergency housing, food, medical services, psychological care, safety planning, and court preparation and accompaniment. Some jurisdictions offered additional legal services to victims of sexual offenses, including sex trafficking, and many provinces and territories provided counseling services beyond the duration of a trial. Assistance was available for both Canadian and foreign victims, as well as male and female victims, but service providers reported they primarily served Canadian women and girls. Several provincial governments funded or implemented trafficking-specific programming. The Government of Alberta continued funding a multisectoral coalition, which included survivors, to provide services to victims and coordinate a provincial response to trafficking; the Government of British Columbia funded an office that developed and coordinated the provincial strategy and worked to enhance victims’ access to services; and the Government of Ontario funded a government entity that provided coordination and services in the province. Ontario also continued implementation of a five-year, 307 million Canadian dollar ($240.41 million) strategy to combat trafficking that included committing 96 million Canadian dollars ($75.18 million) over five years to 27 community-based projects, including survivor-led programming and Indigenous-specific services. In December 2021, the Government of Québec released an action plan and announced 150 million Canadian dollars ($117.46 million) over five years toward activities combating sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking. In Manitoba, police and NGOs continued to assist victims through a collaborative response team and implement a prevention strategy funded by the provincial government. In December 2021, the Manitoba government announced 3 million Canadian dollars ($2.35 million) in funding to an Indigenous women-led organization to provide support for women trauma survivors, including trafficking victims. The Government of Nova Scotia provided 1.4 million Canadian dollars ($1.1 million) toward implementation of a provincial approach to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation; this funding included initiatives to strengthen support for Black and Indigenous victims and the re-opening of a resource center for Indigenous women who were vulnerable to exploitation. The Nova Scotia government also funded 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 left the shelter. The Government of British Columbia administered a grant program using civil forfeiture proceeds to support community-led projects on crime prevention and victim assistance; in its 2021-2022 funding cycle, it awarded 570,000 Canadian dollars ($446,360) to 16 organizations implementing projects related to human trafficking.
NGOs operated shelters nationwide for victims of violence, mostly women and their accompanying children; the government funded some shelters, 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; they also reported 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 ($2.58 million) to support multidisciplinary, child-friendly advocacy centers that 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 pandemic continued to negatively impact the availability of and victims’ access to services. A survey conducted by an NGO revealed service providers had to significantly adjust their operations during the pandemic, including by reducing hours or moving services online, and the loss of in-person services, particularly counseling, was detrimental to victims. Lack of consistent access to resources, such as a computer, reliable internet connection, and privacy, limited some victims’ ability to benefit from online services, and limited options for in-person assistance may have placed victims at higher risk of re-exploitation. NGOs operating shelters in Ottawa reported a weeks-long protest in January and February 2022 caused disruptions to shelter services and effectively confined some victims to shelters to avoid harassment by protesters.
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, as well as assistance from Canadian consular officials abroad, though the government did not report providing this assistance to any victims during the reporting period. Global Affairs Canada officials had procedures to proactively identify potential trafficking victims working in diplomatic households in Canada, including through verifying payroll records and conducting random and systematic interviews with domestic workers in diplomatic households, but it did not report identifying any victims during the year. 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), which allowed them to remain in Canada under regularized immigration status, receive access to healthcare, including psychological services, and in some cases 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 and November 2021, the government issued 65 TRPs to foreign trafficking victims and their dependents; this compared with 110 TRPs issued to trafficking victims in 2020. TRP holders could apply for fee- exempt work permits, and the government reported providing permits to approximately 46 trafficking victims and their dependents in 2021.
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. Through the Victims Fund, the government funded organizations providing training on trauma-informed practices for criminal justice officials. NGOs reported a lack of victim-centered methods re-traumatized some victims during court proceedings. Courts could order traffickers to pay restitution to victims under Canadian criminal 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 2021. The government did not have a law or policy protecting victims from punishment for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit; there were no reports, however, that authorities penalized victims for such acts.