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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, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Canada remained on Tier 1. These efforts included identifying more possible victims of forced labor among temporary foreign workers; issuing new operational guidance on detecting money laundering linked to human trafficking; and launching new government procurement guidelines for suppliers and their subcontractors to prevent forced labor from occurring in government supply chains. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not provide comprehensive data on victims provided with government-funded services nationwide. The government’s efforts to identify victims, to provide protections to all victims—particularly forced labor victims—and to investigate and to prosecute forced labor crimes, remained inadequate. The range, quality, and timely delivery of trafficking-specific services varied nationwide, and service providers reported a shortage of victim services, including emergency shelters and longer-term housing.

  • Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes, including forced labor and child sex tourism, and seek adequately strong sentences on par with the severity of the crimes for convicted traffickers.
  • Increase proactive identification of victims, particularly male victims and forced labor victims, through screening among vulnerable populations and proactive outreach and assistance to migrant workers.
  • Significantly increase trauma-informed specialized services and shelter available to all victims, including male victims and foreign national victims, throughout the country, in partnership with civil society and through ongoing dedicated funding from federal and provincial governments.
  • Enact a policy protecting victims from punishment for unlawful acts traffickers compel them to commit.
  • Increase nationwide trafficking data collection, including timely consolidation of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions disaggregated by type of exploitation, numbers of identified victims, and assistance provided.
  • Enact and implement legal amendments to prohibit worker-paid recruitment fees and strengthen protections for temporary foreign workers in Canada.
  • Increase coordination and communication among federal, provincial, and territorial actors and strengthen provincial interagency efforts.
  • Establish a survivor-led advocacy council to assist in policy development and ensure members are duly compensated for their work.
  • Amend the criminal code and Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to include definitions of trafficking that are consistent with international law.
  • Increase information-sharing and cooperation with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Indigenous communities and NGOs to address the disproportionate impact of trafficking on those communities.
  • Increase training for government officials, particularly prosecutors and judges, emphasizing the importance of charging and prosecuting under trafficking statutes, rather than lesser offenses, and ordering restitution upon trafficking convictions.
  • Increase partnerships with the private sector, including financial institutions, to prevent trafficking.
  • Vigorously enforce laws and policies to address trafficking in the federal supply chain.

The government maintained 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 of adults and five to 14 years’ imprisonment for trafficking of 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 for offenses involving adult victims and a mandatory minimum of two years’ to a maximum of 14 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving child victims. Section 279.03 criminalized withholding or destroying documents to facilitate trafficking and prescribed a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment in cases involving adult victims and a mandatory minimum of one year to a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment in cases involving 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 crime 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 investigated and prosecuted trafficking crimes, but the government did not report comprehensive law enforcement data at each of these levels. The federal government did not maintain a national database. The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system included provincial and municipal data but did not disaggregate between sex and labor trafficking. The UCR data is available each July for the previous calendar year, and for 2020, the government reported investigating a total of 515 incidents that led to 241 individuals charged with trafficking crimes; this compared with 511 trafficking incidents investigated and 270 individuals charged in 2019 and 340 incidents investigated and 236 individuals charged in 2018. Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) reported identifying and referring to law enforcement 115 suspected forced labor cases within the temporary foreign worker program in 2021, an increase from 45 forced labor investigations between April and December 2020 and 32 forced labor investigations between April and October 2019. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, which conducted administrative investigations of potential human trafficking cases among immigration and refugee cases, initiated approximately 25 new large-scale investigations involving allegations of human trafficking in 2021, compared with 37 in 2020 and 20 in 2019.

Federal, provincial, and municipal authorities prosecuted 245 suspected traffickers and convicted 100 traffickers between January 1 and December 11, 2021. In 2019, authorities prosecuted 185 suspects and convicted 50 traffickers. Courts imposed sentences ranging from eight to 18 years’ imprisonment for convicted child traffickers; in 2020, courts imposed sentences between seven years and eight years, six months’ imprisonment for convicted traffickers. The government reported courts acquitted some defendants of trafficking charges but convicted them under other sections of the criminal code. The government reported authorities prosecuted the majority of trafficking cases at the provincial level, though it did not provide complete data on provincial-level prosecutions and convictions. Some provinces and municipalities maintained specialized anti-trafficking law enforcement units. Many courts continued to operate over virtual platforms, sometimes causing logistical challenges to ensure victims and witnesses had access to reliable equipment and internet connections.

The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) updated its Operational Alert, a resource for assisting the private sector to detect the laundering of illicit proceeds from sex trafficking, with additional money laundering and contextual indicators developed from analysis of 100,000 sampled financial transactions linked to human trafficking. FINTRAC provided information and shared best practices with stakeholders in the private sector and NGOs, as well as across Canadian, international, and multilateral government entities. NGOs noted a continued imbalance in the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, with limited attention to and understanding of forced labor. Coordination challenges among federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal authorities limited the effectiveness of anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, particularly on cases that spanned multiple jurisdictions. The government’s lack of a coordinated data collection system made it difficult for authorities to collect reliable, timely, and consolidated data to assess efforts and respond to trends.

The Canadian Police College provided a human trafficking investigators course that trained police on understanding the scope of trafficking crimes, fostering trust between law enforcement and victims, and overcoming challenges in investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) provided an online introduction to a human trafficking course completed by law enforcement officials, including front-line police who had limited knowledge of or experience with trafficking investigations. The Canadian Border Services Agency provided an online training course on human trafficking to new recruits. The government’s training academy for new police recruits included trafficking awareness in its training curriculum. FINTRAC regularly made presentations during the human trafficking investigator courses at the provincial and federal levels to educate law enforcement officials on using financial intelligence in human trafficking investigations. The RCMP’s operational manual, updated in 2021, provided guidelines and procedures for investigating human trafficking cases. During the reporting period, the RCMP developed new resources for police including a trafficking victim interview guide, a police officer’s handbook, and a presentation on detecting human trafficking for generalized police and traffic officials. The government reported police cooperated with foreign law enforcement officials on several open investigations during the reporting period. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses.

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.

The government increased prevention efforts. PSC continued to lead the government’s federal interagency task force to combat trafficking, which oversaw implementation of federal anti-trafficking measures under the strategic framework of the government’s National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking 2019-2024. The national strategy included 57.22 million Canadian dollars ($44.81 million) in funding over five years and 10.28 million Canadian dollars ($8.05 million) annually after 2024. It created a governance structure composed of senior leaders from relevant government agencies and coordinated government anti-trafficking and related activities, including online sexual exploitation of children, gender-based violence, and the disproportionate impact of violence on Indigenous women and girls and LGBTQI+ individuals. During the reporting period, the government convened an annual meeting of the Assistant Deputy Ministers Roundtable and a meeting of the Directors-General Steering Committee, and relevant government departments developed and implemented a system for sharing information and updates on a monthly basis. PSC published the first two annual progress reports on Canada’s key results and achievements under the national strategy. The national strategy called for the establishment of a survivor-led advisory committee, though the government did not create it during the year. To facilitate coordination and collaboration among federal, provincial, and territorial governments, PSC chaired meetings of the Federal, Provincial, and Territorial (FPT) Trafficking in Persons Working Group, and Justice Canada led the FPT Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials Working Group on Human Trafficking.

The government announced a series of proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations that would increase protections for temporary foreign workers in Canada; the proposed amendments included a new prohibition on worker-paid recruitment fees, a requirement for employers to provide an employment agreement, and increased employer responsibility for providing access to healthcare. The amendments would also add a prohibition on employer retaliation against workers who report complaints, provide greater authorities for officials to screen new employer applications for compliance, and strengthen government monitoring and oversight mechanisms for temporary foreign worker programs. These changes did not come into effect during the reporting period.

The government provided more than 6 million Canadian dollars ($4.7 million) to six community organizations across the country working to increase temporary foreign workers’ knowledge of their rights, support them in navigating the impacts of the pandemic, and assist them in exercising their rights while living and working in Canada. Through this funding, the government supported activities tailored to the needs and experiences of this vulnerable population, including services and information in workers’ first language; events and services during hours workers were likely to be available; free transportation or virtual or phone-based options; outreach visits to workers in isolated locations; and legal services. The government permitted temporary foreign workers, on valid employer-specific work permits and who experienced abuse or were at risk of abuse in the context of their employment in Canada, to apply for an open work permit; such permits allowed a worker to leave an abusive situation and change employers without losing status to work in Canada. The government issued new guidance on the abuse of workers in the context of the pandemic. The government reported immigration officials had guidelines for processing potential victims of trafficking who sought open work permits, though the government did not provide statistics on the number of trafficking victims or other vulnerable migrants who applied for or received open work permits. The government temporarily extended the program to agricultural workers from Trinidad and Tobago who were stranded in Canada during the pandemic. The government implemented a policy during the pandemic to allow additional time for foreign nationals to renew their temporary immigration status and to permit some work permit applicants to work legally while their applications were pending; these measures may have mitigated trafficking risks among some foreign nationals who would have lost their immigration status during the pandemic.

The government commissioned an independent organization to conduct a risk assessment of human trafficking in the government’s supply chains. Public Services and Procurement Canada launched a revised Code of Conduct for Procurement that included labor and human rights standards for all suppliers, including an expectation that suppliers and their subcontractors do not engage in any form of human trafficking. The government began adding a new clause to its contracts allowing authorities to terminate contracts with a supplier engaged in forced labor. Government Affairs Canada (GAC) trained approximately 800 domestic and overseas staff in its Trade Commissioners Service on the government’s responsible business conduct policies, with the intent to increase trade commissioners’ capacity to engage on these issues with businesses, local governments, and other stakeholders. During the reporting period, the Minister of Labour committed to leading an effort to introduce legislation aimed at eliminating forced labor from the global supply chains of Canadian businesses. The government began implementing a 2020 amendment to its Custom Tariff that prohibited the importation of goods produced by forced labor. In October 2021, the government seized a shipment of women and children’s clothing from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on suspicion the goods were produced with forced labor; after further review of the case, authorities released the shipment and allowed it to enter Canada.

The government implemented the first phase of a five-year national awareness campaign through advertisements on social media, search engines, news websites, radio, in cinemas, and through in-person events; public surveys informed campaign materials, which the government designed to raise awareness of human trafficking, address common misperceptions of the crime, educate the public on warning signs, and provide information for reporting suspected cases. The RCMP provided virtual training on human trafficking to school resource officers across the country and distributed presentations for use in local communities.

GAC increased its efforts to prevent sexual exploitation within the delivery of foreign assistance, including by promoting internal trainings to educate staff on the issue and how to respond to abuses; updating the relevant clause in funding agreements to include stronger language on expectations of partners; and establishing a permanent unit within GAC on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse. The government made limited efforts to reduce the demand for participation in international child sex tourism by its citizens; some efforts included distributing publications warning Canadians traveling abroad about penalties under Canadian law and directing personnel in its overseas diplomatic missions to report suspected cases to local law enforcement and INTERPOL. The government, however, did not report any data on child sex tourism investigations, prosecutions, or convictions. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts through public messaging and awareness-raising activities.

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, LGBTQI+ persons, persons with disabilities, at-risk youth, runaway youth, and youth in the child welfare system are at high risk for trafficking. Traffickers lure girls and young women, including some who are not socially or economically disadvantaged, into deceptive romantic relationships or through offers of economic opportunity and exploit them in sex trafficking. Traffickers exploit Canadian victims within and across the country and sometimes abroad, mainly in the United States. Traffickers exploit foreign women, primarily from Asia and Eastern Europe, in sex trafficking in Canada. Sex traffickers exploit victims in hotels, illicit storefronts disguised as spas, massage parlors, or strip clubs, and in private residences. Trafficking operations increasingly used online payment methods and investment tools in efforts to conceal financial transactions. Traffickers exploit legal foreign workers from Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa in forced labor in a variety of sectors, including agriculture, construction, food processing, restaurants, hospitality, and domestic service, including isolated reports of incidents in diplomatic households. Migrant workers in the caregiving and agricultural sectors were at the highest risk of forced labor due to language barriers, isolated worksites, and limited access to protections. Some foreign nationals are exploited by traffickers with ties to organized crime networks in victims’ home countries. Canadians travel abroad to purchase sex acts from child victims in other countries, and foreign nationals purchase sex acts from child victims in Canada. Traffickers in Canada operate individually and via family-based connections; some are affiliated with street gangs and transnational organized crime.

U.S. Department of State

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