CANADA: Tier 1
Canada is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Canadian girls, boys, and women are exploited in sex trafficking across the country; women and girls from Aboriginal communities and girls in the child welfare system are especially vulnerable. Foreign women, primarily from Asia and Eastern Europe, are subjected to sex trafficking in Canada. Law enforcement officials report some local street gangs and transnational criminal organizations are involved in sex trafficking. Labor trafficking victims include foreign workers from Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa who enter Canada legally, but are subsequently subjected to forced labor in a variety of sectors, including agriculture, construction, food processing plants, restaurants, the hospitality sector, or as domestic servants, including in diplomatic households. Canada is a source country for tourists who travel abroad to engage in sex acts with children. Canadian trafficking victims have been exploited in the United States.
The Government of Canada fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Canadian authorities maintained law enforcement and prosecution efforts against sex traffickers and increased protections for domestic workers employed in diplomatic households. Awareness and resources against sex trafficking were considerably greater than those against labor trafficking. Government funding for specialized services to trafficking victims was insufficient to meet victims’ needs. Interagency coordination was uneven across the provinces and territories, as was national data collection on anti-trafficking efforts.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CANADA:
Significantly increase specialized care and reintegration services available to trafficking victims, in partnership with civil society and through dedicated funding from federal and provincial governments; provide funding for specialized care for child victims, ensuring their access to appropriate shelter; continue to intensify efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and issue dissuasive sentences for traffickers using anti-trafficking laws; increase use of proactive law enforcement techniques to investigate human trafficking, particularly forced labor; strengthen training for officials working in law enforcement, immigration, the justice sector, health care, and social work on the identification and provision of assistance to trafficking victims, as well as the subtle forms of coercion employed by traffickers; improve coordination between law enforcement officials and service providers, possibly through specialized case managers or attorneys, to ensure victim needs are met; continue increased communication between federal, provincial, and territorial actors and strengthen provincial interagency efforts; vigorously investigate and prosecute Canadian child sex tourists; and improve trafficking data collection, including to document service provision to victims.
The government maintained efforts to hold traffickers criminally accountable, though most efforts focused on sex trafficking. Criminal code Section 279.01 prohibits all forms of human trafficking, prescribing penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment, or life imprisonment in the case of certain aggravating factors, such as kidnapping or sexual assault. There is a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking of children under the age of 18 years. Such penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes. Section 118 of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act prohibits transnational human trafficking, prescribing a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and fines. Legislation enacted in December 2014 establishes mandatory minimum penalties of four or five years’ imprisonment for offenses under Section 279.01 and sets minimum penalties and increases maximum penalties for benefiting from child trafficking or withholding or destroying documents to facilitate child trafficking.
In 2014, police charged 121 individuals in 77 trafficking cases under trafficking statutes; only four of the 77 cases involved labor trafficking. Authorities brought criminal charges against a foreign diplomat and her spouse allegedly engaged in domestic servitude in Canada; the accused traffickers departed Canada before they were charged with trafficking. The government convicted 22 sex traffickers and no labor traffickers in 2014. Of these 22 convictions, eight were achieved under trafficking-specific laws, compared with 25 convictions of which 10 were under trafficking statutes in 2013. Sentences ranged from fines or community service and probation to 6.5 years’ imprisonment; some of these sentences were suspended and credit was given for pre-trial custody. Some police, judges, and prosecutors demonstrated a limited understanding of human trafficking, leading them to categorize trafficking cases as other crimes, bring civil instead of criminal charges, or acquit traffickers. Police and prosecutors used prostitution-related statutes for sex trafficking cases, sometimes due to a perception that proving exploitation to judges is exceedingly difficult. Federal and provincial authorities conducted training sessions for some officials and maintained online training courses. The federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) included trafficking in the national academy training for all new recruits; trained 55 police officers in an in-depth human trafficking investigator’s course; and maintained a national anti-trafficking enforcement unit in Quebec. A police sergeant who led a pilot anti-trafficking investigative unit in Hamilton, Ontario pled guilty to charges related to sexual misconduct involving witnesses in human trafficking cases. As he resigned from the police force prior to sentencing, the prosecution under the Police Services Act was halted. Authorities did not report any other investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking. Coordination between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts continued to be uneven.
The government maintained existing protections for trafficking victims, but funding for specialized services was inadequate. Police identified 261 victims in cases where trafficking-specific charges were laid in 2014. Of these, 223 were female; 37 were male; 48 were victims of labor trafficking; 213 were victims of sex trafficking; and 85 were children. In comparison, authorities did not report the number of victims identified in 2013, but as of February 2014, there were 198 victims in open trafficking investigations. Immigration officials continued to implement guidelines to assess whether foreign nationals were potential trafficking victims, and police and prosecutors screened potential trafficking cases using established indicators, although application of these guidelines was uneven. The government had no nationwide procedures for other officials to proactively identify and assist trafficking victims. Civil society reported provincial and territorial governments often lacked adequate resources and personnel to effectively monitor the labor conditions of temporary foreign workers or to proactively identify human trafficking victims among vulnerable groups.
The government did not report the number of trafficking victims assisted in 2014. Provincial and territorial governments were responsible for general crime victim services, which were available to trafficking victims, but only one province reported funding specific services for trafficking victims, and none funded dedicated shelters. The range, quality, and timely delivery of services varied, though 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. NGOs and law enforcement noted the demand for most services—particularly longer-term services such as housing, drug addiction treatment, psycho-social care, and job skills—exceeded available resources, and NGOs reported inadequate funding and, in some cases, cutbacks in existing funding. Experts reported some shelters for victims of domestic violence would not accept trafficking victims out of fear of their traffickers. NGOs noted victims without proper documentation may not be able to access general services, including health care. The province of Manitoba provided funding for initiatives to identify and assist victims of sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking victims, with a focus on Aboriginal communities. The city of Toronto dedicated funds to renovate a house for an NGO to operate a shelter for female sex trafficking victims. In Montreal, the crime victim compensation fund did not assist individuals in prostitution—even identified trafficking victims. In the province of Ontario, children 16 years and older were not eligible for child protective care and were often diverted to co-ed youth shelters, leaving them vulnerable to recruitment.
NGOs gave differing assessments of the effectiveness of the informal victim referral mechanism, with some desiring a more codified process and others prioritizing flexibility. Foreign trafficking victims could apply for a temporary resident permit (TRP) to remain in Canada. The government issued five TRPs to an undisclosed number of foreign victims in 2014; authorities did not report how many were first-term permits and how many were renewals. In comparison, authorities granted 14 TRPs to 14 foreign victims in 2013. Some foreign victims may have received different forms of immigration relief. During a 180-day reflection period, immigration officials determined whether to grant TRP holders a longer residency period of up to three years. TRP holders could apply for fee-exempt work permits, and it was unclear how many foreign victims received these permits in 2014. Some government officials and NGOs reported difficulties and delays in getting TRPs for foreign victims. While victims waited to receive TRPs, they could not access government services, and NGOs provided this care. There were no reports that identified victims were penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. Some NGOs indicated lengthy labor trafficking investigations could expose foreign victims to immigration violations, and some child sex trafficking victims might be treated as juvenile offenders for petty criminal offenses. There were no reports victims filed for or obtained restitution in 2014.
The Government of Canada maintained diverse trafficking prevention efforts. Public Safety Canada led a federal interagency taskforce and published regular anti-trafficking newsletters. The RCMP continued to conduct awareness-raising activities and published a report on internal sex trafficking. British Columbia had the only provincial anti-trafficking office in the country, which conducted training, prevention, and awareness activities. NGOs in other provinces reported the need for stronger coordination between provincial governments and civil society. Authorities provided information to temporary foreign workers to let them know where to seek assistance in cases of exploitation or abuse and announced an overhaul of the temporary foreign worker program committed to stronger enforcement and tougher penalties for exploitation of workers. The government did not report if these measures led to the identification of any potential trafficking victims. The government limited which foreign diplomats were eligible to bring domestic workers to Canada and hosted the first-ever mandatory trafficking awareness session for domestic workers in diplomatic households in December 2014. Authorities continued to distribute a publication warning Canadians traveling abroad about penalties under Canada’s child sex tourism law. There were no public reports of investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists in 2014. Canadian authorities provided anti-trafficking information to Canadian military forces prior to their deployment on international peacekeeping missions. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex but did not report efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.