CANADA: Tier 1
Canada is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking; and a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor. Women and girls from Aboriginal communities; migrants, including those newly arrived, at-risk youth; runaway youth; 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 meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The Government of Canada continued to operate a national anti-trafficking taskforce to coordinate, monitor, and report on efforts to combat trafficking. Canadian authorities maintained law enforcement and prosecution efforts against sex traffickers and courts delivered longer sentences than in previous years. Awareness of and resources against sex trafficking were considerably greater than those against labor trafficking. Police identified fewer trafficking victims than the previous year; NGOs reported government funding for specialized services was inadequate; the quality, timeliness, and range of such services varied among the provinces. Interagency coordination was also uneven across the provinces and territories, as was national data collection on anti-trafficking efforts.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CANADA:
Significantly increase specialized services and shelter available to all trafficking victims, in partnership with civil society and through dedicated funding from federal and provincial governments; increase use of proactive law enforcement techniques to investigate human trafficking, particularly forced labor; intensify efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers; increase training efforts for government officials, particularly for prosecutors and judges; improve coordination and communication among federal, provincial, and territorial actors and strengthen provincial interagency efforts; investigate and prosecute Canadian child sex tourists; and improve trafficking data collection, including to document numbers of identified victims and assistance provided.
The government maintained efforts to hold traffickers criminally accountable, though most efforts focused on sex trafficking. Criminal code sections 279.01 and 279.011 prohibit all forms of human trafficking, prescribing penalties of four to 14 years’ imprisonment for trafficking of adults and five to 14 years’ imprisonment for trafficking children. Aggravating factors, such as kidnapping, sexual assault, or death, increase the mandatory minimum penalty to five years’ and the maximum penalty to life imprisonment for trafficking of adults, and six years’ to life imprisonment for trafficking children. Such penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes. Section 279.02 prohibits receiving financial or any other material benefit obtained from trafficking and prescribes a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment where the victim is an adult, and a mandatory minimum of two years to a maximum of 14 years’ imprisonment where the victim is a child. Section 279.03 prohibits withholding or destroying documents to facilitate trafficking and prescribes a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment where the victim is an adult, and a mandatory minimum of one year to a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment where the victim is a child.
In 2015, police charged 112 individuals in 63 trafficking cases (two for labor trafficking) compared to 121 individuals in 77 cases in 2014. Prosecutions continued against 202 individuals, including 22 suspected labor traffickers. The government convicted six sex traffickers and no labor traffickers in 2015 compared to eight sex traffickers in 2014. Sentences ranged from six months’ to 9.5 years’ imprisonment, compared with fines or community service and probation to 6.5 years’ imprisonment in 2014. NGOs noted a continued imbalance in the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, with greater attention and understanding of sex trafficking versus forced labor. Contacts and NGOs indicated police and prosecutors’ understanding of human trafficking varied, leading some to categorize trafficking cases as other crimes or to bring civil instead of criminal charges. Police and prosecutors used prostitution-related statutes for sex trafficking cases, sometimes due to a perception of difficulty proving exploitation to judges. 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 62 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. Because he resigned from the police force prior to sentencing, a prosecution under the Police Services Act was halted. The provincial special investigations unit conducted a separate investigation, found no criminal conduct, and closed the case in July 2015. Authorities did not report any other investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking.
The government identified fewer trafficking victims than in previous years; did not provide adequate funding for specialized victim services; and the range, quality, and timely delivery of services varied across the provinces. Police identified 99 new victims in cases where trafficking-specific charges were laid in 2015, compared with 261 victims in 2014. Of these, 90 were female, three were male, and the gender of six victims was unknown; nine were victims of labor trafficking; 90 were victims of sex trafficking; and 29 were children. Authorities reported a total of 300 trafficking victims related to current and ongoing cases before the courts where trafficking-specific charges were laid. 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, which has resulted in the identification of 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 2015. The government assisted trafficking victims through its general crime victim assistance regime, which relied on Justice Canada’s funding to provincial and territorial governments. NGOs, with provincial and federal support, also provided specific services, as did provincial crime victims assistance centers, where available. Services generally included shelter, legal and immigration services, medical care, psychological and crisis counseling, income support, and interpretation. According to a shelter survey published in July 2015, two percent (67 of 4,476) of women residing in shelters in April 2014 sought shelter due to trafficking.
While some provincial governments dedicated funding to victim assistance, Quebec’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. Manitoba funded initiatives to identify and assist victims of sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking victims, with a focus on Aboriginal communities. In 2015, the city of Toronto provided a $1 lease of a house to an NGO, which raised private funds to operate a shelter for female sex trafficking victims. In Ontario, children 16 and older were not eligible for child protective care and were often diverted to co-ed youth shelters, leaving them vulnerable to recruitment into sex trafficking. 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 some services—particularly longer-term services such as housing and drug addiction treatment—exceeded available resources, and NGOs reported inadequate funding from the federal and provincial governments and, in some cases, cutbacks in existing funding. 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. NGOs noted victims without proper documentation may not be able to access general services, including health care. NGOs gave differing assessments of the effectiveness of the informal victim referral mechanism in use, 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 TRPs to 44 foreign victims in 2015, compared with five TRPs in 2014; 19 permits were issued to first-term recipients; 25 were issued to persons who had previously received TRPs. In comparison, authorities granted 14 TRPs to 14 foreign victims in 2013. 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, but it was unclear how many foreign victims received these permits in 2015. 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, but could receive assistance from NGOs. There were no reports the government penalized identified victims 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 2015.
The government maintained diverse trafficking prevention efforts. The Department of Public Safety led a federal interagency taskforce, published regular anti-trafficking newsletters, and released annual progress reports in 2014 and 2015. The RCMP continued to conduct awareness-raising activities aimed at youth, law enforcement, and the public. The RCMP human trafficking awareness coordinators in British Columbia, Quebec, and Nova Scotia served as anti-trafficking points of contact for law enforcement across the country and participated in meetings to share local strategies, best practices, and successful cases. British Columbia had the only provincial anti-trafficking office in the country, which conducted training, prevention, and awareness activities. NGOs cited the need for better coordination between and among the federal, provincial, and territorial governments on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Authorities provided information to temporary foreign workers to let them know where to seek assistance in cases of exploitation or abuse. In 2015, the government announced an overhaul of the temporary foreign worker program to increase detection of abuse and prioritize Canadian employees over lower paid migrants. The government did not report if these measures led to the identification of any potential trafficking victims. The government continued to limit which foreign diplomats were eligible to bring domestic workers to Canada. Authorities continued to distribute a publication warning Canadians traveling abroad about penalties under Canada’s child sex tourism law. The Department of Justice reported sentencing one child sex tourist to two years and one day’s imprisonment and designating this individual a long-term sex offender for 10 years in 2015. The government provided more than 370,000 Canadian dollars ($292,300) to support anti-trafficking initiatives in 16 countries globally. 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 and forced labor through awareness-raising, training, and research. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.