As part of Ontario’s Strategy to End Human Trafficking, Minister of the Status of Women, Indira Naidoo-Harris, introduced legislation recently that would if passed, increase protection for survivors and those at risk of human trafficking.
The Anti-Human Trafficking Act, 2017 would create two statutes, Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking Act, 2017 and Human Trafficking Awareness Day Act, 2017. These statutes, if passed, would:
- Allow individuals to apply for restraining orders against human traffickers
- Make it easier for survivors of human trafficking to get compensation from those who trafficked them
- Proclaim February 22 of each year as Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Ontario.
In addition to these two new acts, the province has made two regulatory changes that would help survivors of human trafficking by allowing them to sue those who have been convicted of trafficking them for emotional distress and allowing community organizations that support survivors of trafficking to apply for grant funding under Ontario’s Civil Remedies Act, 2001.
The Strategy to End Human Trafficking, launched in June 2016, aims to increase awareness and coordination, enhance justice sector initiatives and improve survivors’ access to services. It also reflects the diverse perspectives of survivors, front-line community agencies, public safety representatives, and Indigenous organizations.
Supporting survivors and protecting those at risk of trafficking is a part of the government’s vision to ensure that everyone in the province can live in safety — free from the threat, fear or experience of exploitation and violence.
Human trafficking is a criminal offense and involves recruiting, transporting, transferring, receiving, holding, concealing or harboring a person, or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person, for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation.
Ontario has become a major centre for human trafficking in Canada, with 65 percent of national human trafficking cases reported to police originating in Ontario.
Of Ontario’s reported cases of human trafficking, an estimated 70 percent are for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and the majority of survivors are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
The Liberal government in June announced a $72-million strategy to end human trafficking, which includes the creation of a provincial anti-trafficking coordination office meant to foster information sharing between police, social services, child welfare and other sectors.
The government also promised at that time to establish a specialized provincial prosecution team to tackle human trafficking cases and advise local Crown attorneys and law enforcement.