Trafficking in Persons Report 2010

CANADA (Tier 1)

Canada is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution and, to a lesser extent, forced labor. Canadian women and girls, particularly from aboriginal communities, are found in conditions of commercial sexual exploitation across the country. Foreign women and children, primarily from Asia and Eastern Europe, are subjected to forced prostitution: trafficking victims are from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, South Korea, the Philippines, Romania, Ukraine, and Moldova, in addition to other countries and territories. Asian victims tend to be prevalent in Vancouver and Western Canada, while Eastern European and Latin American victims are trafficked to Toronto, Montreal, and Eastern Canada. Law enforcement officials report the involvement of organized crime in sex trafficking. Canada is reportedly a destination country for foreign victims of forced labor. Most labor victims enter Canada legally but then are subjected to forced labor in agriculture, sweatshops and processing plants, or as domestic servants. NGOs report higher levels of forced labor in the provinces of Alberta and Ontario, while acknowledging the difficulty of distinguishing forced labor from labor exploitation. A considerable number of victims, particularly South Korean females, transit Canada en route to the United States. Canada is also a significant source country for child sex tourists, who travel abroad to engage in sex acts with children.

The Government of Canada fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the past year, the Canadian government increased prosecutions of human trafficking crimes and sustained strong victim protection and prevention efforts. Courts convicted one trafficking offender under the anti-trafficking law and achieved at least three other convictions under trafficking-related sections of the Criminal Code during the reporting period. Accurate data on human trafficking investigations was difficult to obtain, due in part to the highly decentralized nature of the government’s anti-trafficking efforts.

Recommendations for Canada: Intensify efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and sentence trafficking offenders; increase use of proactive law enforcement techniques to investigate trafficking cases, including allegations of labor trafficking; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute Canadians suspected of committing sex crimes on children abroad; ensure that foreign trafficking victims are identified instead of deported; strengthen coordination among national and provincial governments on law enforcement and victim services; and improve data collection.

The Government of Canada maintained law enforcement actions against the country’s human trafficking problem over the last year: a greater number of trafficking cases were prosecuted, and authorities secured at least four trafficking-related convictions during the reporting period, compared with five convictions achieved under the anti-trafficking law during the previous period. Section 279.01 of the Canadian Criminal Code prohibits most forms of human trafficking, prescribing a penalty of up to 14 years’ imprisonment. Such penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as sexual assault. Section 279.02 of the Criminal Code additionally prohibits a defendant from receiving a financial or material benefit from trafficking, prescribing up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Withholding or destroying a victim’s identification or travel documents to facilitate human trafficking is prohibited by Section 279.03 and is punishable by up to five years in prison. Section 279.04(a) defines “exploitation” for purposes of the trafficking offenses as conduct which reasonably causes a victim to provide a labor or service because they believe their safety, or the safety of a person known to them, is threatened. Section 118 of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, enacted in 2002, prohibits transnational human trafficking, prescribing a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a $1 million fine. A private member’s bill strengthening anti-trafficking statutes and establishing a five year minimum sentence for trafficking of children is in progress in Parliament. The government reported one conviction under trafficking-specific laws during the reporting period, and convicted at least three trafficking offenders under other sections of the Criminal Code, including provisions against living off the proceeds of prostitution and sexual assault. Sentences ranged from six to nine years’ imprisonment. In addition to ongoing investigations, there were at least 32 human trafficking cases before the courts as of late February 2010, involving 40 accused trafficking offenders and 46 victims. All but one of these cases involved sex trafficking. This represents an increase in the number of prosecutions when compared with 12 anti-trafficking prosecutions in provincial courts that were pending at the same time last year and which involved 15 accused trafficking offenders. Not all cases of human trafficking are identified as such, and prosecutors may choose not to file human trafficking charges if related charges – such as sexual assault or living off the proceeds of prostitution – could guarantee longer sentences. Provinces and territories had primary responsibility for enforcing labor standards, and therefore had primary responsibility in combating forced labor. In December 2009, Ontario enacted the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act, which provides employment protections for temporary foreign workers in the domestic service sector, a population which has increased significantly in the past five years. Canada’s law enforcement efforts reportedly suffer from a lack of coordination between the national government and provincial and local authorities, which prosecute most human trafficking cases. Last year the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) continued extensive anti-trafficking training efforts for law enforcement officers, border service officers, and prosecutors, and there were no reports of trafficking-related complicity by Canadian officials.

The government maintained protections for trafficking victims during the reporting period. Though law enforcement officials conduct raids at establishments where prostitution or trafficking is suspected, there were no nationwide proactive strategies for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as prostituted women. Victim support services in Canada are generally administered at the provincial level. While each province or territory provides services for crime victims, including trafficking victims, the range and quality of these services varied. However, most jurisdictions provided access to shelter services, short-term counseling, court assistance, and specialized services, such as child victim witness assistance, rape counseling, and initiatives targeted at aboriginal women. NGOs also provided victim services, ranging from shelter care to employment and resettlement assistance. Undocumented foreign trafficking victims in Canada may apply for a temporary resident permit (TRP) to remain in the country, and 15 trafficking victims received TRPs during the reporting period. During a 180-day reflection period, immigration officials determine whether a longer residency period of up to three years should be granted. Victims also may apply for fee-exempt work permits. TRP holders have access to essential and emergency medical care, dental care, and trauma counseling. Some foreign trafficking victims reportedly elected to apply for refugee status instead of a TRP, claiming more secure benefits and an immigration status with which immigration officials appeared more familiar. Victims’ rights are generally respected in Canada, and victims are not penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Canadian authorities encourage but do not require trafficking victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenders. The government provides protections to victims who choose to testify, such as use of closed circuit television testimony, and during the reporting period 22 victims participated in human trafficking cases in court. The federal government and some provincial governments offer witness protection programs, though no trafficking victims applied for the federal program over the past year. Law enforcement, immigration, and consular officials receive specialized training to identify trafficking victims. However, many foreign victims appear to enter Canada legally and would be difficult to identify when passing through immigration. Despite these training initiatives, NGOs note that little information is provided to trafficking victims about their rights under anti-trafficking laws.

The government maintained strong anti-trafficking prevention efforts over the reporting period. The RCMP continued to conduct widespread awareness-raising activities, reaching approximately 5,500 government officials and 4,500 members of civil society, in addition to distributing anti-trafficking materials to law enforcement officers. The RCMP maintained six regional human trafficking awareness coordinators across the country to facilitate these initiatives. The Canadian immigration agency provided pamphlets and information to temporary foreign workers, including live-in caregivers, to let them know where to seek assistance in case of exploitation or abuse, as well to inform them of their rights. Canada is a source country for child sex tourists, and the country prohibits its nationals from engaging in child sex tourism through Section 7(4.1) of its Criminal Code. This law has extraterritorial application, and carries penalties up to 14 years in prison. Since 1997, approximately 136 formal charges have been filed against Canadians suspected of sexually exploiting children in foreign countries. Last year the Canadian government convicted no child sex tourists, compared with two convictions achieved in 2008. Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs distributes a publication entitled “Bon Voyage, But…” to warn Canadians traveling abroad about penalties under Canada’s child sex tourism law, and every new Canadian passport issued is accompanied by a copy of the booklet. The government produced more than 4 million copies during the reporting period. The government incorporated anti-trafficking measures into plans for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, such as enhanced interpretation services for victims of crime and human trafficking. During the reporting period, the RCMP interviewed 175 police and service agencies in 20 cities and towns to determine the nature and scope of domestic trafficking of children. The government forged partnerships with NGOs, international organizations, and foreign governments, and funded anti-trafficking initiatives around the world through the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs. Canadian authorities provided anti-trafficking information to Canadian military forces prior to their deployment on international peacekeeping missions.

Associated documents

  • Document ID 1060240 Related / Associated
  • Methodology associated with Trafficking in persons report 2010

    Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 (Periodical Report, English)