In a world with easily-crossable borders, human trafficking is a growing problem including in Canada. Statistics Canada reports that between 2009 and 2016, “there were 1,099 police-reported incidents which involved a human trafficking offence.” Canada’s statistical agency also reports that “The number and rate of human trafficking incidents has risen steadily since 2010” and that “It is highly underreported due to its hidden nature.’[i]
The vast majority of human trafficking victims (95 per cent) are women. Seventy percent were women under the age of 25.[ii]
The Alberta government provides some financial support for eligible foreign nationals deemed to be victims of human trafficking. It also provides grant funding to non-profit organisations in the province that are fighting human trafficking. The most well-known of these agencies in Alberta is The Action Coalition on Human Trafficking (ACT Alberta.)
However, other provinces, notably Ontario, have adopted legislation that goes further. In 2016, Ontario P.C. MPP Laurie Scott introduced Bill 158: Saving the Girl Next Door, as a private member. Although it did not pass, the then-government did implement most of its provisions in its own Anti-Human Trafficking Act, 2017.
Since 2012, Manitoba has had a similar law in place. Its Bill 29: Child Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking Act[iii] provides a protection order for victims, as well as a tort for human trafficking.
In 2007, British Columbia established its Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which reports to the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. Its purpose is to prevent human trafficking and coordinate services for trafficked persons.[iv]
New Brunswick has a Human Trafficking Working Group[v] and Prince Edward Island has a Provincial Human Trafficking Committee.[vi] Both are engaged in public awareness and research.
A United Conservative government will launch an Alberta Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking focused on:
- The prevention of human trafficking.
- The protection of victims.
- The prosecution of offenders.
- Working in partnership with police, community groups, the federal government, and others.
The Action Plan will include:
1. Adoption by the Legislature of the 2002 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (Palermo Protocol) definition of human trafficking, followed by an effort to have other provinces and the federal government adopt the same standard definition to create a common understanding across Canada of what constitutes human trafficking. Article 3(a) of the Palermo Protocol defines trafficking in persons as:
the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
2. Creation of a provincial Human Trafficking Task Force that will bring together representatives of relevant ministries, agencies, police forces, and community groups to share information and coordinate action on an ongoing basis.
3. Increase efforts to educate the public, particularly vulnerable groups, about the reality of human trafficking, and to report tips to the new National Human Trafficking Hotline.
4. Ensure appropriate training for judges, prosecutors and first responders, including police officers, nurses and doctors, to enhance detection of human trafficking and the prosecution of human traffickers, as well as improving support for victims.
5. Ensure that the Department of Labour provides information to Temporary Foreign Workers in Alberta about their rights under Canadian law, assuring them that if they report an instance of human trafficking, they will not be subject to removal for the duration of their work permit.
6. Work with community groups, other provinces and the federal government to collect and share better data on human trafficking, and to ensure coordinated action as part of the National Action Plan To Combat Human Trafficking.
7. Name and shame traffickers by publishing the names of businesses that have been found to have knowingly facilitated human trafficking.
8. Lobby the federal government to strengthen penalties against human traffickers by bringing Bill C-452 into force. This Act amended the Criminal Code to impose consecutive sentences for trafficking in persons, and creates a presumption regarding the exploitation of one person by another. It also adds the offence of trafficking in persons to the list of offences to which the forfeiture of proceeds of crime apply. This 2015 law was enacted by Parliament, but the Trudeau Liberal Cabinet has refused to bring it into force.
9. Pass the ‘Save the Girl Next Door Act,’ modelled on Ontario legislation introduced by Hon Laurie Scott, MPP, to:
- Establish a process for victims (or potential victims) to obtain restraining orders against their traffickers.
- Establish a tort of ‘human trafficking’ so that victims may bring a civil action against traffickers who are or have preyed on them, and sue for damages. Given that two thirds of criminal charges for human trafficking are stayed or withdrawn, this option of a civil remedy for victims will provide a greater degree of accountability for traffickers.
- Proclaim February 22 annually, to be Human Trafficking Awareness Day, as part of a broader effort to raise awareness about the scourge of modern day slavery.
The ‘Save the Girl Next Door Act’ will be part of a broader package of justice reforms to come as part of the UCP platform.
Implementation of the Action Plan will be funded by reallocation of current resources, plus an incremental $250,000 to support the work of the Task Force, and public awareness activities.
Together these measures will make Alberta a leader within Canada in the fight against human trafficking.
[i] Statistics Canada: Human Trafficking 2016, June 26, 2018 release, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/180627/dq180627g-eng.htm
[v] https://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/eco-bce/WEB-EDF/Violence/PDF/en/-NB%20Human%20Trafficking%20Working%20Group-E.pdf [vi] http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/sites/sss_htdocs/file/HumanTrafficking-Web_1(1).pdf