Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Canada

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Canada, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 20 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

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 adults subjected to forced labor. Canadian women and girls are exploited in sex trafficking across the country, and women and girls from aboriginal communities are especially vulnerable. Foreign women, primarily from Asia and Eastern Europe, are subjected to sex trafficking as well, often in brothels and massage parlors. Law enforcement officials continue to report the involvement of organized crime in sex trafficking, including domestic street gangs known for their involvement in prostitution activities, as well as transnational criminal organizations. Labor trafficking victims include foreign workers from Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa who enter Canada legally, but then are subsequently subjected to forced labor in agriculture, construction, sweatshops and processing plants, the hospitality sector, or as domestic servants. During the year, officials identified an increased number of forced labor cases involving foreign victims, including several cases of domestic servitude. Reports of forced labor continue to be more prevalent in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. Service providers in Ontario and Manitoba reported that traffickers coerced foreign victims to commit petty criminal activities, making victims more vulnerable to being threatened with criminal charges or deportation. 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 maintained law enforcement efforts and achieved its first labor trafficking convictions, as well as sustaining victim protection and prevention efforts. However, limited coordination between the federal and provincial governments on anti-trafficking efforts continued to hamper more effective collaboration and there were few specialized services for trafficking victims.

Recommendations for Canada: Intensify efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and sentence trafficking offenders using anti-trafficking laws; increase use of proactive law enforcement techniques to investigate trafficking cases, including all allegations of forced labor among migrant workers; enhance specialized care services available to trafficking victims, in partnership with civil society; increase efforts to educate police, prosecutors, and judges about trafficking and how to effectively use Canadian anti-trafficking laws; establish formal mechanisms for officials to identify trafficking victims and refer them to protection services; increase investigations and prosecutions of Canadian child sex tourists abroad; continue efforts to improve trafficking data collection; and strengthen coordination among national and provincial governments on law enforcement and victim services.


The Government of Canada increased law enforcement actions against trafficking offenders over the last year, and achieved its first conviction for forced labor, which was also the first conviction in a case involving foreign victims. Section 279.01 of the Canadian Criminal Code prohibits all forms of human trafficking, prescribing a penalty of up to 14 years' imprisonment, and related statutes prohibit receiving benefits from trafficking, and withholding or destroying a victim's identity documents to facilitate trafficking. Section 279.011 specifically prohibits trafficking of children under the age of 18 and establishes a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. Such penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as sexual assault. Section 279.04(a) defines "exploitation" for purposes of the trafficking offenses as engaging in conduct which causes a victim to provide labor or a service because they reasonably believe their safety, or the safety of a person known to them, is threatened. Some NGOs and law enforcement officers believe that this definition is restrictively narrow. 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 the equivalent of a $1 million fine. In March 2012, the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled unconstitutional federal statutes prohibiting living on the avails of prostitution and operating bawdy houses; these statutes are frequently used in human trafficking prosecutions.

In addition to ongoing investigations, there were at least 57 ongoing human trafficking prosecutions as of February 2012: these cases involved at least 94 accused trafficking offenders and 158 victims, though it is unclear how many prosecutions were initiated during the reporting period. This compares with 46 ongoing trafficking prosecutions in the previous reporting period, involving 68 defendants and 80 victims. Authorities reported that all but four of these cases involved domestic sex trafficking. The government reported three sex trafficking convictions under trafficking-specific laws that occurred during the reporting period, in contrast to two convictions under trafficking-specific laws obtained during the preceding reporting period. One convicted trafficking offender had not yet been sentenced at the end of the reporting period; of the two remaining offenders, one received a sentence of 30 months' imprisonment, including credit for pre-trial custody, and the other a sentence of time served after 374 days in custody. Prosecutors convicted at least six trafficking offenders under other sections of the criminal code, including provisions against living on the proceeds of prostitution, and sexual assault; this compares with six such convictions obtained during the preceding reporting period. The six convicted received sentences ranging from two years' suspended to nine years' imprisonment.

In addition, in January and February 2012, officials achieved the first convictions for labor trafficking in an ongoing case involving Hungarian men exploited in Ontario. Three defendants pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit human trafficking, and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 24 months' to six years' imprisonment, including pre-trial custody. In August 2011, the Attorney General of British Columbia filed a civil forfeiture claim to seize the home of a woman charged with human trafficking, alleging that the home was an instrument of crime, as the victim had been subjected to domestic servitude; the case is currently before the courts. Not all cases of human trafficking are identified as such, and some judges and prosecutors were reportedly reluctant or unwilling to pursue human trafficking charges.

Limited coordination between the federal and provincial governments on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts continued to be a challenge. Last year, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) continued extensive anti-trafficking training efforts for law enforcement officers, border service officers, and prosecutors; these efforts included launching an online anti-trafficking course for Canadian law enforcement, conducting awareness sessions for labor inspectors in Ontario and Quebec, and conducting workshops for over 700 law enforcement officials. Labor inspectors in Quebec received training on how to identify trafficking victims. The Canadian government reported collaborating with foreign governments on several trafficking investigations and did not report investigating, prosecuting, convicting, or sentencing any public officials for complicity in human trafficking.


The government maintained protections for trafficking victims during the reporting period, though most victim services offered by the government are general services offered to victims of crimes. Immigration officials continued implementing guidelines to assess whether foreign nationals are potential victims of trafficking. There were no nationwide procedures, however, for other government officials to proactively identify and assist trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution or migrant workers. Officials did not collect comprehensive statistics on the total number of trafficking victims identified and assisted during the year. Provincial and territorial governments had primary responsibilities for general crime victim services, which are available to trafficking victims, and the range and quality of these services varied. However, most jurisdictions provided trafficking victims with access to shelter services, short-term counseling, court assistance, and other services, often through funding NGOs to provide these services. One NGO ran a dedicated shelter for trafficking victims in Vancouver and received government funding: it assisted 12 victims during the year. The government did not report funding or operating other dedicated facilities for trafficking victims. Female trafficking victims could receive services at 82 shelters designed for victims of violence, and in some cases, shelters for homeless persons provided basic services to male trafficking victims. The demand for some services, such as longer-term assisted housing, generally exceeded resources. Some law enforcement officials and NGOs indicated that the lack of specialized services was problematic, and noted that increased protection of victims could result in greater cooperation with law enforcement.

NGOs noted that provincial referral mechanisms, often involving a local anti-trafficking network or coalition, worked well in practice; however, some NGOs reported that communication between different actors, such as law enforcement officials and service providers, was uneven. Provinces and territories had primary responsibility for enforcing labor standards. Civil society organizations, however, reported that the provincial and territorial governments often lacked adequate resources and personnel to effectively monitor the labor conditions of increasing numbers of temporary foreign workers or to proactively identify human trafficking victims among such groups.

Undocumented foreign trafficking victims in Canada applied for a temporary resident permit (TRP) to remain in the country. Fifty three TRPs were issued to 48 foreign trafficking victims in 2011, five of which were first-term permits and 48 of which were renewals. In comparison, authorities reported granting 55 TRPs to 47 foreign victims in 2010. Some foreign trafficking victims might have received different forms of immigration relief, such as refugee protection. During a 180-day reflection period, immigration officials determined whether to grant TRP holders a longer residency period of up to three years, and victims had access to essential and emergency medical care, dental care, and trauma counseling. TRP holders could apply for fee-exempt work permits, and 47 foreign victims received these permits during the reporting period. Some officials and NGOs reported difficulties in getting TRPs for foreign victims due to lack of coordination or understanding among service providers, law enforcement officers, and immigration officials about whether or not an individual qualified as a trafficking victim. Identified victims were 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 witness protection programs and the use of closed circuit television testimony, although it did not report how many victims, if any, chose to participate in investigations and prosecutions.


The Government of Canada maintained strong anti-trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period. Federal level anti-trafficking efforts were coordinated by the Interdepartmental Working Group on Trafficking in Persons (IWGTIP), which met three times during the reporting period; smaller ad-hoc sub-groups met more frequently. NGOs and some government officials continued to call for the IWGTIP to develop a national strategy to combat trafficking, as mandated in 2004. In May 2011, the government committed in its election policy platform to enact a national anti-trafficking action plan. The RCMP continued to conduct widespread awareness-raising activities and maintained six regional human trafficking awareness coordinators across the country to facilitate anti-trafficking initiatives and assist in developing local strategies. The government demonstrated transparency in its anti-trafficking efforts by publishing an overview of federal anti-trafficking efforts in 2010-2011, as well as providing information about these efforts on government websites. The federal government funded several anti-trafficking initiatives abroad, with a focus on Latin America, through the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).

Provincial and local governments also undertook a variety of anti-trafficking events and initiatives during the year; these efforts varied in effectiveness, and coordination between the federal government and the provinces remained fragmented. Alberta continued to fund an NGO coalition to coordinate the province's actions to combat trafficking. British Columbia had the only provincial anti-trafficking office in the country, and the office conducted a variety of prevention, training, and awareness activities, including launching a standardized online training program for service providers on how to identify and assist trafficking victims. Quebec reported funding NGOs that provided services to trafficking victims.

The federal Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) continued to provide 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. In April 2011, amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations came into effect establishing an enhanced compliance framework for the federal temporary foreign worker program. Some of these reforms included additional criteria for the live-in-caregiver program, a more rigorous assessment of the genuineness of job offers, guidelines for compensation to temporary foreign workers in cases of employer fault, and strengthened consequences for non-compliant employers. Some NGOs asserted that these reforms did not address the root issues that make temporary foreign workers vulnerable to forced labor, and called for a national policy framework to regulate labor brokers and recruiters. Some provinces also strengthened efforts to protect temporary foreign workers and improve employer accountability.

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 of up to 14 years' imprisonment. DFAIT continued to distribute a publication warning Canadians traveling abroad about penalties under Canada's child sex tourism law, and every new Canadian passport issued continued to be accompanied by a copy of the booklet. However, authorities reported no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists during the year. Canadian authorities provided anti-trafficking information to Canadian military forces prior to their deployment on international peacekeeping missions. Canadian authorities continued to prosecute individuals who solicited commercial sex, and there were no known efforts to address demand for forced labor.

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