Last Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2017, 13:52 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Canada

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Canada, 27 June 2011, available at: [accessed 14 December 2017]
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 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 sex trafficking; sex trafficking victims have come from China, Hong Kong, Fiji, Taiwan, 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 victims are trafficked to Toronto, Montreal, and Eastern Canada. Law enforcement officials report the involvement of organized crime in sex trafficking. Most suspected labor trafficking victims are foreign workers who enter Canada legally, but then are subjected to forced labor in agriculture, sweatshops and processing plants, or as domestic servants. Suspected cases of forced labor continue to be more prevalent in Ontario and Alberta and have involved workers from Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. In October 2010, Ontario authorities brought forward the country's first charges in a labor trafficking case, involving 10 defendants accused of subjecting 19 Hungarian Roma victims to forced labor in their construction business and stealing the victims' social assistance money. 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, passed legislation establishing a minimum sentence for child trafficking, and sustained victim protection and prevention efforts. However, some judges and prosecutors were reportedly hesitant to pursue trafficking charges. The government lacked a national strategy to combat trafficking, and limited coordination between the federal and provincial governments on anti-trafficking efforts continued to be a challenge.

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 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; increase investigations and prosecutions of Canadian child sex tourists abroad; establish formal mechanisms for officials to identify trafficking victims and refer them to protection services; continue efforts to improve trafficking data collection; and strengthen coordination among national and provincial governments on law enforcement and victim services, in part by adopting a national strategy to combat human trafficking.


The Government of Canada maintained law enforcement actions against trafficking offenders over the last year; a greater number of trafficking cases were prosecuted, and Parliament passed a law increasing the minimum sentence for child trafficking offenders. Section 279.01 of the Canadian Criminal Code prohibits all 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 engaging in conduct which causes a victim to provide a labor or 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 a $1 million fine. A private member's bill on child trafficking was approved in June 2010, establishing a five year mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking of children and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment when the offense involves kidnapping, aggravated assault, or aggravated sexual assault. In September 2010 the Ontario Superior Court found three prostitution-related provisions often used to prosecute trafficking cases to be unconstitutional; the federal government has appealed. In addition to ongoing investigations, there were at least 46 human trafficking cases prosecuted by courts as of late February 2011, at least 23 of which were opened during the reporting period. These cases involved 68 accused trafficking offenders and 80 victims, and represent an increase in the number of prosecutions initiated and trafficking offenders identified from the previous reporting period. The government reported two convictions under trafficking-specific laws during the reporting period; the trafficking offenders received six-year prison sentences and received 30 months of credit for pre-trial custody. Prosecutors convicted at least seven trafficking offenders under other sections of the Criminal Code, including provisions against living off the proceeds of prostitution and sexual assault. Two of these convicted offenders were sentenced to 34 months' imprisonment, and the other sentences were not reported. 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. Although numerous cases of trafficking involving foreign victims have been investigated and prosecuted, none have resulted in convictions.

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, including the distribution of human trafficking tool kits to police services across Canada, as well as training sessions in Alberta and Ontario for labor inspectors on how to identify labor exploitation and trafficking. Officials in British Columbia continued to develop a standardized training program for officials and civil society actors on how to identify and assist 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. Immigration officials have guidelines to assess whether foreign nationals are potential victims of trafficking, but there were no nationwide protocols for other government officials to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution or migrant workers. Victim support services in Canada are generally administered at the provincial level. There were no dedicated facilities or specialized programs for trafficking victims. While some law enforcement officials and NGOs indicated that this was problematic, some shelter administrators reported caring for female trafficking victims at shelters designed for victims of domestic violence. In some cases, shelters for homeless persons provided basic services to male trafficking victims, while other male victims were housed in apartments and safe houses during the year. 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 other services. NGOs also provided victim services, ranging from shelter care to employment and resettlement assistance, and many of them received government funding. There were no reported formal systems for referring trafficking victims to care institutions; rather, officials relied on ad hoc practices. Provinces and territories had primary responsibility for enforcing labor standards, but NGOs and the media 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, and during the reporting period the government issued at least 49 TRPs to 45 foreign nationals, 21 of which were first-term permits and 28 of which were renewals. This is a significant increase from the previous year, when authorities granted TRPs to 15 foreign victims. During a 180-day reflection period, immigration officials determine whether to grant a longer residency period of up to three years, and victims have access to essential and emergency medical care, dental care, and trauma counseling. TRP holders may apply for fee-exempt work permits, and 40 foreign victims received these permits during the reporting period. Some officials and NGOs reported difficulties in getting TRPs for foreign victims due to disagreements between service providers, law enforcement officers, and immigration officials about whether or not an individual qualified as a trafficking victim. Identified 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 witness protection programs and the use of closed circuit television testimony. During the reporting period at least one victim participated in a human trafficking case in court.


The Government of Canada demonstrated increased anti-trafficking prevention efforts over the reporting period. Federal level anti-trafficking efforts were coordinated by the Interdepartmental Working Group on Trafficking in Persons (IWGTIP), which met twice during the reporting period. NGOs and some government officials continued to call for the IWGTIP to create and implement a national strategy to combat trafficking, as mandated in 2004. Anti-trafficking efforts on the provincial and local level varied in effectiveness. Alberta funded an NGO coalition to coordinate the province's actions to combat trafficking, while British Columbia had the only provincial anti-trafficking office in the country and developed trafficking awareness materials which were delivered to 4,000 event attendees in 2010. NGOs and law enforcement officers criticized Ontario for a lack of coordination on anti-trafficking efforts, though in February 2011 Ontario authorities announced a multi-pronged initiative to fight human trafficking with $2 million in funding over three years. The RCMP continued to conduct widespread awareness-raising activities and maintained six regional human trafficking awareness coordinators across the country to facilitate these initiatives. The federal government reported conducting trafficking awareness sessions for 8,000 government officials and members of civil society. The federal Department of Citizenship and Immigration 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. Parliament reintroduced a bill to allow immigration officers discretion to refuse work visas if they judged the applicant to be risk for exploitation, but NGOs had mixed reviews regarding the effectiveness of the proposed legislation.

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. In July 2010, the government convicted a Canadian child sex tourist who abused girls in Cambodia and Colombia; he was sentenced to 11 years' imprisonment. Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs continued to distribute 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 showed substantial transparency in its anti-trafficking efforts; in 2010, the RCMP published a national threat assessment on human trafficking, analyzing over 275 trafficking-related cases, as well as a study on the domestic trafficking of children and youth in Canada. The government also published a report on the feasibility of developing a national data collection framework for trafficking, in addition to updates on government anti-trafficking efforts. During the year the government provided over $2 million in funding for anti-trafficking initiatives around the world through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs. Media reports revealed that CIDA had received allegations of forced labor at a CIDA-funded project in Indonesia in 2008, but the independent investigation into the alleged exploitation was not available to the public. 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 in a public place, and there were no known efforts to address demand for forced labor.

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