Human trafficking is a multi-faceted and often hidden crime that is a serious violation to human rights. It inflicts, in part, severe trauma to victims and their surrounding communities. Indigenous women and girls are persistently over-represented in sex trafficking in certain regions of Ontario like Thunder Bay and Ottawa. In 2015, Canada reported roughly 69% of all human trafficking police cases originate in Ontario. About 70% of these reported cases are sexual exploitation in nature, comprised mostly of Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

In response to this issue, the provincial and federal government Ontario introduced two pieces of legislation. Below will outline each legislation and their impacts to First Nation communities.

Ontario’s Strategy to End Human Trafficking

Bill 96, Anti-Human Trafficking Act, 2017 as part of their Ontario’s Strategy to End Human Trafficking that seeks to increase protection for at-risk groups and survivors and make it possible for them to pursue compensation through civil court. Changes to existing regulations have expanded the list of organizations that may be eligible to receive grants under the Civil Remedies Act, 2001.

Impact on First Nations Communities
Bill 96, The Anti-Human Trafficking Act, 2017 enacts:

  1. Human Trafficking Awareness Day Act, 2017 – This Act proclaims February 22 of each year as Human Trafficking Awareness Day. This day will be an opportunity to not only condemn, but to shine light on the severity and prevalence of human trafficking and increase Indigenous awareness
  2. Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking Act, 2017 – This Act consists of four parts that will:
  • Enable survivors to sue their traffickers to obtain compensation; and
  • Establish a process that makes it possible to apply for human-trafficking related restraining orders to gain protection from traffickers.

The overarching Ontario’s Strategy to End Human Trafficking encompasses four aspects:

  1. Indigenous-Led Approaches – to include early intervention and prevention measures and to provide culturally appropriate support services and response
  2. Prevention and Community Supports – to address short and long-term issues such as: housing, mental health services, trauma counselling, and skills training;
  3. Enhanced Justice Sector Initiatives – to build intelligence to more effectively support the identification, investigation, and prosecution of human trafficking; and
  4. Provincial Coordination and Leadership – to improve collaboration across sectors by establishing the Provincial Anti-Human Trafficking Coordination Office.
    • Indigenous-Led Initiatives Fund is a $9.6 million, three-year fund that is designed for, and by, the Indigenous people to support Indigenous survivors, their families and communities
      • Applications to be submitted by June 8, 2017

Canada’s Strategy to End Human Trafficking

The Canadian federal government introduced Bill C-38, an Act to amend the act to amend the Criminal Code sections on “exploitation and trafficking in persons.” To clarify, Bill C-38 is an Act to amend the former Bill C-452, which sought to make amendments initially. Bill C-452 received Royal Assent in June 2015 but was subjected to many concerns.

Status: The latest stage completed is the introduction and First Reading in the House of Commons as of February 9th, 2017.

What is amended? C-38 seeks to amend certain sections of the Act to come into force on different days such that they do not raise significant Charter of Rights and Freedoms concerns. This Act will bring into force all of the provisions in former private member Bill C-452 (which received Royal Assent on June 18, 2015, but has yet to be proclaimed into force).

Why this amendment? It was subject to amendment due to incompatibility with Charter values including the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment (Section 12 of the Charter). The proposed legislation’s approach aims to strengthen Canada’s criminal law response to trafficking in persons in a manner that is consistent with the Charter.