Ontario is a major centre for human trafficking in Canada, accounting for roughly 65 percent of police-reported cases nationally. Drawing on feedback from experts and community partners as well as successful initiatives from other Canadian jurisdictions, the new Strategy to End Human Trafficking focuses on four areas of action:
- Prevention and Community Supports that will increase awareness and understanding of the causes of human trafficking, and improve community services like housing, mental health services, trauma counselling, and job skills training to meet the immediate and long-term needs of survivors.
- Enhanced Justice Sector Initiatives that will support effective intelligence-gathering and identification, investigation and prosecution of human trafficking.
- Indigenous-Led Approaches that will support culturally relevant services and responses — designed, developed, and delivered jointly with Indigenous partners.
- Provincial Coordination and Leadership, including the development of a provincial Anti-Human Trafficking Coordination Office to help improve collaboration across law enforcement, justice, social, health, education, and child welfare sectors.
The Strategy to End Human Trafficking delivers on Premier Kathleen Wynne’s commitment made in February 2016 to address human trafficking and is a part of the government’s vision to ensure that everyone in the province can live in safety — free from the threat, fear or experience of exploitation and violence.
- “Human trafficking” is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, coercion, deception, repeated provision of a controlled substance) for an illegal purpose, including sexual exploitation or forced labour.
- Of Ontario’s reported cases of human trafficking, about 70 per cent are for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and the majority of survivors are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
- Individuals who are most vulnerable as targets for human trafficking include Indigenous people, young women, at-risk youth, youth in care, migrant workers, and persons with mental health and addiction issues.
- In many cases of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, trafficked persons may develop “trauma bonds” with their traffickers, and may not view themselves as victims. As such, human trafficking is believed to be a vastly underreported crime.
“It is critical for survivors of human trafficking to have access to the supports and services they need to leave a life of violence and exploitation. Through the new Anti-Human Trafficking Coordination Office, our government will fund agencies and frontline workers, including those serving Indigenous communities, to help survivors of human trafficking live in safety,” Dr. Helena Jaczek, Minister of Community and Social Services.
“The province’s announcement today is a significant step in the right direction. We look forward to continuing our work with the government as it moves toward a more coordinated and focused approach to address this critical issue in Ontario,” said Bruce Rivers, executive director of Covenant House Toronto.