Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery in which a person is exploited through forced labour or forced prostitution, by threats of violence, use of force, deception or coercion. Human trafficking exploits vulnerable people and violates human dignity.
God calls us to care for the vulnerable. He commands his people to “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17-18, NRSV). God sees and hears the suffering of the oppressed: “he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted” (Psalm 9:12b NIV).
Each person has human dignity flowing from our creation by God in His image and His love for us. This human dignity compels us to respect and uphold each person’s inherent worth, and to not treat them as objects for our gratification or profit.
In May 2021 a parliamentary committee began a study of sex trafficking among Indigenous people. The EFC made a six-page submission to the committee
asking it to uphold the current prostitution laws that target sex buyers and pimps, and to provide for culturally informed, survivor-led support and exit services.
The EFC is concerned that the federal government ended funding for a number of programs across Canada that help women and girls escape paid sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. See the EFC’s letter of May 19, 2020
. Here is a sample letter you can use to write your MP: pdf
The EFC offered support
for Bill C-219
in June 2020. This bill would increase the penalty for sexual exploitation of a young person in a relationship of dependency or a person with a disability. This bill was reinstated in 2021
and still under discussion.
The EFC welcomed a new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking
in September 2019. The strategy focuses on preventing trafficking, protecting victims, prosecuting offenders, working in partnership and empowering victims and survivors to regain independence.
The EFC welcomed the unanimous Justice Committee report on human trafficking in Canada, Moving Forward in the Fight Against Human Trafficking in Canada
. The report, released in December 2018, recommends steps to increase education and public awareness, develop a consistent definition of human trafficking and move towards better data collection. It includes some of the actions recommended in the EFC’s April 2018 brief to the Committee. Read the EFC’s full response with commentary
on the report.
The EFC’s April 2018 brief submission
to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights recommends the government maintain the current prostitution laws, renew the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and improve data collection.
EFC Director of Public Policy Julia Beazley participated in a roundtable in Winnipeg Sept. 10, 2018 on the way forward to end human trafficking. The federal government is developing a new strategy to end human trafficking to be released in winter 2019. Find more information
on Public Safety Canada’s consultations.
Bill C-75 in September 2018 threatens to weaken the good laws brought into force in 2014. The EFC defended current laws in a written brief and oral presentation
Click the "Learn More" link for our April webinar
on this topic, and the "Take Action" link for sample letters you can use to write to your MP (either .docx
The federal government provides some support to victims of trafficking. The EFC is asking the federal government to continue to support victims and increase its efforts to combat trafficking.
We can help prevent trafficking by raising awareness and reducing vulnerability. Working on issues of poverty and housing, improving the social determinants of health, strengthening families and communities – all of these reduce vulnerability to trafficking.
Canada also recently held an independent national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls
. This inquiry identified and examined the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls, including sexual violence. Read the final report
from 2019. And check out the new Indigenous Relations
section of the EFC website.
Human trafficking is a major industry internationally, with revenues nearing the levels of drug trafficking. Organized crime is often involved, but it is very common for an individual to become a trafficker.
Human trafficking involves a person being forced, coerced or deceived into doing exploitive work. This may be forced labour or sexual exploitation. It involves various forms of physical, sexual or emotional abuse. A person may have initially agreed to an activity, but is then forced to remain against their will, due to fear for themselves or their family members, or an inability to leave or other reasons. The victim is exploited and controlled by their trafficker.
Internationally, trafficking often crosses borders to keep trafficking victims socially isolated. Canada is both a destination for trafficking victims and a stop along the way to other destinations.
But the majority of trafficking cases in Canada are domestic - Canadians are being trafficked within our borders, primarily for exploitation in the commercial sex trade. Traffickers may use the lure of a job offer or other opportunities, or by posing as a boyfriend.
Women and girls are the majority of those exploited by sex trafficking. Risk factors for trafficking include poverty, social dislocation and being a youth in government care. Indigenous women and girls are particularly at risk.
Canada ratified the United Nations’ Trafficking Protocol in May 2002. The protocol sets out measures to prevent trafficking, prosecute offenders, support and protect victims and co-operate internationally to achieve those objectives.
Specific human trafficking offences were included in the Criminal Code
in 2005, in s. 279.01 to s. 279.04. Other generic Criminal Code
offences that relate to human trafficking include abduction, confinement and intimidation. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
defines an offence of cross-border trafficking and provides a penalty, in s. 118.
The federal government is involved in preventing, detecting and prosecuting human trafficking. For example, it undertakes awareness-raising and educational efforts, as well as providing some support for victims of trafficking. Canada had a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking as a four-year program, launched in June 2012, but it has not been renewed.
Get a good current overview of these issues by watching our April 2018 webinar
on this topic.