Ontario's New Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy
Ontario's Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy will invest $307 million over the next five years on a comprehensive action plan to combat human trafficking and child sexual exploitation. The strategy takes a proactive approach with initiatives across government focused on four key areas:
Raising Awareness of the Issue
A number of sectors have identified the need for training on human trafficking to equip frontline service providers with the skills needed to respond to cases of trafficking. Raising general public awareness, especially among youth and parents, is also key to helping prevent trafficking before it occurs. Initiatives in the new strategy to raise awareness include:
- Launching a new, provincewide marketing campaign targeted to teens, as well as parents of children and youth. The campaign will build awareness about the dangers of sex trafficking, including how young people are lured, signs that a person is being trafficked, and where to get help.
- Developing new public education materials to respond to specific sector needs and expanding distribution of existing awareness materials through partnerships across government ministries to include education partners, highway service centres and the hospitality sector, for example.
- Developing and delivering new multi-sectoral anti-human trafficking training, as well as culturally-responsive and survivor-informed training, including Indigenous-specific components. Training will be supported by a range of government ministries and delivered to sectors where the need has been identified, such as social services and education.
- Increasing awareness of available training on how to identify and support survivors of human trafficking at the province's emergency departments and Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres.
- Continuing to engage at the Federal-Provincial-Territorial level through the Status of Women and Ministers of Justice and Public Safety forums, as well as First Minister's Meetings and the Council of the Federation, to share best practices and ensure that preventing and combatting human trafficking is a national priority.
Protecting Victims and Intervening Early
Early intervention and prevention efforts are crucial to effectively combat trafficking. As the average age of recruitment into sex trafficking is 13 years old, Ontario's new Anti-Human Trafficking strategy prioritizes initiatives targeted to child and youth prevention and intervention, as well as supports for victims, such as new, dedicated residences to serve children and youth under the age of 16. Initiatives in the new strategy to protect victims and intervene early include:
- Developing police and child protection services as part of new specialized intervention teams, focusing on at-risk and exploited children and youth. The programs will leverage multi-disciplinary teams to provide a collaborative, more targeted response to human trafficking from both child protection and enforcement.
- Establishing dedicated residences to serve missing at-risk and exploited children and youth, including those under the age of 16. The province will fund up to three new, licensed residences to provide specialized programming, providing access to in-house supports to respond to the complex trauma experienced by children and youth who are trafficked.
- Expanding the Youth-in-Transition Worker program to include additional human trafficking workers (for a total of 12) dedicated to providing enhanced human trafficking supports to youth in and leaving the care of children's aid societies. Youth-In-Transition Workers connect youth to services and resources in their communities, such as employment services, life skills training and housing supports. Phasing in over the five-year strategy, the six additional workers will expand the geographical reach of human trafficking supports through the program and provide support to specific populations, such as Indigenous children and youth.
- Continuing education and prevention efforts geared to children and youth through Ontario schools, building on the school curriculum. Ontario's updated elementary Health and Physical Education curriculum now includes learning that helps protect students from human trafficking, and White Ribbon is developing a new, digitally-based resource on the prevention of sexual exploitation for delivery in Ontario secondary schools. These and other resources will support broader education for students about human trafficking.
Survivors of human trafficking require specialized, trauma-informed, community-based supports to help them heal and rebuild their lives, and to reduce the risk of re-exploitation. As Indigenous women and girls are particularly targeted, Indigenous-led, culturally-appropriate approaches are critical to address the needs of First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities. Initiatives in the new strategy to support survivors include:
- Increasing community-focused anti-human trafficking services and supports designed for, and by Indigenous people, by investing up to $4 million per year in new funding for the Indigenous-Led Initiatives Fund. This increased funding will better meet the demand for dedicated services and enable frontline service providers to reach targeted and underserved groups, including children and youth, as well as Inuit and 2SLGBTQ+ survivors.
- Increasing funding for the Indigenous Anti-Human Trafficking Liaisons program to serve more communities and build capacity to address trafficking and support Indigenous survivors. Liaisons provide targeted, ongoing service planning and delivery supports to agencies and communities seeking to provide culturally-appropriate services to Indigenous survivors.
- Increasing community-based programs to support survivors and individuals at risk of being trafficked by providing up to $6 million per year in new funding for the Anti-Human Trafficking Community-Supports Fund. This increased funding will allow for new child-specific programming, improved ability to respond to service pressures and more supports in northern, rural and Francophone communities. Examples of services include emergency and transitional housing; trauma-informed counselling, and supports to foster healing and rehabilitation; healthcare, mental health and addiction treatment, and to provide linkages to employment and job training supports.
- Enhancing access and supports for victims of human trafficking in the justice sector by expanding the Victim Quick Response Program+ (VQRP+) and the Vulnerable Victims and Family Fund (VVFF), as well as increasing funding for the Victim Crisis Assistance Ontario (VCAO) program to support delivery of community-based services. These enhancements will help to more effectively meet victims' needs, both immediate and during court proceedings, such as enhanced assistance related to meals, accommodation, tattoo/branding removal and counselling.
- Increasing funding for Indigenous Victims Services to provide effective and culturally-appropriate supports and services to Indigenous human trafficking victims. Services are designed, developed and delivered by Indigenous communities and organizations in a culturally-appropriate and trauma-informed way, taking a holistic approach to healing, including support for family members.
- Expanding the Victim/Witness Assistance Program (V/WAP) by adding new court-based Victim/Witness Services workers to better meet the needs of human trafficking victims while cases proceed through the criminal justice system to support holding offenders accountable.
- Expanding the current pilot program which provides free legal support for persons seeking specialized human trafficking restraining orders.
- Continuing to convene the Human Trafficking Lived Experience Roundtable to enable direct engagement with, and input from, survivors of trafficking on Ontario's response to human trafficking. The Roundtable will serve to provide an engagement forum on strategy initiatives, as well as broader related government efforts.
Holding Offenders Accountable
To keep pace with the increasing volume and complexity of human trafficking cases across the province, Ontario's new Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy provides a coordinated approach to law enforcement, with increased capacity for policing, Crown prosecutors and intelligence gathering in the correctional system. Initiatives under the new strategy to hold offenders accountable include:
- Enhancing the use of Major Case Management for missing persons and human trafficking investigations by investing in software development to assist in meeting specific needs of human trafficking investigators and analysts. This will build on the use of MCM across all of Ontario's police services as an innovative approach to solving major crimes and dealing with complex incidents.
- Establishing a new Intelligence-led joint forces team from police agencies across Ontario, including the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), municipal police services and First Nations police services. This will provide capacity to identify, investigate and disrupt human trafficking organizations operating in Ontario and address the threat of organized crime.
- Increasing the capacity of the OPP Child Sexual Exploitation Unit (CSEU) to investigate sexual offences against children, including cases of child sex trafficking. This will ensure the CSEU has adequate resources to investigate offences reported through OPP calls for service, other police service referrals, tips from the RCMP National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre (NCECC) and Canadian Center for Child Protection's Cybertip.ca, as well as Peer 2 Peer services.
- Increasing the investment in Institutional Security Teams, Field Intelligence Officers and intelligence analysts within correctional services to allow broader coverage of correctional institutions, as well as probations and parole office locations in Ontario. This will strengthen information and intelligence gathering capacity to better identify and monitor human traffickers within the correctional system and identify victims in support of criminal investigations to more effectively bring offenders to justice.
- Enhancing specialized Crown prosecution capacity to respond to existing and additional human trafficking cases. These enhancements will support Crown prosecutors' ability to effectively hold offenders accountable through vigorous prosecution of charges laid against members of organized human trafficking networks and other sexual offences against children. This will also support their ability to provide pre-charge advice to police, as well as additional victim supports to help survivors through complex, multi-jurisdictional investigations and lengthy prosecutions.
- Developing appropriate and consistent policing standards for human trafficking and missing persons investigations as part of the Community Safety and Policing Act (CSPA), 2019 regulatory framework.
In addition to the initiatives in each of the four focus areas, the province will be looking at policy, legislative and regulatory changes as part of Ontario's new Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy,
to strengthen a cross-sectoral approach to combat human trafficking.