Strategy to End Human Trafficking - Overview of Initiatives
Human trafficking is a complex and often hidden crime and human rights violation that results in serious and long-term trauma for survivors. Human traffickers prey on the most vulnerable in our society and use different tactics to control, abuse, exploit and profit from victims.
Human trafficking is believed to be a vastly underreported crime. 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. Ontario is a major centre for human trafficking in Canada, accounting for roughly 65 per cent of police-reported cases nationally.
Ontario's strategy reflects a diverse range of perspectives from survivors, front-line community agencies, police and public safety representatives, and Indigenous organizations. The strategy focuses on four areas of action:
Prevention and Community Supports
Increased awareness of human trafficking, and building knowledge of how to intervene safely, are necessary to prevent human trafficking, and to improve supports that meet the immediate and long-term needs of survivors as they rebuild their lives and heal. This includes:
- Expanding prevention and early intervention supports for at-risk youth leaving care;
- Expanding protocols for children's aid societies and police services to include human trafficking;
- Supporting wellness and physical education curriculum to address gender-based violence;
- Improving supports and community-based services like housing, mental health and addiction services, emergency funding for travel and accommodation, trauma counselling, job skills and language training for survivors;
- Providing resources and training for mental health and addictions agencies on enhanced survivor care and orientations for health and safety inspectors about labour exploitation; and
- Communicating with employers of temporary foreign workers to raise awareness of labour and employment law obligations.
Enhanced Justice Sector:
Making smart investments in the justice sector will improve the identification, investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases which will assist in holding human traffickers accountable for their crimes and help to better support survivors during the court process. This includes:
- Creating an Intelligence Team in the Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario (CISO) to proactively identify human trafficking activities and coordinate intelligence efforts across the province;
- Tasking the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) with engaging municipal and First Nations police services across the province to determine their investigative capacity and needs and to report back on its findings, with the intent of establishing an Anti-Human Trafficking Investigations Coordination Team;
- Establishing a Provincial Human Trafficking Prosecution Team, comprised of specialized Crown prosecutors who will undertake the prosecution of human trafficking cases and will provide ongoing training and legal advice to front-line Crowns and police across the province; and
- Developing and delivering enhanced anti-human trafficking training to police investigators, prosecutors and Victim/Witness Assistance Program workers (V/WAP) so they can better identify, investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases, and provide more support to survivors.
The creation of a human trafficking strategy for Ontario was a commitment within Walking Together: Ontario's Long-Term Strategy to End Violence Against Indigenous Women. Indigenous leaders have reinforced the importance of supporting distinct, culturally relevant services and supports which are designed, developed, and delivered jointly with Indigenous partners. The strategy will support:
- Engagement with Indigenous partners as they identify key issues for future policy development specific to the needs of their communities;
- An Indigenous-led Initiatives Fund that will help to develop Indigenous-specific community services and supports;
- Indigenous-focused measures to increase awareness and support prevention; and
- The establishment of Indigenous-specific Human Trafficking Liaisons who will assist in providing targeted service-planning and delivery supports to Indigenous agencies/ communities, as well as assisting non-Indigenous agencies seeking to provide culturally appropriate services to Indigenous survivors.
Provincial Coordination and Leadership
Ontario has plans to establish a Provincial Anti-Human Trafficking Coordination Office that will:
- Coordinate implementation of all initiatives outlined in the Strategy across ministries;
- Spearhead information sharing and collaboration across law enforcement, justice, social services, health, education, and child welfare sectors to improve responses to incidents and to better support survivors;
- Assist in the implementation of culturally appropriate strategies for Indigenous people impacted by human trafficking, in partnership with Indigenous communities;
- Administer an open and competitive call-for-proposals to expand and improve access to services for survivors of human trafficking in Ontario;
- Support the collection of new research and data analysis relating to human trafficking prevalence in Ontario and best practice approaches to service delivery to help survivors heal; and
- Coordinate public education.