#minorsextrafficking | New legislation strengthens Ontario’s fight against human trafficking

The Ontario government has passed new legislation, introducing two acts as well as amendments to current legislation, in an effort to support its $307-million Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy.According to a government release issued June 1, the Combating Human Trafficking Act, 2021 “reinforces Ontario’s commitment to fight human trafficking and demonstrates continued leadership in responding to this pervasive crime.”

The new legislation includes two new acts, the Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy Act, 2021 and the Accommodation Sector Registration of Guests Act, 2021, and amends the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 and the Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking Act, 2017.

According to the release, the Acts will help support survivors “in obtaining restraining orders against traffickers, with specific consideration for Indigenous survivors” and will strengthen “the ability of children’s aid societies and law enforcement to protect exploited children.”

The Acts will also increase the “penalties for persons, including traffickers, who interfere with a child in the care of a children’s aid society” and clarify “how and when police services can access information from hotel guest registers to help deter trafficking and identify and locate victims, while establishing the power to include other types of accommodation providers, such as short-term rental companies.”

The government release also noted that the Combating Human Trafficking Act “requires companies that advertise sexual services to have a dedicated contact to support investigations into suspected human trafficking.”

Jill Dunlop, associate minister of children and women’s issues, said in a statement that this “ground-breaking legislation makes Ontario the first jurisdiction in Canada required to maintain an anti-human trafficking strategy, ensuring that combating this crime remains a priority into the future.”

“Developed with input from survivors and those working on the frontlines, this legislation also provides important new tools to support survivors and better protect children and youth …” she added.

Attorney General Doug Downey noted in a statement that the Combating Human Trafficking Act adds “strong new dimensions to our government’s actions to support and protect survivors of this heinous crime.”

“In addition to providing new discretion to judges to lengthen restraining orders beyond the current limit of three years, the legislation extends protection to front-line workers and survivors’ family members and recognizes customary care arrangements,” he explained.

According to the release, human trafficking is “one of the fastest-growing crimes worldwide” and Ontario “is a hub for human trafficking, with the most police-reported incidents of human trafficking in the country occurring within the province in 2019.” The release also noted that the “average age of recruitment into sex trafficking is approximately 13 years old” and “almost 65 per cent of human trafficking victims identified by police are under the age of 25.”

“Our government has zero tolerance for human trafficking and is committed to taking the action necessary to bring traffickers to justice while protecting and supporting victims,” said Lisa MacLeod, minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture industries, via a statement.

“Fighting human trafficking takes co-operation and collaboration across sectors and with our industry partners. These legislative changes will have a significant impact and will help to deter human trafficking in the hospitality sector,” she added.

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