Changes to the existing legislation would see increased awareness, better protection of victims in addition to support of survivors
ANDREA KHANJIN, BARRIE-INNISFIL MPP
The Ontario government passed new legislation, and amendments to existing legislation, to build upon the province’s $307-million Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy. 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 – as well as amendments to the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 and the Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking Act, 2017. Together, the acts build on the government’s response to combat human trafficking by:
- Increasing awareness of the issue, supporting a long-term provincial response and emphasizing that all Ontarians have a role to play in combating human trafficking;
- Supporting more survivors and the people who support them in obtaining restraining orders against traffickers, with specific consideration for Indigenous survivors;
- Strengthening the ability of children’s aid societies and law enforcement to protect exploited children;
- Increasing penalties for persons, including traffickers, who interfere with a child in the care of a children’s aid society; and,
- Clarifying 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 Combating Human Trafficking Act also requires companies that advertise sexual services to have a dedicated contact to support investigations into suspected human trafficking.
“This new legislation further supports our government’s commitment to fight human trafficking and to protect victims and potential victims of this heinous crime, building on our $307-million Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy announced last year,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “It gives law enforcement the additional tools needed to help prevent and deter human trafficking and builds on the cross-government approach to supporting survivors, protecting victims, raising awareness among parents and community partners, and dismantling criminal networks.”
“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,” said Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues. “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, demonstrating once again our government’s strong and unwavering commitment to fighting this crime and keeping the people of Ontario safe.”
“The Combating Human Trafficking Act adds strong new dimensions to our government’s actions to support and protect survivors of this heinous crime,” said Attorney General Doug Downey. “In addition to providing new discretion to judges to lengthen restraining orders beyond the current limit of three years, the legislation extends protection to frontline workers and survivors’ family members and recognizes customary care arrangements.”
“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.
“Fighting human trafficking takes cooperation 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.”
- Human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes worldwide. 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 average age of recruitment into sex trafficking is approximately 13 years old.
- Almost 65 per cent of human trafficking victims identified by police are under the age of 25.
Marie McCallum (Barrie and Area Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Service)
“The impact and effects of human trafficking are far reaching and have the potential to subject the larger community to risk and fear due to the trafficking of vulnerable individuals. Victims of human trafficking, and their family and friends may suffer life-long trauma and loss due to this heinous crime. There is a need to commit to detecting and combatting human trafficking, and to help support those affected by this serious issue.”
Teresa MacLennan (Women and Children’s Shelter of Barrie)
“The Women and Children’s Shelter of Barrie provides emergency support services for abused women and women having an experience of human trafficking. The shelter has seen a steady increase in requests for service that come from local women and across Canada. As part of the national hotline for human trafficking, the shelter now receives calls from all across Canada to access their services.
The Women and Children’s Shelter of Barrie has always ran over capacity and referred out over 500 women every year due to over capacity. As the number of women experiencing human trafficking increases, the need for increased shelter space continues to be a predominant issue.
The Women and Children’s Shelter of Barrie has dedicated two bed spaces to women that are experiencing human trafficking but the number of trafficked women in the shelter far exceeds those two beds. At any given time there will be 2-5 women in the shelter that have been trafficked. Their stay in shelter can be difficult as they continue to face the pull from their trafficker to return to “the game”.
The Women and Children’s Shelter continues to rely heavily on fundraising as the base funding received Provincially does not cover the costs to provide the services that so many women are needing.
What is needed is dedicated funding to violence against women shelters that are in the front lines of providing support to women leaving human trafficking. That is the first line of defence for women to find a safe refuge and begin to rebuild their life.”
Mikhaela Gray-Beerman (formerly with Fight4Freedom)
“Bill 251 is an important and vital step to address a heinous crime that continues to impact the lives of individuals in our communities. The Bill emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach where law enforcement, service providers and individuals/families impacted by trafficking can work together to prevent trafficking (and re-trafficking), but also to better support those who have experienced trafficking. Due to the complexity of the crime and the diversity of people it impacts, a collaborative and multi-pronged response to human trafficking is needed.
My mother’s childhood best friend, who was from Ontario, was trafficked at the age of 14. Over 50 years ago, people were being exploited in this province. Today, the issue is not only ongoing but growing. Bill 251 will combat the trafficking of persons in our province on various significant fronts through focusing on: regulating spaces where trafficking is known to occur; responding strategically; enhancing data collection and information dissemination; increasing penalties for traffickers; and strengthening the protection and prevention of youth in care.”
Michelle Jansen (Barrie Police – Investigative Services Human Trafficking Unit)
“Human trafficking has no place in our community or any other community. The enhancements that Bill 251 provides law enforcement in Ontario will allow police to combat human trafficking. The bill enhances the tools and resources required when investigating these horrific crimes and hold those who engage in this controlling and exploitive industry accountable for their actions. Sex traffickers often target and recruit young people into the sex trade through practices that include grooming, manipulation and false promises that will never be delivered. These people must be stopped and by working to remove this criminal element from our streets, and putting those who engage in human trafficking where they belong, enhancing legislation will undoubtedly allow police to promote a stronger vision of community safety.”