TORONTO: The Ontario government on Monday introduced the Combatting Human Trafficking Act, new legislation and amendments to existing legislation to build upon the province’s $307 million Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy.
Monday was National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, This proposed legislation reinforces Ontario’s commitment to fight human trafficking and demonstrates continued leadership in responding to this pervasive crime.
“Our government is taking deliberate steps to put an end to human trafficking and protect victims and potential victims of this terrible crime,” said Premier Doug Ford.
“This tough new legislation builds on our AntiHuman Trafficking Strategy we introduced nearly a year ago, giving law enforcement additional tools to help prevent and deter human trafficking.”
The proposed changes include two new acts – the AntiHuman 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 proposed changes would support the government’s response to human trafficking by:
• Supporting a long-term provincial response to human trafficking and emphasizing that all Ontarians have a role to play in combatting human trafficking;
• Strengthening the ability of children’s aid societies and law enforcement to protect exploited children;
• Supporting more survivors and the people who support them in obtaining restraining orders against traffickers, with specific consideration for Indigenous survivors;
• Increasing the government’s ability to collect non-personal data to better understand the impact of the strategy and respond to human trafficking;
• Providing law enforcement with more tools to locate victims and charge traffickers by:
◦ Increasing penalties for traffickers who interfere with a child in the care of a children’s aid society;
◦ Clarifying how and when police services can access information from hotel guest registries to help deter trafficking and identify and locate victims, while establishing regulation-making authority to include other types of accommodation providers.
◦ Requiring companies that advertise sexual services to have a dedicated contact to support
investigations into suspected human trafficking.
“Our government voiced its commitment to tackling human trafficking early on in our mandate and we worked with a wide spectrum of stakeholders to establish a comprehensive $307 million Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.
“These legislative changes, if passed, will reinforce the strategy’s key objectives of supporting survivors, protecting children and youth, raising awareness among parents and community partners as well as dismantling criminal networks.”
“Human trafficking is happening in both urban centres and small communities across Ontario,” said Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues. “This proposed legislation further supports our cross-government approach, as well as our work with partners across jurisdictions and various sectors, to combat human trafficking.”
“Our government continues to support the work of police and prosecutors to target the criminal networks that prey on and profit from young and vulnerable people in our communities,” said Attorney General Doug Downey.
“We are proposing legislative reforms to better protect victims and support them in their efforts to obtain restraining orders against traffickers.”
“Fighting human trafficking takes cooperation and collaboration across sectors,” said Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. “To support the AntiHuman Trafficking Strategy, we are working with accommodation and hospitality stakeholders on measures to tackle this brazen crime head on. If passed, the Accommodation Sector Registration of Guests Act, 2021 would deter human trafficking in hotels, motels and resorts by enhancing awareness of human trafficking, and supporting police investigations and enforcement.”
• 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, accounting for approximately 55 per cent of all police-reported incidents of human trafficking nationally.
• The average age of recruitment into sex trafficking is approximately 13 years old.
• Over 70 per cent of human trafficking victims identified by police are under the age of 25.