Human Trafficking in Canada

Together as One Humanity Take Action Against Human Trafficking

The United Nations defines human trafficking "as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labour or sexual exploitation."

The International Labour Organization (ILO) reported that in 2016 more than 40 million people were living in conditions of modern slavery, with the majority having been victims of human trafficking. The report said 25 million of those workers were providing slave labour in construction, manufacturing, agriculture and domestic work. Another 5 million, the majority young women and girls, were victims of sexual slavery.

Canada was one of the leading states involved in creating the 2000 UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementary Legislation to the Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, known as the Palermo Protocol, which Canada ratified in 2004. However, when it comes to enforcement of the Protocol, Canada is an example of how false pretenses are used to provide cheap labour and enforce the anti-social offensive whereby the standards of all working people are lowered. Human traffickers, known as recruiters of labour in foreign countries, are readily accommodated. Both workers and students are recruited by extorting large sums of money under the hoax that they will have a chance after two years to apply for permanent residence. This has led to hundreds of thousands of workers being denied their basic rights as workers and human beings, as well as deported along with their families if found to be "illegal" in any way, mostly through no fault of their own. It also swells the ranks of so-called undocumented workers whose conditions of life and work are the worst. Even though Canadian laws actually facilitate human trafficking, the government insists it is illegal and that it upholds the rule of law.

In a report entitled Trafficking in Persons in Canada, 2016, Statistics Canada notes among other things: "By its very nature, trafficking in persons is difficult to measure. Statistics Canada, through the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, collects information on incidents of human trafficking violations which come to the attention of Canadian police. These are Criminal Code offences and an offence under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act which targets cross-border trafficking."

The report points out that between "2009 and 2016, there were a total of 1,220 police-reported incidents of human trafficking" in Canada and that the number and rate of human trafficking incidents have steadily increased since 2010. It cites as well the Trend Database, which found that of the 1,099 police-reported incidents of human trafficking incidents dating between 2009 and 2016, 55 per cent of the cases were reported in the years 2015 and 2016.

Between 2009 and 2016, of reported human trafficking cases, 66 per cent were from Ontario, 14 per cent from Quebec, and 8 per cent from Alberta. The other 12 per cent of cases were spread over the rest of Canada. Statistics Canada notes that the vast majority of trafficked persons are women.

The report underscores the fact that the vast majority of human trafficking crimes are not reported in Canada. Human trafficking victims are made vulnerable by their very condition and become afraid to seek help because the Canadian state declares them illegal and without rights as humans.

Human trafficking cases are underreported with very few convictions in Canada even though the former Harper regime called it "one of the most heinous crimes imaginable." The Statistics Canada report notes, "Due to challenges in prosecuting human trafficking cases, prosecutors will often proceed with other complementary or less serious charges. [...] This may explain the large proportion of human trafficking cases resulting in decisions of stayed or withdrawn."

The low rate of reporting and low conviction rate in prosecutions shows that the entire murky system dealing with migrant workers that the Canadian state has created is to ensure a cheap and plentiful supply of workers for Canadian monopolies and other businesses that profit from their work, not to speak of the unconscionable thievery of those who directly traffic human beings in a modern version of the global slave trade.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), through which businesses that show a need for foreign workers are allowed to recruit overseas, and the more than 50-year-old Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), plus other worker recruitment programs such as those run by the provinces, have created the conditions for human traffickers to operate with impunity within the legal margins of these programs.

The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) has been at the forefront of the fight in defence of immigrants and refugees for more than 40 years. It notes in an April 2018 submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on their study of human trafficking in Canada that while some cases of human trafficking are being prosecuted in the courts, Canada is doing very little to protect the victims of human trafficking. The CCR states: "Notably, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) provides no legislated protection to trafficked persons. The only reference to trafficked persons in the legislation is the provisions in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, which makes the fact that a person is being trafficked a factor in favour of immigration detention."

The CCR also wrote in its submission that even the Temporary Residence Permits (TPRs), which are the only tool available for the protection of human trafficking victims who have come forward, hardly meet the need. The CCR says, "There are very few TPRs issued annually and they pose limitations even when issued. [...] In the period 2011 and 2015, between 5 and 22 new TPRs were issued per year. These numbers seem particularly low considering that Canada has been identified as a destination country for trafficking, and some 80,000 Temporary Foreign Workers enter Canada every year."

Furthermore, the CCR notes that even with the few TPRs issued by the government, they are not extended to family members.

In another of its reports, Evaluating Migrant Worker Rights in Canada, the CCR in 2018 highlights the role Canada plays in creating the conditions for the displacement of people around the world, citing the Philippines, Guatemala and Mexico, where Canadian private mining companies have displaced entire communities, forcing people to look outside their countries for a livelihood and therefore becoming vulnerable to human trafficking. The CCR also cites Canada's trade agreements, such as NAFTA which has been responsible for forcing Mexican farmers, whose livelihoods have been destroyed, to seek work in Canada as migrant agricultural workers and thus become targets of human traffickers.

Canada's participation in wars of aggression, occupation, economic blockades, sanctions and other acts of interference in the internal affairs of countries, such as it is doing right now to organize a coup and regime change in Venezuela, has contributed to a large number of people becoming refugees and migrants. The UN pointed out in a report in 2018 that the refugee crisis internationally has made entire populations vulnerable to human trafficking, which generates a criminal profit of approximately $32 billion annually.

In participating in this modern day slave trade, the government, while shedding crocodile tears for human rights and trafficking, has failed to address the problem. A simple proposal by the CCR and others that migrant workers to Canada be provided some stability and legality through an open work permit that enables them to leave an exploitative and abusive work environment has so far been ignored. Similarly, the government has ignored proposals by the CCR and others to regulate the recruitment of migrant workers to ensure that their rights are protected and, given that migrant workers are needed to perform work in Canada, they should be granted immigrant status to permanently settle, if they wish.

The Trudeau government, when it came to power in 2015 said it would act to stop human trafficking, it has not done so, just as it has failed to resolve the serious issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women many of whom are also victims of human trafficking.

Human trafficking and the plight of refugees and migrant workers who are victims of this and other crimes are a problem confronting Canadian society. Refugees and migrant workers, including victims of human trafficking, belong to our one humanity and, more precisely, our one Canadian working class. This working class -- by mobilizing its independent thinking, organization and numbers -- must seriously step up the work in defence of the rights of all. While it is the working people who are blamed for being anti-immigrant and xenophobic, in fact it is narrow private interests that are traffickers of human beings who are "anti-immigrant." They blame the people to divide the people's resistance struggle to the anti-social offensive, while they change citizenship and immigration laws to facilitate the importation of temporary foreign workers, many of whom have to pay enormous sums to so-called recruiters to acquire work permits under the hoax that when their term is finished they can apply for permanent residence. Others in Canada on temporary work permits are exploited to the bone and have no access to services because their status is made semi-illegal at the best of times, such as when they are forced to work with borrowed names and social insurance numbers on pain of deportation if they do not accept. The movement to defend the rights of all seeks to put an end to this system of modern day slavery not only in Canada but by taking action here to contribute to resolving the problem worldwide.

(With files from Canadian Council for Refugees, Migrante Canada,, Statistics Canada,

This article was published in

Volume 49 Number 16 - May 4, 2019

Article Link:
Human Trafficking in Canada: Together as One Humanity Take Action Against Human Trafficking


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