Human Trafficking is defined as recruiting, transporting, transferring, receiving, holding, concealing or harbouring a person, or exercising control direction or influence over the movements of a person, to exploit them or to assist in facilitating their exploitation (sections 279.01 and 279.011 of the Canadian Criminal Code).
Organized criminal networks, as well as individuals, perpetrate this crime, operating within Canada’s borders and internationally. Traffickers reap large profits while robbing victims of their freedom, dignity and human potential at great cost to the individual and society at large. Traffickers control their victims in various ways such as taking away their identity documents and passports, sexual abuse, threats, intimidation, physical violence, and isolation.
Victims suffer physical or emotional abuse and often live and work in horrific conditions. They may also face fatal consequences if they attempt to escape. This crime represents a consistent and pervasive assault on the fundamental human rights of its victims.
“He told her that he had control over her, that she belonged to him and that he could do anything he wanted to her. He became more and more abusive with her, both physically and verbally. He threatened to kill her and told her that, if she reported him to the police, he could easily hire someone to kill her for a couple of rocks of crack. He told her that if she fled, he would end up finding her and that he would stab her [translation].”
Excerpt from the decision of the court in R v. Urizar, Court of Québec, Criminal Division
Canada outlawed sex and labour trafficking in 2005 in its Criminal Code, following its ratification of the International Trafficking Protocol (The Palermo Protocol) three years earlier. Recent amendments to laws in Canada harmonizes the penalties imposed for human trafficking and prostitution-related conduct to ensure a consistent response to practices that are intricately linked. However, traffickers continue to prey on the most vulnerable in each of our communities, often without repercussions, interference or punishment.
We all have a moral and ethical obligation to help end this crime in Canada.