Juristat Bulletin—Quick Fact
Trafficking in persons in Canada, 2016

By Dyna Ibrahim

Release date: June 27, 2018

Trafficking in persons, also known as ‘human trafficking’, is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. It is a serious violation of an individuals’ human rights, and an issue which affects almost every country in the world (UN 2014; UNODC 2016; Public Safety Canada 2012). Some have referred to human trafficking as a form of ‘modern slavery’ (Crane 2013; Public Safety Canada 2012; Kara 2009; Barrows and Finger 2008). In recent years, Canada has implemented various programs in an effort to fight trafficking in persons domestically, as well as internationally (Public Safety Canada 2012).

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.

In this Juristat Bulletin—Quick Fact, data from the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey are used to present an analysis of the prevalence of human trafficking in Canada and highlight victim and accused characteristics. This article also examines court outcomes for human trafficking offences through data collected by the Integrated Criminal Court Survey. In this article, “trafficking in persons” and “human trafficking” are used interchangeably.

Trafficking in persons is prohibited under the Criminal Code, and involves recruiting, transporting, transferring, receiving, holding, concealing or harbouring a person, or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person, for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation. Trafficking in persons can take many forms including sexual exploitation and forced labour (UNODC 2016; Karam 2016).

Trafficking in persons is often confused with human smuggling. Human smuggling involves the illegal migration of an individual, for profit and with the individual’s consent. Additionally, human smuggling is transnational, and it ends with the arrival of the migrant at their destination (Public Safety Canada 2012).

Human smuggling often involves migrants fleeing difficult or conflict situations putting them at greater risk for exploitation (UNODC 2016). Human smuggling can sometimes become a case of human trafficking. Below, is a simplified example illustrating such a possible scenario.

Number of police-reported incidents of human trafficking on the rise

Chart 1 Police-reported human trafficking incidents in Canada, 2009 to 2016

Data table for Chart 1
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Number of incidents and Rate per 100,000 population (appearing as column headers).
Year Number of incidents Rate per 100,000 population
2009 41 0.12
2010 26 0.08
2011 76 0.22
2012 92 0.26
2013 115 0.33
2014 200 0.56
2015 330 0.92
2016 340 0.94

Human trafficking is difficult to measure, due in part to its hidden nature. While there has been an increase in the number of human trafficking incidents reported by police in recent years, human trafficking remains highly underreported for reasons such as:

(UNODC 2017; Hodge 2014; Winterdyk and Reichel 2010; UN 2008)

According to research, increases in reporting of human trafficking incidents may be an indication of efforts and resources put into the investigation of these offences (UN 2008). Therefore, it is not clear whether the increase in the number of incidents reported are true increases in the crime or more of a reflection of police services becoming better equipped to detect, report and investigate human trafficking.

One in three police-reported human trafficking incidents is a cross-border offence

Three trafficking in persons offences were added to the Criminal Code in 2005: section 279.01 (trafficking in persons), section 279.02 (receiving a material benefit from trafficking in persons), and section 279.03 (withholding or destroying documents to facilitate trafficking in persons) (Criminal Code 1985; Parliament of Canada 2005). Additionally, the 2005 amendments included a specific definition of “exploitation” for the trafficking in persons offences.

In 2010, section 279.011 (trafficking in persons under 18 years) was added and in 2012, the Criminal Code was amended to allow for Canadian prosecution of Canadians and permanent residents of Canada who commit human trafficking offences internationally (Criminal Code 1985; Parliament of Canada 2010; Parliament of Canada 2012).

In 2014, new offences prohibiting receiving a material benefit from trafficking of persons under 18 years (subsection 279.02(2)) and withholding or destroying documents to facilitate trafficking of persons under 18 years (subsection 279.03(2)) were enacted and mandatory minimum penalties were imposed on all child trafficking offences, as well as the main trafficking offence (section 279.01) (Criminal Code 1985; Parliament of Canada 2014).

In addition to these Criminal Code offences, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act includes a human trafficking offence that targets cross-border trafficking (section 118) (Immigration and Refugee Protection Act 2001). This is an offence punishable by a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of up to $1 million.

More than half of human trafficking incidents involve another offence, usually prostitution

Victims of human trafficking most often young women

Chart 2 Human trafficking victims in Canada, by age group, 2009 to 2016

Data table for Chart 2
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2. The information is grouped by Age group (years) (appearing as row headers), percent (appearing as column headers).
Age group (years) percent
Less than 18 27
18 to 24 45
25 to 34 18
35 to 44 6
45 to 54 3
55 and older 1

The vast majority of persons accused of human trafficking are male, most often young

Chart 3 Persons accused in an incident of human trafficking, by age group, Canada, 2009 to 2016

Data table for Chart 3
Data table for Chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 3. The information is grouped by Age group (years) (appearing as row headers), percent (appearing as column headers).
Age group (years) percent
Less than 18 5
18 to 24 44
25 to 34 36
35 to 44 11
45 to 54 3
55 and older 1

Ontario reports two-thirds of human trafficking violations over eight-year period

It is important to note that regional differences in the prevalence of police-reported human trafficking can be influenced by many factors. For example, regions may differ with respect to the presence or absence of training programs or expertise in the detection of human trafficking. Similarly, the presence or absence of local public awareness campaigns, provincial policies and victim assistance programs may impact the willingness of victims to come forward.

Additionally, volume of cross-border activity may impact the number of police-reported human trafficking incidents which involve crossing of international borders; For example, Ontario has the busiest international crossing points in Canada—this in turn may explain the larger proportion of cross-border human trafficking reported in Ontario.

The majority of human trafficking court cases result in decisions of stayed or withdrawn

Chart 4 Adult criminal court cases, by offence and type of decision, Canada, 2008/2009 to 2015/2016

Data table for Chart 4
Data table for Chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 4 Stayed or withdrawn, Guilty, Acquitted and Other, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Stayed or withdrawn Guilty Acquitted OtherData table Note 2
percent
Human trafficking 60 30 6 5
Prostitution 68 30 2 0
Violent crimeData table Note 1 40 51 7 2
All crimes 31 65 3 1

Data source

Data are drawn from the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey and the Integrated Criminal Court Survey.

Detailed data tables

Table 1
Police-reported human trafficking violations, by province and territory, 2009 to 2016
Table summary
This table displays the results of Police-reported human trafficking violations. The information is grouped by Province and territory (appearing as row headers), Human trafficking violations, calculated using number and percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Province and territory Human trafficking violations
number percent
Newfoundland and Labrador 2 0.2
Prince Edward Island 0 0.0
Nova Scotia 63 5.7
New Brunswick 3 0.3
Quebec 149 13.6
Ontario 723 65.8
Manitoba 21 1.9
Saskatchewan 11 1.0
Alberta 90 8.2
British Columbia 35 3.2
Yukon 0 0.0
Northwest Territories 1 0.1
Nunavut 1 0.1
Canada 1,099 100.0
Table 2
Police-reported human trafficking violations, by census metropolitan area, 2009 to 2016
Table summary
This table displays the results of Police-reported human trafficking violations. The information is grouped by Census metropolitan area (CMA) (appearing as row headers), Human trafficking violations, calculated using number and percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Census metropolitan area (CMA)Table 2 Note 1 Human trafficking violations
number percent
Abbotsford–Mission 1 0.1
Barrie 13 1.2
Brantford 6 0.5
Calgary 31 2.8
Edmonton 36 3.3
Greater Sudbury 8 0.7
Guelph 5 0.5
Halifax 58 5.3
HamiltonTable 2 Note 2 48 4.4
Kelowna 1 0.1
Kingston 2 0.2
Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo 17 1.5
London 46 4.2
Moncton 1 0.1
Montréal 99 9.0
Ottawa–Gatineau (Ontario part) 122 11.1
Ottawa–Gatineau (Quebec part) 13 1.2
Peterborough 3 0.3
Québec 14 1.3
Regina 4 0.4
Saguenay 0 0.0
Saint John 0 0.0
Saskatoon 3 0.3
Sherbrooke 2 0.2
St. John's 2 0.2
St. Catharines–Niagara 21 1.9
Thunder Bay 0 0.0
TorontoTable 2 Note 3 272 24.7
Trois-Rivières 0 0.0
Vancouver 20 1.8
Victoria 1 0.1
Windsor 48 4.4
Winnipeg 16 1.5
CMA TotalTable 2 Note 4 983 89.4
Non–CMA Total 116 10.6
Canada 1,099 100.0

References

Barrows, Jeffrey, and Reginald Finger. 2008. “Human trafficking and the healthcare professional.” Southern Medical Journal. Vol. 101, no. 5. p. 521-524.

Crane, Andrew. 2013. “Modern slavery as a management practice: Exploring the conditions and capabilities for human exploitation.” Academy of Management Review. York University. Vol. 38, no. 1. p. 49-69.

Criminal Code. R.S.C., 1985, c.C-46.

Farrell, Amy, Monica J. DeLateur, Colleen Owens, and Stephanie Fahy. 2016. "The prosecution of state-level human trafficking cases in the United States." Anti-Trafficking Review. No. 6, p. 48.

Hodge, David. R. 2014. “Assisting victims of human trafficking: Strategies to facilitate identification, exit from trafficking, and the restoration of wellness.” Social Work. Vol. 59, no. 2. p. 111-118.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. S.C.2001. c.27.

Kara, Siddharth. 2009. Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery. Columbia University Press.

Karam, Maisie. 2016. “Trafficking in persons in Canada, 2014.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.

Kaye, Julie, and Bethany Hastie. 2015. "The Canadian Criminal Code offence of trafficking in persons: Challenges from the field and within the law." Social Inclusion. Vol. 3, no. 1. p. 88-102.

Leary, Mary Graw. 2016. "Dear John, you are a human trafficker." South Carolina Law Review. Vol. 68. p. 415.

McCrae, Karen. 2016. “Holding tight to a double edge sword.” Labour Trafficking in Edmonton.

Parliament of Canada. 2005. Bill C-49: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Trafficking in Persons).

Parliament of Canada. 2010. Statutes of Canada 2010, Chapter 3: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Trafficking in Persons).

Parliament of Canada. 2012. Statutes of Canada 2012, Chapter 15: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Trafficking in Persons).

Parliament of Canada. 2014. Statutes of Canada 2014, Chapter 25: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act).

Public Safety Canada. 2012. National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. Catalogue no. PS4-175/2012E.

United Nations (UN). 2008. “The Vienna forum to fight human trafficking.” Background Paper: 024 Workshop: Quantifying Human Trafficking, it’s Impact and the Response to it. United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking. Vienna, Austria.

United Nations (UN). 2014. Human Rights and Human Trafficking. Fact sheet no. 36. Office of the High Commissioner. New York and Geneva.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). 2008. “An introduction to human trafficking: Vulnerability, impact and action.” Background Paper. United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). 2016. Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. United Nations Publication. Sales no. E.16.IV.6.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). 2017. “Evidential issues in trafficking in persons cases.” Case Digest.

Winterdyk, John, and Phillip Reichel. 2010. “Introduction to special issues: Human trafficking: Issues and perspectives.” European Journal of Criminology. Vol. 7, no. 5.


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