Justice Committee releases report on human trafficking in Canada

Justice Committee releases report on human trafficking in Canada

Human trafficking in Canada remains extremely concerning

On December 11, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights released its final report, “Moving Forward in the Fight Against Human Trafficking in Canada.” The Report is the culmination of a multi-month, cross-country study in which the Committee received submissions from numerous stakeholders, including Christian Legal Fellowship.

The Committee observed that “Human trafficking in Canada remains extremely concerning”, and made 17 recommendations aimed at “strengthening Canada’s actions towards eradicating human trafficking in Canada.” 

As CLF stressed in its submission to the Committee, “Human trafficking is modern day slavery, and it is happening in Canada.” This was reflected in the opening words of Chapter 1 of the Committee’s Report: “Human trafficking is a heinous crime and a human rights violation that is often referred to as a form of ‘modern slavery’”. 

Human trafficking is often perceived as a foreign rather than domestic issue, but the Committee’s report affirms one of CLF’s longstanding concerns: human trafficking is a serious problem within Canada’s own borders, and we must take action to end it (see for example CLF’s work in Canada v Bedford). CLF is encouraged to see the Committee acknowledge the need to strengthen efforts to combat human trafficking, and call for much-needed assistance for victims.

The need for reliable information

One of the Committee’s 17 recommendations reflected CLF’s call to improve the gathering of data on human trafficking in Canada. The Committee agreed that “the absence of a standardized method to collect data on human trafficking for civil society and governments is posing a barrier to the improvement of our understanding of human trafficking” and recommended that the government “improve data gathering and information sharing among all stakeholders involved in the fight against human trafficking in Canada.” The recommendation included a call to create a national database containing such data. 

The connection between prostitution and human trafficking

Another central concern highlighted in CLF’s submission was the link between prostitution and human trafficking. CLF urged the Committee to consider that the majority of human trafficking victims are trafficked into prostitution. CLF’s submission highlighted evidence from other jurisdictions that legalized prostitution can lead to increased rates of human trafficking; CLF’s submission therefore urged the government to maintain Canada’s current restrictions on prostitution. 

The Committee elected to not take a position on this issue, concluding that “the relationship between the sex industry and human trafficking…is beyond the scope of this study.” It acknowledged the position of CLF and other groups that “fully enforcing the provisions allowing for the prosecution of the purchasers of sex, as is provided for in the Criminal Code … is the best means to reduce the demand for sex trafficking.” It noted, however, that other groups in the consultation called for legalizing the purchase of sex in Canada.

The Committee’s decision to not examine more closely the link between prostitution and human trafficking is disappointing. As CLF explained in its brief, “the evidence consistently demonstrates that legalizing prostitution will increase sex trafficking.” Further, Canada’s international commitments under the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children require Canada to take all necessary measures, including legislation, to suppress human trafficking. 

On a positive note, the Report’s recognition that more must be done to eradicate human trafficking in Canada, and its various recommendations to that end, represent an important step forward in confronting these critical issues. CLF is grateful for the opportunity to participate in this important dialogue. 

Further reading

Read CLF’s submissions to the Standing Committee in English and French, and corresponding news release (June 12, 2018).

Read the Standing Committee’s final report, “Moving Forward in the Fight Against Human Trafficking in Canada.”

Read about a recent human trafficking probe in Southwestern Ontario, which resulted in the arrests of 25 men, and contact with “more than 50 women and girls involved in the sex trade”, potentially against their will. 

About Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF)

Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF) is Canada’s national association of Christian lawyers, law students, and jurists. CLF has over 700 members across Canada practicing in all areas of law. While having no direct denominational affiliation, CLF’s members represent more than 35 Christian denominations working in association together.

CLF is dedicated to advancing the public good by articulating legal and moral principles that are consistent with, and illuminated by, the Christian faith through court interventions and public consultations. Over nearly two decades, CLF has been granted intervener standing in almost 40 cases involving Charter issues—including 13 at the Supreme Court of Canada—seeking to advance justice, protect the vulnerable, promote equality, and advocate for freedom of religion, conscience, and expression. CLF also has unique expertise in international law; it has Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and has participated in several proceedings before international courts.

CLF has developed considerable expertise in legal issues surrounding prostitution legislation in Canada. In particular, CLF was one of the few public interest organizations to intervene at all three levels of court in Bedford v Canada. CLF’s submissions to the Standing Committee focussed on promoting gender equality, preventing the exploitation of vulnerable persons, and protecting human dignity. CLF is deeply concerned with the implications of human trafficking in Canada.