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Government Response to the twelfth Report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women

Turning Outrage into Action to Address Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation in Canada




Ms. Yasmin Ratansi
Chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario

Dear Ms. Yasmin Ratansi:

On February 27, 2007 the Standing Committee on the Status of Women requested that the Government table a comprehensive response to the recommendations included in its twelfth Report entitled, Turning Outrage into Action to Address Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation in Canada.  These recommendations encompass a broad range of areas within three overarching themes:  the prevention of trafficking; the protection of victims; and the prosecution of offenders.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, I am pleased, on behalf of the Government of Canada, to respond to the recommendations of the Committee. 

The Government appreciates the Committee’s efforts in studying and reporting on the trafficking of persons for sexual exploitation.  The Government believes that the trafficking of any person, no matter where and for any exploitative purpose, must be clearly and strongly condemned.  Trafficking in persons (TIP) is a crime that is fuelled by the greed of traffickers who profit from the misery and suffering of others.  It is a crime that knows no borders and which exploits the most vulnerable members of our society.  It requires a comprehensive, coordinated and multi-sectoral response. 

Like the Committee, and as reflected in the United Nations’ Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, our Government believes that TIP can only be addressed by focusing on four broad areas - the “4 P’s”:  the prevention of trafficking, the protection of victims, the prosecution of offenders and through partnerships.  We remain committed to continuing with such a broad response including by collaborating with our domestic and international partners to respond to this crime, regardless of where it occurs or how a person is exploited. 

Prevention, Education, Awareness and Research

The Government continues to lead, support and implement numerous initiatives, domestically and abroad, to prevent trafficking, to educate the public about TIP, to train officials who may come into contact with trafficked persons, and to raise general awareness on the issue.

For example, the Government continues to support the development and dissemination of training and awareness tools.  The Department of Justice has funded the People’s Law School to develop an education booklet for the public on human trafficking.  This booklet will help explain what human trafficking is and what can be done to stop it.  It builds upon existing awareness initiatives including anti-trafficking posters (available in 17 languages) and pamphlets (available in 14 languages) which have been distributed domestically and abroad to faith based groups, shelters, academics, immigration centres and advocacy organizations.

In May, 2005, the Government allocated $5 million over five years for the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s (NWAC) Sisters in Spirit (SIS) initiative.  Through this initiative, NWAC is partnering with Aboriginal women’s groups and the Government to quantify the extent of violence against Aboriginal women, to identify its root causes, and to implement programs and services aimed at eliminating racialized and sexualized violence. 

Further, through Status of Women Canada’s Women’s Program, funding was allocated to address trafficking in persons and sexual exploitation across Canada with a particular focus on Aboriginal and immigrant women and young girls.  Funding has supported various projects including:  research to examine the public policy issues associated with trafficking; an environmental scan which will form the basis of a western Canadian strategy to more effectively address this issue; and the development of community-based solutions to sexual exploitation and violence experienced by women and girls in rural British Columbia.  As well, the new Women’s Community Fund ($12.3 million) and Women’s Partnership Fund ($3 million) will support community and collaborative projects that address the economic, social and cultural situation of women, with violence against women being one of two priority issues identified for 2007-08.

Through the National Crime Prevention Centre, the Government has provided funding to civil society to develop public awareness campaigns and knowledge on child sexual exploitation, as well as funding to support measures to reduce victimization of women, particularly Aboriginal women, and to address the risk factors that make people vulnerable to being exploited.  Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada also work to address social determinants of health in order to reduce vulnerabilities, including vulnerability to exploitation.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is working to raise awareness amongst law enforcement and the general public.  For example, they are currently developing awareness materials, including a new awareness video on trafficking within Canada, geared towards the general public. 

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is continually enhancing the training of its officers on TIP.  A new module on TIP, which provides information on procedures to follow when dealing with victims of TIP, information on how to identify victims and how to better protect their needs has been finalized and added to the mandatory 13-week training program for Border Service Officers.  To supplement this training, the CBSA and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) are developing an interactive computer-based training package for CBSA and CIC officials to raise awareness of TIP and to sensitize officers to the needs of victims.

Internationally, the Government is supporting a range of activities in order to raise awareness and prevent human trafficking from happening in the first place.  The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade provides support to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to strengthen implementation of international treaties, such as the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children.  Funding has supported projects in Asia, and Central and South America.  For instance, in 2006, we funded an International Organization for Migration project to disseminate the animated drama video, “Shattered Dreams”, which is aimed at raising awareness among vulnerable adolescents of the risks associated with trafficking in persons.  This project effectively reached over 12 million people through use of mass media in local communities of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.  And through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), we have funded anti-TIP projects abroad including supporting UNICEF to prepare a report, released in 2006, on the nature and scope of TIP in Russia.

We remain committed to improving our ability to better identify the incidence, nature and scope of this crime.  For example, data collection on the trafficking of Aboriginal women is identified as an area of future research under the SIS initiative.  We are also participating in the Interpol Working Group on TIP which assembles representatives from 186 member states to exchange intelligence and strategies to respond to TIP.

Canada is also working bilaterally to address this crime.  In 2006, the Governments of Canada and the United States jointly released the US-Canada Binational Assessment of Trafficking in Persons at the Cross Border Crime Forum.  This assessment has provided a better understanding of trends and the nature and scope of human trafficking between Canada and the United States.  To view this report, please see: http://www.ps-sp.gc.ca/prg/le/_fl/1666i-en.pdf.

Addressing the Needs of Victims

Addressing the needs of victims is an integral component to any anti-trafficking response but it is also an integral component of any justice system response to crime.  Victims’ services are a shared responsibility between the federal and the provincial/territorial levels of government with the provinces having primary responsibility for service delivery.  We have made the needs of all victims of crime a federal priority.  We have committed $52 million over the next four years for programs, services and funding to support federal efforts, as well as the provinces and territories in meeting the needs of victims of crime across the continuum of the justice system and federal corrections.  Our Government has also appointed a federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime to promote the needs of victims. 

We are also responding to the specific needs of victims of trafficking.  In May 2006, Citizenship and Immigration Canada introduced measures to strengthen our response to the unique needs of foreign nationals who are victims of trafficking.  These measures provide immigration officers guidance to issue short-term temporary resident permits to trafficking victims for a period of reflection up to 120 days.  This reflection period is designed to help victims of trafficking escape the influence of their traffickers and recover from their ordeals.  Permit-holders have access to Canada’s Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), thus ensuring that they receive immediate medical attention, as required.  The IFHP covers essential and emergency health services for the treatment and prevention of serious medical conditions and the treatment of emergency dental conditions.  In the case of trafficking victims, trauma counselling is also included.  Victims are not required to assist law enforcement with investigations in order to receive these benefits.

Also, in 2006, the Department of Justice released Victims of Trafficking: Perspectives from the Canadian Community Sector, a research paper looking at the needs of victims of TIP, as well as community services to address those needs.  This paper is available online: http://www.justice.gc.ca/en/ps/rs/rep/2006/rr06-3/index.html.

Our Government is also supporting efforts to address the rights and needs of victims abroad.  In 2006, CIDA funded projects in West Africa to support the rehabilitation of children who have been trafficked, with a focus on girls trafficked for economic exploitation (and leading to their subsequent sexual exploitation), as house maids or street vendors and boys trafficked for economic exploitation in agriculture. 

Strengthening the Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Response

The Criminal Code of Canada provides a comprehensive set of tools to ensure that traffickers are held accountable.  Three specific indictable criminal offences were added to the Criminal Code in 2005 and specifically prohibit the trafficking of persons; receiving a financial or material benefit from the trafficking of persons; and withholding travel or identity documents for the purpose of committing or facilitating the trafficking of persons.  These build upon existing criminal offences, including assault, sexual assault, forcible confinement and the human trafficking offence in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which prohibits transnational trafficking, to name only a few.  Together, these offences provide law enforcement with a broad range of measures to effectively respond to TIP in all its manifestations. 

Consistent with Canada’s obligations under the Trafficking Protocol, our Criminal Code also contains strong measures to ensure that victims are able to present their views and concerns during criminal proceedings against offenders.  In 2006, amendments to the Criminal Code came into force which extended the use of testimonial aids, such as screens, the use of closed-circuit television, or the presence of support persons.  These tools are available to all vulnerable victims/witnesses, including trafficking victims, and enable such persons to more fully participate in criminal proceedings.  

This Government recognizes, however, that the mere existence of strong laws will not bring about success in addressing this crime.  In 2007, we allocated an additional $6 million per year to strengthen existing federal efforts to combat the sexual exploitation and trafficking of children which will be directed primarily at enhancing our current enforcement responses.

We are taking other steps to improve the ability of front-line law enforcement to effectively investigate these crimes.  For example, the RCMP has established the Human Trafficking National Coordination Centre in order to coordinate the Federal Government’s law enforcement efforts to address TIP.  Through the efforts of the Centre, the RCMP is equipping front-line law enforcement with the necessary tools to successfully investigate human trafficking offences.  In addition to mandatory training on TIP for officers who attend the RCMP’s Immigration and Passport course, the RCMP has also developed a tool kit for distribution to all law enforcement agencies.  Included in the kit is a training video (developed in collaboration with the CBSA, CIC, the Department of Justice, Vancouver City Police and civil society), a fact sheet on TIP, a wallet-sized card which provides information on how to identify victims of trafficking and various other information materials. 

Building on the success of a similar event held in Vancouver in 2005, the RCMP organized the Atlantic Regional Human Trafficking Workshop in November, 2006, to help raise awareness among front-line law enforcement and community organizations.  In 2005, the RCMP released a training tool for law enforcement entitled Human Trafficking: Reference Guide for Canadian Law Enforcement.  It is available online at:
http://www.icclr.law.ubc.ca/Publications/Reports/human_trafficking_2005.pdf.

The Department of Justice and the RCMP continue to partner together to provide training on how to investigate and prosecute human trafficking offences.  Internationally, they are also supporting the UNODC in the development of advanced manuals on TIP for law enforcement, prosecutors and the judiciary which will support training efforts around the world.

Enhancing Partnerships

As already noted, our Government agrees with the Committee’s conclusion that effective anti-trafficking responses require collaboration across all levels- local, national, regional and international- involving both government and civil society organizations. 

The Interdepartmental Working Group on Trafficking in Persons continues to serve as the focal point for all federal anti-trafficking efforts.  The Working Group brings together 16 departments and agencies and serves as a central repository of federal expertise.  It works to strengthen federal responses through the development of government policy on human trafficking, information exchange and to facilitate international and national cooperation. 

At the local level, RCMP human trafficking awareness coordinators in Immigration and Passport Sections across Canada are collaborating with local law enforcement and community groups to address TIP.  For example, in British Columbia the RCMP and other federal partners work closely with the Government of British Columbia, municipal law enforcement and NGO’s to better address TIP.  This initiative is helping to build community capacity, raise public awareness and develop best practices with the objective of meeting the needs of TIP victims.

Internationally, Canada’s Migration Integrity Officers work with local authorities and law enforcement partners in thirty-nine countries to detect trends and patterns in irregular migration, organized migration crime rings and the routes and methods they use.  These officers are working to prevent trafficking from occurring by intercepting trafficking networks before they can bring victims to Canada.  Through Integrated Border Enforcement Teams, Canadian and U.S. law enforcement are also working together to enhance border integrity by identifying, investigating and interdicting persons engaged in organized criminal activity, such as those involved in TIP.

Canada works to address TIP through regional fora, such as the Organization of American States and the Regional Conference on Migration.  In the last year, Canada has played a leading role in promoting anti-trafficking efforts through these organizations, including the development of guidelines on the repatriation of trafficked children which provide countries with guidance on responding to the unique needs of child victims of trafficking, including, as appropriate, their safe repatriation.  More broadly, Canada also supports initiatives within the OAS to combat TIP by promoting birth registration.

Canada will continue to work closely with its international partners to share best practices and to promote public awareness of the problem.  For example, through CIDA, Canada is working with the United Nations Interagency Program (UNIAP) to address the issue of trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (Cambodia, People’s Republic of China (PRC), Lao, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and China’s Yunnan Province) to forge inter-governmental cooperation and common action to combat human trafficking. 

In addition to the measures discussed above, the Government acknowledges the Committee’s findings on the importance for continued action to address broader issues which may contribute to making people vulnerable to being trafficked.  For example, the Government’s Bill C-22, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (age of protection) proposes criminal law reform to better protect youth against adult sexual predators.  The Government’s March 30, 2007, response to the Subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights Report entitled:  The Challenge of Change: A Study of Canada’s Criminal Prostitution Laws, outlines the Government’s commitment to continuing efforts to address prostitution by supporting prevention, education and support programs.  Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, introduced on May 16, 2007, proposes amendments to enable the denial of temporary work permits to help prevent vulnerable foreign workers from being exploited or degraded in Canada.  The Government is also addressing poverty through investments in income support, tax relief and programs to support low-income Canadians.

Moving Forward

We thank the Committee for its Report and join with it in condemning this crime.  The Government agrees that meaningful and lasting progress in combating TIP requires collaboration and continued vigilance.  Our Government acknowledges the continuing importance of federal/provincial/territorial and international collaboration to address TIP.

We are confident that our multi-pronged approach, focusing on prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships, which approach is also supported by the Committee’s findings, is the most effective way to tackle this serious crime.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

The Honourable Robert Nicholson
Minister of Justice
Attorney General of Canada

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