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Tim Riordan Raaflaub
Political and Social Affairs Division
Revised 21 November 2006
The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children defines “trafficking in persons” at Article 3:
(a) “Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.(1)
Trafficking in persons is not the same as migrant smuggling. The key distinction is that smuggled migrants are usually free once they arrive at their intended destination, whereas trafficking victims may be held against their will and subject to forced labour or prostitution.
Estimating the extent of unlawful activities is an inherently difficult task. Both the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Department of State, have emphasized the scarcity of data on trafficking.
The U.S. Department of State released the most recent Trafficking in Persons Report in June 2006. The report states that between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across transnational borders, or from one country to another, each year. When intra-country or “within country” estimates are included, the figure rises into the millions.
The 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report also indicates that “Canada is a source, transit, and destination country …”(2) Some 800 people are trafficked into this country each year, while an additional 1,500 to 2,200 are trafficked through Canada to the United States.
The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) came into force on 29 September 2003. This convention was supplemented by two Protocols:
Christine Bruckert and Colette Parent describe the key provisions of the Trafficking Protocol as follows:
Under the protocol … signatory countries must prevent and combat trafficking in persons by undertaking to criminalize the organization of, assistance with or participation in the trafficking of individuals as defined in Article 3(a) … .(3) They must also prevent and combat the problem by endeavouring to establish “measures such as research, information and mass media campaigns and social and economic initiatives to prevent and combat trafficking in persons.” … It [the Trafficking Protocol] advocates information sharing between states and the training of experts involved in one capacity or another in the struggle against human trafficking.(4)
The Trafficking Protocol also contains other provisions addressing assistance and protection for victims; however, the burden on state parties to take action is more limited. Canada ratified the TOC Convention and both the Trafficking Protocol and the Smuggling Protocol in May 2002.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography sets out measures intended to reduce international trafficking in children. Specifically, it provides that States Parties must criminalize trafficking offences against children, such as transferring a child’s organs for profit, or engaging children in forced labour. Canada ratified this Optional Protocol in September 2005.(5)
Canada has outlawed trafficking-related conduct. Key Criminal Code offences relevant to trafficking in persons include kidnapping, extortion, forcible confinement, conspiracy, the controlling or living off the avails of prostitution, as well as organized crime offences. In addition, Parliament enacted the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). Section 118 of this law, which took effect on 28 June 2002, provides that:
The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment, a fine of $1,000,000, or both. The first-ever charges under section 118 were laid in April 2005, but are currently being challenged for vagueness.
Further, on 25 November 2005 these measures were strengthened through the enaction of Criminal Code reforms to specifically prohibit trafficking in persons, benefiting economically from trafficking, and withholding or destroying identity, immigration, or travel documents to facilitate trafficking.
In May 2006 the Department of Citizenship and Immigration announced a new policy to provide temporary resident permits to trafficked persons. Immigration officers may now grant temporary resident permits, for periods of up to 120 days, to these individuals.(7)
The federal Interdepartmental Working Group on Trafficking in Persons (IWGTIP), co-chaired by the departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs, coordinates federal activities to address trafficking. Recent activities by IWGTIP and its participating departments and agencies include: