Human Trafficking in Canada

It's difficult to determine exactly how many people have been trafficked into, out of, or within Canada for several reasons:

  • It is a hidden and clandestine crime.
  • Most people who have been trafficked are reluctant to come forward on their own.
  • It is difficult for service providers and the general public to identify trafficked persons, due to lack of awareness about the indicators of human trafficking.
  • Human trafficking is often confused with human smuggling or other crimes or activities.

Even without exact numbers, there is widespread agreement that human trafficking is occurring here in Canada.

For example, Canada's National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking states that "While it is impossible to truly know the full scope and impact of this problem at the international or Canadian level, we do know that women and children are the primary victims – overwhelmingly so for sexual exploitation but also for forced labour – however, men are not immune to this crime.

The extent of human trafficking, either in Canada or internationally, is difficult to assess due to the hidden nature of these offences, the reluctance of victims and witnesses to come forward to law enforcement and the difficulty of identifying victims in practice. Moreover, these cases often go unnoticed and unreported due to manipulation, fear, threats from traffickers, shame, language barriers or mistrust of authorities."

My Story: My trafficker trained me to ‘scoop’ other girls. He wanted me to flirt with them and befriend them, offer my phone number and invite them to parties. Sometimes he would come along and suggest they come smoke weed with us. Around 50 percent of them would say yes. He told me if I scooped other girls I wouldn’t have to work as much. I always told them to run.

- Christina

Both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the U.S. State Department report that:

  • Canadian women and girls are exploited in sex trafficking across the country, and women and girls from Aboriginal communities as well as minors in the child welfare system are especially vulnerable.
  • Foreign women, primarily from Asia and Eastern Europe, are subjected to sex trafficking as well, often in brothels and massage parlours.
  • Law enforcement officials continue to report that local street gangs and transnational criminal organizations are involved in sex trafficking in urban centres.
  • Labour trafficking victims include foreign workers from Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa who enter Canada legally – sometimes through the temporary foreign worker program – but then are subsequently subjected to forced labour in agriculture, construction, processing plants, restaurants, the hospitality sector or as domestic servants.

Canada is identified by the U.S. State Department's Annual Trafficking in Persons Report as a:

  • A source country – a country whose citizens are trafficked, either internationally or domestically.
  • A transit country – a country through which internationally trafficked people are transported on their way elsewhere.
  • A destination country – a country where internationally trafficked people are received and exploited.

In Invisible Chains: Canada's Underground World of Human Trafficking, University of British Columbia Professor Benjamin Perrin also concludes that "Human trafficking in Canada involves the sexual exploitation and forced labour of a diverse array of victims: Canadian citizens and newcomers, adults and children, women and men."


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