Canada's Human Trafficking Laws
Please note: this section provides general information about the law and is not intended to be considered legal advice. Consult a lawyer if you have any questions.
Canada’s Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act make it very clear that Canada regards human trafficking as a serious crime and will respond to it with serious penalties.
In the following video, Professor Benjamin Perrin describes the crime of human trafficking as defined in Canada’s Criminal Code.
Canada’s human trafficking laws address trafficking in all its forms, regardless of the type of exploitation, the age of the trafficked person, or whether the crime is domestic trafficking (occurring in Canada) or international trafficking (bringing persons into Canada).
Criminal Code of Canada: Trafficking Offences
The Criminal Code contains four specific human trafficking offences:
- Trafficking of a person (section 279.01)
- Trafficking of a person under the age of eighteen years (section 279.011)
- Materially benefitting from human trafficking (section 279.02)
- Withholding or destroying travel or identification documents (section 279.03)
A person cannot legally consent to being exploited in a human trafficking situation under the Criminal Code of Canada.
Criminal Code of Canada
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These sections make it a crime to:
- Recruit, transport, transfer, receive, hold, conceal or harbour a person, or exercise control, direction or influence over a person’s movements for the purpose of exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of that person (section 279.01 Trafficking in Persons).
Exploitation means causing a person to provide their labour or service by engaging in conduct that, in all the circumstances, could reasonably be expected to cause that person to believe their safety, or the safety of someone they know, would be threatened if they failed to provide their labour or services (section 279.04).
In determining whether an accused exploits another person, the court may consider, among other factors, whether the accused:
(a) used or threatened to use force or another form of coercion;
(b) used deception; or
(c) abused a position of trust, power or authority
Community members have raised concerns that the definition of exploitation in the Criminal Code may create a barrier to trafficked persons coming forward to police, resulting in fewer convictions of human traffickers in Canada.
- For cases involving adults, this Criminal Code offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment where it includes kidnapping, aggravated assault or sexual assault, or death, and a maximum penalty of 14 years in all other cases. For cases involving children (minors under the age of 18), there is a mandatory minimum sentence of six years where it includes aggravated assault or sexual assault or death of the trafficked child, and five years in all other cases. The maximum penalties also apply (section 279.011 Trafficking of a Person under the Age of Eighteen Years).
- Benefit materially from human trafficking (section 279.02 Material Benefit).
Anyone who receives a financial or other material benefit from human trafficking can be charged with this offence, but only if they knew the benefit resulted from human trafficking. It may also apply to anyone who buys services from a trafficked person if he or she knows the person is a trafficked person. This offence is punishable by 10 years in prison
- Withhold or destroy a person’s travel or identification documents, such as a passport or visa, for the purpose of trafficking, or helping to traffic, that person (section 279.03 Withholding or Destroying Documents). This offence is punishable by five years in prison.
According to section 7(4.11) of the Criminal Code, Canadian citizens or permanent residents who commit human trafficking offences in other parts of the world can be prosecuted in Canada.
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
The federal Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) criminalizes the trafficking of persons into Canada. Section 118 prohibits someone from organizing the coming into Canada of another person by means of fraud, deception or through the use or threat of force or coercion.
Earlier in this Module, you learned about Franco Orr, who was the first trafficker to be convicted under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Peter LaPrairie, the federal prosecutor, discusses the importance of this conviction:
The Federal Crown is pleased with the conviction for human trafficking in the case of R. v. Franco Orr. This is the first conviction in Canada for an offence under s. 118 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The offence of human trafficking under s. 118 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is a serious offence that attracts significant penalties upon conviction. As this is the first human trafficking conviction under IRPA, it will set a precedent for future cases, as well as act as a means of deterrence for future offences.
– Peter LaPrairie, General Counsel, Public Prosecution Service of Canada, British Columbia Regional Office
A range of other Criminal Code offences may be applicable in any human trafficking case:
- Prostitution-related offences (ss. 210-213)
- Uttering threats (s. 264.1)
- Assault (s. 265)
- Assault with a weapon/causing bodily harm (s. 267)
- Aggravated assault (s. 268)
- Sexual assault (s. 271)
- Sexual assault with a weapon (s. 272)
- Aggravated sexual assault (s. 273)
- Kidnapping (s. 279(1))
- Forcible confinement (s. 279(2))
- Extortion (s. 346)
- Intimidation (s. 423)
- Criminal organization offences (ss. 467.11-467.13)
Reality Check – Canada’s laws demonstrate the serious nature of human trafficking crimes in the country. How might you use this information to assist trafficked persons?
Copyright © 2014 Province of British Columbia.