What Is Human Trafficking?

According to the United Nations Protocol on Trafficking in Persons, human trafficking involves an ACTION and MEANS and PURPOSE. If one condition in each of the categories is met, the result is human trafficking.

Canada prohibits all forms of human trafficking through Section 279.01 of the Criminal Code. Transnational human trafficking is specifically prohibited by Section 118 of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

It is difficult to calculate with precision the scope of this crime in Canada. According to the US State Department Report on Trafficking in Persons, Canada is a source, destination and transit point for victims of trafficking. Trafficked persons may be in Canada legally or illegally, may be of any gender, and may come from any part of the world, including Canada.

For some current statistics on human trafficking across Canada, visit this Statistics Canada Quick Fact Sheet, updated on 2018-06-27.

In Alberta, human trafficking charges have been laid in rural communities as well as major urban centres. People may be trafficked for labour and/or sexual exploitation. Traffickers may be intimate partners, employers, recruiters, family members or organized crime groups.

Internal trafficking involves the exploitation of residents of the country. According to the Government of Canada, those more likely to be at risk of trafficking include “persons who are socially or economically disadvantaged, such as some Aboriginal women, youth and children, migrants and new immigrants, teenaged runaways, children who are in protection, as well as girls and women, who may be lured to large urban centres or who move or migrate there voluntarily” (National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons, Government of Canada 2012).

Often, traffickers move victims across and into major urban centres in order to evade law enforcement and prevent victims from forming friendships or retaining family connections.

Some convicted offenders of human trafficking internal to Canada were found to be affiliated to street gangs known to law enforcement. In many cases, convicted traffickers formed bonds with their victims.

Internal human trafficking victims have been recruited through the Internet or by an acquaintance. Victims are often groomed, manipulated and coerced to enter the sex trade. Some victims of human trafficking internal to Canada have been underage girls exploited through prostitution in exotic dance clubs and/or escort services. Control tactics employed by traffickers to retain victims in exploitative situations include social isolation, forcible confinement, withholding identification documents, imposing strict rules and limitation of movement, as well as threats and violence. (Human Trafficking in Canada: A Threat Assessment RCMP 2010).

International trafficking involves the crossing of borders. In these cases, victims are brought into Canada for the purposes of exploitation.

A set of interrelated “push” and “pull” factors contribute to trafficking in persons. “Push” factors may include extreme poverty, unemployment, lack of education, inadequate social programs, gender-based inequality, war and conflict situations, and political unrest in countries of origin. “Pull” factors may include a globalized, free-market economy that has increased the demand for cheap labour, goods and services in many countries. Victims may also be “pulled” into trafficking through the promise of money and what is seen as a better life (Department of Justice Canada).