September 20, 2023
ACT Alberta was privileged to participate in a conversation with the Human Rights Council-appointed special rapporteur, Tomoya Obokata, when he visited BC in August. The discussion was essential to garner the attention needed to address this ongoing crisis that is reaching critical levels in our communities, and we appreciate the opportunity to illuminate the extent to which human rights are being violated here in our country.
Mr. Obokata published his End of Mission Statement on September 6, 2023, and is urging the Canadian government to step up its efforts to safeguard workers’ rights and offer a clear pathway to permanent residency for migrants, while highlighting issues with the Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) Program.
“I am deeply disturbed by the accounts of exploitation and abuse shared with me by migrant workers”
After spending two weeks travelling through Canada conducting a review of Canada’s approach to human trafficking and all forms of exploitation, his report outlines several findings, including:
· The agricultural and low-wage streams of the TFW Program “constitute a breeding ground for contemporary forms of slavery.” Employer-specific work permit regimes, including certain Temporary Foreign Worker Programmes, make migrant workers vulnerable to contemporary forms of slavery, as they “cannot report abuses without fear of deportation.”
· There is a lack of trauma-informed personnel and human rights-centered approaches within law enforcement and the judicial system. “Victims and survivors are forced to relive their trauma in their interactions with law enforcement and the court systems, and the outcome of legal proceedings often fails to provide adequate compensation.”
· There is not enough consultation with survivors over policy making and insufficient protections and remedies for victims.
· Emphasized the need to regularize the status of foreign migrant workers, citing the valuable skills they bring to the economy.
· The legacies of colonialism, a lack of meaningful self-determination and fiscal sovereignty, criminalization, poverty, inequality, and systemic racism combine to curtail the opportunities for decent work for Indigenous individuals and normalize violence and discrimination perpetrated against them, leaves Indigenous peoples highly susceptible to contemporary forms of slavery.
· Indigenous children are disproportionately represented in the out-of-home care system in Canada where they may be subject to sexual, labour and criminal exploitation, either by their foster families or by traffickers who prey on group homes or target those transitioning out of care who may not have the resources to live independently.
We at ACT fully support and affirm these findings, are committed to ending all forms of human trafficking, and are elated to see this report come to fruition. Our organization has been working tirelessly for over a decade to help victims, elevate survivor voices, and advocate for change. This report acknowledges, confirms and exposes what has been happening in this country and around the world for decades and we hope it sees the recognition and ignites the change that is so badly needed.
Our commitment to you
Our mission to support and advocate for victims and survivors of human trafficking, increase knowledge and awareness of all forms of human trafficking, and lead and foster collective action through collaboration and respect remains strong and we continue to learn and grow in our practices.
This year we broadened our outreach and developed new partnerships for culturally appropriate Indigenous education and prevention, expanded our community of allies by educating new industries who intersect with human trafficking victims, continued our commitment to training with Alberta's Employment Standards, Temporary Foreign Worker Advisory Office and Occupational Health & Safety offices, advocated for policy change at a federal level, collaborated on best practices for trauma-informed care, translated our materials to five different languages so that migrants can truly be informed on their rights in Canada, and most importantly, continued to support individuals who are currently in, exiting, or have lived experience in human trafficking.
We strongly encourage any and everyone who has a few minutes to read this report, to think critically about what is happening, and to engage your communities in conversation about what we can do to drive change. This is happening in your schools, in businesses you frequent, in supply chains of products you buy, and in YOUR community.
Change starts here. It starts with you. It starts with us.
Let’s keep the momentum going.
For more information on how you can get involved in the movement to end human trafficking visit