I'd like to bring to order this meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It is a pleasure to be joined by our witnesses today as we resume our study of human trafficking in Canada.
With us today, we have representatives from Statistics Canada: Kathy AuCoin, chief of the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, and Yvan Clermont, director of that same centre.
Welcome to both of you.
We're joined by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, represented by Ms. Natasha Kim, who is the director general of the immigration branch.
Welcome, Ms. Kim.
We also have Mr. Bruce Scoffield, who is the director general, Immigration program guidance branch.
Welcome, Mr. Scoffield.
We also have with us representatives from the Department of Employment and Social Development, including Philippe Massé, director general of the temporary foreign worker directorate in the skills employment branch.
Welcome, Mr. Massé.
We also have Ms. Kathleen Walford, Director General, Integrity Operations, Integrity Services Branch.
Welcome, Ms. Walford.
We will hear each of the witnesses. They all know they have somewhere between eight and ten minutes to present, and we will start with Statistics Canada.
Go ahead, Mr. Clermont.
Good morning, everyone.
Let me start by thanking the members of the committee for the invitation to present the most recent statistics on human trafficking in Canada.
Essentially, Statistics Canada has two main sources of data on human trafficking: the data provided by the police services, and the data provided by the courts. Today, I will give you an overview of the main indicators form these different sources.
Let's go now to the next slide.
Allow me to point out that, although we can provide the most recent human trafficking statistics, we acknowledge that collecting data on this type of offence presents some challenges for several reasons.
So far, research has shown that many victims of human trafficking are reluctant to report the offence to the authorities. It has also been recognized over time that some authorities have experienced difficulties in identifying trafficking offences. Because of these limitations, we believe there is some underreporting of human trafficking incidents in Canada.
That being said, as you will see later in this presentation, there has been a significant increase in the number of human trafficking cases reported to the police. What is unclear is whether it is a real increase or a mere indication that police services and authorities are better equipped to detect and report such incidents.
Let's move on to the third slide.
Let me first explain what we collected from our sources.
The offences that fall under the category of human trafficking under the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey include four elements: trafficking in persons, as described in section 279.01 of the Criminal Code of Canada; trafficking in persons under the age of 18; material benefit from trafficking in persons; and withholding or destroying documents to facilitate human trafficking.
I will begin by summarizing the main findings from our presentation this morning.
The number of police-reported incidents of human trafficking is on the rise. This rise in recent years has been driven by increases in trafficking across international borders, as well as increases in sex trafficking or forced labour.
This increase could be attributed to improved methods of reporting, detecting and investigating these crimes.
Overall, this offence is most often related to some form of sexual exploitation, such as prostitution, and most often reported in urban areas.
Now, if you turn to the next chart, chart number 4 highlights the increase in human trafficking rates. As you can see, in 2010 the rate of human trafficking per 100,000 people was only 0.08, while in 2016 the rate rose to 0.94.
Rates of human trafficking in 2016 are more than 11 times higher than in 2010, and the largest increases occurred between 2013 and 2015.
In comparison, during the same period, the overall crime rate decreased by 19%. It is also worth noting that, at close to one incident per 100,000 people, this offence represents rates of prevalence similar to certain other prostitution offences.
As I mentioned at the outset, we cannot be certain whether or not the increase observed here is the result of improved methods of reporting, detecting, and investigating incidents of human trafficking or of an actual increase in incidents. What we do know from our interactions with police services across the country is that there has been an increase in understanding of this offence type by the authorities.
For the past four years, each year, about 30% of incidents are related to cross-border trafficking, and the remaining 70% are related to sexual or labour trafficking. The manner in which we capture the data does not permit us to differentiate between labour or sexual trafficking. However, when we look at the characteristics around these incidents, we understand that they are predominantly sex trafficking.
On your next slide you can see this graph here shows the same trend but depicts them in numbers of incidents. You can see here, in terms of numbers of incidents, that human trafficking has gone from 41 offences in 2009 to 340 offences in 2016. What it's not showing on this chart, though, is that it is in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and in Halifax that we observed the highest increases over the past years.
If you turn now to slide number 6, turning to the most recent data we have from police services, we know that in 2016 there were 340 criminal incidents where violation of human trafficking was the most serious offence. This represented 0.02% of all police reported incidents. It is important to note that any criminal incident that is brought to the attention of the police may encompass a number of other offences that are related to the same incident. That is, that other violations occur alongside incidents of human trafficking.
Between 2009-16 there were 1,099 police reported incidents that involved a violation of human trafficking; of these incidents more than half, or 555 if you wish, involved at least one other violation. In looking at the data further, among those incidents where there were more than one violation, we noted that in incidents where human trafficking was the most serious offence in the incident, almost 6 in 10 of these incidents also involved a prostitution offence. Further to that, we also noted that in instances where there was a human trafficking offence but it was not the most serious offence, one-quarter of these involved kidnapping, and just over 1 in 5 involved the physical assault, and just over one in ten involved sexual assault.
On slide 7 this time, in looking at the data from a provincial perspective, we know that two-thirds of the incidents occurred in the province of Ontario, while just over 1 in 10 was in Quebec. Additionally, it is also clear that human trafficking shows to be a big-city crime: almost 9 in 10 of the human trafficking incidents occurred in the city. This should not be a surprise, as research to date acknowledges that victims are placed in cities where clients are located. In looking at the police reported data again, we can see that almost half of human trafficking incidents in the country occurred in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.
On the next slide, you see a graph here that shows the distribution of human trafficking victims by age group. First, let's note that over the eight years of data that we analyzed it was found that the vast majority of victims were women, 95%, and most often very young women. Close to half of human trafficking victims were between the ages of 18 and 24. Additionally, just over one-quarter of victims were under the age of 18. Also, the majority of victims knew the person accused of the crime. The most common relationships between the victim and the accused were casual acquaintance; intimate partner, which is non-spousal; business relationship; or criminal relationship.
On slide 9, this time you have a graph here that shows the distribution by age of the persons who are accused. I would now like to draw your attention to the fact that the vast majority of persons accused in human trafficking incidents are men, and that more than 4 in 10 incidents involve a young man between the ages of 18 and 24, while more than one-third are males between the ages of 15 and 24.
On this last slide here, slide 10, Statistics Canada collects information on court cases involving human trafficking through another survey, the other source that I was talking about at the beginning, which is the Integrated Criminal Court Survey. According to this survey, between 2005-06 and 2015-16 there were 84 completed adult criminal court cases where a human trafficking offence was the most serious offence.
Of these completed adult human trafficking cases, the majority, 60%, resulted in a finding of stayed or withdrawn, while close to one third, or 30%, resulted in a guilty finding. Over the same time period, 222 adult adult criminal court cases involved a human trafficking offence that was not the most serious criminal offence in the incident. These most often involved cases related to prostitution offences and deprivation of freedom offences. Of the 306 adult criminal court cases that have at least one charge related to human trafficking, two-thirds have more than one charge of human trafficking within the case.
In conclusion, we have mentioned during this presentation that many human trafficking victims are reluctant to report to authorities and that some authorities have encountered difficulties in identifying human trafficking crimes. As a result, there could be a degree of under-reporting of incidents of human trafficking in Canada.
Keeping in mind that the issue of human trafficking is critical to our partners, we strive to find ways to enhance our understanding of this offence. As such, we find ways to collect additional data to help inform policy. One such example is that enhanced questions that were recently added to one of our surveys on residential facilities for victims of abuse. The survey will be in the field in the spring of 2018 and will collect information from shelters. It will ask shelter managers to report on the number of residents who were seeking shelter for reasons of human trafficking, either labour exploitation or sexual exploitation. Results from this data collection activity will be released in the spring of 2019.
That concludes our presentation. Thank you.
Mr. Chair, thank you for the opportunity today to discuss the important issue of human trafficking.
As my colleagues from Public Safety Canada stated before this committee, the Government of Canada is committed to strengthening efforts to combat human trafficking and protecting its victims.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), as a member of the federal human trafficking task force, plays a role in supporting national efforts to combat human trafficking, both on its own and in collaboration with other federal departments and agencies.
My colleagues from ESDC who are here will provide more detail on the temporary foreign worker program. For my part, I would like to focus my remarks on three things: first, the role of immigration in the context of human trafficking; second, what IRCC is doing to help prevent human trafficking; and, third, what actions we take to help protect victims of human trafficking.
Turning first to the context and the role of immigration in human trafficking, Canada's immigration policies are aimed at contributing to Canada's economic prosperity, our social and cultural fabric, and our humanitarian traditions and obligations. Each year, IRCC interacts with millions of clients in Canada and around the world. This includes the processing of visa applications and work and study permits, as well as applications for permanent residence.
As this committee knows, human trafficking is an offence under the Criminal Code, and it is also a federal immigration offence under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, otherwise known as IRPA. IRPA makes it an offence to use “abduction, fraud, deception or use or threat of force or coercion” to organize the bringing in of people to Canada, and this includes the recruitment, transportation, receipt, or harbouring of people by using those methods.
As our colleagues from Statistics Canada and the RCMP noted when they were here, there are challenges to accurately determining the scope of human trafficking in Canada. Thus far, the evidence shows that the vast majority of criminal charges have been domestic rather than transnational in nature, and also more related to sexual exploitation than to other types of labour exploitation.
In contrast, when we talk about labour trafficking, researchers have raised particular concerns with respect to those who have come to Canada as migrant workers. While migrant workers represented less than 1.5% of Canada's working population in 2016, it's true that they can face particular vulnerabilities that can contribute to an inability or an unwillingness to report or escape labour trafficking situations. For example, in addition to fear for their personal safety or the safety of family members that can be present in other cases of human trafficking, such vulnerabilities can include: language barriers that can lead to isolation; a lack of awareness of their rights in Canada; vulnerability to confiscation of identity documents such as passports, which could reduce their mobility; fear of deportation; and, false promises of permanent residence.
We recognize that these are vulnerabilities faced by migrant workers, and while some cases do reach authorities, NGOs, or the media, we know these factors can contribute to the under-reporting of these cases. That's why prevention and protection are key pillars of the government's national action plan and approach to human trafficking here.
Now I'd like to turn to IRCC's role in each of these areas.
First, before we turn to the tools to prevent and discover cases of labour trafficking, it's important to mention that we work closely with a wide variety of partners here along the immigration continuum. This includes ESDC, the Canada Border Services Agency, and, of course, provinces and territories.
We have a shared responsibility with ESDC to manage programs to facilitate the entry of migrant workers into Canada. It's important to note that temporary immigration supports Canada's economic growth, so the purpose of these programs is to support our economic growth by filling labour gaps. This also enhances trade and people-to-people ties across borders.
ESDC is responsible for the temporary foreign worker program, which allows Canadian businesses to hire temporary foreign labour when there are no Canadians to fill the jobs. Once an employer has a labour market impact assessment issued by ESDC, they then come to IRCC in order to get a work permit or a visa, if necessary. In addition, IRCC manages the international mobility program, for which no labour market test is required, and it's designed to enable employers to hire temporary foreign workers to advance Canada's economic, cultural, or other competitive advantages.
Both programs here issue employer-specific work permits, which provide authorization to work only for the employer that's noted on the permit.
We have heard concerns raised that employer-specific work permits can exacerbate the vulnerability of migrant workers by tying their immigration status to an employer. However, it's important to note that employer-specific work permits are actually the basis of these two programs' employer-compliance regimes. It's how we hold employers accountable for their obligations to migrant workers. It's one of the government's main worker protection tools for migrant workers.
First, at the front end, the compliance regimes establish the program requirements to which employers must adhere. These are requirements such as being actively engaged in a genuine business; complying with federal and provincial laws; providing the same wages and occupation as identified in the offer of employment; providing a workplace free of abuse; and keeping documentation for six years.
Then, at the back end, the compliance regime allows the inspection of employers to ensure that they are complying with their obligations. The consequences for non-compliance can include warning letters, program bans, administrative monetary penalties, and publication of the names of non-compliant employers. In any case that we actually discover criminal activity or suspected criminal activity during inspections, those cases are certainly referred to law enforcement partners.
For the international mobility program, which IRCC administers, we inspect roughly 25% of employers hiring migrant workers each year. Currently, there is roughly a 15% non-compliance rate, with the vast majority of these being administrative or unintentional errors.
My colleagues from ESDC will explain a number of additional actions that are being taken to create better awareness amongst migrant workers of their rights and to enhance inspections under the temporary foreign worker program as well.
Finally, I would like to share what actions IRCC takes to help protect victims of human trafficking who are foreign nationals when they do come forward.
IRCC usually becomes involved when someone who's a potential victim is referred to the department by law enforcement or a non-governmental organization, or if someone self-identifies to us. Ultimately, our main interest here is to get the victim out of harm's way and ensure that they have status to remain in Canada and access to support. To do this, immigration officers can issue temporary resident permits to foreign nationals who are victims of human trafficking. With the temporary resident permit, they also have access to interim federal health care and services for counselling, and victims may also apply for a work permit at the same time, if they don't already have one. Both of these can be obtained free of charge. In 2016, 66 temporary resident permits were issued by IRCC, of which 26 were new permits, and 40 were renewals.
By providing temporary resident permits, victims of human trafficking have the time to consider their options, escape the influence of traffickers, recover from physical or mental trauma, and receive assistance. They can also, potentially, assist authorities in the investigation or prosecution of an alleged offence, but they are not required to do so.
There are also options available for foreign nationals who are victims of human trafficking to apply to remain in Canada on a permanent basis. For example, they can apply for a humanitarian and compassionate consideration, although this is a discretionary ground for permanent residence. They can also apply through the permit holder class in cases where they have been in Canada on a temporary resident permit for three to five years.
In closing, through our partnerships with other departments and through the activities I have outlined today, IRCC is supporting the government's efforts to counter human trafficking.
I hope this information has been of assistance.
We are happy to answer any questions you may have.
My thanks also go to the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for giving me the opportunity to share with you Employment and Social Development Canada efforts to protect migrant workers and ensure employer compliance within the temporary foreign worker program.
I would like to provide a broad overview of the program, then discuss some of the issues facing vulnerable foreign workers and finally outline some of the steps the department is taking to better protect foreign workers from any type of exploitation.
As mentioned by my colleague at IRCC, the program allows employers to hire a foreign worker in order to meet their labour needs when no Canadians or permanent residents are available.
The program is jointly administered by ESDC and IRCC with the support of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
ESDC is responsible for processing and issuing labour market impact assessments, LMIAs, at the request of employers who wish to hire TFWs. As part of that application process, employers agree to be bound by program requirements aimed at protecting migrant workers and the Canadian labour market. ESDC is also responsible for administering the program's employer compliance regime.
We know that workers coming into Canada under low-wage streams—caregivers and primary agriculture workers—are the most vulnerable to exploitation. As mentioned by my colleague, these groups are more vulnerable because of language barriers, isolation, and lack of access to accurate information on rights and protections. Some also fear retribution, including the threat of being returned to their home country if they speak out.
ESDC takes the protection of TFWs very seriously and is committed to ensuring that they all have the rights and protections of Canadians while working in Canada. We have a system of checks and balances in place to identify and prevent exploitation, and are continually working to improve it.
ESDC has the authority to conduct administrative inspections to ensure that employers meet certain requirements when they first apply for the program, and continue to meet them while the TFWs are here in Canada. However, ESDC has no jurisdiction over criminal matters such as human trafficking, and it refers such cases to the CBSA and to the RCMP.
Before requesting a labour market impact assessment, an employer must advertise positions to Canadians and permanent residents and must be registered on the Government of Canada's Job Bank service.
Job Bank has developed security and validation practices to assess the genuineness of employers and employment opportunities advertised on its platform.
In terms of the LMIA process itself, it includes the assessment of the genuine status and past compliance of employers. More specifically, Service Canada officers must consider four factors to confirm whether a job offer is legitimate. These include whether the employer is actively engaged in a business; whether the position being offered is a reasonable employment need; whether the employer can demonstrate that they are able to fulfill the conditions of the offer; and whether the employer was compliant in the past with federal, provincial, and territorial laws that regulate employment and recruitment.
One way of supporting worker protections is to provide information to TFWs about their rights, including human trafficking, through a number of channels. The government produces a pamphlet entitled "Temporary foreign workers: Your rights are protected" in the seven most used languages among TFWs. It contains information on their rights while in Canada. In the near future, Service Canada will provide information directly to TFWs when they apply for their social insurance number, and we are developing a dedicated web page on TFW rights and protections.
Furthermore, we are facilitating informing TFWs of their rights by working more closely with migrant worker support organizations. For example, in December 2017, the announced that the Government of Canada provided a grant of $93,000 to the Migrant Workers' Dignity Association in British Columbia to develop 17 different workshops, information tools, and materials aimed at informing TFWs on topics such as labour trafficking, access to benefits, job contracts, and other rights.
ESDC has a comprehensive compliance framework in place to ensure that employers are following program rules, which in turn helps to protect TFWs. Employers can be inspected on a number of criteria including wages, working conditions, and that the workplace is free of any type of abuse.
Stemming from the recommendations, both by the human resources committee and the Auditor General, we have taken a number of initiatives to improve the compliance regime. To better target our resources and efforts, we have launched a new risk-based predictive model to help identify which employers to inspect, prioritizing the highest-risk cases.
The department has significantly increased its on-site inspections, strategically focusing on employers of vulnerable workers. Since April 2017, the department has conducted approximately eight times more on-site inspections than in the last fiscal year.
For inspections completed since April 2017, approximately 50% resulted in employers needing to take some sort of corrective action measures to become compliant. Most employers are quick to address any issues identified during an inspection. However, when they cannot be brought into compliance, employers can be subject to an administrative monetary penalty, ranging from $500 to $100,000 per violation. They can also be subject to bans of various lengths, including one, two, five, and 10 years, and permanent bans for egregious cases.
Employer information, the violations, and the penalties are all posted on a public-facing website managed by IRCC. This is an important worker-protection tool for individuals who are looking at potential employers and job opportunities.
ESDC also operates an online fraud reporting tool and a 1-800 tip line. These tools provide TFWs and the general public with a vehicle to report potential program abuse. All allegations are reviewed, and the appropriate action is taken, including referring allegations where there are potential criminal activities to law enforcement agencies.
We continue to identify other ways to make the integrity regime stronger, including an ongoing focus to address the recommendations of the human resources committee and the OAG, such as accelerating our efforts to complete an analysis of the feasibility of conducting unannounced on-site inspections.
ESDC continues to work with partners and stakeholders on enhancing worker protections to better prevent abuse and exploitation of workers.
The program works closely with other federal departments such as IRCC, CBSA and RCMP to ensure that any findings that point to abuse or criminal wrongdoing are immediately directed to the attention of law enforcement agencies.
In addition, ESDC is a member of the federal human trafficking task force, which serves as the focal point and centre of expertise for the government's anti-trafficking efforts.
The program also works in close collaboration with provincial and territorial partners to enhance information-sharing agreements and promote formalization of support services to resolve employer-employee disputes, better prevent abuse, and support TFWs who need assistance. As mentioned previously, we've been working more with employers, unions, and community organizations devoted to the protection of vulnerable workers to better inform them of their rights while in Canada. We continue to work with foreign governments and international associations on worker protection issues.
In conclusion, the TFW program is working on a number of fronts to continually enhance worker protection and minimize risks of human trafficking.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.
We would welcome any questions you may have.
In terms of specific cases, they're not something that is part of our mandate. We look at the employers. I don't have any specific information around the outcome of specific cases and how those were dealt with through the justice system.
We know that part of the vulnerabilities are around the use of third parties. You mentioned that in your question, and there really are two aspects to that system, one that third parties based domestically use, and one for those who are being hired who are based in foreign countries. For those who are here, those are subject principally to provincial and territorial legislation around the regulation of recruiting activities, and in many provinces, there are specific rules and laws that govern the use of foreign recruiters.
In our TFW program, we ensure that the employers who apply respect the provincial laws with respect to recruiters. We also have a regulation that prohibits any fees being charged to workers by third parties, so those are rules we apply.
With regard to the foreign recruiters, that's something that's a bit more challenging because we're not directly responsible for that, but there are a couple of areas that we are exploring. The first is work that we're doing with the International Organization for Migration. This is an international organization that's very active in the area of the migration of workers, and they are developing what's called IRIS, an international registration and information system for foreign recruiters. The idea is to establish an international standard and code of practice that would allow foreign recruiters to be registered and to follow that standard. We're working with them and supporting the development of that, and it's expected that it will be piloted in a couple of provinces this year, in Saskatchewan and Alberta, where any employer wanting to use a foreign recruiter would need to use one who's registered with IRIS. That's something we're going to be monitoring to see how we can maybe incorporate that into the broader TFW program.
We're also thinking about strengthening our regulations and trying to identify ways that maybe we can strengthen our own regulatory authorities to deal with this, but that's all under development, and there's nothing specific at this point.