Thank you, Mr. Chairman, deputy chairs, and members of the committee, for allowing me this opportunity to discuss the devastating reality of human trafficking in Canada.
After having carefully read the transcripts of your previous meetings, I saw that you had already received many excellent recommendations from your witnesses. While keeping those in mind, I would like to add three of my own recommendations, which will target the fundamental causes of human trafficking.
Today I will orient my remarks on three main points of human trafficking. I have provided notes to you, but I'm not going to follow them loyally because I have to get through this, so I'm going to try to just skip through.
My three points are, one, the urgent need to educate people on child cybersex trafficking; two, human trafficking during international sporting games such as the Olympics; and three, sex tourism.
Honourable members, I'm asking you when you do this report to look outside of the normal way of doing a report. I have suggested a template because, in my 17 years here and beforehand as well, there have been so many reports. I suggest a template, just a humble suggestion. Whatever you recommend to Justice, ask them by what date they can implement and follow through. I humbly suggest that you write every recommendation that you make with the idea of implementation. That is where we will stop this trafficking.
For me, education is needed for cybersex trafficking, sex tourism, and international sporting events. All of this leads to sexual assault. The biggest thing is the demand for sex. That's what leads to sexual abuse.
For cybersex, number one, by educating people on cybersex trafficking, we raise awareness on this terrible crime and we start a conversation with people. Cybersex trafficking is a type of sex trafficking that exposes all children globally to countless predators. Underage boys and girls, some even toddlers, are forced to perform sexual activities in front of a camera.
A really sad fact is that, of 60 countries, Canada ranks in the top three for hosting websites and images and selling material containing child sexual abuse. It is absolutely shocking that our country plays a role in endorsing the explicit content of child cybersex trafficking. Unfortunately, it's a horrifying truth.
In November 2017, nine children were rescued in the Philippines by International Justice Mission and the police forces. Victims of sexual online exploitation and trafficking, these seven girls and two boys were as young as two years old to nine years old. The arrested suspect in the Philippines allegedly produced and sent sexually explicit images of very young children via social media to Canadians and others in exchange for money. There was a Saskatchewan man who was sentenced to 12 years in jail for his involvement in this crime.
Educating people by starting the conversation is key to raising awareness.
My first recommendation is that we need to put an end to cybersex. I read your transcripts, and I know that there are ways to do this. I won't repeat that. You already have that in mind, but I ask that one of your main recommendations would be that we have to stop cybersex.
My second point is that sexual exploitation is very present during international sporting events such as the Olympic Games. I come from B.C. where we had the Olympic Games, and we took every measure to have zero tolerance for people being trafficked to our country for the games.
At this point I want to recognize Mr. Nicholson.
Mr. Nicholson, you left a tremendous legacy when you took a stand that there would be no women trafficked into Canada during the games, and I want to thank you because I know you played a very important role.
I got involved in this issue in 2005 when Germany was bringing in almost 100,000 women, and they were building warehouses because prostitution is legal in Germany. With financial support from Sweden, women's groups and people like me were able to stop women being trafficked into Germany, but not quite—40,000 women were trafficked instead of 100,000.
I have two articles that I'm providing to you to give you an idea of what I am saying.
For the Olympics, with the help of then minister Nicholson and others, we were able to stop women being brought in. You would think I would be happy with that, but unfortunately we brought girls from the reserves to my city.
I walked the streets of Vancouver during the games, and I saw girls like Grace, who was 12 years old, and another 10-year-old girl. Men passively participated in the Olympics during the day, and in the evening they hurt our girls. That is why it is very important to make sure we have a template where, whenever we hold international games, we will not have girls trafficked, and we will protect our own girls.
We stopped trafficking into Vancouver from outside, but we hurt our own girls.
My second recommendation is, whenever we host international games in our country, Immigration and CBSA have to be vigilant in making sure that visas are not given to persons who will be trafficked into our country. This needs to be one of our main items on templates, especially when games are held in our country.
My third item is sex tourism. I have worked very hard on the issue of sex tourism. It offends me, and I'm sure it offends you as well, when men from our country go to other countries and hurt young boys and girls. We can stop this. I have details in my presentation, but I will tell you; there's a very easy way to stop it. The way we stop it is to have RCMP officers embedded in the countries where Canadian men go. If those RCMP officers did the investigation that is needed, we could prosecute those men in Canada. We have the act. We have the tools to stop sex tourism, and I am urging you to ask CBSA, ask , to put one RCMP officer wherever the men go. For example, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Thailand. I can tell you; I've seen it. There is one in Malaysia, and it's already made a difference, so I ask you to put in a simple recommendation, that we have RCMP officers in the embassy to stop sex tourism.
Let me tell you about Daisy. Daisy was one of these girls in the Dominican Republic, who was taken by Yolanda, and Daisy was only 12 years old. She was raped many times a day by Canadian men. With the help of the RCMP and the Malaysian government, Daisy was able to be rescued. Later on, if you want to know how this rescue mission works, I will tell you because I have been part of these rescue missions. I ask that you look at Daisy's story and many other girls' stories, to see that my third recommendation is that we have RCMP officers posted in embassies to help target perpetrators, investigate, and collaborate with local law enforcement to put an end to sex tourism.
I am absolutely convinced that if we had a few prosecutions, men would not pack their bags and go for a holiday for sex tourism. They would realize that when they came home their lives would be right there for everybody to see what kind of work they do. I ask you, please consider this recommendation.
I want to say one thing to you. When I read the transcripts, Mr. Boissonnault and Mr. Rankin spoke a lot about data. Data is important, but at the moment we only get it from the RCMP, and we get it from the courts. We don't collect it from civil society or all victims, so please do not look at data. Look at saving the lives of innocent girls.
When I go on rescue missions, I don't go in myself, but I observe. I see when young girls as small as 10 are brought out of cages, out in the open, by the International Justice Mission, which is a Canadian organization. Three months later, when I go to speak to those girls—they are young girls like my own granddaughter—when we sit in a circle and talk they caress me in a sexual way. I try to stop it, but that's the only thing they know.
Honourable members, you have a lot of power. Please help to keep those innocent girls safe.
Thank you very much.
Good afternoon. Thank you for your invitation to testify before you this afternoon. I'd like to begin by providing a brief overview of my journey and my work regarding human trafficking.
When I returned to my home province of Manitoba 10 years ago, I started to meet with community leaders, including a number of indigenous women leaders, as part of developing a new human rights degree program at the University of Winnipeg. When I met with Diane Redsky, who at the time was the national coordinator of the commission on sex trafficking in Canada, I asked her what I could do as a professor to respond to the work that she was leading at the community level in communities across Canada.
She told me to create a course on sex trafficking, addressing the connection between prostitution and sex trafficking, because indigenous women leaders in particular do not agree with the popular notion that is pro-prostitution: legalize it, and everything will become fine. There's not enough knowledge that supports our analysis, because most of the work has not been done in Canada, because pro-prostitution is such a popular position, and because very often those who take that position argue that there would be less sex trafficking if there was more legalized prostitution.
Let's take a look at this. First of all, gender is highly relevant. In the 2017 global estimates of modern slavery, a collaborative effort between the International Labour Organization, the ILO, and the Walk Free Foundation in partnership with the International Organization for Migration, IOM, there were a couple of findings. Women and girls accounted for more than 99% of all victims of forced sexual exploitation. More than one million of the victims of forced sexual exploitation, 21% approximately, were children under the age of 18. We live in a global society where women and girls are vulnerable in every society. Like any predator, pimps and traffickers exploit these vulnerabilities.
In Canada, the majority of traffickers have been male. We are seeing females charged, but it is usually in relation to working with a man. For global estimates, in 2016, the ILO estimates that 4.8 million people were victims of forced sexual exploitation. Countries that fail to address the demand that fuels sex trafficking or have legalized or decriminalized the commercial sex industry have experienced increases in prostitution and higher numbers of trafficked women and girls to meet an influx of demand.
Between 2009 and 2014, there were 396 victims of police-reported human trafficking in Canada, the vast majority, 93%, female. In Canada, the 2013 RCMP study reported that victims of all domestic sex trafficking cases prosecuted in Canada have been female. The majority have also been youth, and the majority have also been indigenous in origin. It's very important to look at, not only the gender, but also the racialization of sex trafficking.
Victims of human trafficking are generally young. Among victims of human trafficking reported between 2009 and 2014, close to half were between the ages of 18 and 24. Between 2009 to 2014, police identified 459 persons accused of trafficking, 83% male, most commonly between the ages of 18 to 34, 77%.
Ninety-one percent of trafficking victims knew the person who trafficked them, the most common relationships being 23% business, 22% casual acquaintance, and 18% non-spousal intimate partner.
There is a myth about prostitution being the revered oldest profession. We cannot normalize prostitution by thinking of it in terms of a profession. A society that respects the dignity of women does not accept a profession where rape, assault, and humiliation are very real occupational hazards. Prostitution is not the oldest profession, it is the oldest oppression.
Prostitution is a transaction that reflects inequality. As Shelagh Day states in her publication, Prostitution: Violating the Human Rights of Poor Women:
|| The bargain inherent in prostitution is that women have unwanted sex with men they do not know, and feign enjoyment, in exchange for money. Calling this sex between consenting adults ignores the fundamental inequality in the sexual and human transaction for the women and the men. This is not a transaction in which a woman and a man together, voluntarily, seek to give and receive sexual pleasure. Prostitution is a [business] transaction in which women provide commodified sexual services to men, in exchange for money. It is a form of social and sexual subordination—
—fuelled by our economy.
The majority of prostitutes entered prostitution between 14 and 20 years of age. In the much-vaunted Bedford decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, what was largely still not known or not acknowledged is that one of the main plaintiffs in the case admitted very clearly to prostituting her own daughter before she had reached the age of 13. There is a nature to the type of exploitation that happens that can become endemic and the perpetuation is linked to substance abuse and all kinds of self-harm.
Marginalized women, including indigenous women, particularly indigenous youth, are particularly vulnerable to prostitution and more likely to face violence, including assaults, sexual assaults, and murder.
Street-level prostitution in Canada represents between 5% and 20% of all prostitution. The rest occurs indoors. The majority of prostitutes are female, while almost all clients of prostitution are male. Gender matters.
Did you want me to close? Okay, let me then go to—
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak here today.
As you can imagine, this issue — which we have often addressed in the House — concerns us very much in Quebec. The issues seem quite well defined. The solutions also seem quite well defined, but for reasons I do not understand, the government does not seem to want to move forward, which concerns us greatly. I will explain what I mean.
In Quebec, the problem of prostitution is especially concerning for young girls of 18 years of age or less. Our Montreal youth centres have become recruitment points for prostitution. There have in fact been numerous interventions over the past few years. As a member of Parliament, and as a lawyer in my previous life, I had the opportunity of meeting with many of the workers who work with these organizations, who say that they are concerned, and have been for years.
Before the 2011 election, Bloc Québécois MP Maria Mourani presented Bill on this topic, but the bill died on the Order Paper following the 2011 elections. It was presented again in 2013. In 2015, Ms. Mourani's Bill was adopted unanimously by the House of Commons. It was then passed by the Senate and received royal assent on June 18, 2015.
What did this bill say? First, it created a presumption that an individual living in the same apartment as a person practising prostitution is reputed to be living from the avails of prostitution, and reputed to be a pimp. This reversed the burden of proof, which meant that these young girls, often very young, as my Senate colleagues have said — young girls who were sometimes 12, 13, 15 or 16 — could avoid having to testify about the guilt of a pimp, who scared them and controlled them. This made it very hard for them to give this kind of evidence. And so the burden of proof was reversed.
The bill also made it possible to seize goods acquired from the avails of prostitution. There was an issue of consistency, and also the matter of consecutive sentences, which seemed to us to be an important deterrent in the fight against prostitution.
Bill , which dealt with these important issues, received royal assent in June 2015. Everyone had hoped that during the summer, it would be enacted, and we could finally tell young girls that we would provide some effective protection. Unfortunately an election was called at the end of the summer, and when the new government took power in October 2015, Bill C-452 was shelved and forgotten about for a time.
Subsequenty, as you know, considerable pressure was applied by my party and its members, and by civil society, and finally the current government decided to introduce another bill, , on February 9, 2017. Bill C-38's only objective was to bring Bill into effect. It did nothing else. It indicated that we were in agreement with Bill C-452 and that its clauses 1, 2 and 4 would be adopted immediately; as for clause 3 regarding consecutive sentences, that was not certain. People felt that this clause would not survive a constitutional challenge. So the coming into force of consecutive sentences was postponed to a later date.
In February 2017, everyone hoped that the bill would be tabled and that it would be passed quickly. Unfortunately, today, in May 2018, a year and several months later, nothing has yet been done, and moreover, another way of doing nothing is to simply push things forward. And so Bill was introduced, a mammoth bill, as you know. Bill was included in it, and it will be dealt with at some point.
Since 2011, we have not dealt with this seriously. I am embarrassed to say that I am sitting in a Parliament that is not taking this issue more seriously. We keep postponing it. There were bills , , and .
Are we in agreement or aren't we? We adopted a bill unanimously, it received royal assent, and then we let things go. Personally, I think it is indecent and embarrassing that these young girls who are counting on us are still having to deal with pimps. People don't just depend on us to extend apologies and say that what happened to them 100, 50 or 200 years ago was very sad. They are counting on us to help eliminate daily, current problems they are facing.
Sometimes there is no solution. It happens. In certain cases, solutions are complicated and take time. However, we are talking here about a problem to which there is a solution we agreed on and had adopted.
Can this order be issued?
That is what I had to say today, Mr. Chair. I'll stop here. I think my message is clear.
Thank you, Senator Jaffer, for those comments.
Thank you to all of you for your testimony here today.
Mr. Fortin, this is a very interesting point that you've brought up, and I think you're the first one who has focused on this with respect to the consecutive sentences. I do remember that this was passed by Parliament, and it was on the basis that if you traffic one person, or you traffic 20 people, it's actually a more serious offence if you traffic 20 people. The idea of consecutive sentence was a reflection of that. Now you know, of course, what we're dealing with here in Bill , that this is not going forward, but thank you for making that point.
I don't have much time, but, Senator Jaffer, again, thank you to you and your colleague, Senator McPhedran, for all the work that you are doing on this. You're making a difference on this.
One of the things that you did say was that Canada should prosecute these Canadian men who are going overseas to sexually exploit women and children in these countries, and of course, Canada should. Part of the challenge, you may know, is trying to get evidence on these people when the victims are in southeast Asia, in the Caribbean, or somewhere else. One of the things that we have spoken about over the years is getting the countries themselves involved with these prosecutions. Again, that's not very easy.
Don't you think that is another way to perhaps expedite these things, rather than the more complicated way of getting this person out of there and trying to put together a case here in Canada?
As far as I'm concerned, there is no problem.
According to what I understood, the government detected a potential problem following advice received from the Canadian Bar Association. The Barreau du Québec had provided positive advice according to which all of Bill could be brought into effect. For its part, the Canadian Bar Association said that there was no problem except for clause 3 regarding consecutive sentences. It said that this clause could run counter to the Charter and be considered as... I don't remember the term but it doesn't matter. The Canadian Bar Association thought there could be a problem with the Charter.
That is the pretext or the reason invoked by the government to justify its decision to withdraw clause 3 to be able to study it in committee and bring it in later after making sure that it was properly worded. As for clauses 1, 2 and 4, it said that they could come into effect immediately. That is what the government said in February 2017.
All I am saying is that if we agree that clauses 1, 2 and 4 do not pose a problem, I don't understand why they have not been brought into effect. At a minimum, this would reverse the burden of proof, the presumption. This seems important to fight against pimping and the prostitution of young girls.
My colleagues know this as well as I do, and people spoke to us about this in the House on many occasions; there were press conferences and all of that. We agree that this is urgent. In 2011, we were saying this was urgent. We are now in 2018. We recognize that this is urgent since we keep adopting bills that say the same thing. Let's stop saying the same thing and bring the law into effect.
I don't claim to be an expert on constitutional law, but I don't think there is any problem regarding the consecutive sentences. If the government thinks there is one, let's work on that, but let's do it now because this is urgent.
Every day we wait counts. Last year, some 900 young girls had prostitution-related issues. We all have young girls in our families, whether they are our daughters, granddaughters or nieces. Would we like to see them caught up in this type of situation? We mustn't think that we are immune. We are not. That is why it is urgent that we act.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen.
I really appreciate the opportunity to present before this committee on the subject of human trafficking in Canada.
By way of background, earlier this month I retired from the Bank of Montreal where I worked from 2013 in anti-money laundering, and previously at the Royal Bank of Canada in a similar role, having come to Canada from the U.K. in 2002 from a career in law enforcement and the military. I'm currently the chief compliance officer of Bitfinex, a digital assets trading company, and I also sit on the board of the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking. One of the purposes of the centre is to establish a national hotline for human trafficking reporting in Canada.
I'm going to talk to you about Project Protect. In December 2015, I attended an anti-money laundering conference in Toronto and responded to a call from the floor from a survivor of human trafficking, a wonderful lady, Timea Nagy, who was accompanied by an RCMP officer, Lepa Jankovic. They appealed to the audience of financial institutions, including banks, for assistance in identifying both traffickers and their victims through the patterns of their financial transactions.
I didn't have to think about it for a second; I pledged to help. Fortunately, I sat down next to a representative from Canada's financial intelligence unit, FINTRAC, and he immediately pledged to help. Out of that, Project Protect was born.
Human trafficking in Canada primarily relates to sex trafficking. Approximately 90% of victims are domestic victims, the remainder having come to Canada from abroad, as in Timea's case. Victims are predominantly female, but not always, and they come from all walks of life, not just from disadvantaged communities. Victims are recruited by their traffickers in many ways. Traffickers can be male and female, as can victims. Victims are recruited at shopping malls, online, in schools, in every way you can think of.
Once recruited and forced into the lifestyle, victims work under their traffickers' supervision in motels, hotels, including brand-name hotels, rental apartments in all major Canadian cities, and travel the corridors between those cities regularly. Victims on average, and in my understanding, are expected to earn their traffickers between $1,000 and $1,500 per day, every day. Many traffickers have many victims working for them, so there's a lot of money to be made.
The traffickers need the financial system for many reasons: to be paid by their customers, their clients; to book their travel, their accommodation; and to run their sordid operations. Project Protect launched in January 2016. We brought together in true partnership anti-money laundering, AML, representatives from all the Canadian banks; other financial entities such as money service businesses; law enforcement; payment companies; NGOs; technology companies; professional associations in the banking and hospitality industries; Grant Thornton of Canada; and not least, FINTRAC, Canada's financial intelligence unit.
Financial institutions such as banks are mandated by law to do a couple of things: to identify and report suspicious transactions or attempts as they relate to suspected money laundering and terrorist financing. This includes the proceeds of human trafficking. Banks make these reports to FINTRAC. FINTRAC collates those reports, enhances the intelligence, and shares that information and intelligence with law enforcement.
Until the launch of the project in January 2016, financial institutions were largely unaware, as I was, of the problem and scale of human trafficking in Canada and, indeed, what to look for. In the year prior to launch, institutions had made about 500 suspicious activity reports relating to human trafficking in Canada to FINTRAC. FINTRAC disclosures to law enforcement in the year prior to the launch was small in number, 19 in total. Most of those disclosures were reactive. What that means is a response to a law enforcement inquiry as to whether FINTRAC holds information.
When we started the project, the first thing we did very quickly was to make ourselves aware, educate ourselves by talking to victims and by doing regression analysis on the data that we held that we believed previously may relate to human trafficking. We really started to educate ourselves. Things moved very quickly. Just one month after launch, a total of 500 reports were made to FINTRAC. That is the same total of the previous year, in one month. At the end of 2016, there were over 2,000 reports. At the end of 2017, there were 4,200-something reports made to FINTRAC, and it just keeps increasing.
More importantly, the disclosures made by FINTRAC to law enforcement have similarly increased. Since the project was launched, there's been an increase of approximately 1,400% in reports by FINTRAC to law enforcement. More importantly, these reports are now made proactively. FINTRAC no longer waits for law enforcement to ask if they have any information on this person. FINTRAC proactively discloses to law enforcement information on traffickers and their victims by association that law enforcement may previously not be aware of. That's very, very important.
Action by law enforcement has significantly increased, resulting in arrests, the location of missing people, and the identification of victims. Just by way of example, this year, Toronto police, the largest human trafficking police unit in Canada, successfully took down an international trafficking operation identified through the project involving Portugal, 115 victims, and at least $3 million in the proceeds of crime.
Awareness drives the project, and the members of the project, who are too numerous to mention individually now, act as ambassadors and educate other people. I don't know the number, but it must be in the tens of hundreds or thousands now within Canada that the project has reached and made people aware.
I'd like to share a few lessons learned from the project, which has been running for two and a half years now. I hope this will inform the committee and shape continued action to address the problem of human trafficking in Canada.
Prior to the project, many police forces did not have units dedicated to human trafficking, and in some cases, those that did addressed it reactively. The number of units has certainly increased since the launch of the project, but not all police forces have such units, dedicated units, for human trafficking. Certainly prior to the project, from my observations and knowledge, which is fairly extensive, police officers investigating cases of human trafficking did it myopically. They investigated locally. They would have a local report of human trafficking. They didn't gather the financial intelligence for that case, but they went on the assault of the victim and their trafficker. Had they done so, they would have seen a more holistic view and seen that the trafficker that, for instance, they were looking at in Calgary the week before was in Montreal, Winnipeg, or Toronto, etc.
Financial intelligence provides that holistic view, but I still see silos of effort, well-intended effort, within law enforcement and indeed amongst people in anti-human-trafficking organizations and NGOs, who are competing against each other for funding, effectively, and are still very siloed in their efforts. This is a big observation by me, one I would like to resolve, but it's not going to happen overnight.
In a similar way, I see government funding and local government funding siloed in delivery. Often it is one-off funding, providing an unsustained impact. An organization is funded for six months or a year; after that it's on its own. The good news is, as I've said, that there's certainly been an increase in the number of police forces now having dedicated units and sharing intelligence with each other in FINTRAC. However, a lot more needs to be done, in my opinion. More police forces need to have dedicated units, and they need to work together more collaboratively and proactively with each other, as opposed to in isolation. Police also need funding. I was talking to one police force that would love to do more but just doesn't have the funding to do that.
I would also like to see an increased use of financial intelligence in prosecutions, to take the burden of proof away from the victims, in a way, and focus to a larger extent, with the traffickers, on their proceeds of crime; for instance, charging them with money laundering. I would like to see police officers receive training on the financial aspects of human trafficking. I know that there are courses at the various police colleges, but the banks aren't invited. The banks can certainly educate police officers, and the crown as well, as to what to look for in financial transactions. It's very, very powerful evidence.
Project Protect is a model of public-private partnership. It's been recognized by many organizations—such as the United Nations, the OECD, the Financial Action Task Force, the Egmont Group of financial intelligence units, the Vatican's campaign to end modern slavery—as a best practice in how the public and the private sectors can work together, in this case the regulator and the regulated, the regulator FINTRAC and the banks, etc. It's also been heavily featured in the media, as you may be aware, including CNN, and The Economist actually produced a documentary this year on the project.
There's a lot more that needs to be done. I was stunned to realize that there are no reliable national statistics on human trafficking in Canada. Not all police forces report or are required to report their statistics. That stunned me. Hopefully, the national hotline will go a long way to coordinate an effort, producing data—
My name is Frances Mahon, and thank you very much to the committee for inviting me to discuss how human trafficking enforcement is working in Canada. We applaud the government for giving this urgent issue the attention it deserves.
I'm speaking to you today from Vancouver, British Columbia, and I would like to acknowledge that these are the unceded and traditional territories of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.
I'm a criminal, immigration, and refugee lawyer. I frequently represent individual sex workers, as well as sex work advocacy organizations like Pivot Legal Society. In 2014 I appeared as a witness to the Senate standing committee considering Bill , which overhauled the prostitution provisions in the Criminal Code.
Pivot Legal Society is a human rights organization in Vancouver. One of its primary activities is working with communities of sex workers in Vancouver and elsewhere, and bringing this community perspective to lawmakers as part of its law reform work. Pivot intervened at the Supreme Court in Bedford, and also provided submissions to the House of Commons and to the Senate considering Bill .
We urge this committee to develop a nuanced, evidence-based, and effective strategy that takes into account both the human rights and dignity of sex workers and the need to protect vulnerable groups from trafficking. Creating an environment where sex workers can enjoy respectful and trusting relationships with law enforcement will facilitate the investigation and prosecution of genuine cases of trafficking.
I'm going to speak to you on two issues. The first is the lack of a clear definition for human trafficking that complies with international standards. The second is very close to my heart, and one I frequently encounter with my clients, which is abusive police and immigration enforcement of sex workers and trafficking victims under the guise of human trafficking investigations.
On the first issue, I want to address a point Mr. Warrack made, which is around the lack of statistics on human trafficking in Canada. I believe this is exacerbated by the fact that we do not have a clear definition of human trafficking. We often don't know what's being referred to—labour exploitation, sex trafficking, or indeed consensual adult sex work. This committee must give thought to what human trafficking is, and what it is not.
I represent both sex workers and victims of exploitation, and I appreciate that this is a complex issue. Individual situations may not always be so clear-cut between what is truly consensual and what is not, but the current criminal law framework for both sex work and human trafficking has a detrimental impact on the most vulnerable members of our society, particularly indigenous and immigrant individuals.
Canada's human trafficking law is much broader than the internationally accepted definition of human trafficking, and may, in addition to catching victims of human trafficking, also criminalize sex workers and third parties who are legitimately working in the trade as consenting adults.
I would like to draw the committee's attention to the definition of human trafficking, as provided by the United Nations protocol to prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking in persons. This definition requires an element of coercion for the recruitment and movement of persons for the purposes of labour exploitation.
The crime of human trafficking in Canada does not actually require a coercive element, and this significantly widens the net in terms of who may be caught up in it. For example, simply moving a person, if it's done to facilitate their exploitation, could be enough to find criminal liability. This matters because it creates the possibility that victims of trafficking may themselves be criminalized. I would like to refer you to the testimony of Ms. Lori Anne Thomas, who spoke to you on May 22 about how one of her clients was charged with human trafficking despite being herself a victim.
Although the crime of human trafficking requires an element of exploitation, this does not solve the problem, because exploitation as defined also does not require an element of coercion. No evidence of the victim's actual state of mind or experience is required. This has the potential to remove a victim's autonomy and experience from the process, but it can also criminalize third parties who are legitimately working with individuals in the sex trade.
Now I'd like to move on to the impacts of aggressive human trafficking enforcement on both victims of trafficking and people who are working in the trade.
It's an unfortunate reality, and something that I'm frequently consulted on, that both sex workers and victims in trafficking are the victims of crime because they're experiencing harassment and abuse from clients, they've been robbed at work, or they're just dealing with employment-related issues that don't rise to the level of trafficking. The problem is that they're afraid to make police complaints because of the uncertainty around the legality of their work and concerns about drawing attention to immigration status or to their fellow workers. This is especially unfortunate because it's people in the industry who are the best placed to identify victims of trafficking and bring that to the attention of law enforcement.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that police enforcement often brings along the Canada Border Services Agency to human trafficking investigations, which can result in deportation of victims of trafficking out of Canada, as well as deportations for people who are working here by their own consent. This is something that I have also seen a lot of in my experience as a lawyer, both in Vancouver and in Toronto.
Even when it doesn't result in deportations or loss of immigration status, it does serve to drive the clients away, meaning that those who are paid per client, rather than per hour, may have to work longer, and it leaves sex workers with pervasive anxiety about their work.
These intrusive police strategies erode trust between victims and sex workers and the police. I'm going to give you a few examples of these abusive police tactics that I've come across in my own experience or that have been the subject of some media.
In Operation Northern Spotlight, which I'm sure this committee is familiar with, 11 people were arrested during a sting in April 2015. These people were held without the ability to contact anyone else and ultimately deported without having received any assistance whatsoever from community organizations. Because the police used a very common tactic, which is arranging fake dates with sex workers in order to gain access to their workplaces, which are often their homes, Operation Northern Spotlight and similarly styled investigations continue to generate fear and mistrust.
Migrant sex workers have also experienced a great deal of abuse at the hands of the police. More than 40% of women contacted by the Toronto-based organization Butterfly, which works with migrant sex workers, reported that they had experienced abuse, such as seizing condoms as evidence, or in some cases, police pulling up their dresses to see if they were wearing underwear as proof of whether they were working as sex workers.
As a local example, here in Vancouver we had a disgraced detective from the counter-exploitation unit, who recently pleaded guilty after he sexually assaulted minor victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
It's not surprising that in a survey conducted by SWAN, here in Vancouver, 95% of the immigrants they work with stated that they would not contact law enforcement if they experienced a violent crime.
The human trafficking investigations and prosecutions also lead to dangerous assumptions of guilt by association. Immigrant sex workers in particular, who may not have very good English or French skills, depend on the assistance of their others, whether they're colleagues or their managers, in order to make their work both safe and viable. For example, they rely on others to help them place ads so that they do not have to be based on the street, and to find work spaces so they can be working indoors, which has been accepted by the Supreme Court of Canada as by far the safest way to exist in the sex trade. However, under the trafficking and the procuring laws, they fear implicating their friends and their co-workers, who could face serious charges merely for being an associate.
I'll give you an example of a report that Pivot received from Butterfly regarding a woman who was detained for two weeks by the police as a trafficked person despite her insistence that she was working voluntarily.
She was never criminally charged, but her phone was seized as evidence. She was forbidden from making calls to anyone including legal counsel, and the police seized $10,000 of her money as evidence as part of their ongoing investigation. It has not been returned to her.
After a search of her hotel room, the police came across a photo of her and her friend and arrested her friend. Although that person was eventually released, she did lose her housing in the process. During that process, the sex worker herself actually disclosed to the police that she had recently been sexually assaulted and robbed, but no investigation was undertaken into the crimes committed against her.
This is unfortunate, and it's very common in my experience for both sex workers and victims of crime to have these experiences with law enforcement. I'm frequently contacted by people who are experiencing harassment or who have been assaulted but are too afraid to go to the police to make a complaint. In some cases, I've been retained to actually make the complaint myself to the police on behalf of third parties. Not every police officer is willing to accept such a complaint from a lawyer who is not actually involved in the crime. Again, this leads to under-reporting and under-investigation of crimes that are actually occurring against sex workers and victims.
Human trafficking has many faces. A year-end report suggests that 80% of all human trafficking victims are subject to sexual exploitation. Therefore, our submission today will focus on the human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls.
While we, ourselves, are not experts in human trafficking, we know that through knowledge-sharing and active participation we can create changes, and that through collaboration and perseverance we can also become a global success story of commitment to doing the right thing.
Our project was funded by MCSS in Ontario. We received a three-year grant with a goal to strengthen the capacity of service providers to serve survivors of human trafficking in the Region of Peel. We applied a theory of change that asserts that women's rights are human rights.
Our work is grounded in an equity, anti-racism, and anti-oppression framework. This framework introduces the determinants of health and well-being into the strategies of prevention, services, programs, research, and policies on human trafficking. The determinants of health according to the framework are divided into proximal, intermediate, and distant factors.
Our interviews and focus groups—which are we what we did, and we work with survivors as well—provided a first-hand account of the sex industry in Canada, namely in Peel because that's the area we live and work in. The interviews and focus groups presented two main themes: powerlessness and lack of support.
Here are some of our findings from the research that we have done to date, which is quite recent.
First is a population data analysis. While trafficking has become a worldwide concern, current data collection activities reveal that the data are limited in scope, incomparable, and insufficient to ascertain the true extent of the problem in Canada. That's the first challenge that we encounter.
The scantiness of human trafficking stats is noticeably linked to the fact that human trafficking is a hidden phenomenon. The Region of Peel has higher rates of actual incidents of human trafficking and total persons charged compared to the rest of Canada, especially during the years from 2009 to 2016. There is definitely a need for more comprehensive, unified, and national data collection.
With regard to the magnitude of the problem, human trafficking is a social issue of growing concern across the globe. As we have heard from many of our witnesses, the estimated number of individuals affected by human trafficking worldwide is 20.9 million. It is the fastest-growing area of organized crime and the third largest income-revenue stream for systemized crime after narcotics and arms sales. The global sex trade is worth about $32 billion annually. This is because women and girls in sex trafficking earn profits for their pimps and traffickers over a great number of years.
Who is being trafficked? We heard some of that earlier on, too. Human trafficking victims include men and women, with women representing the majority. They have diverse educational and economic backgrounds. They include runaway and homeless youth, as well as lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual individuals. However, an issue not generally discussed in sex trafficking literature is that many come from homes that lack positive masculine or male influences.
Those at most risk of being trafficked are those with low economic status, indigenous populations, and people with disabilities. They have the greater vulnerability of becoming victims of human trafficking.
We know that indigenous women—and I don't need to elaborate too much on that—are more likely to experience discrimination, poverty, poor living conditions, and violent crimes.
Few researchers have examined the sex trafficking of women with disabilities. Some specific vulnerabilities include the lack of awareness of exploitation on the part of the victims, the inability of victims to self-identify the exploitation, and the relative ease with which traffickers can manipulate these girls and women.
One of the greatest challenges in the battle against human trafficking is removing the veil of silence that allows this oppressive behaviour to flourish. Lack of understanding with regard to the scope and severity of the problem has also contributed to its dramatic rise, so there is also a need for research and data collection.
In terms of services for men, interestingly, we have that as part of talking about the human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women. There is a lack of services for men, and this is often because of the assumption that men do not seek psychological help because of the stigma of showing emotions. This represents a large area of unmet needs because men who have been trafficked have health problems, mental health issues, and needs similar to trafficked women. As their needs are similar, it is important that there are services available equally for them.
What are our recommendations after one year of research and with still two more years for the project? We have eight recommendations from the work we are doing.
Collaboration and communication are key. A national system should be created to lead collaboration and communication among all sectors.
All sectors need to be involved. Health, social services, police, and justice need to be involved in cross-communication.
Human trafficking has been defined as a process, not an event. If we're able to have a long-term impact on the problem, we must use research to identify the most cost-effective ways of intervention. The Government of Canada has developed and implemented its tools for the prosecution of traffickers, thereby responding to most of the prosecution recommendations of the UN protocol in 2000. However, the international data shows that legal and police prosecution have not reduced the aggregate amount of trafficking. The focus should be on prevention and support for survivors.
The more structural elements of prevention have yet to be adequately sourced. They have not happened as of yet, including awareness-raising campaigns, education campaigns, and training. It can only be achieved through research and, again, through victims' participation in the entire process so we are duly informed and we're not making our decisions in ivory towers and just through research alone.
We talk about training. Service providers need to be trained on how to work with the population. Training at all levels needs to be developed and implemented. The training that is available currently does not have a proper evaluation process. The training was developed with no evaluation process attached to it. There's no reiteration of what's working and what's not working. There's a great need to develop evaluations that measure impact and a need for a robust social and health care system response as well.
A workforce is needed that is aware of the health and social impacts of this issue. I do not think that people working in this area understand the impacts holistically on individuals who have been trafficked or caught in human trafficking. They need to be educated on how to identify and treat affected individuals in a compassionate, culturally aware, and trauma-informed manner, and trained on how to collaborate efficiently with law enforcement, case management, and advocacy partners.
Competent therapeutic supports that are person centred and survivor informed can successfully manage the psychological impacts of human trafficking. We know that the most prominent of these therapies include behavioural, cognitive, and psycho-dynamic. All services and programs should be mobile to reach a population that is transient and geographically close for them to access. This leaves room for further research as to how we're going to make that happen. Again, it should happen with survivors involved in the process.
One of the things that we found is about peer to peer. Every transformational journey is unique, but here our survivors have two things in common. First, they integrate the traumatic experience into their public identities and make their experience a defining part of their life stories. Second, they talk or write about it in a way that has an inspiring effect on others. Often victims are unwilling to acknowledge the trauma and exploitation that they have experienced. Many survivors are reluctant to seek treatment. However, in working with others who have had similar experiences, many individuals feel more at ease. Overall, the services found to be most effective regarding treatment of this population are peer-to-peer support, physical health support, reintegration services, and mobile clinic services to work with those leaving sex trafficking.
We need a trauma screening tool. Early identification of human trafficking survivors needs to happen. Development of a trauma screening tool should be of great assistance to all professionals who work in this area, whether they be police, health care, or social services.
On education and outreach, we should raise awareness and understanding of the needs of survivors of human trafficking amongst service providers and the general public. In 2017, Ontario declared February 22 a day of awareness of human trafficking. Edmonton has a week since 2004. I think a national day to raise national awareness on this issue will garner much momentum for us for education and awareness training for professionals as well as for the general public.
What is the role of government in civil society? It is to reduce or eliminate the expectation that government alone is responsible for eliminating social issues like human sex trafficking by developing meaningful, purposeful relationships, with knowledge of organizations that are currently working in the field, on the ground, and involved in the work. It is also collaborating to develop strategies to assist in extracting victims currently embedded in human trafficking. While we cannot legislate morality, we can certainly develop comprehensive legislation to facilitate a reduction of the profitability of human trafficking and to protect survivors.
Housing, as we know, is always an issue. How do we move people out from human trafficking into housing? There's a lot to be done in this area.
In conclusion, understanding the roots of vulnerability is invaluable, whether in safeguarding young people from exploitation or in helping them to escape. Billions of dollars are made by human trafficking. The victims may be enticed to work in the sex trade because perhaps they don't value themselves. The only value they have, and what they're aware of, is what money can buy, and that's why we find that the age is now increasing from 11 to 12 to 13 because of all the gadgets out there, and the need of the immigrant population, newcomer population, to feel they are part of society, to feel they fit in. Certainly this leads to that sense of where they can get this money as fast as possible.
They have learned that money is made by selling their bodies. What they need to learn is that they have value that is of far greater significance. They can't recognize that value because they have often been raised to believe they are worth less and have other issues to deal with around self-esteem and identity, so it's a deeper issue. To gain self-esteem they need a program that will help them identify the strengths they have within themselves, which is more preventative, and that the talents they were born with are talents that can help them to earn an honest living.
Our study has documented a lack of service in programs at all levels for survivors of human and sex trafficking. Even when there is good intention to assist, the deficiency of knowledge and of understanding the complexities of the issues, and the level of violence encountered by survivors impede proper interventions.
Finally, we understand today that just being here is a miracle, and we're in the business, as family services, of saving lives. To fight against human sex trafficking is an extraordinary cause, and it can be accomplished by extraordinary people, so let's join in building a better society, a better culture with better values, and a better Canada. Let's make sure that future generations and our grandchildren and their children can find their happiness, not through sex trafficking, but through understanding their worth.