image of a person sitting on the ground

Ontario’s Strategy to End Human Trafficking, launched in 2016, aims to increase awareness and coordination, improve survivors' access to services and enhance justice-sector initiatives.

The strategy reflects the diverse perspectives of survivors, front-line community agencies, public safety representatives and Indigenous organizations.

Supporting survivors and providing safeguards for those at risk of trafficking is a part of Ontario’s vision to ensure that everyone in the province can live in safety - free from the threat, fear or experience of exploitation and violence.

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking involves recruiting, transporting, transferring, receiving, holding, concealing or harbouring a person, or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person, for purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation.

Human trafficking is a serious crime and human rights abuse in which someone controls and exploits another person, sometimes called “modern day slavery.”

Prevention and Community Supports

Since launching the Strategy to End Human Trafficking, the province has:

  • Launched a new Community Supports Fund for projects that provide wraparound supports to human trafficking survivors and increased protection for people at risk of being trafficked, providing approximately $14 million to 27 partners.
  • Provided approximately $1.6 million in targeted funding to partners delivering the Victim Crisis Assistance Ontario program, which provides a range of immediate supports to survivors such as safety planning and referrals to community services.
  • Hired six specialized youth-in-transition workers to support youth leaving the care of children’s aid societies and Indigenous child well-being societies who may be at risk or survivors of human trafficking.
  • Completed awareness training for approximately 450 Occupational Health and Safety Inspectors and Employment Standards Officers to increase awareness on the indicators of human trafficking and to allow, when appropriate, possible referrals to agencies.
  • Enhanced a comprehensive, province wide online training program in English and French for front-line service providers working with survivors of human trafficking.
  • Passed the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, which focuses on prevention and protection of young people. This includes raising the age of protection to 18 so that eligible 16 and 17-year-olds can access services that can help protect them from human trafficking.
  • Expanded the Victim/Witness Assistance Program to hire specialized human trafficking victim services workers to assist and offer support to survivors through the criminal court process.
  • Established a partnership between the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to develop a trauma-informed training program and online community of practice to help mental health and addiction professionals better understand and respond to the need of human trafficking survivors.
  • Expanded the Victim Quick Response Program to improve access to services such as recovery in a trauma-informed facility, tattoo removal and replacement of government documents, in order to meet the immediate needs of survivors.

Most reported cases in Ontario involve sexual exploitation or forced prostitution (in which the trafficker profits), but there have also been reported cases of labour trafficking.

When it comes to labour trafficking, newcomers are most at risk.

Indigenous Led Approaches

  • Launched a new Indigenous-Led Initiatives Fund for projects designed for and by Indigenous people. These projects will provide Indigenous survivors with access to services, help prevent at-risk people from being trafficked, meaningfully engage people with lived experience, and encourage innovation and community partnerships. Over $4.5 million is being provided to 17 partners.
  • Partnered with the Ontario Native Women’s Association to establish the Indigenous Anti-Human Trafficking Liaisons program, the first of its kind in Canada. The liaisons work in key cities and regions (including Thunder Bay, Northern Ontario, Ottawa, Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe) with local organizations to ensure effective and culturally appropriate services are offered to Indigenous people with lived experience of human trafficking.
  • Worked collaboratively on implementation of the strategy with the newly-formed Provincial Committee on Human Trafficking, a specialized human trafficking advisory table composed of key Indigenous partners which reports to the Executive Committee to End Violence Against Indigenous Women.

While human trafficking is known to be a vastly under-reported crime, Ontario is believed to be a major centre for human trafficking in Canada, with over two-thirds of reported cases originating in Ontario.

In Ontario, Indigenous women and girls are one of the most targeted and over-represented groups that are trafficked.

Human trafficking is sometimes confused with human smuggling (across borders). In reality, most of the people trafficked in Ontario are girls and women who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

A person can be trafficked anywhere, including in their home community.

Forced marriage is sometimes considered to be a form of human trafficking.

Provincial Coordination and Leadership

  • Established the Provincial Anti-Human Trafficking Coordination Office led by Jennifer Richardson, a person with lived experience who has worked for over 22 years to combat human trafficking.
  • Established the Human Trafficking Lived Experience Roundtable (the first of its kind in Canada), to ensure that ongoing input from survivors bolsters the province’s efforts to end human trafficking.
  • Began a provincial cross-sector review of training related to human trafficking, in order to identify gaps and strategies to ensure consistent and complete coverage across jurisdictions and job functions.
  • Liaised with ministries across government and engaged hundreds of partners to ensure a collaborative, coordinated approach to strengthening the systems that can prevent human trafficking and ensuring that appropriate help is available for survivors.
  • Designed a performance measurement framework for the strategy, in order to ensure that clear and measurable outcomes are produced by the many initiatives across government to confront human trafficking and support survivors.
  • Contributed to partner-led initiatives, training sessions and events to help improve public and sector-specific understanding of human trafficking and the many efforts underway throughout the province and beyond to address it.

Traffickers are known to control their victims in many ways, including psychological manipulation, emotional abuse, lies, addiction, threats, violence, isolation, and taking control of ID/documents and money.

Because this treatment can cause severe trauma, survivors often need intensive, specialized services and supports to rebuild their lives.

Justice Sector Initiatives

  • Passed the Anti-Human Trafficking Act, which increases protection for survivors of human trafficking and makes it easier for survivors to pursue compensation, as well as proclaiming February 22 of each year as Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Ontario.
  • Created a Provincial Human Trafficking Prosecution Team comprised of a Provincial Crown Coordinator and five specialized assistant Crown attorneys. The team is dedicated to effectively prosecuting human trafficking cases and ensuring a coordinated provincial approach.
  • Held a human trafficking summit for justice sector and community partners from across the province in February 2017.
  • Provided training, led by the Provincial Human Trafficking Prosecution Team, to more than 300 Victim Witness Assistance Program workers, community service workers and Indigenous Victim Support workers who support survivors of human trafficking.
  • Created three new positions at Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario in the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, dedicated to improving human trafficking intelligence coordination and analysis across jurisdictions, as well as introducing highly specialized training.
  • The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services are working with children’s aid societies, Indigenous child well-being societies and police services to develop collaborative protocols related to human trafficking.
  • The Ontario Provincial Police is developing an Anti-Human Trafficking Investigations Coordination Team, which will enhance investigative capacity and police coordination, and support a team-based, victim-centred approach throughout Ontario.

“Indigenous women and girls who have emerged from the trauma of being trafficked have experiential knowledge, strength and resiliency that needs to be honoured and supported. We are pleased to be a partner on addressing the safety of women across the province.”
Dr. Dawn Lavell Harvard, President, Ontario Native Women’s Association

“Human trafficking is a deplorable crime that negatively impacts a young person’s transition to adulthood. The Anti-Human Trafficking Community Supports Fund makes it possible for service providers to offer longer term programs that really address the trauma that young people have experienced in order to rebuild their lives.”
Bonnie Harkness, Director of Operations, 360°kids

“As law enforcement, government and social service agencies gain expertise and knowledge of the capacities and needs of human trafficking survivors, policies, programs and services must evolve to meet those needs. A coordinated provincial approach ensures the most promising practices are used consistently for all survivors.”
Shelley Gilbert, Coordinator of Social Work Services, Legal Assistance of Windsor and Chair of WEFIGHT

“As a survivor-led organization, we are intimately familiar with the complex and long-term needs of human trafficking survivors. The challenges are many and they start with trust. Human trafficking survivors need to know that where they go will be safe, that services are trauma-informed and that there is hope for the future.”
Cynthia Bland, Founder/CEO, Voice Found