The City of Toronto condemns the horrific crime of human trafficking and is committed to working collaboratively to support survivors of human trafficking and eradicate human trafficking in Toronto.

Over the last decade, concern regarding human trafficking in Canada has grown. In Toronto, human trafficking for the purposes of forced sexual labour has received significant attention.

Human trafficking is a complex issue for which there is limited data that can be relied upon to fully describe and understand the problem. From the limited data that is available, it is clear that human trafficking occurs throughout Toronto.

The City’s work related to human trafficking falls into the four main categories of the anti-human trafficking lens, where the person being trafficked, or at risk of being trafficked, is put at the centre, and their safety, well-being and human rights are prioritized:

  • identifying people being or at-risk of being trafficked
  • supporting survivors of human trafficking
  • preventing human trafficking
  • avoiding increasing the vulnerability of people engaged in consensual sex work.

On May 27, 2019, the Economic and Community Development Committee will consider a report (EC5.4) that outlines a number of actions that the City proposes to take, in collaboration with other agencies, corporations and divisions to support survivors of human trafficking.

The Criminal Code of Canada defines human trafficking as recruiting, transporting, transferring, receiving, holding, concealing or harboring a person, or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person, for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation.

(The Criminal Code of Canada, section 279.01)

Identifying People Being or At-Risk of Being Trafficked

Furthering Our Communities Uniting Services Toronto Situation Tables

Members of the Furthering Our Communities Uniting Services (FOCUS) Toronto Situation table coordinate customized services to meet the urgent and specific needs of the identified residents. In 2018, 28 youth who were being trafficked, groomed or who were attempting to leave the sex industry were identified and provided with services to meet their specific needs.

Training Staff

Staff in several divisions have received basic training on indicators of human trafficking and appropriate approaches to supporting survivors of trafficking.

Raising Awareness

Over the last six years, City staff have organized over 30 meetings to build community organizations’ awareness of human trafficking and the services available to survivors.

Since 2017, the Mayor has also proclaimed a day in May as Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

Supporting Survivors of Human Trafficking

Service Access

The City has many services that may be useful to survivors of human trafficking. While some people may be fearful of accessing services because they do not have immigration status, the City’s Access to City Services for Undocumented Torontonians (Access T.O.) ensures access to services to all Torontonians, including those without full status or full status documents.

Access to Shelter

The City funds Covenant House Toronto (Covenant House) to maintain two emergency beds that are dedicated exclusively to survivors of human trafficking. These beds are in addition to the beds that are available in Covenant House’s transition homes.

Access to Housing

Access to housing is important because it can provide human trafficking survivors with a safe place to live and support to heal. Stable housing is also a preventative measure because homelessness and/or unstable housing can make people vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.

The City has worked with a number of organizations to provide housing support for victims of human trafficking.

Access to Income

The City has established several policies to support individuals who are vulnerable and at-risk of exploitation, including human trafficking survivors, including waving required documents on a short-term basis when information is not readily available due to circumstances beyond a person’s control, or access to Employment and Social Services centres regardless of immigration status.

Access to Health Services

The City recognizes that people being trafficked or at risk of being trafficked may seek assistance from front-line Toronto Public Health staff.

Trauma-Informed Services

Through the City, Elizabeth Fry Toronto has been funded to develop and distribute a resource guide for counselors working with survivors of human trafficking. This will be completed in 2019.

Understanding Service Needs

The City funded Findhelp/211 to work with service providers to collect data that on the needs of human trafficking survivors.

Preventing Human Trafficking

Toronto Police Service’s Human Trafficking Enforcement Team

In 2013, the Toronto Police Service established the Human Trafficking Enforcement Team, a subsection of the Sex Crimes Unit. Its mandate is the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of traffickers.

Specialized Outreach

The City funds Aura Freedom, a peer-led community organization, to provide education and awareness (through workshops) about human trafficking to vulnerable youth in schools, youth shelters and group homes. By the end of 2019, City of Toronto funding will have enabled Aura Freedom to deliver at least 30 workshops, reaching approximately 1,000 youth.

Proposed Bylaw Amendments Relating to Safety in Body Rub Parlours

The City is undertaking a review of the body rub parlour and holistic licensing Bylaws, which is being submitted to the General Government and Licensing Committee on May 21, 2019 (GL5.2).

Avoiding Increasing Vulnerability of Sex Workers

Toronto Police Service

The Toronto Police Service (TPS) strives to avoid conflating human trafficking and consensual sex work. TPS, led by the Human Trafficking Enforcement Team, is largely focused on human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children, rather than consensual sex work.

Outreach to Sex Workers

The City is funding a number of initiatives that provide outreach to sex workers, particularly to those who are part of marginalized communities.

A full list of the community partners receiving grants from the City to address human trafficking is provided in the Supporting Survivors of Human Trafficking report (Appendix E) going to committee on May 27.

Access to Shelter

The City has made several efforts to make overnight shelter space more accessible, non-judgmental, and safe for sex workers.

Staff Training

The training curricula available to City staff includes explanations of the difference between human trafficking and consensual sex work, and the risks of conflating the two.

Cooperative Approach

The City has instituted a co-operative enforcement model, which involves a focus on collaborating with key community partners. The approach prioritizes education and outreach, community partnership, before resorting to legal enforcement tools.

Over 90 per cent of trafficked cases involved domestic human trafficking, and less than 10 per cent involved people being brought into Canada from abroad.

(Data source: Status of Women Canada)

Toronto statistics:

Classification 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Total
Charges Laid 365 463 529 373 410 2,140
Occurrences 149 170 236 253 284 1,092
Arrests 59 61 77 52 46 295
Victims 33 30 67 60 60 250
Convictions 11 11 8 14 12 56

(Data source: Toronto Police Service – 2014 to 2018)

Toronto City Council condemned the horrific crime of human trafficking and is committed to working with all stakeholders, including other orders of government, to eradicate human trafficking in the Toronto. Council Decisions related to this social issue are listed below: