Labour trafficking is a form of human trafficking that involves recruiting, moving or holding victims to coerce them into doing any kind of work.

Terms like “forced labour” and “servitude” are sometimes used when talking about labour trafficking.

Labour trafficking may occur when victims are:

  • deceived or coerced into a working situation
  • exploited for their labour value through unsafe work
  • made to work excessive hours
  • are underpaid or not paid
  • forced to give a portion of their earnings to the trafficker
  • kept in a precarious situation through a variety of controls, such as:
    • debt bondage (working to pay off a large unexpected and illegal debt that often can never be repaid)
    • threats against them or others
    • violence
    • loss of work permit
    • threat of losing immigration status or deportation
    • holding of the employee’s passports, travel or identity documents

To retain control of their victims, labour traffickers will often:

  • take away passports, travel or identity documents or other personal items
  • control living arrangements, social activities and personal interactions
  • transfer victims to various work locations to impede their ability to seek help or establish contacts

Newcomers and persons in other countries seeking work in Canada may be recruited by someone from their home country or within Canada who falsely promise a job or wage. The victim may be unaware of their rights in Ontario, how to get help, and fear reporting to police or labour authorities.

Get help using Ontario’s labour laws

In an emergency, always call 911.

Ontario’s labour laws protect employees and workers in the province. These protections apply to workers regardless of:

  • their immigration status, work permits and legal entitlement to work in Canada
  • whether the work was performed “under the table”

Learn about your rights under:

Please note, some industries have special rules for employment standards. For more information please visit our Guide to special rules and exemptions.

File a claim if your employment rights have been violated

If you believe your employment standard rights have been violated, you can file a claim within a certain time limit.

If you aren’t sure what the rules are, you can call the Employment Standards Information Centre and get information in many languages:

File a complaint about health and safety in your workplace

If you believe conditions in a workplace are unsafe, or if you or someone else is experiencing harassment or violence on the job, you may file a complaint online or by phone to the Health and Safety Contact Centre:

Get help for victims of labour trafficking

If you or someone you know may be subject to labour trafficking, you can share tips and get help by contacting the ministry’s Divisional Intelligence Unit. Contact us by:

Learn more about the Divisional Intelligence Unit and the ministry’s efforts to combat labour trafficking.

What to expect when you contact the ministry

You can request anonymity when contacting the ministry. When calling, telephone advisors will ask you to explain your situation and then assign an officer or inspector to follow up on the matter.

People at risk of labour trafficking

People who are most at risk of labour trafficking include:

  • students
  • migrant workers
  • newcomers to Canada
  • Canadian citizens or permanent residents on social assistance
  • people with uncertain immigration status
  • people who are homeless
  • people who do not speak English or French
  • anyone working without authorization in the underground economy

Labour trafficking in different sectors

Labour trafficking can occur in any industry and look different in each case. Some industries where labour trafficking takes place more often include:

  • construction
  • manufacturing
  • agriculture
  • hospitality
  • salons
  • domestic work

Possible signs of labour trafficking

Some possible signs of labour trafficking may include:

  • a job offer that seems too good to be true
  • an employer that threatens to deport you or report your immigration status to police
  • an employer that withholds personal identification
  • an employer that threatens you or your family if you don’t work long hours and/or accept a lower wage
  • a job that relocates you with few details and no payment up front
  • a job where you are forced to live and/or work in unhealthy and unsafe conditions

If one or more of these apply to your job or employer, you or someone you know may be at risk of being trafficked.

How we combat labour trafficking

The ministry works hard to:

  • help protect workers and settle workplace disputes
  • support skilled trades, apprenticeships and employment services
  • attract highly-skilled newcomers
  • help people get settled in Ontario

Find more information about our services online.

Divisional Intelligence Unit

The Divisional Intelligence Unit (DIU) is a dedicated team in the ministry that was created to support efforts against provincial labour trafficking. This team focuses on detecting and investigating exploitative labour practices and labour trafficking activity.

The DIU works closely with:

  • legal clinics, advocacy groups, industry associations, consulates and agencies that support workers and newcomers
  • police, other law enforcement agencies and the broader regulatory community on matters related to labour exploitation and trafficking 

Ontario's Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy

The five-year Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy (2020–2025) focuses on:

  • raising awareness
  • protecting victims
  • intervening early
  • supporting survivors
  • holding offenders accountable

Through this strategy, we support:

Provincial legislation that supports the fight against human trafficking in Ontario includes:

Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline

Canada has a dedicated and confidential human trafficking hotline that’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the hotline toll-free at 1-833-900-1010 if you are:

  • a victim seeking help
  • someone with a tip to report a potential case
  • a member of the public wanting to learn more about human trafficking

You can also find services across Canada using the hotline’s National Referral Directory.