Ontario’s anti-human trafficking strategy 2020-2025
Learn about our plan to build safer communities by combatting human trafficking and child sexual exploitation.
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Human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes worldwide. In Ontario, the majority of reported cases involve sexual exploitation, which may also be referred to as sex trafficking. Young women and girls are particularly at risk, though boys, men and people who identify as 2SLGBTQ+ are also targeted.
To combat the growing problem of child sexual exploitation in the province, Ontario is investing $307 million from 2020 to 2025 on a new anti-human trafficking strategy. Ontario’s plan represents the largest total investment in dedicated anti-human trafficking supports and services in Canada.
Ontario’s anti-human trafficking strategy reflects valuable input from survivors of human trafficking, Indigenous communities and organizations, law enforcement and frontline service providers.
Through implementation, the government will work across jurisdictions and with community groups and educators, as well as with Indigenous communities and organizations, to ensure the strategy is meaningful and effective.
As a cross-government action plan, Ontario’s anti-human trafficking strategy incorporates activities across a range of ministries, including:
- Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services
- Ministry of the Solicitor General
- Ministry of the Attorney General
- Ministry of Indigenous Affairs
- Ministry of Education
- Ministry of Health
- Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries
- Ministry of Transportation
Ontario’s anti-human trafficking strategy
Ontario’s anti-human trafficking strategy will raise awareness of the issue through training and public awareness campaigns, empowering frontline service providers to prevent human trafficking before it occurs and take action early, supporting survivors through specialized services, and give law enforcement the tools and resources they need to hold offenders accountable.
The strategy takes a proactive approach, with actions across government focused on:
- raising awareness of the issue
- protecting victims and intervening early
- supporting survivors
- holding offenders accountable
Raising awareness of the issue
A range of sectors have identified the need for training on human trafficking to equip frontline service providers with the skills needed to respond to cases of trafficking. Raising general public awareness is also key to helping to prevent trafficking before it occurs.
- launching a new, provincewide marketing campaign targeted to teens, as well as parents of children and youth, to raise awareness and ensure that everyone knows where to get help.
- developing public education materials to respond to specific sector needs and expanding distribution of existing awareness materials through partnerships across government and sectors
- delivering new multi-sectoral anti-human trafficking training that is culturally-responsive and survivor-informed, including Indigenous-specific components
- increasing awareness of available training on how to identify and support survivors of human trafficking at the province’s emergency departments and sexual assault/domestic violence treatment centres
- continuing to engage at the federal, provincial and territorial levels to share best practices and ensure that preventing and combatting human trafficking is a national priority
Protecting victims and intervening early
Early intervention and prevention efforts are crucial to effectively combat human trafficking. Ontario’s anti-human trafficking strategy prioritizes initiatives targeted to child and youth prevention and intervention, as well as supports for child victims.
- creating new multi-disciplinary police and child protection specialized intervention teams, focusing on at-risk and exploited children and youth
- establishing dedicated residences to provide specialized support for missing at-risk and exploited children and youth, including those under age 16
- expanding the youth-in-transition worker program to provide human trafficking supports to youth in care and leaving the care of children’s aid societies, including workers to support specific populations, such as Indigenous children and youth
- continuing education and prevention efforts geared to children and youth through Ontario schools, building on the school curriculum
Survivors of human trafficking require specialized, trauma-informed, community-based supports to help them heal and rebuild their lives, and to reduce the risk of re-exploitation.
- increasing community-focused anti-human trafficking services and supports designed for, and by Indigenous people, by investing up to $4 million per year in new funding for the Indigenous-led Initiatives Fund
- enhancing the Indigenous Anti-Human Trafficking Liaisons program to serve more communities and build capacity to address trafficking and support Indigenous survivors
- increasing community-based programs to support survivors and individuals at risk of being trafficked by providing up to $6 million per year in new funding for the Anti-Human Trafficking Community-Supports Fund
- enhancing access and supports for victims of human trafficking in the justice sector by expanding the Victim Quick Response Program+ (VQRP+) and the Vulnerable Victims and Family Fund (VVFF), as well as increasing funding for the Victim Crisis Assistance Ontario (VCAO) program to support delivery of community-based victim services
- increasing funding for Indigenous victims' services to provide effective and culturally appropriate supports and services to Indigenous human trafficking victims
- expanding the Victim/Witness Assistance Program (V/WAP) by adding new court-based victim/witness services workers to better meet the needs of human trafficking victims while cases proceed through the criminal justice system to support holding offenders accountable
- expanding the current pilot program which provides free legal support for persons seeking specialized human trafficking restraining orders
- continuing to convene the Human Trafficking Lived Experience Roundtable to enable direct engagement with, and input from, survivors of trafficking on Ontario’s response to human trafficking
Holding offenders accountable
To keep pace with the increasing volume and complexity of human trafficking cases across the province, Ontario’s anti-human trafficking strategy provides a coordinated approach to law enforcement, with increased capacity for policing, Crown prosecutors and intelligence gathering.
- enhancing the use of Major Case Management for missing persons and human trafficking investigations by investing in software development to assist in meeting specific needs of human trafficking investigators and analysts
- establishing a new intelligence-led joint forces investigations team from police agencies across Ontario, including the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), municipal police services and First Nations police services
- expanding the capacity of the OPP Child Sexual Exploitation Unit to investigate sexual offences against children, including cases of child sex trafficking
- increasing the investment in institutional security teams, field intelligence officers and intelligence analysts within correctional services to better identify and monitor human traffickers within the correctional system and identify victims in support of criminal investigations
- enhancing specialized Crown prosecution capacity to respond to existing and additional human trafficking cases to support their ability to effectively hold offenders accountable through vigorous prosecution of charges laid against members of organized human trafficking networks and other sexual offences against children
- developing appropriate and consistent policing standards for human trafficking and missing persons investigations as part of the Community Safety and Policing Act, 2019 regulatory framework
Enhanced supports for children and youth
Ontario’s anti-human trafficking strategy is specifically designed to protect children and youth, providing enhanced supports to address this critical gap in Ontario’s approach to date.
New actions in the strategy include targeted efforts to build awareness among children and youth, critical intervention tools to protect at-risk youth, as well as dedicated supports for victims and survivors of human trafficking, including those under age 16.
Services and supports that are child and youth specific include:
- targeted public awareness campaign
- specialized intervention teams
- residences to serve missing at-risk and exploited children and youth
- specialized youth-in-transition workers
- education through schools
- child-specific programming as part of community-based services
- Ontario Provincial Police Child Sexual Exploitation Unit expansion
By investing in services that prioritize preventing child sexual exploitation before it happens and enhancing capacity to hold offenders accountable, Ontario’s strategy will help to build healthier and safer communities.
Indigenous-specific services and supports
As Indigenous women and girls are particularly targeted, it is critical that culturally-appropriate supports are available.
To respond to this need, Indigenous-specific resources are embedded throughout Ontario’s anti-human trafficking strategy. These resources include supports for Indigenous children and youth in care and leaving care, and Indigenous-led supports for survivors and at-risk youth. They also include victim services that take a holistic approach to healing, including support for family members.
Services and supports for Indigenous survivors and youth at risk include:
- public education targeted to Indigenous communities
- multi-sectoral training with Indigenous-specific components
- increased funding for the Anti-Human Trafficking Indigenous-led Initiatives Fund
- Indigenous Anti-Human Trafficking Liaisons program enhancements
- enhanced Indigenous victims services
- intelligence-led joint forces team including First Nations police services
Impact on Ontarians
Here’s how the new anti-human trafficking strategy will impact Ontarians:
- victims and people at risk: quicker identification of people at risk or victims and of available and appropriate supports
- survivors: increased access to specialized and responsive supports to help survivors heal and rebuild their lives
- families: increased ability to identify human trafficking and to find available supports for victims, survivors and families
- traffickers: increased resources for law enforcement and the justice sector to identify, investigate, prosecute and hold offenders accountable
- service providers: increased ability to identify and respond to human trafficking, and to provide resources to support persons at risk, victims and survivors
- public: better awareness of and ability to identify and respond to human trafficking
The strength of Ontario’s anti-human trafficking strategy speaks to the magnitude of this crisis – not only in Ontario, but around the world. The strategy aims to achieve key outcomes through investment in the four key priority areas:
- raise awareness of the issue: Ontarians are better able to identify and respond to human trafficking, and know where to get help
- protect victims and intervene early: service providers have the tools they need to prevent and intervene early, and parents and guardians know where to get help
- support survivors: survivors are connected to responsive supports, including services like transitional housing, counselling and mental health and addiction treatment
- hold offenders accountable: law enforcement and justice sector have increased ability to investigate, charge and prosecute offenders
The ultimate goals of the strategy are:
- reduced incidences of human trafficking in Ontario
- survivors are able to rebuild their lives
As the strategy is implemented, greater awareness of human trafficking in Ontario may lead to an increase in the number of police-reported cases. However, as human trafficking is a vastly under-reported crime, this will not mean the strategy is not working. As a result of actions in the strategy – if more victims feel supported in coming forward, and law enforcement has increased capacity to target and find perpetrators – an increase in reported cases will be an indication of the strategy’s effectiveness.