A delegation of anti-human trafficking organizations is calling on the federal government to take more action to combat human trafficking crimes in Canada, especially in rural areas.
“It is still a real issue in Canada,” said Margaret Byl, president of the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada, during a press conference in Ottawa on February 15th. “We are asking that the federal government ensure that rural women and children have access to technology, education, transportation, medical and mental health support.” Byl noted that the average age of recruitment into sex trafficking in Canada is 13 years old.
The delegation’s press conference took place one week before National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on February 22nd. Several MPs have recently brought attention to the issue in the House of Commons. Liberal MP John McKay said on February 14th, “Human trafficking is hidden in plain sight right here in Canada.” Federal Conservatives have argued that the Liberal government’s Bill C-5, which was passed in November 2022 and removed mandatory minimum sentences for a number of crimes, will embolden criminals involved in human trafficking.
A Statistics Canada (StatCan) report published in December 2022 stated that the average annual number of police-reported human trafficking incidents across Canada has been steadily increasing since 2011. However, StatCan acknowledged that detecting human trafficking is difficult, and that the actual number of incidents is likely higher than what police find and report.
Marianne Wilkinson, who was representing the National Council of Women of Canada at the press conference, expressed concern about the lack of government action addressing children at risk of being trafficked. Kelly Tallon Franklin, the founder of the anti-human trafficking organization Courage for Freedom, echoed Wilkinson’s remarks and called for “further actions” from the government.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino spoke in July 2022 about the federal government’s “National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking,” which has received over $60 million in government funding. Mendicino said, “Our focus is to prevent trafficking, prosecute offenders and empower survivors,” and noted that countering the issue requires “urgent action” from all levels of government.
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