The Ontario government introduced the Combatting Human Trafficking Act, 2021, proposed new legislation and amendments to existing legislation to better protect victims of human trafficking, support survivors and increase tools to hold offenders accountable.
The proposed new legislation and legislative amendments include the following:
Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy Act, 2021
To support a sustained, long-term and comprehensive response to human trafficking in Ontario, the proposed new Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy Act, 2021 if passed would:
Mandate that the province maintain an Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy and require regular review and update of the strategy, with regard to specific principles and consultation requirements.
Create regulation-making authority to require persons or entities, such as those that may come into contact with victims and survivors of human trafficking, to:
Post or disseminate information about human trafficking;
Provide or receive anti-human trafficking training as part of employment, such as recognizing the signs of human trafficking and how to appropriately respond to suspected instances;
Report suspected instances of human trafficking;
Collect and provide data (non-personal information only) from across relevant sectors, including private and non-governmental entities (e.g., taxi and ridesharing, hotels) to support analysis, planning, delivery and evaluation of programs and services under the Strategy; and
With respect to entities that advertise sexual services in Ontario, require that a contact (e.g., an email address or phone number) is made public and that companies respond to law enforcement within a specified time frame to support investigations into suspected human trafficking.
Fines could be imposed for persons or entities who fail to comply with any of the above regulatory requirements.
Persons or entities to which these requirements would apply may be prescribed at a later date by regulation, following additional consultation.
Some sections will come into force on Royal Assent; others on a date to be proclaimed.
Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 To better protect children and youth from human trafficking, the government is proposing amendments to the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 which would:
Clarify the role of children’s aid societies to intervene in situations where a child is a victim of sex trafficking, or at risk of being trafficked, through new “grounds for protection.”
Authorize child protection workers and peace officers to remove 16- and 17-year-old victims of child sex trafficking, for a limited period of time, to another location to give them an opportunity to voluntarily access protective measures and/or supportive resources.
Increase penalties for traffickers who interfere with or habour a child in the care of a children’s aid society for the purposes of sex trafficking.
These proposed amendments would strengthen the authority of children’s aid societies to intervene in child sex trafficking cases, enhance clarity around the role of societies in child sex trafficking cases, promote consistent responses across the province and discourage traffickers from interfering with or harbouring a child in the care of a society. These amendments would come into force six months following the date of introduction.
Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking Act, 2017
To support human trafficking victims and their families, the government is proposing amendments to the Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking Act, 2017 which would:
Give judges discretion to lengthen restraining orders beyond the current limit of three years to support and protect victims for a longer period of time.
Clarify precisely who can apply for a restraining order on behalf of a child, to be responsive to the needs of Indigenous families and communities by recognizing customary care arrangements.
Clarify that restraining orders can include provisions intended to protect others, in addition to the victim, which may encourage more workers assisting victims and families of survivors to apply.
These amendments would help ensure the safety of those who are trafficked, encourage more victims to come forward, and extend access and protections as appropriate within the survivor’s circle of care. These proposed amendments would come into effect upon Royal Assent.
Accommodation Sector Registration of Guests Act, 2021
To deter human trafficking and support law enforcement in locating victims and bringing offenders to justice, the government is proposing to repeal the Hotel Registration of Guests Act and replace it with the new Accommodation Sector Registration of Guests Act, 2021. This proposed new act would enable regulation making authority to:
Enhance the information collected in hotel guest registries to support police in preventing and deterring human trafficking.
Establish a length of time that registries must be maintained, as investigations can span a number of years.
Prescribe the requirement to maintain a guest registry for additional accommodation providers, such as short-term rental businesses, due to the rise in the use of these businesses by traffickers.
This new legislation, if passed,would also:
Require guest registries to be made available to police upon request without a court order in exigent circumstances when an order cannot be obtained.
Substantially increase fines for non-compliance for such acts as failing to maintain a guest register, willfully permitting a false statement to be entered into a register, or failing to comply with an order or urgent demand by the police to view the register.
Modernize the definition of “hotel” to better align with the definition used by municipalities and the federal government, and remove the requirement for hotels to post room rates in rooms to reduce burden on the industry.
This proposed new act would better address the current accommodations marketplace and help to deter human trafficking in the accommodation sector.