ARPA Submits Recommendations to the Ontario Justice Committee to Combat Human Trafficking
Last week, the Ontario Standing Committee on Justice Policy discussed Bill 251, Combating Human Trafficking Act, 2021. ARPA Canada submitted recommendations on Bill 251 through both a written submission and an oral presentation to the committee. We encourage you to read the submission here.
Human trafficking is a major concern in the Province of Ontario and preys on vulnerable people, primarily women and girls. Between 2009 and 2018, the number of police-reported human trafficking incidents in Ontario (0.9 per 100,000 population) was nearly double the Canadian average (0.5 per 100,000 population).
Although the federal government determines criminal violations with regard to human trafficking, individual provinces have jurisdiction over educating the population about the issue, supporting victims of human trafficking, and encouraging enforcement of existing human trafficking laws. If passed, Bill 251 will strengthen each of these components in Ontario.
First, the bill would require hotels to keep a registry of guests so that law enforcement can have more tools at their disposal if they suspect that traffickers are using a hotel room for their crime. Next, the bill would require the government to maintain an anti-human trafficking strategy, and to review and update it every five years, seeking to ensure that it remains a priority for the current government as well as future governments. The bill would also permit regulations around advertisements for sexual services, as well as training about human trafficking to further prevent human trafficking, which is often a very hidden crime. Additionally, Bill 251 would make various amendments to ensure that 16- and 17-year-olds can receive greater supports if they have been trafficked and to extend the use of restraining orders to protect victims of trafficking.
Our written and oral submission to the committee focused on three main points. First, we care about the problem of human trafficking because all people are created in the image of God and possess inherent dignity. Human trafficking violates that dignity, reducing unique human beings to commercial objects. Second, human trafficking is closely connected to prostitution, especially when prostitution is legalized or increasingly accepted in society. Finally, sex trafficking exists because of the demand for prostitution, which causes traffickers to try to increase supply by trafficking more victims.
Overall, the changes in this legislation are positive, and ARPA supported the specifics of the bill while suggesting ways to improve it further. We recommended two amendments to the legislation. First, we suggested that the definition of hotel be changed to include small accommodation rentals such as Airbnb in addition to larger businesses. Next, we recommended that the protection and support of youth aged 16 or 17 should be expanded to protect young adults up to the age of 21 if sexual exploitation is believed to be taking place.
We are pleased to provide input to the Ontario government, and we are grateful to see an increased focus on addressing the problem of human trafficking in the province.