Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced new legislation that is being introduced to combat human trafficking in Ontario.
Feb. 22 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and the Premier did not mince words, stating that Ontario has become hub for human trafficking.
"It's hard to think of a more important issue, a more brutal crime; the criminals behind human trafficking they're the worst of the worst," said Ford.
"They prey on the young vulnerable, as Premier I've made it my mission to fight these terrible criminals."
The Ontario government is taking further action by introducing legislation that builds on a $307 million investment in its Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy. Ford says the legislation will help protect victims, support survivors and hold offenders accountable.
"This legislation is the first of its kind in Canada and it's desperately needed here in Ontario," said Ford. "Our province has become a hub for human trafficking with the most police reported incidents in the entire country."
The new bill proposes strengthening the ability of children's aid societies and law enforcement to protect exploited children in a number of different ways. The bill will support survivors and the people who support them in obtaining restraining orders against human traffickers, with specific consideration for Indigenous survivors.
"It increases penalties for traffickers who interfere with a child in the care of Children's Aid Society and clarifies how police services can access information from hotel guest registries," said Ford.
The proposed changes include two new acts - the Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy Act, 2021 and the Accommodation Sector Registration of Guests Act, 2021 - as well as amendments to the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 and the Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking Act, 2017.
Together, the proposed changes would support the government's response to human trafficking by:
- Supporting a long-term provincial response to human trafficking and emphasizing that all Ontarians have a role to play in combatting human trafficking;
- Strengthening the ability of children's aid societies and law enforcement to protect exploited children;
- Supporting more survivors and the people who support them in obtaining restraining orders against traffickers, with specific consideration for Indigenous survivors;
- Increasing the government's ability to collect non-personal data to better understand the impact of the strategy and respond to human trafficking;
- Providing law enforcement with more tools to locate victims and charge traffickers by:
- Increasing penalties for traffickers who interfere with a child in the care of a children's aid society;
- Clarifying how and when police services can access information from hotel guest registries to help deter trafficking and identify and locate victims, while establishing regulation making authority to include other types of accommodation providers.
- Requiring companies that advertise sexual services to have a dedicated contact to support investigations into suspected human trafficking.
"Our government voiced its commitment to tackling human trafficking early on in our mandate and we worked with a wide spectrum of stakeholders to establish a comprehensive $307 million Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy," said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.
"These legislative changes, if passed, will reinforce the strategy's key objectives of supporting survivors, protecting children and youth, raising awareness among parents and community partners as well as dismantling criminal networks."