Canada an “International Embarrassment” on Sex Trafficking

Thu Mar 2, 2006 - 12:15 pm EST

By Terry Vanderheyden

MONTREAL, March 2, 2006 ( – Canada and the United Kingdom have been singled out in an international study for failing to meet their obligations for the protection of victims of human trafficking, while other developed countries received praise for their efforts. The study comes at a time when the UK government is considering an overhaul of its policy in this area, and a new Conservative Government has taken power in Canada.

The 40-page study, titled “Falling Short of the Mark: An International Study on the Treatment of Human Trafficking Victims”, was released Wednesday by The Future Group, a leading Canadian non-partisan, non-governmental organization founded in 2000 that specializes in combating human trafficking and has worked with victims in Southeast Asia and West Africa.Â

Of the countries evaluated: Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, only Canada and the UK failed to meet their obligations to protect victims under the United Nations Trafficking Protocol and international best practices.

“Canada’s record of dealing with trafficking victims is an international embarrassment and contrary to best practices,” wrote principal author Benjamin Perrin. “Canada has ignored calls for reform and continues to re-traumatize trafficking victims, with few exceptions, by subjecting them to routine deportation and fails to provide even basic support services.”

The situation in Canada is so bad that individual law enforcement officers are reportedly approaching local hospitals and NGOs to cobble together funding to provide the most basic medical assistance for victims in major cities.

“People have been threatened and told that if they co-operate with law enforcement their families back home will be killed,” said Perrin. “What Canada has typically done is detain these victims without medical care, then deport them. It’s a practice that we’ve seen in some authoritarian and despotic countries and it has no place in a civilized, just society like our own.”

The report criticizes former Liberal cabinet ministers Irwin Cotler, Joe Volpe and Pierre Pettigrew for “passing the buck” on the issue. Conservative Citizenship and Immigration Minister Monte Solberg told Sun Media, “It’s very damning, and if there are obvious legislative or regulatory fixes that need to be done, those have to become priorities, given especially that we’re talking about very vulnerable people.”

“I am delighted to endorse the report by The Future Group,” said Gregory Carlin, Director of the Irish Anti-Trafficking Coalition, “Governments should act by implementing their international obligations. Police officers should not have to collect money to fund basic prerequisites for the victims of trafficking.”

The study found that contrary to the practice in other developed countries, trafficking victims in the UK and Canada are dealt with on a case-by-case basis and are routinely deported. Only minimal support has been provided to victims in recent years, and only general laws exist for their protection during investigations. It also found there is no evidence that providing legal status to victims would result in abuses of the system.

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