Fact Sheet #3: Trafficking in Persons – Victims

Victims of trafficking in persons (TIP) are often reluctant to cooperate with investigators because of cultural issues, language barriers, and fear for their safety or the safety of loved ones, lack of trust in police and a desire to simply return home and not reveal what they were forced to do in Canada. Therefore, before starting an investigation, it is critical to provide stability, security and assistance to victims to ensure that their needs are met and to address any safety concerns.

Vulnerable Groups

Although anyone could become a victim of trafficking in persons, certain groups are more vulnerable to trafficking. For example, Aboriginal women and youth, migrants and new immigrants, at-risk youth, runaway children, and those who are socially or economically disadvantaged, are often the most likely to become victims of this crime. When working with any potential child victim, child welfare authorities or child protection agencies must be contacted. Investigators should also videotape interviews with children (see section 715.1 of the Criminal Code).

Working with Traumatized Victims

Trafficked victims may experience severe trauma, which occurs when someone lives through an experience so severe that they cannot fully comprehend or accept it. Key symptoms of such trauma, likely to have serious implications, include:

  • Denial of being trafficked, even in the face of contradictory evidence;
  • De-personalization of the abusive experience and coming to regard it as having happened to another person;
  • Fragmentation of memory, perception, feeling, consciousness and sense of time;
  • Difficulty in providing clear and consistent statements to investigators; and,
  • “Stockholm syndrome”, i.e., when a victim emotionally bonds with an abuser as a survival strategy.

Due to these various types of trauma, expert support may be required in different forms. Support for victims can often be provided by provincial and territorial victim services as well as non-governmental organizations that have the needed expertise and trauma informed programming to properly meet the victims’ needs. If you are not aware of local services, you may conduct a search in the Policy Centre for Victim Issues’ Victim Services Directory.

Specific Concerns regarding Children Brought to Canada

Everyone, including a child, who arrives in Canada from abroad, must appear for an examination by an officer to determine whether they have the right to enter Canada or whether they are authorized to enter and remain in Canada. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has developed a procedural manual entitled Recovering Missing, Abducted and Exploited Children. For more information on the measures in place at Canadian Ports of Entry to ensure that exploited children, or children at risk of exploitation, are identified and protected, please see: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/manuals/enf/enf21-eng.pdf.

Temporary Residence Permits (TRPs)

Citizenship & Immigration Canada has developed a Temporary Residence Permit (TRP) for foreign nationals who are believed to be victims of human trafficking. TRP status provides access to Interim Federal Health Care, counselling services and the opportunity to apply for a work permit. Both short-term (valid for up to 180 days) and long-term TRPs are available. Victims are not required to collaborate with law enforcement agencies or testify against their traffickers to obtain TRPs. For more information, please see: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/publications/tfw-rights.asp

Witness Protection Programs from Provinces and Territories

In Canada, responsibility for the protection of victims of crime is shared between the federal and provincial/territorial governments. Legal aid programs, social services such as emergency financial assistance, including food allowances and housing, are administered at the provincial and territorial levels and are available to those in need.

Some provinces also operate legislated (Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan), policy-based (Ontario and Québec), or operationally structured (British Columbia, in an integrated team) witness protection programs. A victim of human trafficking could be deemed eligible under the terms of either the federal or provincial programs to receive protection in order to assist law enforcement and prosecution.

If interpretation services are required and an interpreter/translator is not available for the initial meeting, consider using the Victim-Translation-Assistance (VITA) tool available on the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking website at: http://www.ungift.org.

Federal Witness Protection Program Act (WPPA)

The Federal Witness Protection Program Act (WPPA) is administered by the RCMP. It provides the legal framework to protect persons who are involved in providing assistance to law enforcement. This can include persons who are assisting the RCMP in law enforcement matters or those who are assisting another law enforcement agency, provided an agreement has been concluded between the RCMP and that agency. Services offered to witnesses/victims are decided on a case-by-case basis but can include relocation, accommodation, counselling, change of identity, and financial support to ensure the person's security and help them re-establish their life.

Law enforcement may also contact the RCMP Human Trafficking National Coordination Centre at 1 855 850-4640 or htncc-cnctp@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

For more information, please consult Chapter 3 and Chapter 6 of the Handbook for Criminal Justice Practitioners on Trafficking in Persons.

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