What is “Human Trafficking”

Human trafficking is a crime.

Human trafficking is a growing global crime. The United Nations estimates that at any given time, there are about 2.5 million people who are in forced labour, including sexual exploitation, as a result of human trafficking, with an annual global revenue of $31.6 billion.

In international law and Canadian law, trafficking is defined as the act of recruiting, transporting, holding or receiving people by the use of force, lies, fraud, abuse of power, or payment for the purpose of exploitation.  People who are trafficked are forced, manipulated , deceived, or forced into performing labour or services against their will.  Often they fear for their safety or the safety of someone they know.

Definition of Human Trafficking 

The United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol defines Trafficking in Persons as:

The act of recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons … by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person … for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum:

  • the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation,
  • forced labour or services,
  • slavery or practices similar to slavery,
  • servitude,
  • or the removal of organs.

This definition is reflected in the Criminal Code of Canada PART VIII Offences Against the Person and Reputation, Sections 270.01-279.04 and Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act..

Source: BC Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons (OCTIP) 
Trafficking of Live-in Caregivers and other temporary foreign workers

Anyone can become a victim of human trafficking, but Live-in Caregivers and many other temporary foreign workers can be particularly vulnerable to labour exploitation for many reasons. Live-in Caregivers and most other temporary foreign workers have few employment options, are socially isolated —- Live-in Caregivers are required to Live-In at their employer’ household— because they are new to the country.  Language barriers, isolation, fear of being deported, and limited or no access to free information about their legal and human rights in Canada can make Live-in Caregivers and many other temporary foreign workers easy target of  traffickers.

Fraudulent Recruitment

Often, foreign workers pay thousands of dollars in illegal placement fees to “employment agencies” that broker their employment in Canada.  many workers arrive in our country only to learn that they have no job in Canada or discover that the job is substantially different from the one they signed up for.

How to tell if a foreign workers may be exploited or trafficked?

Some signs that an adult is being exploited for labour or being trafficked

  • The person does not have access to his or her personal identification paper such as passport
  • The person was promised a better job, but is not doing the job that was promised
  • Has no choice about hours of work
  • Works long hours but does not get paid normal wages
  • Is subjected to violence or threats of violence against themselves or against their family members or loved ones
  • Is under the perception that they are bonded by debt
  • Has had the fees for their transport to the country of destination paid for by facilitators, whom they must pay back by working or providing services in the destination country
  • Has no private space
  • The employer is unable to show records of wages paid to workers.
What to do if you suspect that you or someone you know is being exploited of trafficked?

A wide range of free support is available for victims of human trafficking including housing assistance, referrals to health professionals, psychological and social support, and legal aid including advise on immigration status, employment standards redress, civil and criminal complaints.

It is important to note that this supper is available to all victims of human trafficking, even individuals that do not have valid work permits or other identification documents. Victims of human trafficking who are without status can apply for temporary resident permits (TRPs) to regularize their immigration status.

In British Columbia, West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association is the only non-profit society provider of free legal services that works at promoting and protecting the legal and human rights of Live-in Caregivers.  For cases of human trafficking, we work in collaboration with the Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons — British Columbia’s agency that works to support initiatives to prevent trafficking and coordinate services for trafficked persons.

A clearinghouse for public legal information, tools and resources to prevent and combat labour exploitation and other forms of human trafficking of Live-in Caregivers. This webpage is for Live-in Caregivers, their friends and networks of support in their communities. Educate and inform yourself and others about the prevention and support available in cases of labour exploitation and other forms of human trafficking.
West Coast Domestic Workers' Association
Toll Free: 1-888-669-4482
Tue-Sat 9:30am - 4:30pm