3 of 13 - Is human trafficking a crime?

Human trafficking is a serious criminal offence in Canada. Both the Criminal Code of Canada and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act criminalize all aspects of human trafficking. The four human trafficking offences in the Criminal Code are summarized below.

Trafficking of a person (Section 279.01) makes it a crime to participate in certain acts involving another person for the purpose of exploiting them. The sentence ranges from months or years to life imprisonment for cases involving kidnapping, aggravated assault, sexual assault or death.

Trafficking of a person under the age of eighteen years (Section 279.011) stipulates a mandatory minimum sentence of six years’ imprisonment where the offence involves aggravated assault, sexual assault or death of the trafficked child, and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in other cases.

Material benefit (Section 279.02) makes it a crime to receive a financial or other material benefit knowing the benefit was a result of human trafficking. There is a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.

Withholding or destroying travel or identification documents (Section 279.03), for example someone’s passport or visa, for the purpose of committing human trafficking, is an offence. There is a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

On Dec. 6, 2014, the Government of Canada enacted The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (known as Bill C-36) which holds the buyers of sex accountable, as well as any third party who benefits from commercial sexual exploitation. With this legislation, Canada joined a number of countries that have already enacted similar legislation (Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Ireland) and a growing number of other countries currently deliberating demand-focused legislation that will make the buying of sexual services illegal: France, Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and Israel. This is referred to as the Nordic Model of law.