Ontario’s government is investing $202 million in new funding to take on human trafficking, and Premier Doug Ford says he’s sending a message to criminals — “We’re coming for you.”
That money will be bundled with $105 million from an existing fund, adding up to a total of $307 million to support survivors and bolster law enforcement over the next five years.
At an announcement in St. Catharines Friday morning, Ford described human trafficking as a “disgusting” industry that profits off the backs of the province’s most vulnerable.
“No child should ever live in fear of violence or exploitation,” said the premier. “We’re going to keep up the fight to protect our kids.”
The “vast majority” of that money will go toward survivor support, Solicitor General Slyvia Jones explained, while $70 million will be funding for the justice sector.
As part of the strategy the province plans to do the following:
- Create a public awareness campaign aimed at educating children, parents and the public to recognize the signs of human trafficking.
- Providing law enforcement with “more specialized Crown prosecution support” for human trafficking, coordination across police services and intelligence gathering in the correctional system.
- Investment in “intervention teams” made up of police and child protection services and including human trafficking awareness in the education curriculum as well as creating licensed residences for victims.
- Supporting survivors with new funding for community-based supports and Indigenous-led initiatives to provide more services and support through the court process.
It’s the largest investment in anti-human trafficking in the country, according to Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues.
She added that as Indigenous women and girls are disproportionately targeted by trafficking, up to $4 million in funding will be used to support specific resources embedded across the strategy to meet their needs.
Those include Indigenous-led supports for survivors such as counselling, cultural teachings, healing ceremonies and victims services.
The average age of recruitment into human trafficking is 13, according to the government’s statistics. And about two-thirds of human trafficking incidents that are reported to police happen in Ontario.
“It could be your daughter, cousin, sister or friend,” said Dunlop. “Our government will not tolerate human trafficking.”
The premier also promised to take a “hard look” at the legislative tools in place around trafficking and said he has a message he plans to share with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Let’s get tough on crime. Once and for all. Let’s … put these nasty people in jail and throw away the key.”