Trafficking in persons, also referred to as human trafficking, is a complex phenomenon that can occur domestically or across international borders, and can take many forms (see Text box 1). As defined by the Criminal Code of Canada, trafficking in persons occurs when someone recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds, conceals or harbours a person, or exercises control, direction or influence over the movements of a person for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation (Criminal Code of Canada 2015). Human trafficking victims often suffer from emotional trauma, as well as economic, physical and sexual abuse (Public Safety Canada 2012; United Nations 2008). The scope of human trafficking is difficult to identify due to the hidden nature of the crime, victims’ reluctance to report crimes to the authorities, difficulties in identifying victims, and the high degree of underreporting (Public Safety Canada 2012).
Statistics Canada collects police-reported information under the Criminal Code human trafficking offences, as well as the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act human trafficking offence which targets cross-border trafficking. In 2005, three specific offences were added to the Criminal Code as part of the government’s commitment to combat human trafficking. In 2010, and later 2012, the Criminal Code was amended to include a child trafficking offence and other human trafficking-related provisions (see Text box 2). These offences focus on the exploitation of the victim and can be applied to the various forms that this crime can take, including victims being brought into Canada from abroad, victims being transited through Canada to another country, and victims who originate from and are exploited within Canada (Ogrodnik 2010).