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Ontario to invest $307 million in fight against human trafficking

Friday, March 06, 2020 @ 2:00 PM | By John Chunn

The government of Ontario announced on March 6 that it is taking strong action to protect children and youth, support survivors, raise awareness and hold offenders accountable by releasing Ontario’s new anti-human trafficking strategy.

Premier Doug Ford, Jill Dunlop, associate minister of Children and Women’s Issues, and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones released a new, comprehensive five-year strategy to combat human trafficking and end child sexual exploitation across the province.

According to the government’s press release, the new strategy is the largest total investment in dedicated anti-human trafficking supports and services in the country and is a major step forward in Ontario’s fight against human trafficking.

“Human traffickers prey on the most vulnerable members of our society ― our children,” said Ford. “We must put an end to this disgusting industry and take immediate steps to keep our kids safe. Our new strategy takes strong and decisive action to support survivors, raise awareness and give our police the tools and resources they need to put these criminals behind bars.”

The government said its Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy will invest $307 million over the next five years on a proactive, comprehensive action plan focused on four key areas:

  • Raising awareness of the issueby launching a new, provincewide marketing campaign to educate children, youth, parents, and the broader public about what human trafficking is, how to recognize the signs, and where to get help.
  • Holding offenders accountable by giving law enforcement more specialized Crown prosecution support for human trafficking cases, strengthening intelligence gathering in the correctional system and investing in police services to help co-ordinate anti-human trafficking investigations and expand the Ontario Provincial Police Child Sexual Exploitation Unit.
  • Protecting victims and intervening early by investing in specialized intervention teams involving police and child protection services, incorporating human trafficking awareness into the education curriculum and establishing dedicated, licensed residences to support victims, including those under the age of 16.
  • Supporting survivors by investing new funding in wrap-around, community-based supports and Indigenous-led initiatives to make more services available for survivors and by enhancing victim services to assist survivors throughout the court process.

“Survivors of human trafficking require specific, ongoing supports to help them exit trafficking, heal from their trauma and rebuild their lives,” said Dunlop. “Our new strategy doubles the investment in community-based services for survivors, while also providing a range of new supports focused on children and youth, which has been a critical gap until now. It provides increased supports for Indigenous communities and takes a cross-government approach to reinforce Ontario as a leader in combating human trafficking.”

To address the needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities and organizations, and frontline workers, Indigenous-specific initiatives are integrated throughout Ontario’s new strategy, according to the press release. Examples of these initiatives include targeted public awareness activities, Indigenous-led community-based supports for survivors such as counselling, cultural teachings and healing ceremonies, victim services delivered by Indigenous communities and organizations and culturally appropriate supports for at-risk youth.