Government of Canada introduces legislation to strengthen human trafficking laws

News Release

Strengthening Canada’s criminal law response to human trafficking

February 9, 2017 - Ottawa, ON - Department of Justice Canada

The Government is committed to strengthening its efforts to combat human trafficking and better protect its victims, who are often among society’s most vulnerable. Human trafficking is a very serious criminal offence under the Criminal Code punishable by severe penalties of up to life imprisonment in certain cases. Victims suffer physical or emotional abuse and are often forced to live and work in horrific conditions. That is why the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould today introduced legislation to bring into force, with amendments, a former Private Member’s Bill, introduced by Mme. Maria Mourani, that amends the Criminal Code to give law enforcement and prosecutors new tools to better investigate and prosecute human trafficking offences.

Former Private Member’s Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons), received Royal Assent in June 2015, under the previous Parliament, but was not brought into force. The legislation introduced today would amend Bill C-452 so that only the provisions that do not raise significant concerns under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would come into force. The mandatory consecutive sentencing provision requirement would not be brought into force at this time. It would be considered as part of the Minister’s broader ongoing criminal justice system review, which includes consideration of related mandatory sentencing provisions.

The proposed legislation would help prosecutors prove one of the elements of the trafficking offence -- that the accused exercised control or influence over the movements of a victim -- by proving that the accused lived with or was habitually in the company of the victim. This would make the offence easier to prove and would reduce the likelihood that victims of trafficking would have to testify in court. It would also put the onus on a convicted offender to prove that their property is not proceeds of crime in certain circumstances. This would make it easier for the state to seize the proceeds of this very serious crime.


“Human trafficking is a hidden crime, which makes it very difficult to detect, investigate and prosecute. Today we are moving to bring into force legislation that would give law enforcement and prosecutors more tools to better fight human trafficking.”

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Quick Facts

  • Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation, harbouring and/ or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person in order to exploit that person, typically through sexual exploitation or forced labour. It is often described as a modern form of slavery.
  • Former Private Member’s Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons), was introduced in 2012 by former Member of Parliament Maria Mourani, was re-instated in 2013, and received Royal Assent in June of 2015.

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    Director of Communications
    Office of the Minister of Justice
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    Department of Justice Canada
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