Ontario bill would give police more power in human trafficking investigations

WATCH ABOVE: Ontario Premier Doug Ford introduced "first of its kind" legislation aimed at ending human trafficking in the province. Ford said the bill will strengthen the ability of law enforcement and Children's Aid societies to protect victims, increases penalties for offenders, and provide additional support for survivors.

TORONTO — Ontario moved to crack down on human trafficking by introducing legislation Monday that would give police more power to swiftly access information in suspected cases.

The bill, if passed, would compel hotels and similar companies to keep a list of information on guests that officers could request if they believe it could help locate, identify or protect a suspected human trafficking victim.

The demand from law enforcement to view guest information wouldn’t require an order from a judge if an officer reasonably believes a victim would be harmed or if the information might be destroyed before an order is issued.

Read more:
‘It validates the experience of survivors’: Marking the 1st National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Companies or guests who fail comply with the rules or make false statements could be fined up to $5,000.

The bill would also require companies that sell sexual services to publish their contact information and respond to law enforcement within a set time frame.

Premier Doug Ford said his province has become a “hub” for human trafficking and the legislation is desperately needed.

“We will not allow this to continue here in Ontario,” he said.

The legislation would also increase penalties for those involved in human trafficking cases that interfere with a child in protective custody, with possible fines of up to $50,000 or two years of jail time.

Ontario’s government would have to review its anti-human trafficking strategy every five years under the new legislation, and that would include consultations with the public, human trafficking survivors and other stakeholders.

The legislation was announced on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

READ MORE: Children for sale — Canada’s youth at the heart of the rising sex trade

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the Progressive Conservative government worked with stakeholders to develop the bill.

“It is another tool in our toolbox to further our work in combating human trafficking,” Jones said Monday.

A Statistics Canada report published last year found that Ontario accounted for 68 per cent of all police-reported human trafficking incidents between 2009 and 2018.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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