Human Crimes (Human Trafficking and Online Child Sexual Exploitation)


Human Trafficking

Human trafficking (HT), also known as trafficking in persons (TIP), involves the recruitment, transportation or harbouring of persons for the purpose of exploitation, typically sexual exploitation or forced labour. HT is a very serious criminal offence under Canada’s Criminal Code, which prohibits TIP for any exploitative purpose, regardless of whether the trafficking occurs wholly within Canada or involves the bringing of persons into Canada.

The National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking (NAP-HT) was launched in June 2012 and focused on four pillars (4-P): prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships. After its expiry in 2016, a horizontal evaluation of the NAP-HT was conducted. Key findings included the need to: develop a more coordinated approach to combatting HT; establish a mechanism to connect victims to required supports/services; and improve capacity to collect national data on HT. Regional and national consultations held by Public Safety in 2018 echoed similar findings on ways to improve Canada’s response to the crime.

In fall 2019, ‘empowerment’ was added as a new pillar to emphasize the new focus on supporting victims and survivors and their ongoing role  in informing Canada’s approach. The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking was selected by Public Safety to operate and maintain the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline, which launched on May 29, 2019.

Public Safety is the lead at the federal level for work on HT and works in partnership with the Human Trafficking Taskforce (HTT) and Portfolio partners, including the RCMP and the CBSA. The RCMP Human Trafficking National Coordination Centre (HTNCC) is the focal point for law enforcement in its efforts to combat and disrupt human trafficking activities. The CBSA works to identify and interdict suspected cases of HT at the border and within Canada, including referring victims to support services, and referring cases to the RCMP.

Current Public Safety activities include: a national awareness campaign; development of tools to support at-risk youth; enhanced contribution funding for trauma-informed support services; development of a national case management standard, and multi-sectoral training tools to support the identification of potential HT victims.

Online Child Sexual Exploitation

Online child sexual exploitation (CSE) is one of the digital age’s most pressing safety issues, which continues to increase in terms of scope, reach and impact. The National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet (CSE National Strategy), led by Public Safety and in partnership with the RCMP, Justice Canada and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P), a not-for-profit organization that receives contribution funding from Public Safety to operate, Canada’s national tip-line for reporting CSE; was launched in April 2004 and renewed on an ongoing basis in 2009. The objectives of the CSE National Strategy are to increase law enforcement’s capacity to combat CSE; support the operation of a national tip-line; support research on CSE; and provide overall coordination, oversight and training.

The RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre (NCECC) is the national law enforcement arm of the CSE National Strategy, functioning as the central point of contact for investigations related to CSE across the country, as well as internationally when the victim or offender is Canadian. Justice Canada reviews and develops legislation, and provides training, legal advice and support to federal CSE Strategy partners and others.

To address the changing technological landscape and threat environment since the renewal of the CSE National Strategy, Public Safety and other partners have taken on work in additional areas to: develop further public awareness; enhance policy coordination and research; support C3P’s Project Arachnid, a web crawling technology solution to identify and increase the rate of removal of child sexual abuse material; increase RCMP and local law enforcement investigation capacity; improve prevention for individuals at-risk of offending; increase criminal justice professionals knowledge on CSE; and enhance engagement with the digital industry to discuss gaps in industry-led efforts and develop tools/practices to prevent CSE.


Child sexual exploitation and abuse online was a key issue discussed at the 2019 Five Country Ministerial meeting in London, UK. In particular, during a digital industry roundtable, Five Eyes Ministers and digital industry partners committed to work together to develop a set of voluntary principles that would provide industry actors with guidance on actions and standards for combating online child sexual exploitation, including the identification, disclosure and removal of illegal and harmful content. Five Eyes countries met with industry partners in early September to advance this joint work, with the goal of having a set of endorsed principles in fall/winter 2019. There is currently no whole-of-government strategy to manage digital industry or platform governance to address online harms, which include child sexual exploitation, violent extremist and terrorist use of the internet, as well as hostile state activity.

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