|For Immediate Release|
|25 November 2004|
|CANADA MUST OFFER PROTECTION TO TRAFFICKED PERSONS|
Toronto. The Canadian Council for Refugees today called on the Canadian government to refocus its anti-trafficking measures on protecting trafficked persons.
“In its Speech from the Throne, the government has announced plans for legislation ‘to protect against trafficking in persons’ but there have been no commitments to ‘protect trafficked persons,’” said Amy Casipullai, Vice-President. “Right now, trafficked persons – people who have been abused and exploited and who may face danger – are routinely treated by the Canadian government simply as people who have broken the immigration law. As a result, they are detained and deported.”
The Canadian Council for Refugees has been conducting a project to consult, raise awareness and develop recommendations on trafficking issues. A report is available at www.trafficking.ca. Immigrant and refugee serving organizations participating in the project reported on the dilemma they face when the only alternative they can offer trafficked persons is deportation.
Since the adoption of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, the Canadian government has increased its efforts to combat these practices that rely on the exploitation of vulnerable people. However, government has focused almost entirely on criminalization and to a lesser extent, on prevention, but has offered nothing concrete to protect trafficked persons.
“When trafficked people come forward, or are found by the authorities, they are treated as criminals, rather than as victims of a crime,” said Avvy Go of Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. Connie Sorio of the Philippine Network for Justice and Peace said “People who may be trafficked need to be given at least temporary status in Canada and basic assistance, so that they can decide what they want to do with their lives.”
The CCR is also concerned that the impending introduction of the Safe Third Country agreement between the US and Canada may lead to an increase in trafficking by promoting more irregular crossings of the US-Canada border. A commitment to prevent trafficking is not consistent with pursuit of this agreement.