STATEMENT: PASSING OF BILL 251 IN ONTARIO WILL NOT END HUMAN TRAFFICKING; WILL TRAMPLE ON HUMAN RIGHTS

STATEMENT: PASSING OF BILL 251 IN ONTARIO WILL NOT END HUMAN TRAFFICKING; WILL TRAMPLE ON HUMAN RIGHTS

For immediate release  

The following can be attributed to Sandra Ka Hon Chu, Director of Research and Policy,

HIV Legal Network and Elene Lam, Executive Director, Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network).

 

June 2, 2021 – Toronto – We are incredibly disheartened to learn that Bill 251, the so-called Combating Human Trafficking Act, 2021 was quietly passed by the Government of Ontario on the evening of May 31. While the stated intent of this legislation is to combat human trafficking and provide support for survivors, this law will not achieve that purpose.

First, this legislation will further compound the conflation of human trafficking with sex work, and sex workers — particularly Black, Indigenous, Asian and otherwise racialized and migrant sex workers — will be unduly targeted as a result. As the Bill 251 debates made clear, many policymakers themselves lack a meaningful understanding of the differences between sex work and human trafficking. Without this understanding, we cannot actually address the conditions that make people vulnerable to exploitation.

Second, history tells us that an “enhanced” law enforcement model that gives increased powers to police and a new category of “inspectors” and imposes charges and hefty fines is doomed to fail. Conferring such sweeping and discretionary powers to law enforcement ignores human rights — and not just for sex workers. Surveillance can and will become an issue for many others, particularly for racialized communities who have borne the brunt of law enforcement profiling. Not only is this law harmful, it poses serious constitutional concerns.

What Ontario needed was an anti-trafficking strategy rooted in human rights and a genuine concern for survivors, one that restored many of the vital supports and services that this provincial government previously slashed. Instead, we got yet another knee-jerk law fixated on policing that does nothing to address the many structural barriers that contribute to the risks of human trafficking.

Yesterday, Toronto City Councillors heard from human trafficking and human rights experts who universally denounced Bill 251 and urged the City to insist upon its non-enforcement by municipal staff. The City opted to study the issue and make a decision next week. It is not too late for damage control, and Toronto can show bold leadership by rejecting the law and minimizing its harms on residents. We all deserve better.

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Download our joint submission on Bill 251https://www.hivlegalnetwork.ca/site/joint-submission-on-bill-251-combating-human-trafficking-act-2021/?lang=en

Media Contact:

Janet Butler-McPhee, Director of Communications and Advocacy, HIV Legal Network

Mobile: 647-295-0861    Email: jbutler@hivlegalnetwork.ca

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