Governments pledge to end human trafficking

“Journeying in Dignity” is the theme of the 9th International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, celebrated on the Feb. 8 Feast Day of St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese religious sister, who as a child had the traumatic experience of being a victim of human trafficking. (Photo by Yupa Watchanakit,

Pope Francis calls human trafficking “crime against humanity”

By Bryan Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – Ontario’s government used the newly declared National Human Trafficking Awareness Day Feb. 22 to unveil major new funding and two new pieces of legislation as part of the province’s anti-human trafficking strategy, as governments in Canada continue to take action against something that Pope Francis has called “a crime against humanity.”

“Our government is taking deliberate steps to put an end to human trafficking and protect victims and potential victims of this terrible crime,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a media statement.

“This tough new legislation builds on our Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy we introduced nearly a year ago, giving law enforcement additional tools to help prevent and deter human trafficking,” he said of new legislation that was announced on Feb. 22.

The federal government also has a National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking that brings together federal efforts and is supported by an investment of $57.22 million over five years and $10.28 million in ongoing funding.

On Feb. 18, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair announced in Halifax close to $55,000 for Saint Mary’s University for its Community Hackathon: Addressing Human Trafficking in Atlantic Canada project. That two-day virtual event brought together post-secondary students from across Atlantic Canada, service providers, and law enforcement to examine ways that technology can be used to raise awareness about human trafficking.

For a month following the hackathon, participants will continue to receive mentorship and training from Saint Mary’s University to further develop their ideas and learn how they may be applied in practice.

The federal government has also launched a national anti-human trafficking campaign to raise awareness among youth and parents about warning signs and how to report suspected cases of human trafficking to the appropriate authorities.

“Through projects like this one, we are working together to build a safer and more resilient Canada, where all people are protected from human trafficking and its harms,” Blair said of the funding announcement in Halifax.

The Catholic Church observes an International Day of Prayer Against Human Trafficking on Feb. 8 and this year on that date, Pope Francis released a video marking the 7th International Day of Prayer and Reflection against Trafficking in Persons.

Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey said one of the goals of Ontario’s new legislation is to target those who prey on the young and vulnerable.

“We are proposing legislative reforms to better protect victims and support them in their efforts to obtain restraining orders against traffickers,” he said.

“Human trafficking is happening in both urban centres and small communities across Ontario,” said Jill Dunlop, associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues. “This proposed legislation further supports our cross-government approach, as well as our work with partners across jurisdictions and various sectors, to combat human trafficking. This includes providing tools to improve the ability to identify and appropriately respond to suspected instances and connect survivors to supportive services.”