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Ontario bill would give police more power in human trafficking investigations

Last Updated Feb 22, 2021 at 5:44 pm EDT

Queen's Park in Toronto as seen in an undated file photo. CITYNEWS/Hugues Cormier

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.

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.

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.

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