In addition to creating a human trafficking awareness day (February 22), the bill makes two big changes to Ontario law. First, it enables a victim of human trafficking (or someone on their behalf) to get a restraining order against an alleged human trafficker. Second, it creates a tort of human trafficking. (A tort in law is a wrongful act that causes injury to another’s person, property, or reputation, for which the injured party is entitled to compensation.)
These are good changes. Making human trafficking a tort is a creative change in law that benefits victims in a big way. Human trafficking is prohibited by the Criminal Code, but that doesn’t necessarily help victims for two reasons: criminal law does little to compensate victims – it is primarily focused on the offender; and criminal law requires a much higher standard of proof for conviction (proof beyond a reasonable doubt), whereas to sue an alleged human trafficker, one need only prove harm on a “balance of probabilities” (more likely to have happened than not) to succeed in getting a restraining order and, possibly, compensation.
ARPA’s policy report on prostitution outlines the close connection between prostitution and human trafficking. Bill 96 signals the provincial government’s willingness to build on the good work done by the federal government in passing Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act in 2014. This, combined with the Ontario government’s announcement to invest $72 million in a plan to fight human trafficking and the appointment of an anti-human trafficking director, are steps in the right direction.
Bill 96 is worthy of applause. From ARPA Canada’s perspective, it is a breath of fresh air in the Ontario legislature, after several bills that have caused us grave concern (see, for example, Bill 77, 28, and 89 discussed here). Consider sending a note of thanks and gratitude via this EasyMail to your Ontario MPP.