The Manitoba government is proposing new legislation as well as amendments to existing acts that would further protect vulnerable children and youth who are at risk of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, Families Minister Rochelle Squires announced Thursday (May 12).
"We recognize the vital responsibility to protect children and youth from becoming victims of the crimes of human trafficking and sexual exploitation," said Squires. "These legislative amendments and new legislation would strengthen our ability to stop human trafficking and keep vulnerable children and youth safe."
An estimated 400 children and youth are trafficked annually in the visible sex trade in Manitoba, noted the minister, but this number represents only a fraction, an estimated 10 per cent, of the invisible trade that occurs behind closed doors and/or online. Much of human trafficking activity occurs in hot spots such as hotels, temporary accommodations and taxis, added Squires.
The proposed new legislation, the hospitality sector customer registry act, would improve the ability of law enforcement to investigate suspected instances of human trafficking by requiring hotels and temporary accommodations, including online accommodation platforms, to keep a register of guests, including their names and addresses, and make the registers available to investigators by order or without a warrant on an emergency-demand basis.
Proposed amendments to the Child Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking Act would require hotels, temporary accommodations and operators of taxis and online ride sharing platforms such as Uber to immediately report suspected human trafficking to police, the minister noted.
"Enforcement efforts continue to focus on individuals and groups involved in instances of human trafficking," said Chief Danny Smyth, Winnipeg Police Service and president of Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police (MACP). "We embrace this key legislation that will enhance the ability to safeguard our most vulnerable populations in our continued efforts to combat these heinous acts that plagues our society. Any tools available to protect those targeted by traffickers would be welcomed by police across Manitoba."
The Child and Family Services Act currently includes provisions for non-contact orders to protect children in care from a person who has subjected a child to abuse or is likely to subject a child to abuse. However, these provisions require an agency to produce strong evidence that interference has already occurred and require a higher threshold that abuse has occurred and likely to reoccur, which has been a challenge in preventing and prosecuting individuals who place children in need of protection, the minister noted.
The proposed amendments to the Child and Family Services Act would address these concerns with legislation that could apply a protective order for both children in care and children not in care for children who need protection from contact with someone.
For more information, go to https://gov.mb.ca/fs/traciastrust/