Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon to all the members of the committee. I'll take only a few minutes to clarify for you the Canada Border Services Agency's role and responsibilities in identifying and combatting human trafficking.
As the committee knows, the enforcement and application of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act are the responsibility of a number of government departments and agencies.
It is mainly the responsibility of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, or IRCC, to develop the eligibility policy that sets out the conditions of entry and stay in Canada, but the Canadian Boarder Services Agency, or CBSA, shares the responsibility of enforcing the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act with the IRCC and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
To fulfill its mandate, the agency shares data and information with other departments and law enforcement partners as needed.
Specifically, the CBSA is responsible for detecting suspected instances of human trafficking; interdicting suspected human traffickers involved in cross-border movement and exploitation of victims; contributing to the safety and security of potential victims by ensuring they are separated from the control of suspected traffickers, where identified, and referring them to appropriate government services; and, through our efforts of investigation and collection of information, supporting the investigation and prosecution of offenders.
The CBSA and the RCMP have a complementary approach in relation to immigration offences. Broadly speaking, the RCMP is responsible for immigration offences related to organized crime, human trafficking, and national security.
The CBSA is in charge of other immigration offences, including offences related to migrant smuggling, fraudulent documents and misrepresentation, as well as the general offence is covered by the legislation. The agency communicates with the RCMP when it discovers indicators of human trafficking while conducting an investigation on other offenses.
The CBSA refers all suspected human trafficking cases to the RCMP for investigation and refers potential victims to IRCC for support.
As human trafficking and human smuggling are often confused, I thought I would take this opportunity to differentiate a little bit between these two offences.
On the one hand, human trafficking occurs where one party violates another party's rights by depriving them of their freedom of choice for the purpose of exploitation. It can occur both across and within borders and may involve extensive organized crime networks. It involves recruiting, transporting, or harbouring individuals through force or through other forms of coercion or deception.
Human smuggling on the other hand is a form of illegal migration that involves the organized transport of a person across an international border, usually in exchange for a sum of money, and sometimes in dangerous conditions. In such cases, when the final destination is reached, the business relationship ends, and the smuggler and the individual part company.
However, the CBSA is very aware that a person who has agreed to be smuggled into the country may also become a victim of human trafficking at the hands of their presumed smuggler. Upon arrival at the destination, the person may have their movements restricted or face coercion and exploitation contrary to the initial smuggling agreement. Victims may suffer abuse from their traffickers and may face severe consequences if they attempt to escape.
The CBSA provides its officers with training on recognizing indicators associated with victims of human trafficking, as well as on the support provided to those individuals through referrals to the appropriate government organizations.
However, despite all our efforts, it may be difficult to identify victims of human trafficking at the border. Victims may not be aware of what awaits them when they enter the country. In addition, even if they know that they are being exploited, they may be intimidated and refuse to ask for or receive help.
Human traffickers reap large profits while robbing victims of their freedom, their dignity, and their human potential. The CBSA is an active and engaged partner in combatting human trafficking by detecting and disrupting trafficking operations and the transport of victims to Canada. We continue to work with our partners, both domestic and international, with the goal of preventing Canada from being a destination, a source, or a transit country for this criminal behaviour.
That concludes my opening statement. I'm happy to respond to questions later.