Good afternoon, Chair. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the committee and its members.
Human trafficking is a criminal offence and a human rights violation. In Canada, indigenous and non-indigenous women and girls, LGBTQ2 members, and youth, including those in group homes, are particularly vulnerable populations with respect to human trafficking.
Public Safety Canada supports the Government of Canada's ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking and to protect its victims, who are among our society's most vulnerable. The department leads federal policy development on human trafficking and chairs federal-provincial-territorial working group meetings to facilitate co-operation, collaboration, and exchange of information and best practices.
Public Safety Canada also manages the contribution program to combat serious and organized crime, which provides funding to eligible organizations leading projects related to anti-human-trafficking efforts. This contribution program has allowed the department to support, for example, the northern outreach project, which brought together a circle of grandmothers from Manitoulin Island, Sault Ste. Marie, and Thessalon to form an action alliance to understand the nature of trafficking in their communities.
Funding has also supported Vancouver's Salvation Army Deborah's Gate program and their efforts to expand its “Living Hope: Life and Living Skills” program to include a barista employment training program, which allows survivors of human trafficking to access trauma-sensitive care and three weeks of vocational training.
As well, we support a number of research projects to broaden our understanding of labour trafficking and the trafficking of indigenous women and girls. Part of the work the department leads has included providing information to the public on federal anti-human-trafficking efforts through the publication of reports on progress and the development of a quarterly newsletter that is shared with stakeholders across the country and highlights events, training, legislative updates, current research reports, and other relevant developments in the anti-human-trafficking movement. The newsletter, for example, reports on progress and other resources developed in-house that are publicly available on Public Safety Canada's website.
In recognition of the multidimensional nature of human trafficking, the federal human trafficking task force brings together officials who cover a wide range of issues, from global affairs to indigenous issues and law enforcement and procurement, to just mention a few. The human trafficking task force, led by Public Safety Canada, comprises representatives from key federal departments and agencies. It is the dedicated focal point for all federal anti-human-trafficking efforts. Representatives from some of those departments and agencies are here today: Justice Canada, the RCMP, the CBSA, and the PPSC. Public Safety Canada works closely with them, civil society, and provincial and territorial stakeholders, and contributes to different working tables across Canada to support information sharing.
The department also participates in different international fora as the federal policy lead on human trafficking. Public Safety Canada also works with international partners and agencies such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. As an example, last June, Public Safety Canada led the visit of the OSCE special representative and coordinator for combatting trafficking in human beings, who was here on a five-day visit to Canada to discuss the country's progress in implementing the OSCE anti-trafficking commitments.
Public Safety Canada has also been represented at the conference of the parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime working group on trafficking in persons and at the high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the appraisal of the United Nations global plan of action to combat trafficking in persons.
Further to this, regular engagement with the United States and Mexico occurs through a trilateral working group on trafficking in persons to encourage the exchange of best practices, regional trend identification, and trilateral collaboration to develop common approaches to addressing this important issue. Through the department's participation in this trilateral working group, we've been able to advance important work, such as the creation of a North American directory of service providers, to support victims of human trafficking across North America.
Last fall, in October 2017, the evaluation of the 2012-16 national action plan to combat human trafficking was finalized and has since been made available on Public Safety's website. The evaluation found that there is a continued need to have a national strategy to combat human trafficking and there are opportunities for the action plan to evolve. The evaluation also emphasized that there is limited reliable data to map the scope of human trafficking in Canada and that federal-provincial-territorial collaboration could be strengthened. These recommendations will help inform the Government of Canada's way forward to combat human trafficking.
Public Safety Canada and the human trafficking task force members continue to work with our domestic partners, including provincial and territorial governments and non-governmental organizations, to provide dedicated support and protection for victims, including trauma-informed services, designed to address the particular needs of human trafficking victims.
Public Safety Canada is taking steps to engage federal, provincial, and territorial stakeholders to enhance collaboration at the national level and to improve Canada's data collection. As part of these efforts, a consultation process is planned for the spring to gather information to help shape federal efforts to combat human trafficking.
To conclude, Chair, I provided a brief overview of the extensive efforts that are taking place within the department to eradicate this heinous crime. Tireless efforts are also being made by dedicated Canadians right across the country.
Thanks very much for the opportunity to speak to you today on this important issue. My colleagues and I look forward to answering any questions you may have.