Ontario Is the First Province in Canada to Offer Free Legal Help to Human Trafficking Victims
Free legal advice could help efforts to put an end to modern-day slavery.
Ontario will now offer free legal advice to human trafficking victims as part of the province’s anti-trafficking efforts.
Victims or those at risk can access free legal help by phone or in person.
The Ministry of the Attorney General pulled together a team of specialized lawyers that victims can ask for confidential legal advice, as well as support in completing a restraining order application, and representation at application hearings in any Ontario Court of Justice.
Parents and guardians of a child survivor or one at risk are also eligible for the assistance, according to the ministry.
"This will simplify it for victims because they will have trained lawyers who are specialized in human trafficking," Barbara Gosse, chief executive of the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, told the Canadian Press.
Ontario's Strategy to End Human Trafficking launched in 2016 and it includes an investment of up to $72 million.
Efforts have included the creation of an advisory forum for survivors to contribute to policy discussions, according to CP.
Still, barriers like high fees make it hard for people to access legal assistance.
"Navigating the complexities of the legal system can be quite challenging particularly for survivors experiencing significant trauma and fear," Tessa McFadzean, chair of the Hamilton Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition, said in a press release. "Specialized legal representation for human trafficking survivors will help reduce systemic barriers by improving access to critical services that were not previously available."
Gosse said that obtaining a restraining order can cost up to $6,000.
There were 206 cases of human trafficking recorded in 2014 in Canada alone, according to Statistics Canada, but experts believe the real number is much higher.
About two-thirds of reported cases were in Ontario, according to the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
More than 40 million people around the world were victims of human trafficking in 2016, according to a report by the International Labor Organization and the Walk Free Foundation.
Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including issues related to women and girls. You can take action here.