Ontario Acts to Protect Students from Sex TraffickingPublished on July 06, 2021
$2.4 million investment mandates all boards to implement anti-trafficking plan - the first-of-its-kind in Canada
July 06, 2021
TORONTO — The Ontario government is releasing a new policy framework, the first of its kind in Canada, as part of its strategy for school boards to protect students from the heinous crime of sex-trafficking. With the goal of keeping children and youth safe from sexual exploitation, this new strategy and framework recognizes the critical role schools can play in combatting sex-trafficking. Sadly, the majority of police reported trafficking in Canada takes place in Ontario.
The announcement was made by Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General, Jane McKenna, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, Sam Oosterhoff, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education, Daisy Wai, MPP for Richmond Hill, and Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, who were joined by Casandra Diamond, Founder and Director of BridgeNorth Women’s Mentorship & Advocacy Service.
The Ontario government’s strategy to support school boards in combatting sex-trafficking builds on the updated Health and Physical Education curriculum for Grades 1-8, announced by Minister Lecce in 2019. That updated curriculum positioned Ontario as a leader by including mandatory learning to protect students against sex trafficking. As part of its strategy to combat human trafficking, the new policy framework requires all school boards to have a plan and anti-human trafficking protocols in place to protect students.
To support implementation of this new initiative, the Ontario government is investing $2.4 million in necessary training and resources. This will ensure school boards and school staff have the tools to recognize, identify, respond and prevent the sex trafficking of children and youth.
The Keeping Students Safe – Policy Framework for School Board Anti-Sex Trafficking Protocols sets a strong foundation for Ontario school boards to establish key partnerships and regionally tailored anti-sex trafficking protocols. School boards will collaborate with community and police organizations with the goal of having protocols in place for all provincially-funded schools in January 2022.
The new effort outlines actions school boards must take to help protect students, including:
The announcement builds on the leading efforts the Ontario government is making to protect students from human trafficking and sexual exploitation through raising awareness, including:
Ontario’s strategy to combat trafficking is informed by the Ministry of Education’s Anti-Human Trafficking Working Group, which includes persons with lived experience of being trafficked, frontline community-based organizations that support survivors, Indigenous communities and organizations, representatives from Black and racialized communities, newcomers and students.
This school-based initiative is aligned with the Government of Ontario’s robust Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy, a comprehensive action plan to combat human trafficking and child sexual exploitation, which is co-led by the Solicitor General and the Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues.
"This announcement fully demonstrates that the Ministry of Education - a key partner in the fight against human trafficking - takes student safety and well-being seriously. Having long believed that education is the only way to prevent this awful crime from victimizing children and youth, today’s announcement gives me hope for the future. "
- Casandra Diamond
"Sex trafficking is an evil crime that preys on children and our most vulnerable. While we continue to crack down on violent offenders, we are focused on the prevention of this crime – and that starts in Ontario schools. Ontario is now the first province in Canada to require an anti-sex trafficking strategy in all school boards – for every provincially funded school, in all regions of our province. Ontario schools will increasingly play a critical role in preventing, identifying and recognizing the signs of sex trafficking with a singular focus on protecting your child’s safety. "
- Stephen Lecce
"Today’s announcement further underlines our government’s commitment to end human trafficking and reinforces our pledge to build awareness, protect victims, provide support for survivors and hold offenders accountable. This new framework, coupled with Ontario’s Anti-Human Trafficking strategy and newly passed Combating Human Trafficking Act will help prevent and respond to the threat of sex trafficking of school-aged children and youth and support our efforts to fight this heinous crime. "
- Sylvia Jones
"Sadly, children and youth are targeted by traffickers seeking to sexually exploit vulnerable people. Our schools are uniquely positioned to help spot the warning signs early, so we can prevent this crime and keep our students safe. This anti-sex trafficking framework is another important step in our work to combat sex trafficking and protect children and youth across the province. "
- Jane McKenna
"Addressing this tragic crime with compassion and conviction means all government ministries have to work together to better support survivors, and help those trafficked. This protocol and funding will encourage and support more active work on this important file, assisting our partners in community and school boards to end the scourge of sex-trafficking, while supporting survivors. "
- Sam Oosterhoff