Understanding Sex Work

Human Trafficking

According to the United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol, human trafficking is defined as the act of recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum:

  • the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation
  • forced labour or services
  • slavery or practices similar to slavery
  • servitude
  • or the removal of organs.

Global economic forces play a role in trafficking. People who have few economic opportunities may have little choice but to migrate for work, which may lead to being trafficked. Canada, a wealthy nation that provides social and economic opportunities, is a sought-after destination. While individuals may know that they are coming to Canada and may even know the kind of work they will engage in, control, threat, coercion, and isolation constitute human rights violations when they are used to exploit people in the context of human trafficking. Trafficking can also occur within Canada. In recent years, much attention has been paid to domestic human trafficking.

In Canada, six offences in the Criminal Code specifically address human trafficking. The Immigrant and Refugee Protection Act also contains a number of provisions against human trafficking.


Sex Work is not Human Trafficking: A Note of Caution

In recent years, many types of sexual exchange have been conflated with human trafficking. When adult consensual sex work is conflated with human trafficking, sex workers experience harms and resources can be diverted away from actual cases of human trafficking. Therefore, it is important to differentiate sex work and youth sexual exploitation from human trafficking as responses to all these issues are dependent on how they are understood.


Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons (OCTIP) This provincial government office works to develop and co-ordinate BC’s response to human trafficking.