Ontario announces human trafficking strategy, pledges additional $202 million

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — Ontario says it will spend $202 million more over the next five years to fight human trafficking in the province.

Premier Doug Ford says the money will fund a variety of measures, including an expansion of the provincial police force’s child exploitation unit and a public education campaign.

He says part of the money will also be dedicated to victims’ services, including supportive housing for human trafficking survivors.

The Progressive Conservative government says about two-thirds of Canada’s police-reported human trafficking violations take place in Ontario.

Ford says human traffickers make an estimated $50 million annually by targeting children, adding the average age of recruitment for victims is 13.

Describing the practice as “modern-day slavery,” he said the additional funding is necessary to protect families.

“It’s a tremendous amount, but as far as I’m concerned it can never be enough,” Ford said of the new funding during a news conference in St. Catharines, Ont., on Friday. “No child should ever live in fear of violence or exploitation.”

The Tories promised to develop a strategy to address the issue last November, and the new funding comes in addition to $105 million the province is already spending to combat human trafficking over the next five years.

Ford said the strategy will also involve looking at legislative tools for prosecuting such cases.

He said he intends to raise the need for tougher penalties and stricter bail conditions with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a meeting next week.

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