Temporary Resident Permits (TRPs): Considerations specific to victims of human trafficking

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

To enhance existing in-Canada mechanisms for facilitating persons who may be victims of human trafficking and who are foreign nationals, CIC has developed criteria to be used in assessing TRP applications from potential victims of human trafficking. These measures will also extend Interim Federal Health coverage to these persons and will introduce a more systematic way of tracking these cases.

General information about human trafficking

What is human trafficking

The Trafficking Protocol is an internationally recognized framework to prevent human trafficking, protect victims, prosecute offenders and facilitate international cooperation against such activity. It requires the criminalization of human trafficking in domestic legislation and recommends certain measures to protect and assist victims.

The Trafficking Protocol defines trafficking as:

“the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by improper means, such as force, abduction, fraud or coercion, for an improper purpose, such as forced or coerced labour, servitude, slavery or sexual exploitation.”

See also:

Human Trafficking: Reference Guide for Canadian Law Enforcement (Appendix 1: Model Canadian Screening Tool to Help Identify a Potential Victim of Human Trafficking)

Methods used by traffickers

Traffickers use a number of methods to control their victims such as:

  • confiscation of their identification documents (including passports and travel documents),
  • monitoring and surveillance,
  • restraint,
  • sexual assault, and
  • violence or threats of violence against them or their family members.

Human trafficking may occur across or within borders, and often involves extensive organized crime networks and violates the basic human rights of its victims.

The Internet has become the trafficker’s tool of choice to lure victims, by using social networking sites to meet and groom potential victims.

Victims of human trafficking may enter Canada illegally or legally. For example victims:

  • may be smuggled into Canada in a clandestine manner,
  • may enter legitimately, or
  • may or may not overstay their status.

Traffickers may use deception or false documents to fraudulently obtain visas or assist victims to be admitted at a port of entry. Victims of human trafficking may or may not be aware that they have entered Canada illegally. In some cases, persons who enter Canada as legitimate visitors are subsequently exploited by traffickers.

Identifying victims of human trafficking who are in transit can be difficult; exploitation may not yet have occurred, and potential victims would be unaware of the traffickers’ true intent. At this stage, victims may view traffickers as assisting, rather than exploiting them.

Smuggling vs. trafficking

Human trafficking is often confused with migrant smuggling; however, it is important to be able to distinguish between the two, as they require different responses from authorities.

Differences

Migrant smuggling:
  • Occurs with the consent of the smuggled person
  • Smuggled persons are generally free to go in the country of final destination, where they usually have no further contact with the smuggler
Human trafficking
  • Involves the use of threats, force, fraud or other forms of coercion.
  • Victims of human trafficking are not at liberty in their final destination. They are exploited for the labour or services they can provide.

Similarities

Both migrant smuggling and human trafficking may present similarities and are often only distinguished after further inquiry. Smuggled persons may become victims of human trafficking at any point in the smuggling process. Some may consent, for example, to being smuggled across a border, but find on arrival in the country of destination that debt bondage, or other forms of coercion, have been imposed. If this occurs, they become victims of human trafficking, regardless of whether they consented to being smuggled in the first place.

Impact of human trafficking on victims

Human trafficking causes a number of direct and indirect harmful consequences to its victims. Victims of human trafficking may be physically and/or sexually assaulted, confined, restrained and/or subjected to psychological abuse. Fear for one's own personal safety, and the safety of loved ones can cause additional emotional trauma and stress. Victims of human trafficking may also experience shame, low self-esteem and a sense of powerlessness. Many victims of human trafficking suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and may fear or mistrust authorities.

Processing

CIC's involvement typically begins when a person self-identifies or is referred to CIC by a non-governmental organization (NGO) or law enforcement authority as a potential victim of human trafficking. A consultation between CIC and partner law enforcement agencies may occur when a person self-identifies as a victim of human trafficking.

If referred by an NGO, and if CBSA or RCMP have not already been consulted, consultations may occur provided disclosure of information is permitted.

Note: The one year bar to access a TRP under IRPA section A24 (4) does not bar an officer, on their own initiative, the ability to consider and issue/refuse a TRP for a potential victim of human trafficking.

Interviewing

An interview may be necessary to determine whether a person is a victim of human trafficking. If the victim is referred to CIC by a law enforcement agency, that agency can assist with the preliminary verification; however, CIC has the sole authority to determine if a TRP is warranted. When the victim of human trafficking is referred by CBSA and is being held in detention, a final decision should be made within 48 hours of contact as CBSA may release the individual after 48 hours.

For information on dealing with trafficked children, consult ENF 21 – Recovering Missing, Abducted and Exploited Children.

Officers must be sensitive to the personal situation of a suspected victim of human trafficking as they may be experiencing psychological and/or physical trauma. They may require the assistance of an interpreter.

Where an application is processed

Local CIC offices must process these application because of the urgent nature of these cases, for expediency. These victims may be in Canada without status and may also lack travel and identity documents. These applications must not be directed to CPC-Vegreville.

Ministerial instructions

In applying their discretion to issue a TRP, an officer must act in accordance with the following Ministerial Instructions:

Officers who are conducting assessments of foreign nationals to determine if they are victims of trafficking in persons are justified in issuing:

1(1)   A short-term temporary resident permit lasting up to 180 days, in cases where the officer is only able to make a preliminary assessment that the individual may be a victim of trafficking in persons. The criteria used in the preliminary assessment to verify whether the individual may be a victim of trafficking in persons include indications that:

  1. The recruitment of the individual was fraudulent or coerced, and for the purposes (actual or intended) of exploitation;
  2. The individual was coerced into employment or other activity;
  3. The conditions of employment or any other activity were exploitive; or
  4. The individual’s freedom was restricted.

1(2)   In these cases, the officer may issue a short-term temporary resident permit lasting up to 180 days for any of the following purposes:

  1. To provide a period of reflection for victims of trafficking in persons to further consider their options for returning home or to allow time to decide if they wish to assist in the investigation of the trafficker or in criminal proceedings against the trafficker;
  2. To allow victims of trafficking in persons to recover from physical and/ or mental trauma (e.g. counseling and/or medical treatment may be necessary);
  3. To allow victims of trafficking in persons to escape the influence of traffickers so that they can make an informed decision on a future course of action;
  4. To facilitate the participation of victims of trafficking in the investigation or prosecution of an alleged TIP offence in Canada or otherwise assist authorities.
  5. For any other purpose the officer may judge relevant to facilitate the protection of vulnerable foreign nationals who are victims of human trafficking.

2.   A longer-term temporary resident permit, or a subsequent temporary resident permit, in cases where a more complete verification of the facts provide reasonable grounds for the officer to believe that the individual is a victim of trafficking in persons. The officer should consider the following factors in deciding whether to issue a longer-term temporary resident permit:

  1. Whether it is reasonably safe and possible for the victims to return to and to re-establish a life in the country of origin or last permanent residence;
  2. Whether the victims are needed, and willing, to assist authorities in an investigation and /or in criminal proceedings of a trafficking offence.
  3. Any other factor that in the opinion of the officer justifies, in the circumstances, issuing a temporary resident permit.

The objective of these instructions is to provide protection to vulnerable foreign nationals who are victims of trafficking in persons, by regularizing their status in Canada, when appropriate. Victims of human trafficking may require a two-stage response when considering a TRP request. In some cases, a short-term TRP lasting up to 180 days will be necessary before proper consideration can be given to whether a longer-term TRP is appropriate.

  • Once the decision to issue or not the TRP is made, the officer must communicate the decision to the Operational Management and Coordination Branch (OMC) at National Headquarters.
  • The officer can also communicate the decision to their local CBSA office, if necessary.

Note: If the victim of human trafficking has existing immigration status through another program, officers may consider not issuing a TRP until the current status has lapsed. However, the client must still be interviewed, and details reported to OMC.

Issuing a TRP

Short-term TRP (up to 180 days)

Given the complexity of human trafficking cases and the trauma that a victim of human trafficking may be experiencing, it is not always possible for the officer to make a conclusive finding that the individual is in fact a victim of human trafficking. If the individual is a self-identified victim of human trafficking and has not yet been to the police, it may be difficult for the officer to verify all of the facts. The individual may not be able to undergo an in-depth interview with the officer (due to language, fear, trauma, etc.). They may be too afraid to identify traffickers, or may be afraid of consequences to their own well-being or the well-being of loved ones under threat, should the nature of their activities become known.

For these reasons, officers may only be able to make a preliminary assessment that, based on the circumstances presented; the individual may be a victim of human trafficking.

The criteria used in a preliminary assessment to verify the circumstances, including an assessment of credibility and whether the individual may have been trafficked, should take into account any indications that any of the following apply:

  • the recruitment of the individual was fraudulent or coerced and for the purposes (actual or intended) of exploitation
  • the individual was coerced into employment or other activity
  • the conditions of employment or any other activity were exploitative
  • the individual’s freedom was restricted.

Officers may issue the individual a short-term TRP in the following context:

  • to provide a period of reflection for the suspected victim of human trafficking to consider their options for returning home or to allow time to decide if they wish to assist in the investigation of the trafficker or in criminal proceedings against the trafficker
  • to allow the suspected victims of human trafficking to recover from physical and/ or mental trauma (e.g., counselling and/or medical treatment may be necessary)
  • to allow the suspected victims of human trafficking to escape the influence of traffickers so that they can make an informed decision on a future course of action
  • to facilitate the participation of the suspected VTIPs in the investigation or prosecution of an alleged human trafficking offence in Canada, or otherwise assist authorities
  • for any other purpose that is relevant to facilitate the protection of vulnerable foreign nationals who are victims of human trafficking.

The officer may consider issuing a short-term TRP for up to 180 days on the understanding that the individual will return to the officer for a more complete examination, should a subsequent TRP be envisaged.

If the person is suspected or determined to be a victim of human trafficking, officers may assist them to contact organizations that provide assistance to trafficked persons as well as their foreign representative in Canada, NGOs, provincial and municipal agencies. In many instances, the person may simply wish to return to their country of habitual residence as soon as possible and may need assistance in this regard. Medical and social counselling assistance may be granted to suspected victims of human trafficking via the Interim Federal Health (IFH) program available through CIC for TRP holders.

If the person wants to file a refugee claim, see the Refugee Protection Program Delivery Instructions.

Longer-term TRP

When a suspected victim of human trafficking is seeking a longer-term TRP, a more complete verification of the facts in consultation with law enforcement, and an interview may be required. In order to establish reasonable grounds to believe the individual is a victim of human trafficking, officers must consider the following factors:

  • whether it is reasonably safe and possible for the victims to return to and re-establish a life in their country of origin or last permanent residence
  • any other reasons or relevant factors

Note: Persons who have been trafficked to Canada may have been kept in isolation from Canadian society, may be illiterate or unskilled and may not have formed support networks that they want or are able to depend on for help in integrating. These circumstances should not weigh against affording legal status.

Officers should take into account apparent risks faced by the victim of human trafficking in their circumstances. Victims are not required to collaborate with enforcement agencies or testify against their traffickers in order to receive the permit.

After the period of reflection, a subsequent permit may also be given for up to three years depending on individual circumstances and the type of inadmissibility, allowing victims of human trafficking to eventually apply for permanent residence in Canada under the Temporary Resident Holder Class. Victims may also apply for a work permit at the same time, and both the initial TRP and the work permit can be obtained free of charge.

Interview

The objectives of the interview are to:

  • establish the facts of the case in order to verify that the person was a victim of human trafficking, and
  • use the facts to determine the best course of action for the long term.

In reaching a decision, officers should recall that the objective of these guidelines is to respond to the vulnerable situation of victims of human trafficking by providing them with a means of legalizing their status in Canada, when appropriate.

If, for example, it would be unsafe or very difficult for a victim of human trafficking to re-establish a life in the country of origin, or if the victim of human trafficking is willing to assist authorities in Canada, an officer can issue a long-term TRP.

Interview guidelines

These interview pointers have been developed by the International Organization for Migration.

Duty of the interviewer
  • to inform the victim that the purpose of the interview is to assist the person and not to take any enforcement action against them
  • treat the victim-witness sensitively and with empathy and with full respect of their human rights
  • adhere to the ‘Do no harm’ principle
  • create optimum conditions to minimize the stress of the interview
  • put no undue pressure on victim to make a statement
  • to provide the victim with a fair opportunity to tell the story
  • to be sensitive to any gender issues such as the victim and the interviewer be the same gender
Interview style

Courteous, respectful, sensitive and aware of the issues

  • avoid an authoritarian approach
  • avoid over-familiarity – through eye contact or body language
  • ask simple questions – encouragement
  • active listening
  • allow free speech and avoid interruption
  • be aware that some questions may seek to recall painful events
  • the victim may need to take a break at any time

The critical concepts to be discerned in the interview are those of exploitation and loss of or limitations on liberty.

Typical interview questions might include, but are not limited to the following:

Recruitment and documentation
  • how did you get to Canada?
  • did anyone help you enter Canada?
  • what did you think you were coming to Canada to do?
  • how did you obtain the documentation used to enter Canada (if person entered Canada with documentation)?
Employment and coercion
  • what did you come to Canada to do?
  • what sort of work did you actually perform, once you arrived in Canada?
  • were you paid for your services? How much?
  • did your employer(s) say that you owed them anything? What for?
  • did you have to pay any of your earnings toward a debt?
  • Were you allowed to keep any/all of your earnings?
  • Do you believe that you still owe your employers anything?
Working conditions (exploitation)
  • Did you and your employer have a written document setting out your respective entitlements and obligations? Do you have it?
  • How many hours a day did you work?
  • Were you allowed any time off?
  • Were you permitted time off if you were sick?
Restriction on liberty and use of force
  • Were you allowed to communicate with family members?
  • Did you live and work at the same place? If so, were you permitted to leave the premises as you wished?
  • Did anyone accompany you if you did leave?
  • Were threats made to you, your family members or others close to you?
  • What happened to your identification documents after you arrived?
  • Were you able to leave your job and seek another one, if you so wished?
  • What did you believe would happen if you attempted to leave?

If permanent residence in Canada is determined to be the best course of action, an officer may consider issuing a TRP for a sufficient period of time in case and until the person becomes a permanent resident.

Work Permits

A TRP valid for at least 180 days makes the holder eligible to apply for a work permit. A TRP does not exempt the permit holder from the requirement to apply for a work permit if they wish to work in Canada. If the victim of human trafficking wants to apply for a work permit, the application should be processed by the local CIC office at the same time as the TRP application due to of the urgent nature of these cases and not be directed to CPC-Vegreville.

Cost recovery

Victims of human trafficking are exempt from the cost recovery fee for the initial short-term TRP of up to 180 days for the period of reflection and the fee for the work permit issued in conjunction with the TRP.

Repatriation

In some instances, the person may want to return to their country of citizenship or legal permanent residence. If the person is in the enforcement stream, CBSA is responsible for sending the person home; therefore, CIC officers should contact the local CBSA office.

Other measures available

Foreign nationals who are victims of human trafficking may avail themselves of a number of other legislative and administrative measures in order to remain in Canada temporarily or permanently. These include stays of removal, refugee protection claims, applications for permanent residence under the humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) considerations, and pre-removal risk assessments. The individual should be counselled about available options.

Trafficking provisions under IRPA and the Criminal Code

Sections A118, A120 and A121 of IRPA establish a specific human trafficking offence and provide for stiff penalties for trafficking persons into Canada.

Sections 279.01 of the Criminal Code, section 279.02 of the Criminal Code, section 279.03 of the Criminal Code, section 279.04 of the Criminal Code set out human trafficking offence and punishments.

Several other Criminal Code offences have also been used to address human trafficking cases, including:

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