Province offers human trafficking victims free legal support

Victims of human trafficking and their parents now have somewhere to turn for help.

The Ontario government announced the launch of a new, province-wide program designed to help victims and their families with free legal support.

Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General said the program is the first of its kind in Canada and that the province is committed to victims and their family members.

“Human trafficking has a devastating impact on survivors and their families. We are committed to ensuring people in Ontario have the support and legal options they need to protect themselves as they rebuild their lives. Free legal representation is an important step in this journey for survivors to have peace of mind,” he said.

The program cam into effect May 1 making a team of specialized lawyers available to survivors of human trafficking and those at rick of human trafficking to get restraining orders by giving free legal advice, help completing applications, free representation at application hearing in any Ontario Court of Justice.

The legal help is also provided to parents of victims.

Tessa McFadzean, chair, Hamilton Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition said the service will help people navigate a complex system in a time of emotional distress.

“Navigating the complexities of the legal system can be quite challenging particularly for survivors experiencing significant trauma and fear. Specialized legal representation for human trafficking survivors will help reduce systemic barriers by improving access to critical services that were not previously available.”

The program is available everywhere in Ontario by phone or in person.

To access the services, eligible individuals can call Ontario’s dedicated confidential Human Trafficking Helpline at 1-833-999-9211.

Michael Coteau, minister of community and social services said the government is trying to work with front-line workers to provide necessary supports.

“We have heard from our partners on the front-lines that traffickers often pursue survivors when they try to leave and seek safety. This new program will make an important difference in the lives of those being targeted and their families, by providing meaningful legal recourse to use against those who seek to exploit them.”

The province has also introduced a new type of restraining order, a human trafficking-specific restraining order, created under the Anti-Human Trafficking Act. It’s meant to helps protect survivors and the safety of those around them. Victims are not required to notifying the trafficker in advance, as was previously the case.

Harinder Malhi, minister of the status of women said access to these services in essential.

“It is critical that survivors of human trafficking have access to the services and support that they need. This program ensures that individuals in every community can access free and confidential legal advice, no matter where they are in the province.”

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