Jessica Jahn & Yvon Dandurand

In January and February 2022, ICCLR conducted a multi-stakeholder consultation to collect inputs on how Canada has implemented certain elements of the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC or the Convention) and its Protocols on human trafficking and migrant smuggling since ratifying the instruments in 2002.[1] Facilitated on behalf of the Government of Canada, the consultation aimed to support Canada’s review under the United Nations “UNTOC Review Mechanism,” which requires States parties like Canada to submit a self-assessment questionnaire in May 2022 on their implementation of the criminalization and jurisdiction articles. Over the next few years, Canada will submit three more self-assessment reports to the Conference of the Parties, organized around the thematic clusters of prevention and protection measures, law enforcement and the judiciary, and international cooperation.

Results from the consultation show that Canadians are somewhat divided on the implementation and impacts of the international instruments, including whether Canada’s response to organized crime in its various manifestations has improved since 2002.

On the one hand, some participants suggested that becoming a party to the UNTOC enhanced Canada’s organized crime laws and generated greater public awareness of the problem. With a couple exceptions, respondents generally perceived that the Convention’s relevant articles have been satisfactorily transposed into Canada’s legal framework, particularly the provisions against participation in activities of criminal organizations, obstruction of justice, migrant smuggling, and firearms trafficking. In fact, participants in the focus group suggested that some of Canada’s criminal laws are internationally recognized as best practices. Respondents also felt that the prevention and control of human trafficking remains a political priority in Canada.

On the other hand, most respondents observed that transnational organized crime in or involving Canada has continued to expand, in some cases exponentially, with traditional suppression measures unable to keep pace with the adaptive tactics employed by organized criminals. For instance, some participants suggested that Canada’s cooperation with other countries for the investigation and prosecution of organized crime has not necessarily improved since ratifying the Convention, even though the UNTOC’s stated purpose is to promote cooperation. Other respondents expressed concern with the conflation of human trafficking with sex work and migrant smuggling, stressing that the ongoing conflation adversely effects law enforcement, vulnerable communities, and public understanding of the nature and scope of the problem. Issues with the enforcement of money laundering laws were also widely noted by respondents, emphasizing that the findings from British Columbia’s Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering will be useful when released in May 2022.

Taken together, the results of the consultation show that Canada has adopted extensive legislative and other measures to help satisfy the requirements of the Convention and two of its Protocols as they relate to criminalization and jurisdiction. The outcomes of the Review Mechanism remain to be seen, but part of its success arguably lies in States parties’ willingness to welcome inputs from civil society. In supporting and welcoming the consultation, Canada has demonstrated how civil society’s input can enrich its self-assessment process and ensure that the review process meaningfully identifies lessons from which Canada and other States parties can learn.

To read the consultation report, please click here.

[1] The report reflects the inputs provided by various stakeholders, but does not necessarily represent a consensus of opinions or the views of the Government of Canada.

Photo by Benoit Debaix on Unsplash.

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