Legislative amendments seek to shield human trafficking victims from impact of coerced debts
The Saskatchewan government has introduced the Protection from Human Trafficking (Coerced Debts) Amendment Act, 2023, which prevents lenders from including information about coerced debts in credit reports and from taking these debts into account when evaluating a potential loan.
“With the introduction of The Protection for Human Trafficking (Coerced Debts) Amendment Act, Saskatchewan is one of the first provinces that is taking steps to address the financial abuse elements of human trafficking,” said Julia Drydyk, executive director of the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, in the provincial government’s news release.
“This is about reducing dependency between victims and their traffickers, who often force victims to take out loans on their behalf and then prevent them from repaying them,” said Bronwyn Eyre, Saskatchewan’s justice minister and attorney general.
The legislative amendments will implement a private and trauma-informed certification process accessible through the justice ministry’s Victims Services.
Victims Services will confirm a victim’s history and the debts they incurred as a result. The victim can, if necessary, confirm the information without having to reveal private and potentially traumatizing details to the credit reporting agency. Once the information has been confirmed, the victim will receive a certificate that they can use when working with a credit reporting agency.
Credit reporting agencies can choose to remove information about coerced debts even without certification, the news release noted.
“We hope that these new protections will help vulnerable victims rebuild their lives without coerced debts hanging over their heads,” said Eyre.
“The debts coerced upon human trafficking victims and survivors while they are being exploited often create significant barriers as they rebuild their lives,” added Drydyk.
Drydyk, speaking on behalf of the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, urged the provincial government to work closely with survivor experts and front-line agencies so that the implementation of the new law can empower survivors and reduce barriers to accessing support.
Province’s anti-human trafficking work continues
Saskatchewan’s new legislation builds upon its ongoing work to tackle the rising incidences of human trafficking. This year, the provincial government invested over $27.5 million in interpersonal violence support and services.
This investment included $984,000 in general operational funding over three years to support second-stage housing, intervention, and counselling services for women and their children leaving interpersonal violence and abuse.
In Regina and Prince Albert, the government recently announced $108,000 in operational funding over three years to support second-stage housing, including counselling services and intervention for women and their children leaving interpersonal violence and abuse.
Last year, the province introduced the Protection from Human Trafficking Act, which added provisions for protection orders against human traffickers and allowed victims to sue their traffickers for financial compensation.
In the fall of 2022, the government dedicated $150,000 in funding to Hope Restored, a counselling program that offers services to human trafficking victims.