Ontario school boards must implement anti-human trafficking protocols by next year

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Ontario announced a new policy framework on Tuesday mandating that school boards put together anti-human trafficking protocols to better protect students.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce made the announcement in Richmond Hill alongside Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and the Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues Jane McKenna.

“We need to do a better job at protecting our most vulnerable as the sad reality is that trafficking impacts our children and students the most,” Lecce said.

“And disturbingly, the least police report cases of human trafficking in Ontario involved sexual exploitation. School aged children and youth are prime targets for trafficking. The average age of recruitment into sex trafficking in Canada is 13 years old.”

Officials said that, while some Ontario school boards are providing training and supporting anti-sex trafficking work, only the York Region District School board has an anti-sex trafficking protocol in place.

Lecce said that he expects all school boards to have anti-sex trafficking protocols in place by January 2022.

The government also announced $2.3 million in funding for training and resources to help school boards put forward these protocols.

As part of the protocols, school boards must raise awareness of sex trafficking, provide support for students who are at risk of being sex trafficked or who may be grooming and recruiting other students to do so, train employees and educators and establish “approaches to support accountability and evaluation.”

The framework builds on changes made in 2019, when lessons about sex trafficking became mandatory in the elementary Health and Physical Education curriculum.