The Politicization of Human Trafficking Laws

2021, Innovations in Research

This study reviewed the evidence at the basis of a recent government report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, titled "Moving Forward in the Fight Against Trafficking in Canada." Through a critical socio-legal lens, I examined the degree to which empirical evidence was relied upon by the committee, and the depth of academic support that could be found for the recommendations put forward. The findings demonstrate that very little academic empirical research was taken up by the committee. Instead, the sources that most strongly influenced the committee appear to have been submitted by the government, organizations with an abolitionist ideology and religious organizations. The final report did not reflect empirical academic evidence nor did it incorporate the recommendations of organizations working with the population. Canadian human trafficking law appears to be based more on politically charged ideas of sex work and human trafficking than it is reflective of empirical knowledge.

This research demonstrates that the critique that Canadian human trafficking laws are based in politically charged ideas is valid. More generally, this research illustrates how the government is ignoring research and affected communities when making decisions. The findings support the importance of creating laws that are based in evidence and consultation with those affected to try to stop the systematic inequalities that plague the criminal justice system. The research also helps us to better understand how laws are being created and who is being given the opportunity to create knowledge about an issue, especially when dealing with vulnerable populations.

Sydney Brown

Graduate Student, School of Criminology

Critical legal theory, politicization of law, human trafficking laws


Sydney Brown

Sydney Brown (she/her/hers) graduated from SFU with a BA in Criminology, with honours, in 2020. The research presented here was conducted as part of her undergraduate honours thesis. She is now pursuing her master's in Criminology at SFU.

More Innovations in Research