North America

Countries and territories covered: Canada, Mexico, United States of America

1. Status of the legislation on trafficking in persons

Canada's first law that specifically criminalized trafficking in persons was enacted in 2002. Additional amendments were made to the Criminal Code in 2005 which created three additional specific offences to cover all forms of trafficking. Together with a specific trafficking in persons offence, non trafficking specific offence were used for prosecuting some forms of trafficking activities during the reporting period. Mexico implemented reforms in its penal code in 2007. Anti-trafficking efforts in Mexico fall partly under the competency of the country's 31 states and one federal district. In 2008, 19 of the Mexican states adopted anti-trafficking provisions as part of their criminal codes.

The USA adopted the Trafficking in Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000, and subsequently amended it in 2003 and 2004. During the reporting period, non trafficking specific offences were used together with a specific trafficking in persons offence for prosecuting some forms of trafficking activities.

Anti-trafficking legislation in these three countries criminalizes at least trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation and forced labour, with no restrictions on the age or gender of the victim.

2. The criminal justice response to trafficking in persons

Canada, Mexico and the USA recorded different patterns in terms of criminal justice responses to trafficking in persons. The available information concerning Canada reflects only the minimum number of trafficking cases charged and prosecuted during the reporting period, because many court decisions went unreported. Official criminal justice data for March 2007 through February 2008 from the police and the courts was unavailable at the time of preparation of this report.

In Mexico, the number of investigations and prosecutions rose following the adoption of legislation on trafficking in persons in 2007. Data for the USA shows a rising trend in investigations, prosecutions, convictions and in the absolute number of criminal justice proceedings.

3. Trafficking in persons patterns

Information on the profile of trafficking offenders and victims was very limited for North America. In Canada and Mexico, a small number of criminal proceedings were carried out during the reported period, involving both adult and child victims. Authorities in the USA report that men, women and children are trafficked into the country largely from East Asia, Mexico and Central America for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour. The responsibility for identifying and providing services to victims is spread among multiple agencies. Both adult and under age victims were identified, with the number of minors increasing during the reporting period. However, the proportion of victims who were minors is unknown. Cases of trafficking for forced labour accounted for at least 63% of the victims detected in 2007.