International human trafficking in Canada : why so few prosecutions?


University of British Columbia

Date Issued


Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy - PhD




This study investigated the anomaly between the claims that international human trafficking is wide spread in Canada versus the paucity of international trafficking prosecutions that have been achieved in this country following almost a decade of anti-trafficking enforcement. It relied upon a research approach that was anchored by Pierre Bourdieu’s ‘field’ theory in order to unite the disparate issues that were examined in this project into a cohesive explanation for why there have been so few international human trafficking prosecutions in Canada. This thesis examines how moral reform and radical feminism have come to dominate the trafficking discourse and how that dominance has resulted in a general understanding of the crime where the victims are vulnerable foreign women and children trafficked for the sex trade. The study traces the interaction that has taken place between the international anti-trafficking social movement and the Canadian government in order to demonstrate the influence that this social construction of international trafficking has had upon the government’s anti-trafficking policy, law and enforcement strategies. Through an analysis of government documents, statistical enforcement results, study research interviews, and alternative explanations that have been offered to account for the lack of international trafficking prosecutions, this thesis establishes that the most plausible explanation for so few international trafficking prosecutions in Canada is that the international trafficking of foreign women and girls into Canada for prostitution is not as systemic in this country as many have claimed. The examination of the lone international trafficking prosecution reveals that the victim formation which underpins the understanding of international trafficking can appreciably affect prosecutions because it dismisses from consideration as victims those persons who exist beyond the parameters of the accepted international human trafficking victim indicia.

Date Available



Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported




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