Manitoba looks to crack down on people using hotels for human trafficking

The province is cracking down on people who use hotels and taxis for human trafficking.

If passed, a new law would require hotels and Airbnb’s to keep a customer registry of all names and addresses. Police would be able to access information from the registry with a court order. On an urgent basis, if investigators believe a victim of human trafficking is in harm’s way or their life is in danger, they can demand the relevant portions of the registry.

The bill was introduced by Manitoba Families Minister Rochelle Squires.

“This will be one more tool that the police will have that will enable them to obtain information about a perpetrator,” said Squires.

The province says around 400 children and youth are trafficked annually in plain sight in Manitoba. But it estimates this is only a small portion of the illegal trade which operates in private and online.

Diane Redsky, from the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, welcomes the proposed law.

“These are venues where you have a room and a bed, people come and go,” said Redsky.

She said human traffickers use hotel rooms and temporary accommodations to sexually exploit women and girls behind closed doors. Redsky said at times cash is used so there is no paper trail. A registry would change that as customers would be required to provide their ID and address.

“Criminals rely on these venues as places to be able to sneak around,” said Redsky.

Maximum fines for non-compliance for individuals and corporations range from maximums of $5,000 to $100,000.

Manitoba Hotel Association President Scott Jocelyn said hotels already have the necessary records on file.

“I don’t think it will be cumbersome, we want to be part of the solution,” said Jocelyn.

The law would also compel hotels, Airbnb’s and taxi and ride-sharing drivers to report human trafficking instances to police. The association that represents taxi drivers says it supports this.

“We’re going to be working very closely with the sectors and enhancing awareness and ensuring they know who to call,” said Minister Squires.

There may be some opposition to the legislation. On Friday afternoon, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs released a statement raising a potential concern with the proposed law.

“We hope that with such legislation, it does not become an excuse to increase policing of First Nations children and youth and that the focus lies on the individuals and systems that create these violent conditions that harm our families,” said Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse. 

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