A new bill introduced in the Saskatchewan legislature Thursday is intended to help protect victims of human trafficking from some of the impacts that can be caused by coerced debts.
Fittingly called The Protection from Human Trafficking (Coerced Debts) Amendment Act, it is intended to amend existing legislation that was introduced last year to address human trafficking in the province. The original legislation included provisions for protection orders against human traffickers and allowed victims of human trafficking to seek financial compensation from the traffickers themselves.
“This is about reducing dependency between victims and their traffickers, who often force victims to take out loans on their behalf and then prevent them from repaying them," Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre said. "We hope that these new protections will help vulnerable victims rebuild their lives without coerced debts hanging over their heads.”
The new bill, if and when passed, will prohibit lenders from including information about coerced debts in credit reports, and from taking coerced debts into account when evaluating a potential loan. A private, trauma-informed certification process for victims will be made available through the Ministry of Justice’s Victim Services branch. This will confirm the victim’s history and the debts incurred. Then, the certificate is provided for use when working with a credit reporting agency.
The certificate allows the victims to confirm the information with the credit reporting agencies without the need to reveal private information.
“The debts coerced upon human trafficking victims and survivors while they are being exploited often create significant barriers as they rebuild their lives,” The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking Executive Director Julia Drydyk said. “With the introduction of The Protection for Human Trafficking (Coerced Debts) Amendment Act, Saskatchewan is one of the first provinces that is taking steps to address the financial abuse elements of human trafficking. The centre encourages the Government of Saskatchewan to work closely with survivor experts and front-line agencies to ensure this legislation is implemented in a way that empowers survivors and reduces barriers to accessing support.”
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