Modern slavery exists in Canada. Human trafficking takes three main forms in our country: forced labour, forced prostitution/sex and forced marriage.
For more information, see the following:

-Invisible Chains (the first book on human trafficking in Canada):
-United States State Department annual Trafficking in Persons Report on Canada:



Slavery was one of the grossest violations of human rights and dignity in human history. It permeated, at one time or another, every inch of the globe: from the sugar plantations, and mines of the Americas, to the harems of the Ottoman Empire and the armies of the Sokoto Caliphate, slavery was an incredibly diverse and global institution.

Historical Map:

Reduced to expendable chattel, slaves were divorced from their homelands, sold and bought, and forcibly taken to their new sites of exploitation where, under the threat of violence, they were made to work for the financial benefit of others. By various emancipatory decrees and proclamations throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, slavery gradually declined and eventually ceased to exist.

Or did it?

Many people understand slavery to be part of our collective past. When discussed, slavery is predominantly associated with images of enslaved Africans toiling on plantations in the Americas and its demise is seen through the lens of two key pieces of abolitionist legislation: the 1807 legal abolition of the British trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation in the United States. Many people are not aware of the following contemporary reality: slavery is one of the grossest violations of human rights and there are reported cases in every country today with the exception of one: Greenland.

Modern Slavery Map:

There are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today; that is more than double the number of enslaved Africans violently transported across the Atlantic Ocean during the entire history of the transatlantic slave trade. The good news is that this is also the smallest number of slaves enslaved per capita in human history: approximately 0, 0039%.

The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 12.3 million persons worldwide in some form of forced labour. According to the United Nations, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked internationally each year. Siddharth Kara puts the annual number closer to 1.8 million, with close to half (primarily women and girls) specifically trafficked for sexual exploitation.

While most nations have anti-human trafficking laws, enforcement is erratic, and, in some countries, non-existent. Acccording to the U.S. State department, 62 countries have failed to convict a trafficker based under the laws enshrined in the Palermo Protocol – the key United Nations declaration that helped to further refine the definition of trafficking and modern slavery internationally. It is estimated that slavery in the 21st century is a 32 billion dollar global industry on par with drug trafficking and illicit arms sales.

Canada is not immune to modern day slavery either: it is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking. Trafficking in human beings was only made an indictable offence under the Canadian Criminal Code in 2005.


This reality somberly reminds us that slavery is alive and well in the 21st century, and the process of abolition is not complete. If slavery is legally abolished worldwide, but its more abhorrent characteristics – coercion, ownership, zero remuneration - continue to terrorize large numbers of people, on what basis can it be claimed to be terminated?

Whether it is sex trafficking, debt bondage, domestic servitude, forced labour, or forced marriage, contemporary forms of slavery continue to menace large groups of people.

At the Alliance Against Modern Slavery we believe that through useful research, education materials and strategic aid in partnership, we can better tackle this under-publicized human rights crisis. We confront slavery at the local and international levels, and come to it from a vast array of backgrounds.

Our research team works to outline the trajectory of slavery from past forms to present ones. By outlining these parallels, transformations, and continuities, there can be a greater understanding of the ways in which systems of exploitation can mutate and adapt to changing realities.

As we seek to end slavery in our local and global communities, we can learn from the historical roots to contemporary forms of slavery, and past attempts to end slavery. We, therefore, combine research and activism to help complete the goal of abolition, which began over two hundred years ago.



This new online resource on the history of slavery and the abolitionist movement in Canada was developed for Heritage Canada (a federal government department in Canada) for students in grades 5 to 10 (ages 11-16).

"Slavery in Canada" is a free-access site. The URL is as follows: