Manitoba human trafficking legislation would require hotel, Airbnb owners to give police client info on demand

The Manitoba government is tabling a bill and changes to existing acts it says will strengthen human trafficking and sexual exploitation legislation, and protect vulnerable youth in the province.

The proposed Hospitality Sector Customer Registry Act would require hotels and people operating on online accommodation platforms, such as Airbnb, to keep a record of guests’ information, including their names and addresses.

Should the legislation pass, it would also require hotels and Airbnb owners to hand over that information to police “on an emergency-demand basis,” even without a warrant, a provincial news release said Thursday.

“These legislative amendments and new legislation would strengthen our ability to stop human trafficking and keep vulnerable children and youth safe,” Families Minister Rochelle Squires said in the news release.

The province estimates 400 children and youth are trafficked each year in the visible sex trade in Manitoba, but Squires suggested the true number could be closer to 4,000 when the so-called invisible trade, including online, is factored in.

Squires said much of human trafficking happens out of sight in hotel rooms, taxi cabs and in temporary accommodations.

Proposed changes to the Child Sexual exploitation and Human Trafficking Act would mandate hotels and temporary accommodations, as well as drivers of taxis and ride-hailing services such as Uber, to “immediately report suspected human trafficking to police,” according to Squires.

There are also proposed changes to the Child and Family Services Act. The province says the current CFS act includes elements such as non-contact orders, which are meant to protect kids in care from someone who has abused, or is likely to abuse, a child.

But the government contends the current bar for bringing action against those people is too high.

The provisions require an agency to first, for example, produce “strong evidence” that interference has happened, or that abuse has occurred and is likely to continue, the province’s news release said.

Squires suggested that makes it hard to prevent harm and prosecute people who endanger children in need of greater protections.

Winnipeg Police Service Const. Danny Smyth, president of the Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police, backs the legislative changes.

“We embrace this key legislation that will enhance the ability to safeguard our most vulnerable populations in our continued efforts to combat these heinous acts that plagues our society,” he said in a statement.

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