February 25th, 2021

NDP MPP proposes forgiving student loan debt for human trafficking survivors

QUEEN'S PARK — NDP MPP Chris Glover (Spadina—Fort York) held a virtual press conference Thursday urging the Ford government to adopt his motion to allow provincial fines and outstanding OSAP student loan debts to be forgiven for survivors of human trafficking.

Glover asked that the government amend its human trafficking bill to incorporate his motion, in consultation with advocates and survivors of trafficking. The MPP was joined by Richard Dunwoody, Executive Director of Project Recover, a non-profit that supports survivors of human trafficking and two survivors, referred to as Summer and Layla.*

Both shared experiences of financial exploitation, bad credit ratings and crushing debts caused by their traffickers, and the re-victimization that can occur upon being hounded by collection agencies, often hired by the government itself.

"Many survivors of human trafficking face homelessness, unable to secure an apartment because their trafficker destroyed their credit rating," said Glover. "Others are unable to attend college or university due to OSAP loans they were forced by their trafficker to take out for programs they never attended.

"How can we expect survivors of these traumatic experiences to move forward if the government holds them back through outstanding provincial debts and fees? The government should be actively reducing barriers, financial and otherwise, for survivors of human trafficking to ensure they can move forward and rebuild their lives," Glover said.

Introduced in the legislature in December, Glover's motion calls on the Ford government to fill a critical gap in its anti-human trafficking legislation and incorporate his motion to forgive provincial fines and outstanding OSAP debts on compassionate grounds for survivors of human trafficking.


Richard Dunwoody, Executive Director, Project Recover:

"The average fraudulent debt a survivor faces, post exploitation, is $28,000.00. With student loan this number almost doubles.

“When a victim is abducted out of a college or university and trafficked, they are obviously unable to complete their term. This causes an immediate request by the student loan program for the repayment of the loan. The other scenario we see is where the trafficker has their victim apply to a college and for a student loan. The loan proceeds are deposited into the victim’s bank account, which is controlled by the trafficker. The victim never attends the program. In both instances, when the survivor’s exploitation ends, unless they are able to pay these loans in full, they are prevented from accessing educational supports."

“Creditors have established a process with us but the provincial and federal government haven’t. Not only have they not worked to establish a process, through the Ministry of Finance and collection agencies, they continue to pursue and harass survivors for repayment of fraudulent debt.”

Layla*, survivor:

"I’m a human trafficking survivor, and as you may not know, along with that comes many, many obstacles once you’ve regained yourself trying to make it out in the world after. To pick up all the pieces you lost that no one thinks about.

Every time that phone rings my first thought is , collections... again ... how much will I have to take out of my kids' mouths this month to please the government for a debt that was never my fault? I am re-victimized and shamed over and over again every time the phone rings; I have shelled out thousands of dollars to get back on my feet that I’ve had to beg and borrow due to threats from collections agencies (who never understand that they may be talking to someone on the other line dealing with trauma) only to have zero help from the government with anything.

I’m a mom and supporting my children, myself and trying to pay my debt off is almost impossible but what do I do when I need a degree to further myself in my future? I never got my degree due to being pulled out of school by my perpetrator and I still owe money for that, so what came out of this experience is two things I didn’t benefit from: the degree which I am now trying to pursue and I can’t because of this outstanding ridiculous debt, and every time that phone rings it’s a reminder of what happened in my past life, the pain I went through and also the pain of not being able to go for what I wanted when I wanted it."

Summer*, survivor:

"I am a survivor of human trafficking. I am here today because I want to stand up for social justice in my community. I am truly honoured and grateful for this influential conversation that can hopefully make a real impact and positive change in people’s lives, through legislation. I’d like to give a warning of self-disclosure; I have been subjected to violent trauma through human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Canada. I wanted to radically change my life after I escaped, and I have come a long way to no longer suffer and be victimized by my oppressor, yet I find I face other systemic challenges holding me back.

The power that my trafficker held over me existed because he held my life and my finances under his complete and utter control. He didn’t care about my financial future or credit rating and how it would impact me when he forced me to incur various fees. This is why I’m now drowning in an ocean of debt. The continued harassment of collection agencies working on behalf of the government is not only revictimizing, it makes us relive the feelings of no control over our own finances. I am a mother and now a full-time college student. I have been empowered to pursue post-secondary education. Something that I believed never could have been made possible.

Thankfully, I’m here due to counselling and a powerful, validating support system of SAVIS - Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Services and Project Recover. Yet I am living on an income that cannot support basic needs and am still chased for monthly debt repayment that only exists due to manipulation, coercion, and fraud by my trafficker! I want to emphasize the importance of educational funding for people of all diversities, especially those who have faced social injustices...We just want to be productive members of society and the system is not set up to support us right now! This is why we call on the government to incorporate MPP Chris Glover’s motion to pardon OSAP debt and provincial fines into their anti-human trafficking legislation."

  • The real names of Layla and Summer are being withheld. Verification of their identities is available on request, not for publication.

Link to press conference: https://twitter.com/ChrisGloverMPP/status/1364945938389880832