18 women rescued in Canada-wide human-trafficking sting
Police have laid several charges and rescued 18 females from the sex trade after participating in a coordinated national investigation to suppress human trafficking.
Twenty-six police forces, including Halifax Regional Police and Halifax District RCMP, participated in the second installment of Operation Northern Spotlight last week. Police forces in Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Quebec City, Toronto and in other parts of Ontario also took part in the operation.
Officers arranged to meet with people suspected of partaking in the sex trade at urban locations across Canada over a two-day period.
Roughly 167 officers and support staff interviewed 257 people, including 255 women, over the course of the investigation.
Police have charged nine people with 33 offences as a result of the sting. Charges include forcible confinement, making and distributing child pornography, assault, trafficking in persons, withholding or destroying documents, living off the avails, uttering threats, obstructing police and failing to comply with court orders and conditions of bail and probation.
Investigators say they rescued 18 females who had been working in the sex trade as a minor or against their will, including a 12-year-old girl.
This was the second installment of Operation Northern Spotlight. In January 2014, police officers visited hotels and motels along major thoroughfares in 30 cities and towns across the country.
Police from 26 different jurisdictions interviewed hundreds of young women, some as young as 15. Investigators say some of the women had been subjected to threats of violence, extortion, drug dependency, or other forms of coercion. Officers interviewed 342 women.
In Halifax, a total of 22 women ranging in age from 15 to 25, were interviewed in local hotels. Investigators believe several of the women were under some level of control. Police say they were offered access to support services such as health care, outreach programs and mental health support.