28 human trafficking arrests in Ontario in 2022
The majority of the 61 victims are women, often from disadvantaged backgrounds or economically vulnerable.
Human trafficking is a scourge that affects Canada and especially Ontario. This province has the highest annual rate of reports to police in the country.
To address this, 21 police departments across the province pulled together in December 2021 in creating a specialized human trafficking force: the Provincial Joint Intelligence Operations Team to Combat Human Trafficking. On Wednesday, she presented her first report to the press.
In just over a year, 65 investigations have been carried out and 61 victims of sexual exploitation or forced labor have seen their ordeal come to an end.
The investigations have resulted in the arrest of 28 people subsequently prosecuted on 72 counts of human trafficking. A hundred additional charges are brought, including assault, threats and extortion. The youngest suspect is 18, the oldest 44, and most are male.View larger
In just one year, 65 surveys have been successfully completed.
< p class="e-p">Complex due to the transient nature of these crimes, these investigations require a lot of resources as well as the participation of several services, whether social or administrative. It is also a long-term job: investigators take an average of 382 days to complete their investigation. This is twice as much as for investigations into other crimes.
The perception of this scourge is also a hindrance since many victims do not consider themselves as such, explains the Detective Inspector Jordan Whitesell, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).
To conduct their investigation, the police rely on the cooperation not only of the victims but also of their loved ones. The public can help by being aware of what trafficking is and reporting it. Family and friends play a vital role in helping victims, says Chief Sergeant Guy Renaud of the Greater Sudbury Police.
The Canadian Hotline against human trafficking, created for victims and survivors, is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day 24, at 1 833 900-1010 in both official languages.
Online chat is also available.
The Greater Toronto area, with its highways and hotels, is a fertile ground for human trafficking. Traffickers do not hesitate to exploit it.
Examination of the evidence, including tracking of advertisements for sexual services, tells us that traffickers move their victims from one urban center to another in the blink of an eye in order to x27;access different clienteles and avoid detection by law enforcement, says Toronto Police Inspector Susan Gomes.
Inspector Susan Gomes shed light on the mobility of traffickers who take advantage of the highways around Toronto.
The association of several services then makes sense to continue investigations, even when the traffickers change location.
The density of the urban environment also offers more possibilities for traffickers and makes the facts more difficult to detect by relying on the anonymity of the masses.
Aged between 12 and 47 years old and mainly composed of women, the victims have in common their modest social origins and their difficult living conditions, which makes them vulnerable.
“It is estimated that 50% of exploited women and girls are Indigenous.
—Treaty Three Police Inspector Tricia Rupert
Also among the victims are women with an immigrant background.
Inspector Tricia Rupert adds that most of the victims know the traffickers, which debunks an urban legend, i.e. the idea that people are being abducted and exploited. ;a myth.
Victims of manipulation and blackmail, the victims are isolated from their loved ones, which creates a dependency on their executioners.
Labour traffickers can take away the passports of migrant or immigrant workers or tell them that they have to repay a large and unexpected debt, explains Staff Sergeant Renaud.
For Staff Sergeant Guy Renaud, traffickers rely on manipulation, exploitation and control.
It relates the testimony of a victim of human trafficking from the age of 12 to the age of 25. I only realized afterwards that they were traffickers. They bought me clothes and took me shopping. I thought I was in love. Things changed when they became abusive.
Our message to victims is: we can help you, adds Inspector Rupert.
< p class="e-p">Once identified, the victims are quickly taken care of. The new provincial team has a victim specialist who can provide them with the information and tools they need to begin their return to society.