TORONTO (Reuters) - More than 300 charges have been laid and 31 arrests made in a multi-province human trafficking criminal investigation, Canadian police said on Wednesday.
York Regional Police in southern Ontario received tips from two female victims of trafficking in October 2018, who were “coming to the end of their rope,” said Thai Truong, an inspector with the YPP, in a press conference.
Initially the women were unwilling to share information and police had only “bits and pieces of what was happening,” he said, but within a few days one of the women became willing to cooperate.
Truong said the two had “attempted to flee the primary suspect of this investigation,” whom police identified as a pimp and considered to be the “kingpin” in the organization.
From there police identified a network of suspects “believed to be involved in a large, multi-provincial, human trafficking ring run by organized crime,” a separate police press release said.
Arrests and search warrants were carried out on Oct 10 in more than 30 locations across Toronto and the surrounding area, as well as in Quebec, according to the press release.
Police identified 12 further victims, the majority of whom were from Quebec “but had been moved to Ontario and across Canada for sex trade purposes,” the press release said.
The year-long investigation involved five different police forces from two provinces.
The Canadian Center to End Human Trafficking “commends the survivors who came forward with their tip,” Barbara Gosse, chief executive of the organization, told Reuters, and characterized the arrests as proof of the need for “collaborative action” to end human trafficking in Canada.
According to the most recent government data available, police-reported incidents of human trafficking in Canada rose nearly six fold between 2009 and 2016.
Reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Steve Orlofsky