WATCH ABOVE: Several police forces were involved in a major, multi-jurisdictional investigation codenamed Operation Northern Spotlight, including the RCMP and FBI.
TORONTO – An extensive Canada-wide human trafficking investigation has resulted with 47 people being arrested and charged with 135 offences, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced on Thursday.
Earlier this month, the same investigation, nicknamed Operation Northern Spotlight, netted nine people with 33 charges being laid.
During a press conference on Thursday, the OPP said Phase 4 of the probe resulted in 20 people being removed and saved from the sex trade.
Police said most of those rescued were under the age of 19 and some were as young as 14.
“Human trafficking investigations are complex and labour-intensive and we must continue to fight for the rights of those victims who are often from vulnerable sectors of our population in Ontario,” said OPP Deputy Commissioner Scott Tod.
Police said the investigation required the help from 40 law enforcement agencies nationwide, including the FBI and RCMP, by pre-arranging meetings with people suspected of partaking in the sex trade, potentially against their will.
“Human trafficking is a threat which targets the vulnerable around the world. And one of the most vulnerable — our children,” said Joseph S. Campbell, Assistant Director, FBI Criminal Investigation Division.
During the same period, police in the United States conducted a parallel investigation dubbed Operation Cross Country.
“As a result of this collaboration and sharing, both U.S. and Canadian law enforcement agencies rescued children and arrested those involved in the trafficking of children.”
Those arrested have been charged with offences including trafficking in persons, forcible confinement, child pornography, and sexual assault with a weapon.
VIDEO: During a Thursday morning press conference to outline the results of a human trafficking investigation, a victim of human trafficking outlined her own story of being kidnapped and forced to work as an exotic dancer. (She was not rescued in this operation!)
All those involved in this operation - you are my heroes today. God bless you.