Thirty-one people have been arrested after a large-scale police investigation into human trafficking and organized crime that spanned multiple Canadian provinces and led to more than 200 charges being laid.
Four police services from Ontario and one from Quebec collaborated on Project Convalesce.
York Regional Police, who cover the area north of Toronto, said in a Tuesday news release that officers successfully dismantled human trafficking rings through the investigation.
Officials with the York police special victims unit — human trafficking section, Toronto police, Peel police, Ontario Provincial Police and the Quebec integrated human trafficking task force — are expected to speak to reporters at 10:30 a.m.
York police said they continue to urge human trafficking victims to seek assistance.
“We remain extremely concerned about the appalling levels of violence and victimization of women occurring in these human trafficking rings. We continue to encourage victims of human trafficking to reach out to us for help,” York police Chief Eric Jolliffe said in the release.
“Our trained investigators have been working tirelessly to see that criminals who victimize vulnerable members of our community are held accountable for their actions.”
At the news conference, scheduled for York police headquarters in Aurora, police said they will release photos and videos taken during the arrests and the execution of search warrants.
According to the human trafficking section of the York police special victims unit, victims are forced into the sex trade through violence, threats of violence, coercion and trickery. Human trafficking involves the sexual exploitation of women and underage girls, police said.
“Investigators are willing to speak with anyone involved in the sex trade who may be looking for a way out or who may require assistance to escape these dangerous circumstances,” police said in the release.
The Quebec integrated human trafficking task force is an investigative body involving police forces working together to fight human trafficking networks.
The Sûreté du Québec’s criminal investigations branch organized the task force, which includes representatives from the RCMP, and police forces in Montreal, Quebec City, Laval, Gatineau and Longueuil.