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Calgary police charge Toronto man accused of forcing girlfriend into sex trade

An advocacy group in Toronto is raising concerns that sex workers' safety could be at risk if police launch sweeps to clean up city steets heading into this summer's Pan Am Games.
An advocacy group in Toronto is raising concerns that sex workers' safety could be at risk if police launch sweeps to clean up city steets heading into this summer's Pan Am Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward/File

Calgary police have charged a Toronto man with human trafficking after he allegedly forced his girlfriend into the sex trade.

The charges come after an investigation into sex trafficking in Calgary which began in June. During the investigation, officers met a 30-year-old woman who said she had been coerced into working in the sex trade by her boyfriend.

The victim said she met the accused in Toronto in 2013 where they had begun a relationship.

“The relationship allegedly turned abusive and she became dependent on him for financial support, medical assistance and housing,” police said in a Thursday news release.

The accused allegedly arranged for the victim to travel to Edmonton in 2014, where police said she was expected to work in the sex trade and send any money she made back to the accused.

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Over the next two years, the woman was allegedly moved across Canada to work in the sex trade, while the man advertised her services online and arranged for her to meet up with customers.

According to police, the accused kept the money, leaving the victim with “very little resources to support herself.”

“The victim was cut off from friends and family, and denied routine medical treatment which ultimately led to her hospitalization on a number of occasions.”

After speaking with investigators, the victim was offered assistance through the Calgary Police Service Prostitution Exit Initiative program, which enabled her to leave the sex trade.

The accused was located by police in London, Ont., on Sept. 20, at which time he was arrested and returned to Calgary to face charges.

Calgary police have charged Shawn Powell Harris, 32, with several offences including:

  • Trafficking in person
  • Material benefit from a trafficked person
  • Material benefit in the context of a commercial enterprise
  • Utter threats
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Proceeds of crime
  • Money laundering
  • Procuring
  • Advertising sexual services

Harris is scheduled to appear in court on Friday.

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