Police in Newfoundland and Labrador are defending a national police operation aimed at finding victims of human trafficking working in the sex trade.
Last week, the St. John’s Status of Women Counsel issued a hard-hitting statement about Operation Northern Spotlight, saying it should be stopped because it targets sex workers for interrogation whether on not they want to leave the sex trade.
The counsel says the failure by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to focus on sex workers who are underage or are being coerced has harmed sex workers by forcing them underground to evade police.
The operation, which includes participation of police forces across the country, has undercover officers posing as potential clients in the escort sex trade.
The officers arrange meetings in hotel rooms, where sex workers are interviewed to identify victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
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The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary says key intelligence is gleaned from these meetings, and the RCMP says a total of 334 interviews took place last year across the country, resulting in 16 people being removed from “exploitative situations.”
However, the women’s group in St. John’s says the operation is based on deception and manipulation, which fosters distrust and adversarial relationships with police.