human trafficking

More Than 300 Charges Laid in Human Trafficking Investigation ‘Project Convalesce’

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Earlier this month, York Regional Police laid more than 300 charges and arrested 31 people as part of “Project Convalesce”, a multi-provincial human trafficking and organized crime investigation.  Approximately 100 of these charges were related directly to human trafficking.

WHAT IS PROJECT CONVALESCE?

In October 2018, two female victims of human trafficking from Quebec contacted police after attempting to escape a hotel in Vaughan.  York Regional Police began an investigation focused on suspected pimp, Jonathan Nyangwila (“Nyangwila”).  Investigators identified a number of suspects involved in various crimes of human trafficking, fraud, drug trafficking and weapons offences run by organized crime.

Nyangwila, a 28-year old from Markham, also known as Zoulou or Skulls, has been described as the “kingpin” at the top of a complicated and sophisticated criminal hierarchy.  Underneath Nyangwila were several “figureheads”, including three of his brothers.  A group of “underbosses” were positioned under the figureheads.  There were several also “strikers” positioned under the underbosses, whose responsibility it was to carry out high-risk frauds in banks and stores. 

It is alleged that the suspected criminal organization made fake identifications to purchase pre-paid credit cards that were then used to pay for expenses to run the human trafficking scheme such as hotel fees, travel and food.

Inspector Thai Truong stated:

Jonathan Nyangwila has been identified as the kingpin of the organization.  … All below him are individuals that have their own stable of girls.  But for the first time, we’re actually seeing girls being traded within, and girls being controlled by other individuals for the benefit of the organization.

Nyangwila is facing more than 30 charges relating to human trafficking, instructing the commission of an offence for a criminal organization, participating in the activities of a criminal organization, uttering threats, firearms possession, harassment and fraud.  He was arrested in July, yet continued to run his criminal operation from jail.

On October 10, 2019, following a full year of police investigation involving four police services from Ontario and one from Quebec, arrest and search warrants were executed in more than 30 locations across the Greater Toronto Area and in Quebec.

Investigating officers identified 12 victims and have information that there are 33 additional women involved in the sex trade and found to be associated with the suspects.  Most of the women involved were from Quebec and had been transported to Ontario and across Canada for the purpose of the sex trade.  The victims ranged in age from 20 to their mid-30s.  The women were found to perform sex acts seven days a week, earning approximately $1,000 a day, and passing on these monies to those that individuals that controlled them.

This investigation remains active and ongoing as police are hopefuly that the 33 additional women will come forward to seek assistance and support. 

York Region Deputy Chief Brian Bigras stated:

These victims endured violent assaults, sexual assaults and other degrading circumstances as they were controlled by these violent criminals.

WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING?

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, approximately 225,000 victims of trafficking have been identified worldwide between 2003 and 2016.

Human trafficking is a crime that exploits and manipulates women, children and men for the purposes of forced labour or sexual services.  Women are often the target of this crime. 

Those trafficking in humans often recruit and groom their victims by becoming a close friend or boyfriend.  Once traffickers lure their victims, they then coerce them into sex work, using psychological manipulation, threats, addiction, violence and isolation.

Police report that marginalized youth, Indigenous youth and youth experiencing homelessness are most often targeted.  Youth who struggle with low self-esteem, bullying, poverty, abuse and family issues are also pursued.

Traffickers often recruit girls online, at malls, high schools, libraries, group homes, bus stops, and parties at hotels.

Victims of this type of crime feel alone, isolated and trapped and have no way to return home.  They become entirely dependent on the trafficker to survive.

THE CRIMINAL OFFENCE OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Human trafficking is an offence found in the Criminal Code of Canada (“CC”) and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The CC includes four indictable offences to address human trafficking, including:

  • Trafficking in persons (section 279.01);
  • Trafficking of a person under the age of eighteen years (section 279.011);
  • Receiving financial or material benefit knowing it results from the commission of an offence under sections 279.01 and 279.011 (section 279.02); and 
  • Withholding or destroying documents (section 279.03). 

There are many other offences contained in the CC that also apply to human trafficking cases including kidnapping, forcible confinement, uttering threats, extortion, assault, sexual assault, prostitution related offences and criminal organization offences.

If you have been charged with human trafficking or a related charge or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience.  We are available when you need us most.

Human Trafficking Education in Durham Region

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Durham Regional Police Service (“Durham Police”) have launched a human trafficking awareness website to alert parents and teens in Durham to the dangers of human trafficking occurring in their own city.

In 2017, Durham Police dealt with 27 cases of human trafficking. In 2018, the Durham Police human trafficking unit has conducted 80 investigations and laid more than 130 charges. In the last six months, 41 girls have been lured into human trafficking in Durham.

According to Statistics Canada, since 2010 human trafficking cases have increased approximately 580% in Canada (from less than 50 to nearly 350 cases). In fact, two thirds of human trafficking offences that were reported to the police in Canada were found to take place in Ontario.

Durham is considered a breeding ground for human traffickers as it is a common stop along the Highway 401 corridor. Victims are quickly and easily moved around from city to city in hotel rooms up and down the highway.

Traffickers, male or female, lure their victims, then coerce them into sex work, using psychological manipulation, threats, addiction, violence, and isolation to control the young girls.

The website stopht.com, developed by the Durham Region Human Trafficking Coalition, outlines warning signs, myths about human trafficking, targeted individuals, and where to get help.

In the case of preventing human trafficking, knowledge is power. Durham Police urge all parents to become educated about human trafficking. They recommend that parents look for “red flags” and keep an open dialogue with their teens. Unexplained gifts or money, long absences, change in mental health, multiple cell phones, and new friends or boyfriends are signs that someone you know has become a victim of human trafficking.

WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING?

Human trafficking is often described as a modern day form of slavery. It involves the recruitment, transportation, harbouring, and/or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person in order to exploit that person, ordinarily through sexual manipulation or forced labour.

Victims are deprived of their normal lives and forced to provide labour or sexual services, through terrorizing practices, for the direct benefit of their perpetrators.

EDUCATION IS KEY

According to experts in the field of human trafficking, early education is the crucial component to combat these heinous crimes. Children, at a young age, need to be taught self-worth, empowerment, and the meaning of consent.

Durham Police are taking their knowledge and expertise to local schools to educate students regarding the dangers of sex trafficking. Educating girls, who are the most vulnerable, to recognize the warning signs is essential. Girls believe that they are in love with their traffickers, who lure and groom them into this dangerous lifestyle.

The new website stopht.com features a video, signs to look for, common myths, and what the community can do to help victims of sex trafficking.

Both parents, teachers, and students require education to learn the warning signs in order to prevent someone from becoming a victim in a human trafficking trap.

Parents are encouraged to look for “red flags” and note any changes in their teenagers appearance or behaviour.

Who is Most at Risk for Sex Trafficking?

Women and girls are most often the targets of sex traffickers, however, young men and those in the LGBTQ community are also being targeted.

Approximately 75% of female trafficking victims are under the age of 18-years-old, and some are even as young as 12 or 13-years-old.

Police report that marginalized youth, Indigenous youth and youth experiencing homelessness are most often targeted. Youth who struggle with low self-esteem, bullying, poverty, abuse, and family issues are also targeted.  Risk factors also include addiction, mental health issues, and developmental disabilities.

Traffickers have been found to recruit girls online, at local malls, high schools, libraries, group homes, bus stops, and parties at hotels.

Possible Signs that Someone is Being Groomed for Sex Trafficking

Sex traffickers often recruit young people by becoming their loyal friend or even boyfriend. The following changes may be signs that a young person is being groomed for sex trafficking:

  • Withdrawing from family and friends;
  • Being secretive about their activities;
  • Having a new boyfriend/girlfriend/friend who they will not introduce to friends or family;
  • Staying out more often and later;
  • Absences from school or a decline in school performance;
  • Wearing more sexualized clothing;
  • Wearing new clothing or jewelry that they cannot afford to buy; and
  • Having a new or second cell phone with a secret number.

How Do You Become a Victim?

Human trafficking may start with a tactic called the “boyfriend trafficker”. This occurs when a young pimp lures a girl with affection, romance, and gifts. The relationship proceeds quickly and the boyfriend begins to make promises, such as marriage or moving in together. The vulnerable young girl begins to feel loved and secure. Then the boyfriend tells her that he has fallen into trouble and needs money. He asks the young girl to help him out. This usually starts by asking her to strip or service a client in order to earn money.

Once the girl has begun performing sexual services, she becomes controlled by her boyfriend through psychological manipulation, threats, addiction, violence, and isolation. The victims are often, but not always, moved from hotel to hotel and city to city, to isolate them and keep them away from their loved ones.

Visit the website stopHT.com to learn more about human trafficking in Durham.

If you have been charged with human trafficking or a related charge or have an questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone serve for your convenience. We are available when you need us most.

Police Warn that Airbnb Rentals are Being Used for Human Trafficking

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Airbnb has become an immensely popular avenue used by individuals to list their homes and apartments for others to use when vacationing. Nevertheless, Toronto police have found an increase in pimps using Airbnb rentals in recent years. Human traffickers may choose to use Airbnb rentals instead of motels due to the greater likelihood for anonymity. Detective Sergeant Nunzio Tramontozzi has stated:

There has to be more due diligence on the part of the … people that are renting out their properties. We have a good relationship with Airbnb. We have brought our concerns to them, and they’re working with us to try and rid pimps of using their properties in Toronto.

RECENT CASE OF ALLEGED HUMAN TRAFFICKING

In mid-February, Toronto police arrested two men who are alleged to have forced a 19-year-old woman into the sex trade for more than a month, running most of their business at various Airbnb properties in the Greater Toronto Area. The men are facing 58 charges, including human trafficking charges. Police allege that the men took the woman’s identification and forced her to turn over all the money she earned to them. When the woman got into an argument with the two men and told them she no longer wanted to work as an escort, one of the men pointed a firearm at her face. A shot was fired and the woman was shot in the buttocks area. The men then transported her to several addresses in the GTA. The woman finally escaped and sought medical attention at a hospital in Brampton.

WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING?

Human trafficking involves the exploitation for profit of a person through force, fraud, or coercion. Victims are mostly women and children who are forced to provide their labour or sexual services. Exploitation often occurs through intimidation, force, psychological manipulation, emotional abuse, lies, addiction, sexual assault, isolation, taking control of their ID and money, and threats of violence to themselves or their families.

Ontario is a major centre for human trafficking in Canada, with approximately two-thirds of reported cases arising in Ontario. Girls as young as 13 are being recruited by pimps into a world of unpaid sex work, often recruited on social media or at public places like shopping malls and playgrounds. The relationship usually begins as a romantic one and then the pimps ask the girls to perform sexual services on clients as a favour and with the promise of financial reward. Over time, the pimps threaten violence, take away their phones and ID and offer the girls hard drugs.

Human trafficking is an offence found in the Criminal Code of Canada (“CC”) and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The CC includes four indictable offences to address human trafficking, including:

  • Trafficking in persons (section 279.01);
  • Trafficking of a person under the age of eighteen years (section 279.011);
  • Receiving financial or material benefit knowing it results from the commission of an offence under sections 279.01 and 279.011 (section 279.02); and
  • Withholding or destroying documents (section 279.03).

There are many other offences contained in the CC that also apply to human trafficking cases including kidnapping, forcible confinement, uttering threats, extortion, assault, sexual assault, prostitution related offences and criminal organization offences.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act contains a provision that prohibits the bringing into Canada of persons by means of abduction, fraud, deception or use of threat of force or coercion. Section 118 of this Act includes this provision with the accused facing a maximum penalty of a fine up to $1 million and/or up to life imprisonment.

If you have been charged with human trafficking or a related charge or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience. We are available when you need us most.

47 Suspects Charged in Nationwide Human Trafficking Investigation

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Twenty sex workers suspected of working against their will, were rescued earlier this month as a result of Operation Northern Spotlight, a massive cross-Canada human trafficking investigation. Most of those rescued are under 19, and some are as young as 14.

Over the past year, Canadian police forces worked with the FBI in a coordinated effort to fight human traffickers. The OPP spearheaded the latest phase of the operation, which involved more than 350 officers and staff from 40 police agencies across Canada. The investigation led to the arrest of 47 people who are facing more than 130 charges including trafficking in persons, forcible confinement, child pornography, and sexual assault with a weapon.

U.S law enforcement agencies conducted Operation Cross Country, a similar operation south of the border, which resulted in the arrest of more than 150 “pimps” and the rescue of 152 minors.

Human Trafficking and Related Charges 

The charges laid in Phase 5 of Operation Northern Spotlight included:

  • Trafficking in Persons under 18
  • Trafficking in Persons
  • Procure Sexual Services under 18
  • Procure Sexual Services
  • Receive Material Benefit under 18
  • Receive Material Benefit
  • Communicate for the Purpose of Obtaining for Consideration the Sexual Services of a Person
  • Exercise Control
  • Make Child Pornography
  • Distribute Child Pornography
  • Possess Child Pornography
  • Child Luring
  • Advertise Another Person’s Sexual Services
  • Assault
  • Obstruct Police
  • Resist Arrest
  • Controlled Drug and Substances Act (CDSA) offences

Human Trafficking in Canada 

Human trafficking charges can be laid against any person who recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds, conceals, or harbours a person, or any person who exercises control, direction, or influence over the movements of a person for the purposes of exploiting them, or facilitating their exploitation for a forced labour or sexual reason.

If you are facing a human trafficking or related charge, contact us online or at 905-404-1947 to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer. We take all steps needed to protect your best interests, both immediate and long term. We maintain a 24-hour emergency service line, and our office is within steps of the Durham Consolidated Courthouse.  We offer a free confidential consultation to all perspective clients.

The Current State of Canada’s Prostitution Laws

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In December 2013, in the infamous Bedford case, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down some of Canada’s prostitution laws. The court suspended its ruling for 12 months, allowing the federal government time to draft new legislation. Bill C-36: the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, was born and came into effect late last year.

With the introduction of Bill C-36, the buying, but not the selling of sex was explicitly outlawed for the first time in Canada. The legislation also gave the police the power to prosecute people who advertise sex work and people who exploit or otherwise make money off sex workers.  Sex workers can still advertise their own sexual services, as the bill contains an exemption for sex workers themselves.

The government’s stated goal of the legislation was to reduce the demand for prostitution by “discouraging entry into it, deterring participation in it and ultimately abolishing it to the greatest extent possible”. The intent of the legislation is to make it more difficult for johns and pimps while protecting sex workers. Since the legislation has been enacted, the Toronto Police Service has begun a large-scale crackdown on human trafficking.

The legislation is not without controversy. Amnesty International has long been calling for the decriminalization of sex work involving consenting adults. The human rights group argues that criminalization of any sort makes it more likely that the rights of sex workers will be violated because the practices are pushed underground.

But other groups say that abolishing laws against prostitution lead to more violations of the rights of women and girls, and lead to human trafficking and child rape. Proponents of decriminalization argue that sex workers can be distinguished between women and children who are sold into sexual slavery and that there is a significant difference between coercive and consensual prostitution.

It is believed that Mali Jean, a Quebec man charged in Saskatchewan, was the first person to be charged under the new law on charges dated July 27, 2015.

 For more information and to speak to an experienced criminal defence lawyer, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.

Sources:

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/barely-illegal-new-prostitution-laws-may-drive-sex-work-underground-but-can-it-stop-it

Man charged in Saskatoon under new federal prostitution laws