RCMP arrest seven in alleged human trafficking operation in southern Manitoba

RCMP arrest seven in alleged human trafficking operation in southern Manitoba

PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE β€” RCMP have made arrests after they say two girls were exploited in a human trafficking operation in southern Manitoba.

Seven people face various charges, including human trafficking, sexual assault and production of child pornography.

Police say a woman befriended vulnerable 15-year-old girls and offered them drugs and money to go to different shelters last year in Portage la Prairie.

They say the woman often locked the girls inside and forced them to perform sex acts on men in exchange for drugs and sometimes money.

Investigators believe there are other victims, including an unidentified girl believed to be 13 or 14 years old.

A 43-year-old woman from Long Plain First Nation and six men face a total of 65 offences.

Police said they became aware of the operation after receiving a tip in February about a girl seen in the town with older men.

Police allege the accused woman was present at the time of the sexual assaults and received money for drugs, including methamphetamine and cocaine, from the men.

“If you think this doesn’t happen in your community, you’re wrong. Young people of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life can be exploited and taken advantage of by adults,” Inspector Shawn Pike said at a news conference Tuesday.

Portage la Prairie Mayor Sharilyn Knox said the city of about 14,000 west of Winnipeg needs to do more after failing to protect its youth.

β€œIt’s about empowering the rest of our community to make sure that we’re teaching our young kids to feel worth, to report things and to make sure the supports are there,” Knox said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2024.

The Canadian Press