Underground Yukon sex trade: RCMP investigation sheds light

Underground Yukon sex trade: RCMP investigation sheds light

A special investigation looking for human traffickers in Whitehorse may not have resulted in any arrests or charges but police says the 10-day undercover operation has shed light on the local sex trade.

"It was a little bit of a shock to me," said Corporal John Marinis, one of the Yukon RCMP members involved the operation dubbed "Northern Spotlight." 

"We met with the vulnerable victims," said Marinis, "in some cases, we reached out, that's our aim."

The investigation coincided with the Rendezvous festival in February. 

Detectives from the Toronto Police Services Human Trafficking Enforcement Team participated in the operation, offering special training to local RCMP.

Officers also did outreach with at risk youth in Whitehorse, and offering support to sex trade workers.
Yukon Superintendent Brian Jones said he suspected there was a sex trade in the territory. 

"Operation Northern Spotlight in February confirmed it for us, I wouldn't say that we have a full understanding of the scope and the nature of it,  but it certainly helped inform us."

Jones said the underground sex trade in Yukon is largely initiated on the Internet. He said the investigation also noted some sex workers are traveling from elsewhere.  

"What we found is that some of the sex trade workers if not the majority that we tried to initiate contact with came here, they're not permanent residents of the Yukon. They have engaged in this activity for personal benefit or economic benefit and they're doing it with their eyes open." 

Jones said this operation was more focused on finding vulnerable sex workers, people who may be looking for a way out. He said this experience was also helped inform future work. 

"What I learned is the complexity and the difficulties in proceeding with prosecution and how labour intensive these investigations are."