Counter Exploitation Unit
The Counter Exploitation Unit is part of the Winnipeg Police Services Specialized Investigation Division. One of our priorities is the safety and wellbeing of those involved in sex trade, whether directly or indirectly.
We are responsible for investigations such as:
- Human Trafficking
- Street Prostitution
- Escorts and Massage Parlours
- llegal Gaming and Liquor Offences
- Ticket Scalping
Many of these issues are heavily debated and publicized in society today. The complex, multifaceted nature of these investigations are treated with respect, dignity, and are “victim first” driven.
Human Trafficking is the exploitation of persons or “modern day slavery” which can range from forced labour to forced prostitution and sexual exploitation. Legislation on Human Trafficking is relatively new, and these types of investigations can be extremely complex due to the fact the offenders will use force, threats, coercion, deception and fraud to violate their victim’s human rights. Many victims may not even know they are being trafficked and violations can occur in private, in public, involving single victims or multiple. Public education is an extremely valuable tool in combatting this rising issue. As a citizen you can play an important role in bringing this issue to the forefront.
Where can victims be found?
In cases of sexual exploitation:
- Nightclubs, modeling studios, massage parlours, beauty, hair and nail salons, escort services, bawdy houses, hotels, street prostitution, and advertisements in paper or electronic form
In cases of forced labour:
- Non-unionized industries, restaurants, commercial agriculture, arranged marriages, constructions sites, marihuana grow operations
What are some possible signs a victim is being exploited?
Being escorted and/or watched, not speaking on their own behalf, limited knowledge of area/city they are in, tattooing or “branding” to indicate ownership, signs of depression or fear
What is the difference between Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking?
Human Smuggling is a form of illegal migration across international borders where there is an agreement between the smuggler and the person. The relationship ends once the person has been brought into the destination, and it is done covertly, or in secret. Human Trafficking is the exploitation of victims, who are forced into labour and or servitude, usually of a sexual nature. The relationship is ongoing, and it can be done openly, with public participation (i.e.: sex consumers or “johns”) with the victim being controlled by varying means by the offender.
Resources on Human Trafficking
While there are many laws surrounding selling sex for money, the Counter Exploitation Unit is committed to enforcement on those who seek out and purchase sex. Previously known as “Johns”, the Counter Exploitation Unit refers to those who are consumers of the sex trade as Exploiters.
Street prostitution is extremely high risk in a variety of ways, such as physical health/wellness, emotional trauma, and a high propensity of being assaulted and or abused. The reasons why women work on the street consist of a wide range, and our focus is on restoring, creating and maintaining relationships with persons and organizations.
We work hand in hand daily with members of Winnipeg’s community, and partnerships have been formed to provide assistance where it is needed. These partnerships include sex trade workers themselves, community groups, addictions assistance organizations, government agencies, social agencies and legal representatives. With this approach we can focus on building safer, long term strategies while balancing the needs of everyone involved.
Exploiters using the services of sex trade workers are liable to varying consequences such as:
- Seizure of the vehicle used in the commission of the offence under the Highway Traffic Act Section 242.2(3)
- Vehicle ultimately forfeited to the crown upon conviction in court
- Driver’s Licence suspended for one year upon conviction, and upon a second conviction for 2 years.
- Penalties of a fine and/or imprisonment upon conviction
- Diversion to Prostitution Offender Program, at the expense of the exploiter
Resources on Street Prostitution
Under the “Doing Business in Winnipeg” By law, the Counter Exploitation Unit enforces the laws surrounding Escorts and Massage Parlours. It is an offence under the By-Law to operate as an Escort, an Escort Agency, a Massagist or a Massage Parlour without the applicable Licence. Occasionally, these investigations can overlap into other areas of enforcement, as some can operate as fronts for sexual exploitation.
Doing Business in Winnipeg By Law:
Illegal Gaming and Liquor Offences
Under the The Liquor and Gaming Control Act, this unit, along with the Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba, has authority to enforce the liquor laws within the act.
Ticket Scalping is the practice of buying tickets to an event and reselling them for more than the original cost. With the recent and upcoming changes to Winnipeg’s event scene (re-introduction of the Winnipeg Jets, new Investors Group Field, Convention Centre expansion, and the fast moving downtown revitalization effort) ticket scalping has become a more prominent issue. Enforcement is regulated under the Provincial Legislation under the Amusements Act.
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