Peers Victoria is one of the signatories on a call to action spearheaded by Safer Women’s Alternatives Network (SWAN Vancouver Society) and Pivot Legal to demand that police departments across the country reject being part of a controversial anti-trafficking initiative that is causing harm to sex workers.
Operation Northern Spotlight is a project ill-conceived by Durham Regional Police in Ontario in 2014 to “rescue” sex workers from human trafficking by targeting and investigating them. Typically, police officers posing as clients set up dates online with sex workers, through websites like Craigslist and Backpage, then surprise them in hotel rooms.
Since 2014, there have been five “waves” of Operation Northern Spotlight coordinated among law enforcement agencies across Canada. The latest campaign in October 2016 involved 53 police agencies in nine provinces working in conjunction with the FBI. Only a few law enforcement agencies in BC participated in 2015 and 2016.
In Victoria, we are fortunate to have a municipal police force that for many years has aimed to develop better relations with sex workers and community agencies like Peers, but not to arrest adult workers and clients solely because they are participating in the industry.