Sex workers decry OPS raids on Ottawa massage parlours

May 19, 2015
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Eleven women face deportation following human trafficking investigation

(Canadian OH&S News) — Sex worker groups are condemning the police raids on massage parlours in Ottawa that have resulted in deportation orders for 11 women. The investigation inspected 20 massage parlours and body rub facilities in the city from April 27 to 29.


The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) announced on May 8 that it had detained 11 women on immigration-related matters after a joint investigation by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Ottawa Bylaw Services and the Human Trafficking Unit of the OPS. All of the women appeared for admissibility and detention hearings during the week of April 27 and were subsequently issued deportation orders as they did not possess valid work permits.

Representatives from four sex worker advocacy organizations decried the police’s actions in a statement issued on May 11, which said that the threat of deportation in human trafficking investigations increases women’s vulnerability to violence and limits the ability of victims to come forward.

“Investigations under the guise of trafficking and police raids make the situation even worse. It makes people hide further underground, makes them more vulnerable to violence and endangers their safety,” Elene Lam of Butterfly, an Asian and migrant sex workers support network, said in the statement.

Executive director of Maggie’s – Toronto Sex Workers’ Action Project Jean McDonald said this poses major health and safety concerns for sex workers. “In Toronto, for instance, we’ve had a number of robberies, violent robberies and assaults on migrant sex workers, some of whom are working in massage parlours. Because they may face deportation if they come forward, they can’t make a proper report to the police.”

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