Rights Not Rescue: Throwing Shade on Operation Northern Spotlight

Operation Northern Spotlight is a project ill-conceived by Durham Regional Police in Ontario in 2014 to ‘rescue’ sex workers from human trafficking. Typically, police catfish sex workers online by posing as clients. When a woman arrives at the mutually agreed upon location, often a hotel room, she is shocked to find a roomful of police officers.

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Since 2014, there have been seven “waves” of Operation Northern Spotlight coordinated among law enforcement agencies across Canada. The latest campaign in October 2018 involved 62 police agencies across Canada. To our knowledge, BC law enforcement did not participate in 2017.

The Problem with Operation Northern Spotlight

Human trafficking is a serious crime and law enforcement should address it. However, Operation Northern Spotlight is not the way. In July 2017, SWAN spearheaded a campaign against Operation Northern Spotlight. We were compelled to speak out as the women we support have endured the harms of this initiative and similar operations for many years.

The campaign against Operation Northern Spotlight has now grown and groups from coast to coast have spoken out in opposition to this ill-informed law enforcement ‘rescue’ effort.

2018 National: Sex Worker Human Rights Groups Oppose Police Operation Northern Spotlight
2017 British Columbia: Open Letter to BC Law Enforcement Calling for the Non-Participation in Operation Northern Spotlight
2017 Ontario: Call to end participation in Operation Northern Spotlight and refocus efforts on support for sex workers. 
2017 Newfoundland: St. John’s Status of Women Council calls for an end to Operation Northern Spotlight
2017 National: Turn Off The Spotlight: Sex workers and allies urge an end to Operation Northern Spotlight

Police need to end Operation Northern Spotlight
Why Are Cops Catfishing Sex Workers in Canada?
Sex-worker advocates call for end to B.C. police sting operations
Steele & Drex: Operation Northern Spotlight is negatively affect sex trade workers (Radio interview)
Advocacy group says police operation against sex trafficking causing problems
Police sex trafficking sting doing more harm than good, N.L. groups say
Early Edition: Campaign Against Operation Northern Spotlight (Full interview starts at 2:19:40)
Stop Operation Northern Spotlight. Stand up for sex workers’ rights. Don’t be the modern-day version of Martin Luther King’s blandly dangerous ‘white moderate’
SJSWC Calls For End To Operation Northern Spotlight
Open letter decries police posing as sex-worker clients in “repressive” Operation Northern Spotlight
Police defend human trafficking sting operation
Feds ‘Rescue’ Women from Freedom and Money in 11th ‘Operation Cross Country’ (United States)