City’s first human trafficking case Three rescued immigrant women were forced into prostitution: cops Police

say they’ve rescued three terrified immigrant women from sexual slavery in a west-end massage parlour. They allege the women, one originally from China and two from Fiji, were lured to Edmonton from other Canadian cities with the promise of jobs as masseuses, but ended up being kept under lock and key and forced into prostitution. It’s the first time in Western Canada that anyone’s been charged with human trafficking since the Criminal Code was amended in 2005 to make it a specific crime. Just after midnight on Sept. 5, city police and RCMP raided Sachi Professional Massage and Spa, 17519 100 Ave. and a nearby apartment. They arrested a man and a woman as they were leaving Sachi and found four more women inside. One was arrested and the other three were the alleged trafficking victims. According to Edmonton police Det. Dave Schening, the alleged victims, who spoke almost no English, were terrified. “There were a lot of tears and initial reluctance to talk with police,” he said. By using interpreters, Schening was “able to assure them that they were the victims and they weren’t in trouble.” He said the women’s identification was taken from them by their captors, and the women were threatened that if they didn’t do as they were told, their families would be told that they were prostitutes. Schening said they lived at the massage parlour, and were expected to service clients 24 hours a day. “They ate, drank and slept in the room they worked in.” They weren’t beaten, tied up or physically harmed, he said. The terror of shame was enough to keep them in line. The women, he explained, “were very traditional, very honour-oriented.” Schening said he “was shocked. I didn’t realize the scope of this enslavement, this (psychological) intimidation.” Anjani Lata, a member of Edmonton’s Fijian community, understands the power of emotional enslavement. “If I was in that situation, I’d probably do the same thing,” she said. “If people thought you had (willingly) become a prostitute, you could never go home. It would be a big, big deal.” Young Fijian women are very sheltered and innocent, Lata explained, and would be easy prey for manipulative predators. “And then you come to a city where you don’t know anyone and don’t speak English, who are you going to tell?”

It’s critical, she said, that the families of human trafficking victims are told the whole story, before rumours begin to circulate. The alleged victims are currently in a safehouse. Raj Bajwa, who owns the driving school next door to Sachi, said he didn’t know the people at the massage parlour, other than to say hello. They were quiet and didn’t cause any trouble, he said. In fact, he didn’t even know it had been raided last weekend. “I heard it on the news this morning,” Rajwa said. “I thought ‘Holy, that’s right next door to us.’ “ Yesterday a sign on the door said Sachi was closed for renovations. Yesterday morning its website said the renovations began Sept. 6 and it would re-open in a week. By 6 p.m. the website had been shut down. In all, 20 charges were laid against Mei Fang Chen, 33, Xiu Zheng Chen, 32, and Qui Wang, 41. Among the charges are trafficking persons, living off the avails of prostitution and exercising control, direction or influence over a person for the purposes of prostitution. They are scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 21. source:http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/columnists/andrew_hanon/2009/09/11/10834036 -sun.html

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