|Theresa Peebles charged.
WINNIPEG - Human trafficking charges have been laid for the first time in Manitoba after a woman was forced into prostitution.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Ron Evans believes the case is just the tip of the iceberg. He believes there are more women like the 21-year-old rescued by Winnipeg police Monday night.
"It's probably happening more frequently than we are aware," Evans said.
He said aboriginal women are at a greater risk.
Police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said a 38-year-old woman is the first Manitoban to be charged under federal legislation introduced in 2005.
"We have a (victim) whose human rights were violated to the extreme," Michalyshen said.
He said the victim moved to Winnipeg from northern Manitoba on her own this month and was befriended by the older woman, who allegedly stole the victim's property, including clothes and identification, confined and took control of her.
Michalyshen said the victim was assaulted and for a few weeks forced on to the street to perform sex acts for money, which the suspect kept.
The victim was given food, shelter, illicit drugs and alcohol, police allege.
Michalyshen said the victim twice attempted to escape.
Police learned of the situation when they encountered the victim at a disturbance at a duplex in the 300 block of Aikins Street on Monday.
A resident said the victim got drunk, climbed on the roof and began screaming.
"The fire department had to come with a ladder," the man said.
A suspect was arrested Wednesday.
Police said Theresa Peebles is charged with forcible confinement, assault and three counts of trafficking in persons.
The trafficking charges relate to harbouring, financial gain and withholding documents such as identification.
Benjamin Perrin, a University of British Columbia professor and leading expert, said this is the first case where a police agency has laid charges for all three elements and second where a woman was charged.
"We can only hope that the young woman who was exploited is getting the help that she needs," said Perrin, who is aware of 36 cases in Canada.
Blame for the exploitation also falls on the men who paid for sex, he said.
Michalyshen said the arrest will cause people to stop thinking about human trafficking on a global level.
"In this particular case, it becomes very localized. It's happening in our own backyard," Michalyshen said.
Perrin said Canada needs a national action plan, more safe houses and more grassroots prevention and education to bring the issue out of the shadows.