Christine Stark, a master student at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. the Duluth port has been well-known among First Nations people for generations as a place where women, teenage girls and boys, and even babies are trafficked.
"The women and children -- and I've even had women talk about a couple of babies brought onto the ships and sold to the men on ships -- are being sold or are exchanging sex for alcohol, a place to stay, drugs, money and so forth," Stark said. "It's quite shocking.
"I have spoken with a woman who was brought down from Thunder Bay on the ships and talks about an excessive amount of trafficking between Canada and the Duluth-Superior harbor. There is a very strong link between Thunder Bay and Duluth."
Stark said after hearing stories that "women get brought out onto the boats and never come back," she embarked on an effort to verify what's going on aboard the oceangoing ships slipping in and out of the Great Lakes port of Duluth, the CBC reported Wednesday.
The Ontario Native Women's Association told the network said it also has anecdotal reports of women being taken across the provincial and international borders and forced into the sex trade.
"We know that it's happening between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, and there have been reports of it happening in southern Ontario across the U.S. border," said Kezia Picard, the association's director of policy and research.