Police in Canada free 43 Mexicans from near slavery

Remigio Civitarese
Febbraio 12, 2019

Rick Barnum of the Ontario Provincial Police said Monday the victims were lured to Canada believing they would be offered legitimate employment opportunities.

In some cases, police said the Mexicans, after paying various fees, were left with less than $50 a month.

Instead, he says they were forced to live in "squalid" conditions and made to pay their alleged traffickers large sums of money.

Officers say the victims were brought to Canada under the pretense of education or the promise of work visas and eventually permanent residency status.

Police are keeping close track of two people who were allegedly running the Barrie-based cleaning company that employed the foreign workers as the investigation continues, Mr. Barnum said, adding that criminal charges would be laid later.

The provincial police and the Barrie, Ont., city force said they launched an investigation into the alleged scam a year ago after receiving multiple tips from the public.

Of the 43 people involved, Graham said that some expressed the desire to go back to Mexico right away, and local police are now helping them make those plans.

The operation targeting the alleged human trafficking ring took place on February 5 and also involved the Canada Border Services Agency, police said. "This is very disturbing", she said, adding that while human trafficking for labour purposes is less commonly discussed, it is no less troubling.

According to Barrie police Chief Kimberly Greenwood, a "significant portion of time" was spent considering the immediate and long-term needs of the victims.

Victims are often members of vulnerable populations, including migrant workers and new immigrants.

"It is inconceivable that this was taking place in our community", she said.

Police say once they were rescued, the victims were given food, access to a hot shower, clean clothing and were medically assessed.

"Whether it involves forced labour or the sex trade, the trafficking of humans is unacceptable".

"We don't want to identify the resorts specifically, but what we can say is that all of them have been very co-operative with the police since being made aware of the situation", said OPP Det. It has no place in our communities and it will not be tolerated.

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