Ontario police rescue 43 'modern day slaves' from Mexico

Elias Hubbard
February 12, 2019

After paying various fees to their employers, Barnum says the alleged victims would sometimes make as little as $50 per month for daily work.

"The 43 victims were transported to Canada, coached on what to say as they entered the country but then made to live in squalid conditions at locations in Barrie and Wasaga Beach", OPP Deputy Commissioner Rick Barnum said. "This morning, I woke up a free man, '" he said.

Police say the traffickers controlled the victim's wages and charged them for accommodations and transportation.

The operation targeting the alleged human trafficking ring took place on February 5 and also involved the Canada Border Services Agency, police said.

A number of sources told police previous year that a Barrie-based cleaning company, run by two people, was trafficking and defrauding the Mexican-born workers.

"We have to acknowledge that this is the first time that we have seen a labour human trafficking operation of this nature and size in our area", she said.

Police executed 12 warrants on February 5, and rescued the 43 victims who were then provided hot showers, food and fresh clothing before interviews were conducted.

Barnum added the workers are now here legally.

Police say they are keeping close track of two people who were running the company that employed the foreign workers as the investigation continues.

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 added. As a result, officers say 43 labour human trafficking victims, mostly men, between the ages of 20 and 46 were brought to safety. "These individuals are now free from the control of the people who wished to exploit them for their personal gain".

After the victims were rescued, Greenwood said they went to a Barrie and Area Victim Services centre, where they were offered hot showers, food and clothing, and given medical assessments.

"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. "Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation and harbouring of persons for the purposes of exploitation, typically in the sex industry, or in this case forced labour".

All of the Mexicans brought to Canada by alleged human traffickers were freed last Tuesday.

Although no charges have been laid, Ontario Provincial Police, Barrie Police Service, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and other community-based agencies released more details of the investigation at Monday's press conference, which was held at the Holiday Inn on Fairview Road.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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