POLICE, COMMUNITY HELP DIVERT 43 ‘MODERN DAY SLAVES’
BARRIE – “Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. Labour human trafficking is a difficult crime to investigate. At every stage, our collective concern has been to ensure these 43 victims are well cared for from a personal health and wellness perspective and that they are now safely housed,” said Deputy Commissioner Rick BARNUM, Provincial Commander OPP Investigations and Organized Crime.
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Barrie Police Service, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and community-based agencies have released more details of a labour human trafficking investigation with connections to central and eastern Ontario.
Since 2018, police began investigating information that suggested Mexican-born workers were being trafficked and/or defrauded by a cleaning company based in Barrie. They had been brought to Canada under the pretense of being here for either educational purposes or the promise of work visas and eventually permanent residency status.
“Whether it involves forced labour or the sex trade, human trafficking is not welcome and has no place in any community. The victims have renewed hope and the possibility of the better life they were promised now that they are free from the control of people who exploited them for personal gain,” commented Chief Kimberley GREENWOOD, Barrie Police Service.
At a news conference today, OPP Deputy Commissioner Rick BARNUM, Barrie Police Chief Kimberley GREENWOOD and representatives from Canada Border Services Agency, Barrie and Area Victim Services, and County of Simcoe Paramedic Services elaborated on their organization’s roles prior to, during, and after last week’s police activities.
The victims initially paid the traffickers large sums of money to leave their home country and be transported to Canada. Once here, the victims were made to live in squalid conditions at locations in Barrie and Wasaga Beach. The victims were transported by the traffickers to and from forced work locations in Collingwood, Innisfil, Oro-Medonte and Cornwall. The traffickers controlled wages and charged the victims fees for accommodations and transportation.
On Tuesday, February 5, 2019, approximately 250 frontline and support unit members from the OPP, Barrie Police and CBSA executed 12 search warrants in Barrie and Wasaga Beach. Thanks to advanced, victim-focussed planning, the 43 victims – mostly males ranging in age from 20 to 46 years – were brought to safety, re-housed and provided with legal employment.
The investigation is ongoing and criminal charges are expected to be laid at a later date. But police and community support advocates remind everyone that, if they believe they or someone they know is a victim of any form of human trafficking, to contact police or community victim services agencies for assistance.