Investigation results in rescue of 43 victims of human trafficking

Police agencies, including the Barrie Police Service, held a press conference Monday to report on an investigation into human trafficking involving Mexican workers.
In addition to the Barrie Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and community-based agencies were part of the investigation.
On Tuesday, Feb. 5, about 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, police report.
“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,” said Barrie police chief Kimberley Greenwood.
Since 2018, police have been 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 pretence of being here for either educational purposes or the promise of work visas and eventual permanent residency status, police report.
At the news conference, Greenwood, OPP Deputy Commissioner Rick Barnum, 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, police report.
The investigation is ongoing and criminal charges are expected 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.
“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,” saids OPP deputy commissioner BARNUM, Provincial Commander OPP Investigations and Organized Crime.