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Canadian police rescue Mexicans from suspected smuggling ring


TORONTO — More than 60 Mexican nationals lured to Canada with the promise of good jobs have been forced to live and work in “deplorable” conditions and feared deportation if they speak out, Canadian police said Friday as they announced arrests in an international labor trafficking network.

York Region Police said 64 people were rescued last month from locations in the Greater Toronto Area. Five members of an alleged human trafficking criminal organization are facing multiple charges and police are looking for two more.

Det. sergeant. Gary McBride said the trafficked men and women worked on farms, factories and warehouses and were taken from their accommodation to their place of work in private buses.

“Foreign workers described … living in deplorable conditions, including overcrowding, with dozens of people sleeping on mattresses on the floor, lack of food, lack of privacy and insect infestations,” McBride said.

“They also described forms of coercion and control, including isolation, lack of freedom, financial ties, threats and sexual assault.”

McBride said those rescued ranged in age from 20 to 40.

A group that works with police to help survivors of human trafficking said Mexican nationals agreed to come to Canada so they could support their families.

“These survivors are so humble, respectful, kind and kind,” said Jasmine De Fina, Victim Services Specialist for York Region.

“Survivors feared being charged and deported because that is a normal fear for survivors of human trafficking,” she said.

Police began investigating in November after receiving a tip from another Mexican national.

During the three-month investigation, which consisted of surveillance and interviews with various witnesses, police said they learned that suspected traffickers had enticed workers to come to Canada with promises of a better life.

However, once the workers arrived, police alleged they were forced to work long hours for meager pay.

“To see the state of the workers’ living conditions, given the promises made to them, was heartbreaking,” York Police Chief Jim MacSween wrote in a statement.

“The Spanish-speaking officers who took part in the investigation were also deeply moved, as they could see the reflections of their own families and friends in the faces of these hard-working people who were only trying to find a better life.”

Investigators executed search warrants at a farmhouse, large residence, bungalow, townhouse and condominium located in the Ontario towns of East Gwillimbury, Vaughan, Toronto and Mississauga

A 45-year-old man faces 10 charges including one count of participating in a criminal organization and six counts of human trafficking. An arrested 49-year-old man faces six trafficking-related charges. Others arrested face various trafficking-related charges.

Investigators are examining how suspected traffickers targeted workers in Mexico and how long the trafficking ring has been operating. Police said they believe the main operators of the ring have been arrested.

York Regional Police Deputy Chief Alvaro Almeida urged Canadians to notify police if they suspect employers are exploiting foreign workers.

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