Human traffickers forced victims to work in Cornwall: OPP

Arrests made in human trafficking operation

Canadian police say they have freed 43 "modern day slaves" from Mexico who were allegedly forced to work as cleaners at vacation properties in Ontario.

OPP alleged the victims paid large sums of money to traffickers, under the pretense of being brought to Canada and being able to obtain work or study visas and gain permanent residency.

Human trafficking is "modern-day slavery", said Barnum.

Officers with the Ontario Provincial Police and Barrie police began investigating the alleged scam previous year, culminating in 12 search warrants that they executed last week.

The 43, mostly men aged 20 to 46, were coached on what to say when they entered Canada, lived in "squalid" conditions in Barrie and Wasaga Beach, and were transported to hotel and vacation properties in Central and Eastern Ontario to work, police said on Monday. Workers were charged fees for the transportation and lodging.

One victim reportedly told investigators: "Last night, I went to bed a slave".

The OPP said Monday some of the 43 Mexican-born workers freed by a human-trafficking investigation were forced to work in Cornwall.

There's no word on criminal charges, but Barnum says they may come later.

Two cleaning company officials in the Barrie, Ontario area who worked with hotels there are suspected of involvement but so far have not been arrested.

"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.

Officers say the victims were transported to and from forced work locations in Collingwood, Innisfil, Oro-Medonte and Cornwall. "This is very disturbing", said Barrie Police Chief Kimberley Greenwood. "It is inconceivable that this was taking place in our community".

The Mexican workers have since been offered accommodations and legitimate employment at a local resort, said Ms. Greenwood, adding that those individuals are communicating with Immigration and Refugees Canada about their status in the country.

"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.

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