Human trafficking is a heinous crime that continues to ravage countless lives worldwide. Recently, Canadian authorities uncovered a shocking human trafficking ring that exploited over 60 Mexican nationals with false promises of a better life in Canada.
Police investigating the human trafficking ring learned that the alleged traffickers had enticed workers to come to Canada with promises of a better life. Once the workers arrived, they were forced to work long hours for little pay and lived in deplorable conditions, according to police. The victims were made to fear deportation if they spoke out and were subjected to various forms of coercion and control, including isolation, threats, and sexual assault.
Investigation and Rescue Operation
The investigation, named “Project Norte,” started in November 2022 with a tip from a brave Mexican national who came forward about their horrific living and working conditions in Canada.
Police then spoke with other Mexican nationals who also reported being exploited by the alleged criminal organization. The probe was widened to include participation from the Canada Border Services Agency, and on February 8, 2023, police executed warrants at five properties in East Gwillimbury, Vaughan, Toronto, and Mississauga.
During the operation, 64 Mexican nationals were rescued from locations across the Greater Toronto Area. Three of the five suspects arrested were Mexican nationals residing in the GTA who were actively transporting foreign workers to their work locations at the time of their arrests.
During the investigation, which consisted of surveillance and interviews with various witnesses, police said they learned how the alleged traffickers targeted the laborers in Mexico and how long the trafficking ring has been operating for. Police believe the main operators of the ring have been arrested.
The victims’ reflections on their families and friends deeply affected the police officers who worked on the case, highlighting the emotional toll that human trafficking can take on individuals.
Deplorable Living and Working Conditions
The foreign laborers described living in deplorable conditions, including overcrowding, with dozens of people sleeping on mattresses on the floor, a lack of food, a lack of privacy, and bug infestations.
These innocent people were stripped of their freedom and forced to live in fear, with no way out.
They were reportedly financially bound and had no freedom. The victims’ reflections of their own families and friends deeply affected Spanish-speaking officers who assisted in the investigation. The survivors feared they would be charged and deported as this is a normal fear for survivors of human trafficking. Police have issued arrest warrants for two others and are investigating how the alleged traffickers targeted the laborers in Mexico and how long the trafficking ring has been operating.
The Victims of the Trafficking Ring
The victims of the human trafficking ring ranged in age from their 20s to their 40s and were made to work at farms, factories, and warehouses. They lived in overcrowded conditions, slept on mattresses on the floor, and suffered from a lack of food and privacy, as well as bug infestations.
The victims of human trafficking often live in fear and are made to feel that they have no way out.
Jasmine De Fina, a specialist with Victims Services of York Region, who works with police to help survivors of human trafficking, said that the survivors agreed to come to Canada to support their families. She described the victims as “humble, respectful, kind, and gentle.”
This case serves as a harsh reminder that human trafficking still exists worldwide and that we must remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the authorities.
It’s essential to take steps to prevent trafficking and report any suspicious behavior to the authorities. Police are urging Canadians to report any suspicious activity involving foreign workers to authorities.
Who can report abuse:
Anyone can report abuse, including the worker, colleagues, employers, members of the public, foreign consulates, and advocacy groups.
Types of abuse you can report:
- Threats, bullying, or abuse towards you
- Threats to your status in Canada
- Being prevented from leaving your work site or place of residence
- Being denied access to your passport or documents
- Not receiving correct pay or time off
- Being assigned a different job than what was agreed to or what the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) says
- Things to know when making a report:
It’s important to provide as much information as possible when making a report. Your privacy is protected by Canada’s privacy laws, and the government will never reveal who made the report to your employer or anyone at your workplace. You don’t have to give your name, phone number, or LMIA/work permit number when making a report, but providing this information can help if the government needs more information. They will not contact you or share your information without your permission. However, for privacy reasons, they cannot disclose the status of a report.
When making a report, you will need to provide the following information:
- The name, address, and phone number of the business or organization
- The name(s) or positions of the people involved
- A description of the abuse
How to report abuse
All workers in Canada, including temporary foreign workers (TFWs), are protected by Canadian law. The Canadian government takes the abuse of TFWs or the TFW program very seriously and employers who are found to be abusing workers or the program can face penalties or be banned from the program.
If you suspect that a TFW is being abused or exploited by their employer, there are several ways to report it.
- You can call Service Canada’s telephone tip line at 1-866-602-9448, which is available 24/7. When you call the line, you can leave a message with the relevant information for Service Canada to investigate, or speak to a live agent in one of over 200 languages. Service Canada agents are available Monday to Friday from 6:30 am to 8:00 pm Eastern Time.
- You can also report abuse in person by visiting a Service Canada Centre,
- Or by mailing the information to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program Branch at Service Canada. The mailing address is as follows:
Temporary Foreign Worker Program Branch
165 Hotel-de-Ville Phase 2
6th Floor Mailstop L610
Gatineau QC K1A 0J2
Make report about abuse
You can make a report about abuse on the following link:
This case shows that law enforcement agencies are committed to working together to protect vulnerable people from being exploited for labor or sex trafficking.