'We were able to rescue these victims from a horrifying situation'
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has charged two individuals for withholding the travel documents of workers who were recruited from abroad and then put in poor employment conditions once they got into the country.
The London, Ont. residents are jointly charged with more than two dozen offences including human trafficking, possessing property obtained by crime, withholding or destroying documents, laundering proceeds of crime and conspiring to commit an indictable offence, reports The London Free Press.
The two are also charged under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act with three counts of employing foreign nationals to work in an unapproved capacity.
Allegations of worker abuse start back in 2017
The charges stem from four complainants’ allegations between March 2017 and March 2022. The identity of the three men and one woman who filed the complaints are protected under a court-imposed publication ban, The London Free Press reports, citing court records.
One individual is also charged with uttering threats while another is charged with sexual assault. They are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.
Previously, two Canadian citizens along with three Mexican nationals were arrested for their involvement in an international trafficking ring involving migrant workers.
Temporary workers ‘exploited’
On Thursday, RCMP searched multiple Southwestern Ontario homes and businesses, and found 31 alleged victims of criminal exploitation.
The workers were recruited from aboard and paid substandard wages and housed in poor conditions, according to The London Free Press.
“Human trafficking is a crime that takes a terrible toll on the people who have been exploited. It has been very satisfying to know that we were able to rescue these victims from a horrifying situation,” RCMP Supt. Kevin McGonigal said in the report.
Police also seized electronic devices, documents, vehicles and property, and put restraints on associated bank accounts during the search, the RCMP said.
Migrant workers are at a greater risk of labour trafficking because of their precarious immigration status, language barriers and, in some cases, distrust of police, James McLean, research and policy director at the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, said in The London Free Press report.
“The supports are not keeping up to ensure that these migrant workers are not falling prey to exploitation and trafficking.”
More needs to be done when it comes labour trafficking in Canada, especially with more migrant workers coming to the country, said McLean.
“It really starts with education, making sure migrants understand . . . they’re entitled to the same employment standards as all Canadians.”
Labour exploitation is ‘rampant’ in Canada, according to a previous report. The majority of migrant workers are aware of the terms human trafficking (77%) and labour trafficking (61%).