43 victims of labour human trafficking freed following investigation in Barrie, Wasaga Beach: police

WATCH ABOVE: Police say 43 workers were brought to Canada in a case of labour human trafficking and made to work for a Barrie cleaning-company. Kamil Karamali reports.

Police say 43 victims of labour human trafficking have been freed following a lengthy investigation in Barrie and Wasaga Beach.

At a press conference in Barrie on Monday, representatives from the Barrie police, the Ontario Provincial Police, Barrie and Area Victim Services, and the County of Simcoe Paramedic services released more details of the investigation.

According to police, on Tuesday, officers executed 12 search warrants in Barrie and Wasaga Beach. As a result, officers say 43 labour human trafficking victims, mostly men, between the ages of 20 and 46 were brought to safety.

WATCH: Human trafficking victims were working for a cleaning company in Barrie

“The commodity being bought and sold is people. Human trafficking is modern-day slavery,” OPP deputy commissioner Rick Barnum said. “Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation and harbouring of persons for the purposes of exploitation, typically in the sex industry, or in this case forced labour. Exploitation is the key element of this offence.”

Barnum says human-trafficking victims are often from extremely vulnerable populations, including migrant workers and new immigrants.

Victims of labour human-trafficking located in Barrie, Wasaga Beach: police

In this case, police say the victims were born in Mexico and had paid large sums of money to traffickers to leave their home country and be transported to Canada.

Officers say the victims were brought to Canada under the pretense of education or the promise of work visas and eventually permanent residency status.

However, officers say once in Canada, they were made to live in squalid conditions in Barrie and Wasaga Beach, and were forced to work for a cleaning company.

WATCH: Human trafficking victims were working for a cleaning company in Barrie

Officers say the victims were transported to and from forced work locations in Collingwood, Innisfil, Oro-Medonte and Cornwall.

Police say the traffickers controlled the victim’s wages and charged them for accommodations and transportation.

“After paying the various fees, workers would be left with minimum compensation, sometimes less than $50 a month,” Barnum said.

Officers believe the cleaning company is run by two individuals in the Barrie area, however, they are seeking more suspects.

Man and woman arrested in human-trafficking probe across southern Ontario

Police say once they were rescued, the victims were given food, access to a hot shower, clean clothing and were medically assessed.

Officers say the victims have been re-housed and provided legal employment at a local resort.

WATCH: ‘I went to bed a slave, woke up a free man’: Barrie human trafficking victim

According to Barrie police Chief Kimberly Greenwood, a “significant portion of time” was spent considering the immediate and long-term needs of the victims.

“We are always in a position of if there are victims that are being human trafficked, whether that is through forced labour or through the sex trade, we encourage them to come forward and report it to police,” Greenwood said.

“This is an ongoing investigation that is quite complex and if victims are identified through our investigation, then we will certainly connect with them and ensure they have their needs met whether they may be immediate or long-term needs.”

According to police, the investigation is ongoing and criminal charges are expected to be laid at a later date.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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