Four arrested in national labour human trafficking case

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submitted by OPP

Police have arrested four individuals in a labour human trafficking investigation that had links to Ontario, Alberta and Quebec.

The investigation, named Project FOXTROT, began on February 13, 2023 when Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) members received information of suspected labour trafficking involving foreign nationals from Mexico who were being exploited. The victims were recruited online and promised work permits and good paying employment in Canada.

The victims were expected to work at various recycling facilities in Red Deer (Alberta), North Bay (Ontario) and Sault Ste Marie (Ontario), and Levis (Quebec). They were housed in several short term rentals around Canada and in the basement of one of the accused people in Simcoe County. Payment for the accommodation was taken from the victims’ wages, which was less than had been promised.

On May 16, 2023, the Provincial Human Trafficking Intelligence-led Joint Forces Strategy (IJFS) members from the OPP, Anishnibek Police Service, Toronto Police Service, Peel Regional Police and Halton Regional Police Service executed search warrants at locations throughout Simcoe County and the Greater Toronto Area.

As a result of the investigation, on May 16, 2023: A 72 year old from Etobicoke was arrested and charged with three counts of Human Trafficking of Persons as per Section 279.01, and three counts of Material Benefits in Trafficking of Persons as per Section 279.02 of the Criminal Code. He was released on an undertaking and is scheduled to appear in Brampton Court on July 17, 2023.

A 33 year old from Simcoe County was arrested and charged with three counts of Human Trafficking of Persons as per Section 279.01, and three counts of Material Benefits in Trafficking of Persons as per Section 279.02 of the Criminal Code. A bail hearing has been scheduled for May 23, 2023.

A 53 year old from Halton was arrested and charged with three counts of Trafficking in Persons as per Section 279.01 of the Criminal Code. He was released on an undertaking and is scheduled to appear in Brampton Court on July 17, 2023.

A 27 year old from Simcoe County was arrested and charged with one count of Trafficking in Persons as per Section 279.01, and one count of Material Benefit in Trafficking of Persons as per Section 279.02(1) of the Criminal Code. She was released on an undertaking and is scheduled to appear in Brampton Court on June 26, 2023.

The three male victims range from 27 to 42 years old. All victims were provided services through the OPP IJFS Victim Specialist and FCJ Refugee Centre.

IJFS partner agencies who supported this investigation also included Barrie Police Service, Kingston Police, Ottawa Police Service, Greater Sudbury Police Service, Quebec City Police Service, York Regional Police, Durham Regional Police Service, Niagara Regional Police Service and Waterloo Regional Police Service. The Canada Border Services Agency and Ministry of Labour provided assistance.

If you or someone you know is being trafficked, call your local police. The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking has resources available for victims and survivors of human trafficking on its website at canadiancentretoendhumantrafficking.ca. A national hotline is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-833-900-1010.

“Project Foxtrot dem- onstrates the exploitation of human trafficking vic- tims in plain sight and the necessity of the IJFS and its partners to help unmask this crime,” said Detective Inspector Jordan Whitesell, OPP IJFS Lead. “It serves as a stark reminder that human trafficking remains a largely clandestine and complex crime that easily goes unnoticed. We must come together to educate ourselves, recognize the signs, empower survivors and provide hope to victims to combat this hidden threat. We cannot fight this alone.”

ABOUT THE IJFS

On March 6, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced funding to estab- lish the IJFS, consisting of full-time investigators and analysts who are assigned to participating police agencies across Ontario, includ- ing municipal and First Nations, along with addi- tional resources to the OPP. The IJFS has increased the capacity for policing by assisting in identifying, investigating and disrupting multi-jurisdictional human trafficking organizations operating within Ontario.

The 21 participating police agencies include: Anishinabek, Akwesasne, Barrie, Durham, Halton, Hamilton, Kingston, Lon- don, Niagara, OPP, Ottawa, Peel, Peterborough, Six Nations, Greater Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Treaty Three, Waterloo, Windsor and York.

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