Canadian police charge seven with trafficking, exploiting Mexican migrants

By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) -Canadian police charged seven people with trafficking and exploiting 64 Mexican migrants, saying the accused were part of an international labor trafficking ring operating in the Toronto region.

York Regional Police in Ontario said on Friday they had obtained information in November that migrant men and women were being exploited for their work.

The investigation - done in partnership with the Canada Border Services Agency - revealed that "an organized group of criminals enticed the victims into Canada with promises of good work and a better life," a police statement said.

"They ended up living in deplorable conditions and were driven to work sites in private buses which were in a state of disrepair." The migrants were "mistreated, abused and exploited" at farms, factories and warehouses, police said.

Migrants described "dozens of people sleeping on mattresses on the floor," as well as "coercion and control" and sexual assault, said Detective Sergeant Gary McBride.

Police arrested five people, two Canadian citizens and three Mexicans, and issued warrants for two others, they said. Charges include human trafficking, sexual assault and working for a criminal organization.

Canada has become increasingly reliant on migrant workers to work in factories, farms and elsewhere. Advocates argue that even when they are brought to Canada legally, they are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse in part because of their precarious immigration status.

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Grant McCool)