Police in Ontario free 43 Mexicans brought to Canada by alleged human traffickers

Ontario Provincial Police say they have freed 43 "modern-day slaves" brought to Canada from Mexico by alleged human traffickers and forced to work as cleaners at hotels.

The 43, mostly men aged 20 to 46, were coached on what to say when they entered Canada, lived in "squalid" conditions in Barrie and Wasaga Beach, and were transported to hotel and vacation properties in Central and Eastern Ontario to work, police said on Monday. 

All were freed last Tuesday following a joint investigation that involved the OPP, Barrie Police Service and Canada Border Services Agency. 

"Human trafficking is modern-day slavery," OPP Deputy Commissioner Rick Barnum told reporters in Barrie. "Exploitation is the key element of this offence."

Ontario Provincial Police

Ontario Provincial Police

Police said the traffickers allegedly controlled the pay made by the workers. The victims had paid the traffickers large amounts of money to leave Mexico and were charged fees for transportation and lodgings. 

The Mexicans worked at locations in Collingwood, Innisfil, Oro-Medonte and Cornwall, Ont., police said.

In some cases, police said the Mexicans, after paying various fees, were left with less than $50 a month. 

'This morning, I woke up a free man'

One victim reportedly told investigators: "Last night, I went to bed a slave. This morning, I woke up a free man."

The alleged traffickers have not been arrested or charged.

Ontario Provincial Police
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Ontario Provincial Police

A number of sources told police last year that a Barrie-based cleaning company, run by two people, was trafficking and defrauding the Mexican-born workers.

The Mexicans had been brought to Canada "under the pretense" of being here for educational purposes or the promise of work visas and eventually permanent residency status.

Barnum added the workers are now here legally. Since they were rescued, they have been offered legal work and accommodations at a Barrie-area resort, Barrie police said.

Twelve search warrants were executed last Tuesday in Barrie and Wasaga Beach last week, six involving residences and six involving vehicles, police say. About 250 police officers were involved. Investigators are digging into the background of the "two people" who ran the cleaning company but they have not been charged.

Labour human trafficking 'very disturbing,' police say

Barrie Police Chief Kimberley Greenwood said the joint investigation involved what she called a "labour human trafficking" situation. She called it "very disturbing." 

She said labour human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation and harbouring of people for the purposes of exploitation for forced labour. It is not confined to large urban centres, she added.

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Victims are often members of vulnerable populations, including migrant workers and new immigrants. Victims rarely go to the authorities.

"It is inconceivable that this was taking place in our community," she said.

Greenwood said the 43 were in brought "under misleading circumstances," promised safer lives and more opportunities. "These individuals are now free from the control of the people who wished to exploit them for personal gain," she said.

After the victims were rescued, Greenwood said they went to a Barrie and Area Victim Services centre, where they were offered hot showers, food and clothing, and given medical assessments. Interpreters were made available, she said.

"I am pleased to announce that all of the victims have been offered employment and accommodations at a local resort," she said.

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"Whether it involves forced labour or the sex trade, the trafficking of humans is unacceptable. It has no place in our communities and will not be tolerated."

The OPP declined to name the hotels and vacation properties where the men worked and the cleaning company in Barrie.

Criminal charges may be announced at a later date and police said they are looking for other suspects.

Original Post

Trump Tower Was Built on Undocumented Polish Immigrants’ Backs

The Donald may denounce illegal immigrants as ‘rapists,’ but his empire’s crown jewel was erected on land cleared by 200 undocumented Polish workers.

https://img.thedailybeast.com/image/upload/c_crop,d_placeholder_euli9k,h_1439,w_2560,x_0,y_0/dpr_1.0/c_limit,w_908/fl_lossy,q_auto/v1492179280/articles/2015/07/08/trump-tower-was-built-on-undocumented-immigrants-backs/150707-daly-trump-tease_tto4pbPhoto Illustration by The Daily Beast

The use of undocumented workers on a Trump construction site such as the hotel described by The Washington Post this week is certainly nothing new.

Thirty-five years ago, a small army of illegal immigrants was used to clear the site for what became the crown jewel of Donald Trump’s empire.

The 200 demolition workers—nicknamed the Polish Brigade because of their home country—worked 12-hour shifts, seven days a week with no overtime to knock down the old Bonwit Teller building and make room for Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

According to testimony in a protracted civil suit in federal court, the laborers were paid $5 an hour or less when they were paid at all. Some went unpaid after the contractor had financial troubles. A few never received even the paltry sum that was owed them for their dirty and hazardous efforts preceding the construction of Trump’s monument to his own wealth.

“They were undocumented and worked ‘off the books,’” Manhattan federal Judge Charles Stewart said of the workers after they became the subject of a 1983 lawsuit. “No records were kept, no Social Security or other taxes were withheld.”

Trump was speaking with more firsthand knowledge than his readers likely imagined when he wrote in his 2011 book Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again that “illegal immigration is a wrecking ball aimed at U.S. Taxpayers.”

How interesting that he would choose a wrecking ball as a metaphor.

The lawsuit involving literal demolition—Case 83CIV6346 in Manhattan Federal Court—was brought by Harry Diduck, a now deceased dissident member of Local 95 of the House Wreckers Union. His lawyer, Wendy Sloan, says he was one of a group of like-minded workers who simply wanted “a real union.” They had stood to gain nothing at all for themselves as they sought to prove that Trump and his partner, along with the general contractor, conspired to cheat the House Wreckers out of pension and welfare contributions by hiring these non-union laborers.

Judge Stewart initially tossed out the complaint against Trump and his partner on the grounds that the contractor was the responsible party regarding the workers. The plaintiffs appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reinstated the complaint, returning the case to Judge Stewart.

During the 16-day non-jury trial, a number of the Polish workers testified that Trump underlings had threatened them with deportation if they caused trouble. They walked in to the job from Brooklyn when a transit strike hit the city. Some of them slept at the site.

Two workers further testified that they had approached Trump in person to demand overdue wages.

Trump took the stand, even back in those days sporting a red “power” tie, blue pinstriped suit, and that hair. He told the court that he almost certainly did not speak to the laborers, in part because he was fearful of venturing into so dangerous a workplace.

“I tend not to walk into buildings under demolition,” Trump said. “You have to be very brave to be in a building under demolition. I’m not sure I’m that brave.”

He added that he had no need to visit the site because “You can see it from a block away.”

He further testified that in any event he could not remember ever speaking to any of the workers or even being aware there were Polish workers on the site.

“When did you learn Polish workers were on the job?” he was asked by his lawyer, Milton Gould.

“Probably sometime after the demolition,” Trump replied.

“Did it ever occur to you that they were illegal?” Gould inquired.

“It was never proven to me that they were illegal,” said the developer, adding that he only heard that they might not be in the country legally “sometime after the demolition work.”

At one point, he allowed that he had become aware that there were undocumented workers there, but only late in the project.

“Probably after the demolition,” he said.

He apparently was referring to having retained the contractor who hired the Polish Brigade when he said, “I can make mistakes. This was a mistake.”

The lawyer representing the Polish Brigade had reported receiving a call from someone who identified himself as “John Baron” and said Trump was ready to hit the lawyer with a $100 million lawsuit if he kept causing trouble.

Trump now acknowledged on the stand that he had used the pseudonym “John Baron,” as had one of his assistants. But Trump insisted that his use of it was only long after the completion of the Fifth Avenue tower, which became the first of many properties on which he so rapturously bestowed his real surname.

“Lots of people use pen names,” he told a reporter after he stepped down from the witness stand. “Ernest Hemingway used one.”

The judge found against Trump, his partner, and the contractor, saying they had joined in a “conspiracy.” Stewart found that Trump’s man on the scene, Thomas Macari, “was involved in every aspect of the demolition job.”

“He knew the Polish workers were working ‘off the books,’ that they were doing demolition work, that they were non-union, that they were paid substandard wages with no overtime pay, and that they were paid irregularly if at all,” the judge found.

Stewart suggested that it would have been difficult for anyone not to notice the Polish Brigade.

“The Polish workers were obvious not only in numbers but also in appearance,” the judge found. “In contrast to the union workers, the nonunion Polish workers were distinguished by the fact that most of them did not wear hard hats.”

Trump appealed. The Second Circuit returned a complicated opinion, overturning part of the decision and referring it for “further proceedings.”

The appeals court found that if the Trump parties had not known of the Polish workers, “they should have known.” According to The New York Times, Trump maintained that he was not aware there were undocumented laborers on the site. He said he was also unaware of the circumstances they were working under. He insisted he was not liable for the union payments.

“All we did was to try to keep a job going that was started by someone else,” Trump told The New York Times in 1998. “In fact, we helped people and it has cost a lot of money in legal fees.”

The case was finally settled in 1999 and then sealed. That was 19 years after the demolition began, 16 years after the suit was filed.

Trump did not return a request for comment placed through a spokeswoman.

The tower that is his crown jewel and symbol of his wealth continues to stand on ground cleared by 200 undocumented workers who labored off the books, 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for no more than $5 an hour with no overtime.

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