project norte

64 Mexican nationals rescued from human trafficking ring in and around Toronto

Police in York Region have charged seven people with "offences related to a criminal human trafficking organization" after discovering that dozens of Mexican nationals were being abused, mistreated, and exploited for labour at work sites across the Greater Toronto Area.

"They were led to Canada with the promise of opportunity and a better life," said police of the 64 victims on Friday when announcing the results of a joint-investigation dubbed Project Norte.

"But the reality was deplorable living conditions and exploitation."

Police say that the Mexican-born victims were "mistreated, abused and exploited for manual labour" at farms, factories and warehouses across the Greater Toronto Area, though it is not clear for how long.

project norte

Police released exterior images from one of the farms where victims were forced to work long hours for little pay in squalid conditions. Image via York Regional Police.

Project Norte was was sparked by a November 2022 tip that "Mexican nationals were being exploited for labour in York Region," according to York Regional Police (YRP).

Spearheaded by the YRP Special Victims Unit and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the investigation resulted in search warrants being executed at five properties in Toronto, Vaughan, Mississauga and the Town of East Gwillimbury on Feb. 8, 2023.

A total of 64 people from Mexico were rescued that day from what police are now calling "an international labour trafficking ring," while five alleged criminals were arrested.

Warrants have been issued for the arrest of two remaining suspects.

Through Project Norte, our investigators rescued 64 Mexican nationals from an international labour trafficking ring. https://t.co/p5giuQIYoi pic.twitter.com/LR3Gei5HCK

"An organized group of criminals enticed the victims into Canada with promises of good work and a better life. However, they ended up living in deplorable conditions and were driven to work sites in private buses which were in a state of disrepair," reads a news release announcing the results of Project Norte.

"The victims lived in squalor and were compelled to work long hours for little pay, while their exploiters reaped the benefits of their labour and lived in luxury."

Officers from York Region, the Toronto Police Service, Peel Regional Police and the Ontario Provincial Police located 64 people when executing the search warrants across five different locations last month.

In addition to rescuing the exploited labourers, police sized nine vehicles as a result of the investigation, "including three dilapidated buses that were used to transport workers to their work sites."

project norte

A suspect is arrested by police outside a GTA home as the result of Project Norte. Image via York Regional Police.

"On the day of the warrants, a Victim Assistance Center was set up to provide food, shelter, medical attention, information and support services from police, CBSA, paramedics and community supports including Victim Services of York Region," said YRP, calling Project Norte a "victim-centric investigation."

"Of the 64 people rescued, 53 accepted the offer of help and continue to be supported."

The suspects, meanwhile, face up to 18 charges each for offences that are alleged to include trafficking, sexual assault and participating in a criminal organization.

They are named as: 

  • Tre TRINH, 45, of Vaughan
  • Thi Him Huyen VU, 49, of Vaughan
  • Jesus NAVARRETE GARCIA, 51, of Toronto
  • Monserrat MONJARAS, of Mississauga
  • Hiram Amaury MARTINEZ RODRIGUEZ, 48, of East Gwillimbury
  • Juan de Jesus ROSALES GOMEZ, 31, of no fixed address
  • Luis AlbertoGARCIA GALVAN, unknown age and location

The latter two males remain at large.

Lead photo by

York Regional Police


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