We are often asked to describe the residents who will stay at Aurora House. We cannot disclose personal stories but in an attempt to put a face on human trafficking in Canada we have created some composite stories. The experiences described in each of the following profiles come from true cases of human trafficking in Canada. All names and details have been changed and some profiles are the compilation of different stories. This has been done in order to protect the identity of those involved.
Sophiani entered Canada legally on a work visa contracted to work at Campbell Farms in Southern Ontario. She was collected at the airport by the agency who’d recruited her for a $2,000 fee. She and her family had to sell much of what they had and borrow the rest but the opportunity was a dream-come-true. She was driven to a house and shown into a tiny room that she was to share with 6 other women. There were 24 occupants in the house in total. The next day two trucks arrived to transport them to the job site. At this point it was explained to Sophiani that the Campbell Farms contract had fallen through. She was only legally allowed to work for Campbell Farms but if she stayed (she couldn’t afford a flight home) they would be able to find her work at other farms but not at the promised rate. Sophiani worked 12-17 hour days of grueling work for less than minimum wage. She saw little of her small wage after the agency took out her room and board and their fee. She felt trapped and helpless.
She worked until the end of the season. Once the jobs ran out she was referred to a Toronto based refugee centre where staff recognized her as a victim of human trafficking.
Stephan came to Canada legally as a skilled worker after being recruited by an agency. He accepted the contract and left his young family because the earning potential was significantly higher in Toronto. Promised lodging turned out to a crowded basement in Scarborough. He and the other inhabitants of the basement were driven to various construction jobs throughout the GTA 7 days a week. One month later, expected pay did not come. Stephan and his roommates were told it was just delayed and would come the following week. Several weeks later, when pay was still not forthcoming Stephan angrily confronted his agents. They informed him that pay would not be coming and was told that, if he ever wanted to see his wife and 4-year old son again, he would continue to work unpaid. He was shown a picture of a dead child and reminded that the recruiters back in his home country knew where to find his family and would not hesitate to harm them if Stephan went to the authorities, tried to run or refused to continue to work.
After 8 months, Stephan's traffickers were apprehended by the RCMP, along with 60 other skilled workers who were being kept in similar circumstances throughout the GTA. Due to the lack of housing and options for men, some found themselves in shelters and some made their way home. Since the only company Stephan's visa allowed him to work for did not in fact employ him and the male shelters were full, Stephan found himself in an immigration detention centre. He was the victim of a crime but he spent over 2 months in a holding facility with bars and fences that felt like a jail.
Marianna was very poor with very few options in her home country. She was raising two young children by herself in Mexico and trying to pay off her father's medical bills when she saw a newspaper ad for an agency that arranged jobs in Canada. They told her that, for $3,000, they could arrange for her to get a job in Vancouver at a cardboard-box factory for $10 an hour — three times as much money as she could earn at home.
Marianna borrowed money to pay the $3,000 agency fee, and an extra $1,000 for her plane ticket to Vancouver.
When Marianna arrived in Vancouver, a man picked her up at the airport and brought her to a house in the suburbs, where a woman took her passport for "safekeeping". The woman then told her that the factory job had not come through, and instead she would be working in the lab downstairs, which, Marianna discovered, produced crystal methamphetamine and other illegal drugs.
Everyone but Marianna knew that she had been tricked to come to Canada to work at the illegal drug lab, not a factory. Everyone also knew what would happen to her if she refused to do the work. Marianna refused at first, but had no other options to pay her bills or support her family. She felt scared and trapped.
Marianna did get paid and fed, but had to work very long hours and sleep in a room next to the lab with 10 other men and women. Marianna grew very concerned that she would be seen as a criminal for working in an illegal drug lab. When Marianna asked for her passport back because she wanted to leave, the woman told her 'no', she knew too much, and if she tried to leave, they would kill her.
Marianna was eventually released when the lab was raided and she was identified by police, along with the 10 others, as a trafficked victim. Her traffickers were arrested and imprisoned.
Nilu was sold by her family to a man when she was 10 years old for $120. He arranged for false documents to be made and brought her to Canada as his daughter. Soon after coming here, he started beating and sexually assaulting her. He locked her in when he left the house and she was never allowed out. When she became pregnant at 14 he beat her until she miscarried.
Police were finally called in by a neighbour who heard sounds of abuse. Nilu was discovered and her trafficker was charged and convicted. Nilu was correctly identified as a victim of human trafficking but the only documents the police found when they searched the house were her falsified papers. It took 3 years before Nilu was legally recognized in Canada as Nilu.
Natasha’s family sold her into marriage. Natasha was sponsored by her husband to come to Canada, only to be told on her arrival that he was not really interested in being married to her. He too was forced into the marriage by his parents. Forced to live with her in-laws, Natasha was treated as a servant by her husband and his family. Natasha was physically and mentally abused, kept in seclusion and denied any contact with her friends and family back home. She lost her old world and social seclusion prevented entry into the new one. After a few months, Natasha was no longer able to bear her ill treatment. She threatened to take her story to the police. Immediately, her husband suggested a vacation, holding out the possibility of cementing their relationship. However, at the airport, Natasha’s budding hopes for a better future were quashed. She slowly realized that her husband had dumped her at the airport and left. He had no intention of going on vacation with her, and was likely tying to get her to leave the country. With guidance from the airport staff, Natasha decided to contact a local shelter. She found herself alone in Canada with little support, disconnected from her in-laws, her husband, and also from her family back home who did not want her back.