A Calgary couple were charged with trafficking in human beings after they were accused of taking advantage of foreigners.
The Alberta RCMP Federal Police Integrated Border Enforcement Team (IBET) accuses the husband and wife, who own a Calgary-based cleaning company, of recruiting people under the Canadian Temporary Workers Program overseas and using them “for personal financial gain” to use.
RCMP Const. Mark MacDonald said two people came forward claiming they were exploited by their employers.
“We are aware of other employees in the company, but there is still no evidence that they have received the same treatment,” MacDonald said.
He encourages former or current employees to contribute their experiences.
The victims are rSupport from law enforcement agencies and the Coalition of Action for Trafficking in Human Beings (ACT) Alberta, a nonprofit that helps survivors of all forms of human trafficking, RCMP said.
MacDonald said there is currently heightened awareness of human trafficking, leading to higher incident reporting.
“We’re seeing more of it because we’re looking for it and the traffickers are starting to diversify. It’s no longer just about sex trafficking. Unfortunately, there is money to be made in the labor trade too, ”he said, adding that human trafficking in general is largely underreported due to a variety of factors including shame, fear and regret.
MacDonald said that in many cases, people coming to Canada from other countries under the temp agency program fail to read their employment contracts.
“There’s this naivety that goes with it, and some people in positions of power as employers see it as an opportunity to take advantage of these people for their lack of knowledge of Canadian standards,” he said.
The two victims can stay in Canada for the duration of the legal process and apply for an open work permit with the federal government.
Amelia Layco, 50, is charged with four human trafficking and fraud charges. Macario Layco, 49, is charged with two human trafficking-related charges.
Both are due to appear in court at the Calgary Provincial Courthouse on Friday.
IBET is an integrated federal police force based in Calgary and Edmonton.
Victims of exploitation can contact an ACT Alberta Victim Response Coordinator at 587-585-5236 or the Canadian Trafficking Hotline at 1-833-900-1010. If a crime is ongoing, call 911.