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Police raid at downtown Toronto condo connected to human trafficking investigation: source

Police raid GTA condos in human trafficking investigation
WATCH ABOVE: Police have made multiple arrests and raided a number of buildings across Toronto, the GTA and Montreal in what Global News has learned is a large scale human trafficking investigation. Jamie Mauracher reports

York Regional Police raided a busy Fort York condo building in connection to a human trafficking investigation Thursday morning, according to a source.

Tactical teams could be seen surrounding the front entrance of 21 Ice Boat Terrace in City Place around 10 a.m.

At one point, officers detonated something they had removed from the building. What the item was, however, is unclear.

READ MORE: Police seize fentanyl, guns and arrest 6 in raids in Toronto area and Windsor

Police walked out of the building with one man in custody.

Following the raid, the canine unit was brought in to search the building.

A source confirmed to Global News that dozens of people are likely to be charged after multiple mid-morning raids took place around the GTA on Thursday related to human trafficking. The operation is being led by York police but involves other services in the province, including Toronto and Montreal, the source said.

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Cassandra Diamond, a survivor of almost a decade in the human trafficking industry, said these types of raids save lives.

“(The traffickers) are treating these women in the worst possible way. It borders on a life of torture.”

And, she said, the problem is only getting worse.

Police raid downtown Toronto condo
Police raid downtown Toronto condo

When asked how big the issue of human trafficking is in Toronto, Diamond responded with, “How many condos do you see in our city? We are talking about thousands and thousands of victims.”

Between 2009-2016, 29 per cent of Canada’s police-reported human trafficking violations occurred in the Toronto and Hamilton areas.

One woman who lives in the CityPlace building that was raided and asked not to be identified, told Global News she is concerned for residents safety and said she has seen the suspect around before.

“When I heard someone had been arrested from this building, I knew instantly who it was. I had a bad feeling … a vibe about him, you know?”

The woman also brought up the issue of short-term rentals in the area.

Diamond said these rentals are perfect for traffickers.

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“By using condos and Airbnbs (traffickers) can continuously move. They are essentially protected,” she said, explaining it’s difficult to pin-point their location.

“These guys are often renting numerous units … and the girls don’t know where they are because they’ve been to 20 Airbnbs in a month,” Diamond explained.

Diamond said it took her two years after she escaped to get her life back in order. Now, she runs a program, BridgeNorth, to help others do the same.

“Traffickers exploit vulnerability. They look for unmet physical and emotional needs … these women come out so harmed and distrusting,” a trust she said she works to build back up over time. “I applaud the police for these raids. Ultimately, they have to intervene because these women can’t get themselves out.”

York police told Global News the investigation is ongoing and more information will be released next week.

Police cars outside a building in Fort York that was raided Thursday.
Police cars outside a building in Fort York that was raided Thursday. Global News