2 charged with human trafficking in Tisdale, Sask.

RCMP vehicle in Sask. File / The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan RCMP have charged two people in a human trafficking operation happening across three rural communities in the province on June 29.

A woman from Bangladesh was forced to work 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week at restaurants in Gull Lake, Elrose and Tisdale, police say.

The woman moved to Saskatchewan and was given a work permit.

When she wasn’t working, she was confined to a water-damaged concrete basement with minimal lighting.

Police say her employers threatened to take her work permit away if she didn’t do what she was told or if she tried to call police.

Police started investigating the situation earlier this year, and at the end of June, arrested two men in Tisdale. A third man was arrested in Elrose on Wednesday.

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“This investigation illustrates human trafficking can take many forms, including forced labour,” said Supt. Glenn Church, officer in charge of the Saskatchewan RCMP’s Saskatchewan enforcement response team. “This isn’t just a big city issue – human trafficking is present in communities both big and small, including in Saskatchewan. It’s important that residents recognize the signs of trafficking and report these occurrences to police immediately,”

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Mohammad Masum, 41, from Tisdale and 52-year-old Sohel Haider from Elrose have both been charged with human trafficking.

Masum is also facing three sexual assault charges.

The third man was released with no charges.

Investigators said this operation may have more victims.

Church spoke about human trafficking in general, noting victims are often transported around, even inter-provincially.

“It increases the complexity and the resources, and the finances required for investigation, and that’s where our STRT (Saskatchewan Trafficking Response Team) sort of excel in that regard, is that they’re mobile and they’re able to take on these transient organizations too.”

He said trafficking is often seen as a “big city problem” but noted it can happen in smaller communities as well.

Church said they’ll be able to address those issues in rural Saskatchewan with the teams being placed strategically around the province.

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He said these investigations are often prompted by information from the community.

“Things we’re looking for are people being escorted or watched by somebody; if somebody shows signs of malnourishment; sometimes they won’t have access to their documents and you might see that, as an example, their ID. If you are speaking with someone or asking a question, and then somebody tends to answer those questions for them, those are sort of the key indicators that someone else is providing a storyline for that individual and that trafficking may be involved.”

He said they are seeing labour trafficking across the country, adding that people are being brought over through approved immigration tools, but are then exploited by their sponsors and the people they work for.

“That’s very concerning for us as an organization. I think it’s concerning for anyone in Saskatchewan who hears about this.”

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