‘Modern day slaves’

Three rescued victims of “modern-day slavery” are now living insafehouses, freed from a life of involuntary prostitution at anEdmonton massage parlour.

Three rescued victims of “modern-day slavery” are now living in safehouses, freed from a life of involuntary prostitution at an Edmonton massage parlour.

“They were very withdrawn. I don’t want to compare it to an animal, but they were like scared dogs.

They clung to each other,” Edmonton Police vice Cst. Dave Schenning said, describing the women investigators discovered upon raiding Sachi Spa last week. “All I could see was fear.”

Three people face a combined 20 human trafficking-related charges — the first of their kind ever laid in Western Canada.

Investigators say the women, originally from China and Fiji, were lured to Edmonton by ads in foreign newspapers, offering promising careers in the massage trade.

“They ate, drank and slept in the room they worked in,” Schenning said, adding the women were threatened their families would be told if they ever left.

“Major” psychological manipulation and fear kept the 21 to 24-year-old women working as prostitutes, he said, adding it may have made them fearful toward police.

“We had to work hard to assure them we were there to help and that they’re the victims, not in trouble.”

Investigators say the bust scratches the surface of the global human trafficking pandemic. Canadian laws addressing the crime did not exist until 2005.

Mei Fang Chen, 33, Xiu Zheng Chen, 32, and Qui Wang, 41, were charged with offences including trafficking persons, living off the avails of prostitution, exercising control, direction, or influence over a person for the purposes of prostitution, keeping a common bawdy house.

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