A Vancouver couple is on trial for allegedly bringing a Filipino servant from Hong Kong to Canada illegally and forcing her to work in domestic servitude for several years.
For most of her adult life Leticia Sarmiento has looked after other peoples’ children In Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Hong Kong. But she never thought her dream job in Canada would become a nightmare.
In a landmark case in B.C., her employers, Franco Orr and his wife Nicole Huen, are charged with human trafficking under the Immigration Act. The couple has pleaded not guilty, but if they are convicted they could face a maximum fine of $1 million, life in prison, or both.
The Filipino nanny openly sobbed while telling her story to a B.C. Supreme Court jury on Thursday, how she was tricked into coming to B.C. with the young family on the promise she’d work for two years, then become a permanent resident.
Sarmiento, who has three children of her own in the Philippines, alleges she was forced to work two years straight with no days-off, no overtime pay and no access to her passport.
The couple’s lawyer Nicholas Preovolus says they have been receiving hostile emails and telephone calls since they were charged last year.
“My clients are under enormous stress right now. This has been hanging around their necks like an albatross for the past two years,” said Preovolus.
Orr’s employer recently told him he won’t be called to work until after the trial.
Naomi Krueger, the manager of Deborah’s Gate Safe House, said the case illustrates how nannies can be exploited even in Canada.