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  • Jul 11, 2014
  • Updated: 10:35am
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IMMIGRATION

Canada warns Hongkongers about forcing maids to join them on holiday

Visitors from Hong Kong risk arrest if their domestic helper is forced to join them while they are on holiday, regardless of the length of stay

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 October, 2013, 4:53am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 October, 2013, 8:40am

Hong Kong holidaymakers risk arrest for human trafficking, an offence with a potential life sentence, if they force maids to join them on Canadian vacations - regardless of whether the helper's visa has expired - Canada's federal police have warned.

The caution comes after Hong Kong emigrant Franco Orr Yiu-kwan was jailed last week for 18 months, convicted of human trafficking in a landmark case for bringing his maid with his family when they moved to Vancouver.

Corporal Jassy Bindra, human trafficking co-ordinator for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), said that the length of time that an employer and employee were in Canada was not relevant to whether trafficking charges were filed.

When presented with the scenario of a Hong Kong boss who forced a maid to join a vacation to Canada, under threat of dismissal, Bindra said that all scenarios of potential human trafficking would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

"If someone is forcing a person to travel internationally against their will and under threats of any kind, they will be investigated and potentially prosecuted as this would constitute an offence in Canada," she stressed.

Bindra's warning came after recruitment experts suggested last week that employers would only be at risk if a maid's Canadian visa expired. Bindra said this was not the case.

"Whether an individual is victimised for one day or one year is irrelevant. If Canadian laws are being broken, the RCMP would take action," Bindra said.

Bindra added that "the onus is upon [the employer]" to ensure that the proper visas were secured for maids.

In the Orr case, he was accused of forcing Leticia Sarmiento to work slave-like hours, denying her access to her passport and keeping her locked in the family home, but Judge Richard Goepel said none of these aggravating factors had been proven. He said the jury clearly did not believe all of Sarmiento's testimony about these issues but that these factors did not need to be proven to support the trafficking conviction.

Prominent prosecutor Peter LaPrairie, who undertook the case against Orr and secured the first trafficking conviction under Canadian immigration law, said that once the identity of an accused and the timeframe of the offence had been established, two points needed to be proven in a trafficking case: that the accused organised the victim's coming to Canada and that "abduction, fraud, deception, the threat or use of force or coercion" was used in doing so.

In the example of a maid threatened with dismissal from her Hong Kong job unless she joined a vacationing family, LaPrairie said "what constitutes coercion is a legal argument".

"We would have to look at the facts of the case to determine if it appears a victim came to Canada by means of coercion or fraud or deception," he said.

LaPrairie pointed out that business-class exemptions to visitor visas allow a maid to legally work in Canada for a visiting Hong Kong family for up to six months.

Sarmiento had claimed she was tricked into coming to Canada on a tourist visa in 2008 with the promise of higher wages, better conditions and the prospect of permanent residency. Orr claimed that Sarmiento, who was paid C$500 (HK$3,800) a month in line with her Hong Kong contract before getting a 40 per cent pay rise to C$700, knew all along that she would be working illegally and was well aware of what her work entailed. He claimed Sarmiento begged him to bring her to Canada because she feared she would not be able to find another job in Hong Kong.

Orr's wife, Nicole Huen Oi-ling, 36, was also accused in the case but was acquitted of all charges.

Orr and Huen claimed that they tried repeatedly to get Sarmiento to leave Canada after her six-month tourist visa expired and booked her flights out of the country, but she refused to go.

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gcmaster
Oh no !! Its human traf****. Lets just hit him with books and send him to jail for 18 month. WTF CANADA.
Relji Joseph
If many of you didnt know, recently in a raid in Wanchai, the immigration and police officer saved 5-10 Filipinos who were promised DH visa and brought to Hong Kong but they were forced to do prostitution for a period of time.
Even though I dont believe that the maid was tortured or kept as slave, but i do believe she was tricked. She literally thought she could get PR in Canada with her 2 years there as many tourists in Hong kong think 7 years in Hong Kong will get them PR :P
Relji Joseph
It seems many didnt understand the story or the judgement clearly. I can't blame most of you for not understanding as I can see most of you are from a development country who are not very familiar to human traf**** situation or laws as it doesnt apply in ur daily life. It is very clearly indicated that the maid was brought along to Canada on promise of better salary and Canada PR ( even if u buy the story that maid was begging to go Canada with them and she agreed same pay as in HKG, she would have been offered or given the idea of Canada residency, as its a fact that hong kong is short of FDhelpers and she will not be that dumb to beg to go Canada to work for same money as in HKG without a promise or a work on residency, it cant be believed especially when the employer is a immigration advisor). Human Traf**** case applied here because she was promised something and later she was forced to continue her job similar to a slave becoz the employer thought she would run away and I buy that story because there is no employer who takes maid to Canada for work and when she says she wants to leave before contractual time or agreed timeframe would allow, coz Canada- Phil tickets cost a lot, unlike HKG-Phil, so the maid had no options than work for peanuts , the ticket home cost more than her monthly pay so we have to believe her side of story as well.
blue
"It's a holiday, leave the maid at home, gosh how lazy can people get."

Yeah leave the maid at home so she can steal all your stuff!
ssslmcs01
It is very doubtful that there was sufficient evidence to secure a conviction of human traf**** in this case. As human traf**** is a serious offense, this court has weakened Canada's interpretation of human traf**** making a mockery of their so called justice system.
If this domestic helper didn't want to go to Canada in the first place she should have accepted a termination of employment prior to departing Hong Kong. In addition the Canadian visa officials should have determined the purpose of her visit to Canada during the interview prior to issuing her visa.
ian_young
Hi r6b. The SCMP has twice previously reported how Ms Sarmiento was in possession of her passport when she tried to open a bank account; there’s not always room in every subsequent story for every such fact to be included. As to the assertion that Mr Orr must have known he was breaking human traf**** laws: This case is the first in Canada under which such immigration laws have been successfully applied, not only under these circumstances, but any circumstances. Regarding the judge’s views on Mr Orr, he was convicted by jury, not the bench. As for Ms Sarmiento’s future circumstances, Canadian authorities do not discuss individual cases, as a standard practice. Best wishes, Ian Young.
guy.pant
Ian. Sarmiento tricked into coming to Canada and wanting permanent residency status is a contradiction in itself. Now she is trying to get a job in Canada and has no plans in visiting her children. There are many Fillipinos who want to come to Canada to work as nannies, etc. Orr was wrong to bring over, but her story makes no sense.
caractacus
Were you on the jury?
Typical Hongkie racist double standard.
r6b
Human Traf**** is the name of the statue, under which there are numerous chapters
and verses. Some of the SCMP's reporting can best be described as an emotional wind-up.
The writers fail to acknowledge that the maid was in possession of her passport, per independent court testimony. And even more sloppy is their failure to report, as did the Canadian papers, that Mr. Orr was an immigration consultant in HK. He clearly knew
the laws of the land, and how to manoeuvre around them ( until caught ).
Neither party gave totally honest testimony in court, but the judge correctly saw that Mr. Orr was the planner and instigator. As for the maids future, again sloppy reporting. There is no attempt to get an official opinion on how her case as an illegal worker will be handled.
A legal worker can apply for citizenship - but its entirely reasonable that an illegal worker, will be sent home - especially since she perjured herself in court
ian_young
Hi r6b. The SCMP has twice previously reported how Ms Sarmiento was in possession of her passport when she tried to open a bank account; there’s not always room in every subsequent story for every such fact to be included. As to the assertion that Mr Orr must have known he was breaking human traf**** laws: This case is the first in Canada under which such immigration laws have been successfully applied, not only under these circumstances, but any circumstances. Regarding the judge’s views on Mr Orr, he was convicted by jury, not the bench. As for Ms Sarmiento’s future circumstances, Canadian authorities do not discuss individual cases, as a standard practice. Best wishes, Ian Young.

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