Human trafficking: African woman promised job at B.C. salon became unpaid maid (w/gallery)

Human Trafficking Trial

Mumtaz Ladha gets into an elevator to go back into court from an underground parkade while trying to avoid having her photograph taken at the end of the first day of a human trafficking trial at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

KEITH FRASER
THE PROVINCE

A West Vancouver woman lured a Tanzanian woman to Canada under false pretenses and forced her to work long hours with no pay as a housekeeper, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Mumtaz Ladha has pleaded not guilty to human trafficking charges involving the African complainant, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban.

Her trial began last week and has heard from a number of Crown witnesses.

On Tuesday, Crown counsel Simon Charles delivered a short opening statement to B.C. Supreme Court Madam Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon.

Charles told the judge that the complainant had humble beginnings in the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam, whereas Ladha, a Canadian citizen, was a wealthy woman living in a very rich neighbourhood.

The complainant worked for several years as a housekeeper for Ladha, getting the equivalent of $43 Cdn a month in pay.

In August 2005, the complainant, who had a young child, met Ladha when she went looking for work to support her family.

The complainant, who had a Grade 7 education and could not speak, read or write English, was hired as a cleaner in Ladha’s hair salon, but eventually began doing manicures, pedicures and massages, court heard.

In 2008, Ladha suggested she accompany her on a visit to Canada for six months, but the single mom declined the offer, saying she needed to work and did not want to be away from her son, said Charles.

Ladha then indicated a plan to open a hair salon in Canada, where she could continue to do manicures, pedicures and massages, being paid $200 a month, he said.

Although she was hesitant, the promise of $200 a month was a chance to earn money for her family and she agreed to come to Canada to work for six months at the hair salon, said Charles.

Ladha helped her in getting a Tanzanian passport and a visitor’s visa, providing supporting materials to Canadian authorities, he told the judge.

Authorities were told the complainant was going to accompany Ladha to Canada to help with Ladha’s ongoing medical issues for three months, and no mention was made of a plan for six months of employment, said the prosecutor.

When the complainant was flow to Vancouver in August 2008, she was driven to Ladha’s home in West Vancouver and instructed to get to work unpacking boxes, said Charles.

She was given a room, next to the pool, in a lower level of the house, instructed to perform housekeeping duties and provided with a maid’s uniform, he said.

Her passport was locked away.

“Her days started early in the morning and ended late at night,” said Charles. “She worked seven days a week and was given no pay for working as a housekeeper. There was no hair salon in Canada.”

In January 2009, her visitor’s visa was extended but no mention was made of her employment, he said.

Without a passport or money and having no connections in the community, there was no means of removing herself from the situation, he said.

“It was only in June 2009, with the assistance of a local woman, that (the complainant) was able to receive assistance in getting to a (women’s) shelter,” Charles said.

Police were called and launched an investigation, eventually laying charges.

Richard Peck, Ladha’s lawyer, made a number of objections to the Crown opening and requested an adjournment for more disclosure from the Crown.

But after hearing submissions, the judge declined to grant the adjournment and the trial continued.

kfraser@theprovince.com

twitter.com/keithrfraser

Related Stories:


West Vancouver human trafficking accused Mumtaz Ladha


Picture 1 of 14

Mumtaz Ladha waits to get into an elevator to go back into court from an underground parkade while trying to avoid having her photograph taken at the end of the first day of a human trafficking trial at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday September 4, 2013. A West Vancouver woman accused of enslaving a domestic worker has pleaded not guilty to one charge of human trafficking and three other offences under the Immigration Act in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Wednesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

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