Groups outraged over retrial of convicted trafficker in Canada

By Rowena Papasin, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at Mar 11 2015 04:17 PM | Updated as of Mar 12 2015 12:17 AM

VANCOUVER, Canada - A landmark human trafficking case involving a Filipina caregiver is getting the attention of the community, especially after her employer’s conviction was overturned by the court.

Two years ago, a Filipina caregiver stood in the middle of a landmark court case that handed down a guilty verdict to Franco Orr on charges of human trafficking under Canada's Immigration and Refugee Act.

"Nagpapasalamat ako na sa pagkakataon na nakalabas ako sa pamilyang Orr. Di ko inaasahang may mga tao palang makakatulong sa akin," the victim had said before.

But in a surprise reversal, the Court of Appeals overturns Orr's court conviction and ordered a retrial.

Caregiver groups were shocked and disappointed with the decision.

"This is really shocking kasi alam mo it's not fair for the caregivers na nagpunta sila dito, na-abuse na sila, napatunayang na-abuse sila, and then there's another retrial? It's not really fair," said Annette Beech, Victoria Caregivers Association President.

Julia Diesta, a caregivers' right advocate, said, "Nakikita talaga kung sino ang may pera siya ang laging nabibigyan ng pagkakataon, wherein, itong domestic worker palibhasa domestic worker nagtatrabaho, walang pera, ay wala talaga siyang magawa".

Advocates are now closely watching how the retrial will unfold. No date has been set for retrial but public prosecutors are now reviewing the Court of Appeals decision.

The West Coast Domestic Workers Association vows continued support for the Filipina caregiver, but they fear that the court decision will negatively affect similar cases of abuse and exploitation.

"We are a little concerned about the impact of the case on the ability of some of our most vulnerable workers in Canada, the live-in caregivers and migrant workers, to come forward and make complaints about labor trafficking," said Natalie Drolet.

But the Committee on Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights warn incidents of abuse will not stop unless government addresses the defects on the caregiver and temporary foreign worker program.

"Kailangan talaga itong ipaglaban para hindi na maulit, mabawasan dahil nga temporary workers ay pwede lang isangtabi at base nga sa ngayon ay parang disposable," said Diesta.

As Holy Week draws near, a group of migrant workers offered Stations of the Cross to pray for the welfare of the witness and all other domestic workers in Canada.

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