TORONTO – Migrante Canada, a Canada-wide alliance of 19 Filipino migrant and immigrant organizations, is calling on the Philippine government to immediately respond to the charges filed by the Ottawa police against Philippine Cultural Attaché Bueneflor Cruz and her husband Robert Cruz. Bueneflor worked as a staff member in the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa before she and her husband left Canada in early 2014. Bueneflor Cruz is charged with human trafficking for purposes of labour exploitation and Robert Cruz is charged with uttering death threats and mischief, including the withholding of the identification documents of their nanny.
In the news reports, the Ottawa Police Services Inspector said that the Filipino nanny who had entered Canada legally was in the couple’s employ and was “controlled” by the couple for more than four years. Her identification papers were allegedly seized by the couple. “She was working every day, under conditions that wouldn’t be appropriate for anyone here in Canada,” the Ottawa Police Services Inspector said.
“To be violated by the very people who are supposed to be there to help protect and advocate for your rights and welfare is a slap on the face of all Filipino migrant workers, most especially when these workers are deemed as major sources of revenue through the billions of remittances they send year after year to the Philippines,” said Aimee Beboso, the Chairperson of the Philippine Migrant Society of Canada (PMSC), a member of Migrante Canada.
The Philippine government has been sending migrants to Canada for decades. Over 600,000 Filipinos make Canada their second home making their contributions to the Canadian economy. In addition, the remittances of Filipino overseas workers (OFWs) help prop up the ailing Philippine economy through their remittances. Dollar remittances from OFWs reached $1.867 billion in May 2013. In the previous year 2012, these remittances comprised 9.22% or $ 1.972 billion of the total $21 billion. The Philippines belongs to the top six (6) source countries of dollar remittances. Despite this, Philippine government services to protect the welfare and interest of millions of OFWs, if not absent, are lacking and remain insufficient. .
“To compound this situation, the Filipino OFWs get diplomatic staff like Bueneflor and Robert Cruz who treat their own kababayan (compatriot) like a slave, ” declared Tess Agustin, the Chairperson of Migrante Canada. “This conduct is unacceptable. We demand that criminal and other charges against the couple be seriously pursued by the Canadian government. We demand a full investigation and the filing of charges by the Philippine government, specifically the Philippine Dept of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa – diplomatic staff cannot hide nor invoke diplomatic immunity for violations of human rights, in this case, human trafficking.”
Last year, the British Columbia case of human trafficking which resulted in the precedent setting decision of the guilty verdict against the employers remains a victory for all victims of human trafficking. Leticia Sarmiento, the Filipino nanny trafficked from Hong Kong to Vancouver, BC, was the important witness in this case; she found the courage to stand and speak out against her employers and in doing so, got justice for herself and inspire other victims to speak out.
Migrante supports the Filipino nanny abandoned by her employers Bueneflor and Robert Cruz. Migrante will continue to monitor the case closely, work to ensure that the interests and welfare of migrant workers are upheld and remains committed that justice is done and that the employers are tried and punished.