A West Vancouver woman accused of enslaving a domestic worker pleaded not guilty to one charge of human trafficking and three other offences under the Immigration Act in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver today.
Mumtaz Ladha, 57, is accused of bringing a domestic worker to Canada from Tanzania and forcing her to work around the clock.
The worker —whose identity is now protected by a publication ban issued by the court — fled to a transition house in 2009, and a counsellor who worked with her has testified that she helped the woman get in touch with police after suspecting a case of human trafficking.
Laurie Parker-Stuart, a counsellor at the shelter, described to the court how she met the woman for the first time .
"[She] was very closed. She was under stress," Parker-Stuart testified.
The woman had no passport, and did not appear to have any connection to anyone, she said, adding that the young woman spoke Swahili and broken English.
"[She] came with no money. She came with the clothes she wore. She really didn't have anything," Parker-Stuart said.
Police said the woman was promised a job in a hair salon, but upon her arrival in 2008, she had her passport taken away and had to work up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, without pay.
But lawyer Eric Gottardi said the alleged victim was no servant and did not work in the Ladha home.
"This person was a companion who came with Mrs.. Ladha and basically was treated like a member of the family," Gottardi said outside the court house on Wednesday.
"The issue of work and what is work and who was doing what around the house — those will be some of the issues at trial."
West Vancouver Police Const. Kelly English also testified on Wednesday, saying when she first met the woman after a referral from the shelter, "she appeared to be in good health" and that she did not appear distressed.
The trial is expected to last for a month.