RCMP have charged a West Vancouver woman with human trafficking, alleging she lured a young African woman to Canada and then forced her to work up to 18 hours a day as a domestic servant.
Fifty-five-old Mumtaz Ladha has been charged with one count of human smuggling under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Police say the 21-year-old victim was promised a job in a hair salon, but upon her arrival in 2008 had her passport taken away, and had to work seven days a week without pay before she finally fled to a women's shelter.
"When the victim arrived in Canada, she was forced to work in Ms. Ladha's West Vancouver home for 18 hours a day, seven days a week. The victim received no pay, and the suspect has possession of her passport," RCMP said in a news release.
"In June 2009, after one year of living in a state of fear and working excessive hours with little to no freedom, the victim was able to get to a woman's shelter."
Police said several different agencies are helping the young woman get the help she needs to recover. They said she is not ready to speak publicly about her ordeal.
RCMP announced the charge with a message for other potential victims.
"Human trafficking is not a rampant crime in B.C., but it does exist," police said.
"The RCMP wants to inform the public so that victims understand they are victims; just because something is "common" in other parts of the world does not make it acceptable in Canada."
RCMP have said that as many as 800 people a year are forced into labour or the sex trade in Canada.
An RCMP report released last year focused largely on sex slavery but noted forced labour is also a problem, with live-in domestic employees being controlled, threatened, underpaid and forced to work.
It said RCMP have not identified organized crime involvement in forced labour, but usually involve individuals or families taking advantage of foreign workers for personal gain.
Last fall, RCMP in Ontario announced charges against 10 people related to allegations that at least 17 people were forced to work for free and fed scraps of food after being brought to the Hamilton area from Hungary. In February, the Ontario government announced it would spend $2 million in an effort to combat human trafficking.
The RCMP report noted that from 2007 through November last year, five people were found guilty of human trafficking in Canada in cases involving 11 female victims, four of them under 18 at the time.