Community mourns death of nanny Leticia Sarmiento

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  • Leticia ‘Letty’ Sarmiento, who came to Canada as a caregiver and later won a landmark court case in Vancouver over human trafficking, died on June 5.

    Sarmiento was 45.

    According to Migrante B.C., Sarmiento passed away at 5:40 p.m. at the St. Michael’s Hospice in Burnaby.

    Her life will be celebrated on June 17, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at St. Barnabas Anglican Church at 1010 5th Avenue, New Westminster. (For more info, please contact Beth Dollaga at 604-616-3015; her daughter Mika at 778-522-5503 or her friend Harevie at 778-838-7221.)

    “Migrante BC member Beth Dollaga shared Leticia’s struggle as a Filipino migrant worker at a Vancouver forum that helped grant one of Leticia’s last wishes which was to go home to the Philippines. Leticia was frail but expressed her thanks to everyone who helped to make this possible,” according to Migrante B.C.

    “The truth is, we thank Leticia for allowing us to share and support her courageous struggle. In the end, we are all better people for having known Letty,” the group stated.

    On October 12, 2016, Vancouver man Franco Orr was handed a three-month conditional sentence after he was convicted of illegally employing a foreign national in the person of Sarmiento.

    Orr, 53, was found guilty of employing a foreign national without authorization.

    At his sentencing , B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Duncan said Orr benefited from the nanny’s “cheap labour.”

    The sentence included 25 hours of community service and nine months probation.

    Sarmiento was brought to Canada from Hong Kong on a temporary visa to look after Orr’s three children.

    Sarmiento had claimed that she was forced to work long hours for low pay.

    In 2010, she called police and Orr and his wife were charged with human trafficking. He was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to 18 months in jail.

    The guilty verdict was a first for B.C. But Orr successfully appealed and a new trial was ordered.

    His wife, Nicole Huen, was acquitted of the charges.

    Migrante’s Beth Dollaga has written a personal account about Sarmiento.

    “In August 2010, in one of Migrante BC’s community outreach, I met a stranger who became a friend. I am attaching a name to my story, Leticia Sarmiento or Letty to many of her friends. She was a daughter, a sister, was then a young-bride but soon to find herself fighting to free herself from an abusive relationship. She was a mother, a worker, a woman of courage, a friend.

    “Letty was one of the 1.5 million Filipinos leaving every year to work in over 230 countries in the world. Massive unemployment, landlessness, poverty and globalization have been forcing Filipino people to migrate.

    “In 2000, Letty left her three young children in the care of her mother to work as a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia. She worked there for four years and moved to Lebanon in 2004. In 2006, she fled Lebanon on foot along with other nationalities, trekking on the desert for safety. She and other compatriots felt they were neglected by the Philippine government at a time they were fleeing the war. They were at the mercy of the Italian government service for rescue. Letty said she was lucky to make it home. Unfortunately, having made it home alive from bombs and bullets, she was now faced with bullets of unemployment and economic hardship. Again, Letty mustered the courage to leave the country and endure once more the emotional tragedy of separation from her family to provide their basic needs. She left for Hong Kong in 2006 as a domestic worker and was brought to Vancouver, Canada by her employers in 2008.

    “Leticia was a victim of human trafficking from Hong Kong to Canada, and her case led to the first conviction under Canadian law for such. Her traffickers eventually had these two landmark and serious convictions overturned at an appeal by her employers. Migrante BC helped her resettle in Vancouver where eventually her two young-adult children Mika and Mark were reunited with their mother.

    “It is not enough to tell stories. It is not enough to know someone else’s story. The story must weave with the stories of struggles of the people around the world. In the midst, there are people who know what it means to love and to care, to dare to take a step in an organized action, and fulfill the promise of a better tomorrow for everyone.

    “Letty, kabsat, sister, thank you for the opportunity to know you and to learn from you. Thank you for being part of my personal journey. REST IN POWER and in PEACE!” Dollaga wrote.

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