National News

Diplomatic couple charged with exploitation

By The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Ottawa police have levelled human trafficking charges against a diplomatic couple from the Philippines in connection with a woman they brought to Canada to work as a nanny.

Police asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to issue a waiver of diplomatic immunity last month, only to be told on May 5 the two had surrendered their identity cards and returned to the Philippines.

The case involves a 26-year-old woman who was brought into Canada legally as a domestic worker.

Police allege the couple exploited the woman for financial and material benefits and held her by withholding or destroying her documents.

Bueneflor Cruz, 44, and Robert Cruz, 45, are both charged with trafficking, obtaining a benefit by trafficking and withholding or destroying documents. Robert Cruz is also charged with threatening bodily harm and mischief.

Consistent with a rotation process, Bueneflor Cruz, cultural officer at the country's embassy in Ottawa, had already been reassigned back to the Philippines, the embassy said Friday in a statement.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs "takes the allegations seriously and is conducting an inquiry into the matter," the statement said.

Police say the victim remains in Canada but has been moved to a safe location.

The investigation began in December in response to third-party allegations that the woman was being exploited, police said in a release.

"The Ottawa police will continue to thoroughly investigate any complaints of human trafficking," said Insp. Paul Johnston.

"It is important to stress that help is available for the victims."

A spokesman for Foreign Affairs said in an email Friday night that the Canadian government brought the allegations to the attention of police and has been assisting in the investigation.

The embassy said it provided full co-operation to Canadian authorities to "the extent defined by international law."

"We express confidence in the legal processes of Canada and look forward to working on addressing concerns in a manner consistent with our friendly bilateral relations."

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