SORSOGON CITY, Philippines (JGL) – The lawsuit filed by six Filipino Live-in caregivers and PINAY, a Montreal, Canada Filipina rights group, against Quebec Human Rights Commission for gross negligence and irregularities in handling their complaints and for failure to protect them for civil rights violations, will be heard before the Superior Court in Montreal Tuesday (April 7) at 9 a.m. at the Montreal courthouse.
According to caregivers’ supporters, from this general room the case will be assigned to another courtroom.
The hearing will be open to the public and is expected to last for five days until Monday, April 13. Walter Chi Yan Tom will stand as counsel for the women.
The Commission has been sued in the past for gross negligence by victims of racial discrimination in its handling of complaints.
The lawsuit, accompanied by a request for judicial review, marks the continuing saga of the 26 Filipino women, who with PINAY’s assistance, filed in May 2009 a complaint with the human rights commission against John Aurora, a West Island, Montreal immigration consultant and recruiter who died in September 2009.
Aurora often traveled to Hong Kong and other Asian cities with a secretary to recruit these workers at a fee (an average of US$4,000) in return for jobs.
Once in Montreal, these women were subjected to abusive employment environment, including house and other treatments. For instance, upon arrival in Montreal at their own expenses, most of the women did not have the Live-in Caregiver job offers promised and had paid for overseas expenses nor were they reimbursed by the agency.
WOMEN ENDURED SUBSTANDARD LIVING CONDITIONS
Also, many worked unpaid by Aurora while awaiting the confirmation of a new job offer and the completion of government procedures for the issuance of a new work permit. The women also signed leases with Aurora to rent his rooming house, while enduring substandard living conditions that included sleeping on the floor and overcrowding.
Helpless, these women turned to public agencies for help without success. The Quebec human rights commission first sought to dismiss their case in October 2010 due to Aurora’s death and the fact that Aurora’s daughter denied involvement. Despite the submission of additional evidence to discrimination and exploitation, the Commission finally dismissed their case in late 2012, citing lack of evidence.
According to the motion filed by the women in August 2012, there were numerous problems in the Commission’s handling of the case, which were as follows when the Commission:
- Waited nine months after the complaint was filed to meet with only 14 of the 26 victims, contrary to standard preliminary evaluation practice of meeting them within two months from the date of filing of the complaint;
- Initiated in August 2009 a second investigation into the situation denounced in the May 2009 complaint, without informing PINAY and the victims of the terms of this second investigation until Fall 2010;
- Refused to indicate, despite numerous requests, whether it visited the premises where the women were housed under substandard conditions, and address this housing issue (the Commission never did visit, finally);
- Failed to produce the standard investigation report after three years of investigation contrary to its own guidelines;
- Failed to inform victims of their right to name other persons who engaged in acts of discrimination and exploitation as co-respondents and to claim damages against them; and
- Ruled that Aurora’s succession cannot be held liable for punitive damages, contrary to a 2010 Canada Supreme Court decision.