Filipina Caregivers Sue Canadian Human Rights Commission

by Joseph G. Lariosa

 

CHICAGO (jGLi) – A group of Filipina live-in caregivers in Montreal, Canada is going to have their day in court on Thursday, Sept. 20, at 9 a.m. when a Montreal court will hear their complaint against the Quebec Human Rights Commission’s decision, rejecting their claims alleging the commission’s gross negligence and irregularities in handling their complaints and for failure to protect them from civil rights violations.

The local Filipina women’s group called PINAY (nickname for a Filipina) and the eight Filipino live-in caregivers are also seeking payment of C$10,000 each to each of the eight caregivers from the commission in the first of such case that a high amount of damages is being sought against the commission. They are seeking a total of C$90,000 in damages against the commission.

The hearing that will be held at the Montreal courthouse 1 Notre Dame East, room 2.16, will be open to the public.

A press release received from PINAY said the 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, Quebec immigration consultant and recruiter, who died in September 2009. Aurora often traveled to Hong Kong and other Asian cities, with a secretary, to recruit workers for a fee (an average  of C$4,000) in return for jobs.

Once the workers arrived in Montreal, these women were subjected to abusive employment, housing and other mistreatments. On arrival because they did not have the live-in caregiver jobs promised them after paying for these job offers, they had to fend for themselves, spending their own money for their stay, while awaiting confirmation of new job offers and completion of government procedures for the issuance of new work permits.

HRC DISMISSED COMPLAINT, CITING LACK OF EVIDENCE

They also signed leases with Aurora to rent his rooming house, while they endured substandard living conditions that included sleeping on the floor and overcrowding.

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 his daughter denied involvement.

Despite the submission of additional evidence for discrimination and exploitation, the Commission finally dismissed their case in June 2012, citing lack of evidence.

In court papers filed in August 2012, the Commission was blamed for mishandling the case, which involved irregularities, negligence and other problems, which include as follows:

The Commission waited nine months to meet with half of the victims, contrary to standard preliminary evaluation practice of meeting them within two to three months from the filing of the complaint;

The Commission refused to indicate, despite numerous requests, whether it visited the premises, where the women were housed in substandard conditions, and address these housing issues;

It failed to produce the standard investigation report after three years of investigation contrary to its own guidelines;

It 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

It ruled that Aurora’s successor couldn’t be held liable for punitive damages, contrary to a 2010 Supreme Court decision.

Evelyn Calugay, PINAY’s President, said, “The human rights commission’s handling of this case and recent complaints involving Filipina live-in caregivers clearly show that the Commission lacks the will to protect domestic workers from racial and gender discrimination, and that its failure to effectively protect these workers places Canada and Quebec in jeopardy where our international obligations on human trafficking and ensuring decent work for domestic workers are concerned.”

Canada became signatory last year to the ILO’s International Convention for Decent Work for Domestic Workers, following Uruguay and the Philippines, which recently ratified the convention, making it binding to all state signatories.  PINAY is assisted by lawyer, Me. Melissa Arango. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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