- Date and time
2011.03.17 to 2011.06.11, 9:00 AM to 9:00 AM
FILIPINA LIVE-IN CAREGIVERS IN MONTREAL CRITICIZE QUEBEC’S INACTION ON CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
According to different reports, there have been at least 40 Filipina women from Asia in the last five years who signed contracts with John Aurora’s agency and paid an average of $4,000 U.S. to obtain work permits and immigration papers in order to come to Montreal and work as Live-in Caregivers (LIC). In addition to the fees paid to Aurora’s agency, these women had to pay their own airfare.
Abusive Employment Conditions
Under the federal government’s Live-in Caregivers’ Program, the caregiver must live-in at the premises of the specified employer designated in their employment contract and work permit. If they need to change employers for any reason, they must re-apply and wait for at least 4-6 months before all of the Quebec and federal government procedures are completed and a new work permit is approved and issued for the new employer. LICs are strictly prohibited from working until their new work permit is issued or they will be in violation of Canadian immigration law.
Of the 18 women who arrived in Quebec between 2004 and 2008 and whose cases were documented by CRARR and PINAY, 16 were told upon arrival that their initial employer designated in the Quebec Employment Contract was no longer available, and they were never reimbursed. If they were fortunate enough to find a new employer willing to hire them, they still had to wait for many weeks before they could legally work with a newly issued work permit. During this time, many of the women were required to do unpaid labour for Aurora while awaiting the confirmation of a new LIC job offer and the completion of government procedures for the issuance of a new work permit.
Illegal Lease and Substandard Housing Conditions
Within a matter of days after landing, the women were asked to sign a lease with Aurora to become tenants in his different properties where many women would live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Most were pressured to sign the lease, after which many did not receive a copy of the document. In many cases, additional clauses were single-handedly added by Aurora and, in the words of one Rental Board Member, “cut and pasted from another document and grossly attached” to the lease to hold these women joint liable for the rent, without their knowledge until they were brought before the Rental Board for breaking the lease or for rent owed.
Practically all tenants had to pay an illegal deposit of $150 for furniture, late fees and other penalties that are clearly forbidden by Quebec housing laws.
Housing conditions were described as substandard: some had to sleep on the floors and others had to share a bed with two other women. In addition to overcrowding and lack of privacy (2 bathrooms for up to 27 women at one time), there was inadequate heating and air ventilation, despite contractual stipulations of “all the rules and regulations made from time to time by the landlord in the interest of hygienic care. Energy conservation and good neighbourly behaviour.” Their movement was also restricted (“no guest allowed after 2100 hrs”) and repairs were difficult to obtain.
When the women decided to move out due to untenable conditions, many were sued by Aurora before the Rental Board. Between January 2008 and January 2011, there are at least 7 cases brought by Aurora against 17 women for violations of leasing conditions, that resulted in 5 Rental Board decisions and two appeals to the Quebec Court by Aurora’s daughter after his death. There are at least 5 more active cases before the Rental Board launched by Aurora against 10 more women that have yet to be heard.
Failure in Civil Rights Protections
In May 2009, on behalf of 26 LICs, PINAY filed a civil rights complaint against Aurora and Super Nanny, his agency, with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, claiming discrimination based on race, gender, ethnic or national origin, and social condition.
The Commission responded in June 2009 by contacting PINAY by telephone, for a follow-up. No other contacts took place afterwards.
In August 2009, the Commission decided to initiate its own investigation into the case. In early October 2009, PINAY President Evelyn Calugay informed the Commission of Aurora’s passing; however, in early November 2009, the Commission wrote to Aurora, summoning him to its office for investigation and requesting him to bring all pertinent papers. It is not known what happened with this summon in the end.
In February 2010, the Commission met with a dozen of the 26 women to obtain their declarations, without however, informing them of the damages they could claim and the possibility of citing Aurora’s associates as co-respondents in the case.
In October 2010, the Commission finally interviewed John Aurora’s daughter and then notified PINAY of its intent to close the file due to Aurora’s death, because of his daughter’s denial of involvement and the fact that Super Nanny was not an incorporated business.
At this moment, PINAY mandated CRARR to handle the case. It was then that serious flaws in the investigation were discovered by CRARR, such as:
• the failure to inform the women of the possibility of claiming damages and citing Aurora’s employees or associates as co-respondents (despite investigation guidelines on the Commission’s “obligation to act for the presumed victim of discrimination”);
• the summon of a dead man (Aurora) to the Commission’s office for an interview six weeks after his death;
• the failure to inform PINAY of the Commission’s own inquiry terms of references on the same issue;
• the disregard of the roles played by Aurora’s daughter and employees or associates in the active management of his affairs prior to his death. Yet these active roles being clearly confirmed by the victims in their affidavits and testimonies; the active role of Aurora’s daughter was also confirmed in many cases before the Rental Board and the Court of Quebec between 2008 and 2010 (the Commission did not respond to CRARR’s question related to these associates’ status or relation with Aurora);
• the apparent failure to visit Aurora’s numerous properties where the women were housed (the Commission did not respond to CRARR’s question to this effect).
Furthermore, despite reports from PINAY’s President of pressures on some women to drop their civil rights and housing complaints, the Commission did not act, preferring to wait for complaints of reprisals to be filed.
These discovered anomalies in the Commission’s investigation led the agency to suspend its decision to dismiss the case. After CRARR presented, in March 2011, an amended version of the May 2009 complaint, in which it cites Aurora’s associates as co-respondents and specifies the damages to be claimed, the Commission, through the same investigator, responds in April 2011 by reiterating its recommendation to close the file based on the same grounds:
• the alleged facts of discrimination took place three years after the prescription for civil action (starting from the date of the amended complaint that cites additional respondents);
• Aurora’s death;
• the fact that Super Nanny is not incorporated and that employees are not held responsible for the actions of their employer or personally responsible; and
• that Aurora’s daughter cannot be held liable. As for proof of her active involvement in the management of her father’s affairs, as revealed in her testimonies in Rental Board litigation, the Commissio considers these cases to have been litigated and that they could not be re-litigated (which is not what CRARR suggests; furthermore, there are still at least eight more cases involving ten live-in caregivers still before the Rental Board).
In brief, after two years of investigation, the Commission has failed to provide any concrete protection to the women.
Minister Weil’s Silence
In January 2011, CRARR and PINAY wrote to Immigration and Cultural Communities Minister Kathleen Weil to inform her of the situation and other gaps in the Quebec program for LICs. For instance, the Government-approved employment contract, which binds a LIC and her employer, makes no reference to discrimination and harassment. Furthermore, Quebec is responsible for the regulation of the employer and the employee, but not the consultant or recruiter who acts as intermediary.
The Minister is also responsible for the Government’s Plan of Action against Racism. She has also been informed of the problems in the Quebec civil rights enforcement system.
To date, the Minister has not responded to requests for intervention and both groups’ proposals to provide more effective protection to LICs.
Requests for Action made by the Women and Supporting Agencies
1. the appointment by the Quebec Government of external investigatiors independent from the human rights commission whose mandate shall be :
• to investigate into facts raised in the 2009 complaint, amended in 2011;
• to examine systemic dimensions in immigration, employment and housing as raised in the complaint;
• to recommend remedies as allowed by the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, including financial compensation for these women, and reforms to the systems involved;
2. the review, by an independent person or agency, of the handling of the complaint by the Quebec Human Rights and Youths Commission, with the purpose of ensuring accountability and other necessary corrections and ultimately, real protection for foreign and migrant workers and effective access of victims of racial discrimination to the Quebec civil rights protection system;
3. the coordination with the Government of Canada in holding a criminal investigation into possible commissions of criminal acts such as human trafficking.
- Coordinated by
- File Attachments
- Economic sectors
Occupations in services - Domestic work
- Content types
Policy analysis and Documented cases of abuse
- Target groups
Policymakers, Journalists, Public awareness, Unions, and NGOs/community groups/solidarity networks
- Geographical focuses
Quebec and Philippines