Filipina Live-in Caregivers Seek $90,000 in damages against Human Rights Commission for Negligent Inquiry and Failure to Protect
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COURT HEARING: FILIPINA LIVE-IN CAREGIVERS SEEK $90,000 IN DAMAGES AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION FOR NEGLIGENT INQUIRY AND FAILURE TO PROTECT
For Immediate Release
Montreal, September 17, 2012 --- In filing for judicial review of the Quebec human rights commission’s decision that recently rejected their complaint, a group of eight Filipina Live-in Caregivers and PINAY, a local Filipina women’s group, also claim $10,000 each from the commission for gross negligence and irregularities in handling their complaints and for failure to protect them from civil rights violations.
This is the first time that such a high amount of damages is sought against the Commission for negligence in protecting victims of discrimination.
The case will be heard on Thursday, September 20, 2012, at 9:00 am at the Montreal courthouse, at 1 Notre Dame East, room 2.16 (note: from this general room, the case will be assigned to another courtroom). The hearing will be open to the public.
The judicial review marks the continuing saga of the 26 women who, with PINAY’s assistance, filed in May 2009 a complaint with the human rights commission against John Aurora, a West-Island immigration consultant and recruiter who passed away 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 $4,000 U.S) in return for jobs.
Once landed in Montreal, these women were subjected to abusive employment, housing 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 they were promised and had paid for overseas, nor were they reimbursed by the agency. Also, many worked unpaid for 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.
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 to discrimination and exploitation, the Commission finally dismissed their case in late 2012, citing lack of evidence.
According to the legal motion filed in August 2012, the Commission’s handling of the case is fraught with irregularities, negligence and other problems such as the fact that the Commission:
• Waited 9 months to meet with half of victims, contrary to standard preliminary evaluation practice of meeting them within 2 to 3 months from the date of filing of the complaint;
• Refused to indicate, despite numerous requests, whether it visited the premises where the women were housed in substandard conditions, and address this housing issue;
• 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 Supreme Court decision;
According to Ms. Evelyn Calugay, PINAY’s President, “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.”
Last year, Canada voted for the ILO’s International Convention for Decent Work for Domestic Workers. After Urugay, the Philippines recently ratified the Convention, making it fully applicable and binding on all state signatories.
Information: Evelyn Calugay, President, PINAY: 514-364-9833 or 514-238-0089
Me Melissa Arango, Lawyer: 438-275-3204
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