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Tribunal finds Filipino caretaker was subject to abuse



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CTV News Montreal

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A Filipina domestic worker who filed a case against a former employer she said abused her won her case, but advocates said it’s not an isolated incident.

Gelyne Dasoc-Hilot paid more than $4,000 to a Canadian nanny agency to come to Canada from the Philippines to work as a live-in caregiver.

Dasoc-Hilot said she not only had to pay her own airfare, a violation of federal law, but wasn’t paid by her employer for her first two weeks of work.

She said she also did 25 hours of overtime looking after four children, cooking and performing household duties, but wasn’t paid for those hours either.

“I started at 7:00 a.m. and finished at 10:00 p.m. but during the Shabbat time, we finished at 11:00 or 12:00,” she said.

Dasoc-Hilot said she left the job two months later and employer Nathalie Azoulay refused to release her belongings and threatened to have deported.

She said Azoulay even took pictures of her at her new job and threatened to call immigration.

Evenlyn Calugay of Pinay, an organization that represents Filipino workers in Montreal said the case isn’t unique, but Dasoc-Hilot’s willingness to come forward is rare.

“We have a hard time empowering them to fill out a complaint, because to them, they have too much to lose and the employer has nothing to lose,” said Calugay.

Pinay estimates that 98 per cent of live-in caregivers in Montreal are from the Philippines and that as many as 60 per cent of those may be abused.

“We have human rights being violated right here in our own backyard,” said McGill law student Balarama Holness, who is working to collect 15,000 signatures to force the city to hold public consultations on racism and systemic discrimination.

It’s an issue she said is growing more urgent as the province welcomes more migrant workers.

“Right now in Montreal, we don’t know the exact number of migrant workers who are often marginalized, abused and vulnerable,” she said.

A year after arriving, the employment standards commission got a cheque for Dasoc-Hilot for her unpaid weeks of work, but last December, the Quebec Human Rights Commission order Azoulay to pay an additional $41,000 in damages for violating Dasoc-Hilot’s civil rights and for continuing to threaten to have her deported.

So far, Azoulay has only offered to pay $2,000.

Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations director Fo Niemi said he wants to bring the file before the Human Rights Tribunal to create a legal benchmark for other, similar cases.

“It sends a message to every other employer to be careful, that there’s going to be a high price for the kind of discrimination and exploitation and abuse that one directs at vulnerable women,” he said.

Dasoc-Hilot is now a permanent resident of Canada and working with another family in Cote-St-Luc. She said it’s painful to relive the experience but spoke out to show others they don’t have to be afraid.

“I must show them that Filipinos are strong,” she said.


Economic sectors

Occupations in services - Domestic work

Geographical focuses

Canada, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, British Columbia, Other provinces, Federal, Philippines, Nova Scotia, and National relevance