INDO-CANADIAN MOTHER AND SON TO CHALLENGE DECISION IN MEDICARE DISCRIMINATION CASE
Montreal, April 3, 2014 --- An Indo-Canadian Montreal engineer, Mr. Rahul Majumdar, and his retired mother are examining legal options to challenge discrimination and privacy violations by the Quebec Health Insurance Board after the Quebec Human Rights Commission rejected their complaint in a manner that raises questions about the latter’s handling of the case.
In August, 2010, the two Montreal residents were caught in a legal nightmare when both received a subpoena from the province’s Health Insurance Board (RAMQ) forcing them to submit to an investigation and produce extensive personal, financial, tax, employment, housing, educational and citizenship documents.
Among the documents demanded of them were proofs of permanent residency, their passports, and their citizenship and/or permanent resident cards.
The mother, Mrs. Reeta Majumdar, has been a naturalized citizen since 1980 while the son was born in Ontario (Mrs. Majumdar‘s daughter was also subpoenaed but she was let off as she had moved to New York earlier that year). Both mother and son were interrogated by the RAMQ investigator without being informed of their constitutional rights (including the right to be assisted by counsel), because they were suspected of Medicare fraud. It was only during the interview that they were told that they were being investigated because the mother’s name appeared on the list of an immigration consultant who had been arrested in the late 2000s for scheming to defraud Quebec Medicare with hundreds of people originally from the Middle-East.
The Majumdars were also told that their names were randomly picked from the list seized in the immigration consultant’s office. They were surprised to learn that their names were on that list since they had never dealt with any immigration consultant at any time. Six months later, both were cleared by the RAMQ and declared fully eligible for Medicare. However, they were informed that they would still be subject to “periodic checking” in the future in spite of this clearance.
Feeling that they had been victims of discrimination and their privacy rights violated, the Majumdars sought help with the Quebec Ombudsman (“Protecteur du Citoyen”) in October 2010, but they did not receive satisfactory answers for their plight. Subsequently, they mandated CRARR to file a complaint in January 2011 with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission for racial discrimination and violation of their equality and dignity rights, as well as their privacy rights.
Two years later in August 2013, the Commission interviewed both Majumdars as well as RAMQ representatives, producing an investigative report last fall. It was only after reading this report that Mr. Majumdar and his mother learned, among other things, that it was only the mother’s name and that of her late husband that were on the consultant’s list. Regardless, RAMQ decided as part of its investigative procedures to arbitrarily extend its investigation to all the members of the family (“child, spouse, parent”). This is the reason why both Mr. Majumdar and his sister were compelled to appear before RAMQ.
Also, contrary to what they were told during the RAMQ in-person meeting, the names of people to be investigated by the RAMQ were not picked at random, but rather everyone on the list was investigated, including those with a “Québécois-sounding” name (“noms à consonance québécoise”). However, the report did not say how many people were on that list, nor how Mr. Majumdar’s name got on it.
The new information revealed in the investigation led CRARR to highlight, in the RAMQ’s investigative procedures, elements of discrimination based on civil status or family ties, a prohibited ground of discrimination. Questions were also raised regarding the need to examine the racial or ethnic background of people with names other than those “à consonance québécoise” who were actually investigated (despite the fact that the RAMQ initially told the Majumdars that they were randomly selected and then indicated to the Commission that it investigated “everyone” on the list), since it is highly unlikely that a “Jean Tremblay” would be required to show proof of Canadian citizenship or a permanent resident card.
The Commission completely ignored these critical issues in its decision. The racial and ethnic composition of people on the list and those who were actually investigated, as well as the arbitrary investigation of all members of a family once one family member is suspected, is a form of discrimination based on civil or family status. Furthermore, , the Commission did not address the question of why despite being born in Ontario and having lived all his life in Montreal (except for a short work period in Ontario), Mr. Majumdar was ordered by the RAMQ to provide proof of his permanent residency (i.e. either a citizenship or permanent resident card).
In addition to being silent on the RAMQ’s “noms à consonance québécoise” investigation criterion, which is seen as an indirect endorsement of the notion that Mr. Majumdar is not “Québécois”, the Commission’s decision arbitrarily has omitted to deal with the Majumdars’ claim of violation of their privacy rights as protected by s. 5 of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Yet privacy violation was specifically raised in the original 2011 complaint and addressed in the investigation report.
“My mother and I are being made to feel like second-class citizens, or illegal aliens in Quebec, and who do not have effective protection from civil rights violations, especially after receiving the decision of the human rights commission,” said Mr. Majumdar.
Mr. Majumdar and his mother are considering other legal actions to protect their civil rights.
Individuals with Middle-Eastern or South Asian backgrounds who have experienced similar situations with the RAMQ are strongly encouraged to come forward.